OP2053. LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, Live Performance, 7 April, 1956, w.Rudolf Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Victoria de los Angeles, Nadine Conner, Mildred Miller, Cesare Siepi, Frank Guarrera, Fernando Corena, etc. (E.U.) 3-Walhall 0314. - 4035122653144
“The keystone of [de los Angeles’] portrayal is sounded in the subtle melancholy which she projects in ‘Porgi amor’. This Contessa has long lived with regret over the loss of her husband’s love. The embracing legato, the bronze color tints, the ineffable sadness she conveys – these are the foreseen and ever-welcome components of the soprano’s art. Doubly welcome are the timbre equalization and the fluent top tones…..[Conner’s] effort is one of the most attractive renderings of ‘Venite, inginocchiatevi’ yet heard on the airwaves, all grace and charm and tonal point….Her recitatives bubble with life, and they pinpoint meaning.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.101-102
"Born Victória Gómez Cima into a humble Catalan family in Barcelona, she studied at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in just three years in 1941 at age 18. That year, she made her operatic debut as Mimì at the Liceu, but then resumed her musical studies. In 1945, she returned to the Liceu to make her professional debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. After winning first prize in the Geneva International Competition in 1947, she sang Salud in Falla's LA VIDA BREVE with the BBC in London in 1948. In 1949 she made her first appearance in the Paris Opéra as Marguerite. The following year, she debuted in Salzburg and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Mimi, and the United States with a recital at Carnegie Hall. In March, 1951, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as Marguerite, singing with the company for ten years. She made noted recordings of LA VIDA BREVE, LA BOHEME, PAGLIACCI, and MADAMA BUTTERFLY. The last three paired her with renowned tenor Jussi Björling. She also sang at La Scala in Milan from 1950 to 1956. In 1957 she sang at the Vienna State Opera. After making her debut at the Bayreuth Festival as Elisabeth in 1961, she devoted herself principally to a concert career. However, for the next twenty years, she continued to make occasional appearances in one of her favourite operatic roles, Carmen. She was among the first Spanish-born operatic singers to record the complete opera in 1958, a recording conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham using the recitatives added by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death. Though Carmen lay comfortably in her range, she nevertheless sang major soprano roles, best known of which were Donna Anna, Manon, Nedda, Desdemona, Cio-Cio-San, Mimi, Violetta and Mélisande. Like Montserrat Caballé, she was a true exponent of bel canto singing. De los Ángeles performed regularly in song recitals with pianists Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons, occasionally appearing with other eminent singers, such as Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. On January 15 2005, Victoria de los Ángeles died of heart failure in Barcelona at age 81."
- Zillah Akron Dorset
“Mr. Siepi was a classic Italian basso cantante, or ‘singing bass’, with a warm, slightly dark voice that was ideally suited to Mozart. Yet his voice was so robust that he could easily summon the power for King Philip II in DON CARLO, Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL and the title role in BORIS GODUNOV. In his prime, the tall, handsome Mr. Siepi, a natural onstage, was a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, where he gave nearly 500 performances, singing 17 roles during a 23-year association. Bing wrote in his 1972 memoir, 5,000 NIGHTS AT THE OPERA, [that Siepi] ‘made an overpowering debut and a well-deserved great career at the Metropolitan’. After his first Don Giovanni at the Met in 1952, Mr. Siepi became the Giovanni of choice in houses around the world, bringing a sly blend of vocal refinement and animal magnetism to his portrayal. Critics and audiences embraced him for a wide range of roles. Assessing an impressive Gurnemanz in a 1970 PARSIFAL at the Met, the critic Herbert Weinstock wrote in the British magazine OPERA that Mr. Siepi ‘really sang the role rather than growling it and acted with touching conviction’, articulating Wagner’s words ‘as if born to them’. He also excelled in broadly comic roles, like Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBIERE.
At 18, urged on by friends, he entered a voice competition in Florence and won first prize. A manager in the audience quickly engaged him to sing the role of the hired assassin Sparafucile in Verdi’s RIGOLETTO for a production in Schio, near Vicenza. With the outbreak of war he moved to neutral Switzerland, returning to Italy when hostilities ended. He appeared in Verdi’s NABUCCO at La Scala in Milan in the first postwar production at the reconstructed theater, which had been damaged by bombs.
After his breakthrough Met debut, Mr. Siepi was in demand internationally. He scored triumphs at the Salzburg Festival during the 1950s and made several live recordings there, including a 1954 DON GIOVANNI conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Erna Berger among the cast.
In his day Mr. Siepi was considered a natural successor to Ezio Pinza. Like Pinza, who had starred in SOUTH PACIFIC, Mr. Siepi appeared in a stage musical, BRAVO GIOVANNI. The critic Howard Taubman, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES, praised Mr. Siepi for bringing ‘the richest and best cultivated vocal instrument to Broadway’ since Pinza. The show, however, unlike Pinza’s SOUTH PACIFIC, was a flop. Still, Taubman gave the famous bass credit for trying. ‘Happily’, he concluded, ‘Mr. Siepi is at ease in his new surroundings and his voice glorifies them’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2010
“With his slender but firm voice and winning stage presence, Frank Guarrera was a fixture at the Met in a number of roles: Escamillo in CARMEN (his début role in 1948), Marcello in LA BOHÈME, Valentin in FAUST. He also essayed larger, Verdian roles with honor, if not quite the vocal opulence of contemporaries like Robert Merrill, or Leonard Warren, whom he replaced as Simon Boccanegra a few days after Mr. Warren’s death onstage in 1960.
In 1948, when the 24-year-old Mr. Guarrera was participating in the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions of the Air’ (a precursor of the current National Council Auditions), which he eventually won, Toscanini heard him on the radio singing Ford’s monologue from FALSTAFF and arranged for an audition. The result was Mr. Guarrera’s engagement at La Scala in Boito’s NERONE on the 30th anniversary of Boito’s death. It was the first of several performances under Toscanini; Mr. Guarrera sang Ford on the conductor’s legendary 1950 FALSTAFF broadcasts, still available on CD.
His final role at the Met was Gianni Schicchi, which he last sang in 1976. After his retirement from the stage, he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for 10 years."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Nov., 2007