OP3217. LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, Live Performance, 17 Jan., 1966, w.Behr Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Franco Corelli / Gaetano Bardini, Anselmo Colzani, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-519. Transfers by Yves St Laurent. [This unique recording of Steber's sensational last-minute Minnie was made from a 'pirate' recording from within the house, with the duly excited audience's spontaneous reactions - very occasionally intrusive, but the clear sound comes through beautifully.]
"[Steber] was the born Minnie, playing the demimondaine and loving every reckless minute of it."
- Paul Jackson, SATURDAY AFTERNOONS AT THE OLD MET, p.454
"Stage director Henry Butler 'pruned and simplified stage business everywhere he could. We worked out a system of cue sheets which were stuck to furniture and props, so that while I was free-wheeling my way around the stage, I could pick up a few cues wherever I landed. One sheet was pasted in Minnie's Bible and one was on the bar itself, and I've made a big thing about never spending so much time behind a bar in my life; but in truth, I seldom ever glanced at a cue sheet. It was sufficiently reassuring to know they were there. When I finally went down the steps to the stage before the opening curtain, the men of the chorus were waiting for me, and when I walked on they gave me an ovation. What a greeting! The door on the landing burst open and I charged out with my pistol blazing. It was only a split second before I heard the roar of the crowd. I remained frozen, gun in hand, watching and listening as the whole audience stood up and hollered. Through all the clapping and shouting, I heard one thing cutting through loud and clear - my name - 'STEBER'! The whole Opera House went up in smoke. The orchestra had to stop and there was absolute pandemonium! It was great, and I felt fantastic, absolutely fantastic! - the boys didn't sing what was written. They were cheering and shouting and clapping with the audience - 'Welcome home, Minnie! Welcome home, Steber!' It was the greatest single moment of my life!"
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, pp.238-40
"There are some things about a live operatic performance that a studio-made recording just can't duplicate. All the possibilities - inspiration, subtlety, revelation of a composer's work, seizure of a great moment, athleticism with its risk of disaster, simple music-making - are in play before an audience of flesh and blood, in one particular moment. The stakes are high and immediate."
- Will Crutchfield, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 July, 1990
"Franco Corelli had been singing for well over a decade when he made his Met debut in 1961 at the age of 40. The first attraction in any Corelli performance is the voice itself. Solid and evenly produced from bottom to top, with no audible seams between registers. The middle and lower parts of the voice are dark and richly colored. The top is stunningly brilliant, and never thins out or turns hard. It is a once-in-a-generation kind of voice if your generation is lucky, and in the four decades since his retirement in 1976 we have had nothing like it for visceral power. Some critics complained because Corelli would hold high notes well beyond their value in the score. But if we listen to singers from the past whose careers overlapped with the great Italian opera composers, and who often worked with them, we can easily conclude that the composers expected it. (A recording of an aria from Francesco Cilea's ADRIANA LECOUVREUR by tenor Fernando de Lucia, with the composer accompanying at the piano, exposes liberties that go far beyond anything Corelli ever did, and Cilea echoes those 'distortions' at the keyboard."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"Christmas night of 1962 was, for me, a sad occasion at the Old Met. Eleanor Steber's performance as Donna Anna was actually her final scheduled appearance there. Not aware of her feelings that night, I went backstage to greet her and waited for nearly an hour for her to emerge from her dressing room. When she did, although duly courteous, she rushed past me exchanging only a few words, then she hurried out of the building. I would subsequently learn that her contract had not been renewed. Her description of that occasion is recounted in her Autobiography, as well as Bing phoning her three years afterward with an urgent request to return for one performance as Minnie in Puccini's LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST [above]!"
- J. R. Peters