OP2201. GIULIO CESARE, recorded 1967, w.Rudel Cond. New York City Opera Ensemble; Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Maureen Forrester, Beverly Wolff, Spiro Malas, etc. 2-RCA 6182, Slipcase Edition, w.Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 078635618228
“Work with directors such as Tito Capobianco and Frank Corsaro focused Treigle's brilliant stage energy while allowing him room to create. In Corsaro's City Opera FAUST, Treigle's entrance as Méphistophélès was as a cadaver about to be dissected by old Dr. Faust. He sat up suddenly, singing ‘Me voici!’ in that gigantic voice of his, and one simply jumped in one's seat. On the other hand, his Gianni Schicchi was a marvelously brazen rascal, and Dodon in COQ D'OR was a doddering comic creature whose physicality could not have been further from the demonic.
As he bounced back and forth between [home in] New Orleans…Treigle began to see where his heart belonged. Although he continued to perform with New Orleans Opera Association through 1968, remaining a favorite son, it was at City Opera that Norman Treigle, the alarmingly versatile stage animal, was given the opportunity to flourish, offering the public a dazzling gallery of characters over the next twenty years in 237 performances of thirty-seven roles at the company's New York home base alone. As assignments at City Opera rapidly changed from supporting to starring roles, Norman's career began to flourish elsewhere as well. The bass-baritone sang in virtually every major opera center in the U.S., including San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and Seattle, also traveling to Havana, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. He enjoyed new works, creating roles in THE TENDER LAND (Grandpa Moss), THE CRUCIBLE (Rev. John Hale) and THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE (William Jennings Bryan in the second cast of the premiere run).
At New York City Opera, Treigle enjoyed performing regularly with costars such as Curtin and Beverly Sills — with whom he'd formed an extremely close brother–sister relationship. But there was gnawing ambivalence about his career, exacerbated by the absence of an invitation from Rudolf Bing to sing at the Met. In a 1963 New York Times interview, Treigle claimed, ‘The Met was my dream when I was a kid, but I gradually got it out of my system.... When you have a company based on the star system, it's impossible to build that kind of rapport that you need for opera as I conceive it…. It's less important to me where I perform than how I perform’. But the issue must have eaten away at him, as review after review noted the absurdity of his absence from Bing's Met.
…on 21 September, 1969, came the greatest triumph of his career, as New York City Opera unveiled its brilliant Tito Capobianco production of Boito's MEFISTOFELE, conducted by Rudel. Brian Morgan's deeply researched biography of TREIGLE, STRANGE CHILD OF CHAOS, quotes a Time magazine feature: ‘Small, skinny, seemingly naked, Treigle flashed through the role like a black-voiced cobra. Plunging from profundo depths to baritonal heights, his voice remained huge and perfectly focused through one of the cruelest bass roles ever written’. Mefistofele was to be Normal Treigle's final new role.
Norman Treigle's recorded legacy, augmented by thrilling live performances released by VAI music, is unfairly small but ample enough to give one an idea of how immeasurably gifted this artist was. But perhaps his legacy can best be measured by the indelible memories he left. Once you saw and heard Treigle onstage, you could never forget the experience. As Sherrill Milnes told this writer, ‘I think Norman was about the greatest singing actor in the world’."
- Ira Siff, OPERA NEWS, March, 2013
"Some forty years ago, when I was Music and Dance Critic for Channel 7 News in New York, one of the events I covered was the opening night performance of JULIUS CAESAR by the New York City Opera. Soprano Beverly Sills sang the starring role of Cleopatra. I had heard Miss Sills in a variety of other roles at the City Opera, as well as at Tanglewood in concert performances of operas conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. She was a singer of considerable accomplishment, but nothing had prepared me for the stunning performance she delivered that evening. Handel's Cleopatra is a role that demands near super-human technique, agility and flexibility - qualities that Miss Sills provided in extraordinary abundance. That JULIUS CAESAR run marked the entrance of Beverly Sills into the galaxy of opera immortals."
- Martin Bookspan
"...when I began 'Se pieta', an absolute hush came over the audience. People were hanging on every note. I think 'Se pieta' was the single most extraordinary piece of singing I ever did. I know I had never heard myself sing that way before. It was very different from the usual coloratura fireworks - it was all control and pianissimo singing. When I finished the aria [and when] the curtain began coming down very slowly, and the deathlike silence continued - and then a roar went through that house the likes of which I'd never heard. I was a little stunned by it: the audience wouldn't stop applauding. They just sat there applauding and applauding as if it were the end of the opera. There was no question that my performance in JULIUS CAESAR was going to change my life."
- Beverly Sills, BEVERLY, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, pp.166-67
"Beverly Sills was the acclaimed Brooklyn-born coloratura soprano who was more popular with the American public than any opera singer since Enrico Caruso.
Sills won the greatest reviews of her career [as Cleopatra in Handel’s GIULIO CESARE, 1966, New York City Opera]. Critics praised her adroit handling of the music’s florid fioratura, her perfect trills, her exquisite pianissimo singing and her rich sound….Suddenly she was an opera super-star. In 1968 she had another enormous success in the title role of Massenet’s MANON. When the production was revived the next year, the NEW YORKER critic Winthrop Sargent wrote: ‘If I were recommending the wonders of New York City to a tourist, I should place Beverly Sills as Manon at the top of the list…".
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 July, 2007
“With her vibrant, cheery personality, soprano Beverly Sills always was a favorite of the general public, among the most effective spokespersons the arts have had in America. The child of immigrant parents, Sills (born Belle Miriam Silverman) discovered singing at an early age; at four she was on a morning radio program as ‘Bubbles’ Silverman, and by age seven she had sung in a movie. At 16 she joined a touring Gilbert and Sullivan company. Her most important vocal studies were with Estelle Liebling, who had been a favored soprano of John Philip Sousa. In 1947, she made her operatic début as Frasquita in CARMEN at Philadelphia. She toured North America during the 1951-1952 season with the Charles Wagner Opera Company, singing Violetta in LA TRAVIATA and Micaëla (CARMEN). After singing in Baltimore and San Francisco, she made her début at the New York City Opera, which was to become her artistic home for over two decades. She once again sang Violetta in that début, but soon expanded her repertoire to include a wide range of roles. Among the twentieth century operas in which she performed were Moore's THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE, Nono's INTOLLERANZA, and Weisgall's SIX CHARACTERS IN THREE ACTS. In 1966, she reached international fame with performances as Cleopatra in Handel's GIULIO CESARE. Her performances of Donizetti's ‘Tudor triology’ - ROBERTO DEVEREUX, MARIA STUARDA and ANNA BOLENA, solidified her stature on the international scene. She made her La Scala début as Pamira in Rossini's THE SIEGE OF CORINTH in an edition prepared by conductor Thomas Schippers. In 1975, she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera in the same role; she had already sung Donna Anna in a concert performance there in 1966. Her Vienna début in 1967 as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE was one of her few performances of this role. She regularly sang many other important roles in both Italian opera and in works from other countries.
She retired from performing at the age of 50, with an appearance in Menotti's LA LOCA, and accepted the position of General Manager of the New York City Opera. In 1991, she joined the board of the Metropolitan Opera, and four years later became head of New York's Lincoln Center. Sills sang regularly in concerts and recitals containing the arias from her famous roles. Her concert performance of the first version of Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS is justly famous, since Zerbinetta's aria in this version is much more difficult than in the revised version.
Her basic voice was a light, high soprano with excellent technique and breath control. She was best heard in roles where fragility of character was paramount, such as Marie in Donizetti's LA FILLE DU RÉGIMENT, Puccini's MANON LESCAUT, and Violetta. By sheer power of character she held her own in operas normally best served by larger voices as well.
Her autobiography was published in 1976 with the title ‘Bubbles: A Self-Portrait’ and was revised in 1981 as ‘Bubbles: An Encore’; another autobiography, ‘Beverly’, followed in 1987.”
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com
"Maureen Forrester, the Canadian contralto was revered for her opulent voice and musical elegance and especially acclaimed for her performances of Mahler; she sang the broader mezzo-soprano repertory, rightly considered herself a contralto, the lowest and rarest female voice. In her prime she was a classic contralto with a plummy, deep-set sound. Yet she had a full-bodied upper voice and could sing passagework in Handel arias with agility. She sang Mahler and German lieder with impeccable diction.
Ms. Forrester was little known in the United States when she made her New York recital debut at Town Hall in November 1956 with the pianist John Newmark, who became her longtime accompanist. She won rave reviews. 'Miss Forrester has a superb voice of generous compass and volume', Edward Downes wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. 'Its color ranges from a darkly resonant chest register to a brilliantly focused top with a middle register that she makes velvet soft or reedy according to her expressive intent'. At the time, the conductor Bruno Walter, who had been a close associate of Mahler's, was looking for a contralto to sing in a performance and a recording of Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony with the New York Philharmonic. He invited Ms. Forrester, then 27, to sing for him, and hired her. The recording is now considered a classic. Ms. Forrester went on to record Mahler's DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with Walter and soon became an acknowledged exponent of Mahler. She was best known for her recital work and performances with orchestras, and appeared with many leading conductors, including Eugene Ormandy, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 June, 2010
“Spiro Malas, a charming bass whose career in supporting roles at New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera blossomed, after decades, into an acclaimed Broadway star turn in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, was an operatic company man, well regarded as the kind of piquant (and often nameless) innkeeper, police commissioner, mayor, landlord, tutor, sacristan or army officer who lends scenes color and moves plots forward. He was part of the landmark City Opera production and subsequent recording of Handel’s JULIUS CAESAR that cemented Beverly Sills’ celebrity in 1966, and he toured with and recorded alongside Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti.”
- Zachary Woolfe, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 July, 2019