OP3233. DIE FLEDERMAUS (in English), Live Performance, 23 Jan., 1954 , w. Kozma Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Charles Kullman, Patrice Munsel, Thomas Hayward, Jarmila Novotna, John Brownlee, Paul Franke, Clifford Harvuot, Suzanne Ames & Jack Mann. [A delightfully enchanting performance, every role is sung to perfection . . . and in remarkably fine sound as well!] (Canada) 2-Yves St Laurent T-647. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"The opera became hilarious! Everybody on stage and off got into the spirit of the thing as it got funnier and funnier. Everyone (including me) was wondering what I was going to do next. That was pure Eleanor Steber! That was the most fun I ever had at the Met. It was really something!"
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, p.169
"Charles Kullman was one of the first American singers to establish a career in Europe before returning to his home country in triumph. His successes in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg and London, and his work with such conductors as Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini made it possible for him to join the Metropolitan, where he sang a remarkably varied repertory in 402 performances - 283 in New York, 119 on tour - between 1935 and 1960. Although never one of the greatest opera stars - in part because his international career was hindered in its prime by World War II - Mr. Kullman was a deeply respected artist.
In the late '20s there was hardly any domestic circuit for young American singers. Mr. Kullman did tour for a season with Vladimir Rosing's pioneering, English-language American Opera Company, but realized that his best hope for success was to establish a European career. Mr. Kullman auditioned in Berlin for Klemperer, who at that time was director of the Kroll Opera, the experimental wing of the Berlin State Opera. He made his debut with the Kroll as Pinkerton in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY on 24 Feb., 1931. The Kroll Opera shut down at the end of that season, but Mr. Kullman was taken on by the State Opera proper, where he sang until 1936. His tenure in Berlin was cut short by his defiance of a Nazi ban on German-based singers appearing at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, where Toscanini and Walter were attempting to establish an anti-Fascist counterweight to the German summer festivals. Mr. Kullman, who was now singing regularly in Vienna, as well, performed often with those conductors, including Walter's first recording of Mahler's DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and Toscanini's famous productions of Beethoven's FIDELIO and Verdi's FALSTAFF at Salzburg. Mr. Kullman's Met debut took place on 20 Dec., 1935, in the title role of Gounod's FAUST.
At the Met, Mr. Kullman's repertory included 33 parts, ranging from Mozart, to mainstream Italian tenor roles, to French operas, to the lighter Wagner. His most frequently sung role was Eisenstein in DIE FLEDERMAUS, which he performed 30 times. In 1956 he accepted a teaching position at Indiana University in Bloomington, but continued to sing at the Met."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Feb., 1983
“On 4 Dec., 1943, at 18, Patrice Munsel made her Met début as the temptress Philine in Ambroise Thomas’ MIGNON wearing a good-luck ring and a crown lent to her by the soprano Lily Pons. The audience gave Ms. Munsel a standing ovation of several minutes….She performed a total of 225 times at the Met, excelling as the maid Adele in Johann Strauss’ DIE FLEDERMAUS and earning praise from Olin Downes for her ‘virtuoso singing’ and ‘very amusing acting’. He declared her born for the role ‘by personality, wit, temperament’. Rudolf Bing, the company’s general manager during Ms. Munsel’s tenure, is said to have called her ‘a superb soubrette’.
But Ms. Munsel had given up touring the moment she became engaged to Robert C. Schuler, an adman turned television producer, whom she married in 1952. Not long after returning from their summer-long European honeymoon, she did a star turn on movie screens as Dame Nellie Melba, the 19th-century Australian soprano, in the 1953 biopic MELBA, produced by the Hollywood legend Sam Spiegel.
Ms. Munsel last performed at the Met in 1958 as Mimi in LA BOHEME, a role she had long coveted. She then focused on motherhood, traveling and musical comedies, performing splits in the 1965 Lincoln Center Theater presentation of THE MERRY WIDOW and occasionally turning productions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and THE KING AND I into family affairs with her four children.
Ms. Munsel had a lifelong comedic streak. ‘I’m sure when I emerged from my mother’s womb, the doctor slapped me, I hit a high C and slapped him back’, she wrote in a biographical sketch on her website. ‘I stepped on the stage and sang my first aria on the Metropolitan Auditions of the Air without a nerve in my body. I won, and I was on my way to fame and stardom’.”
- Kathryn Shattuck, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Aug., 2016
“Jarmila Novotna, a Czech-born lyric soprano who sang major roles at the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1956, was widely considered one of the finest singing actresses of her time. Her interpretations of such roles as Donna Elvira, Euridice, Manon, Melisande, Antonia and Marenka were praised for their intelligence and lyrical grace. She also excelled in trouser roles, particularly Orlofsky in DIE FLEDERMAUS, Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Octavian in DER ROSENKAVALIER. On hearing her American debut in San Francisco in MADAMA BUTTERFLY in 1939, Olin Downes wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘There is grace, warmth, communicative feeling in all that she does’.
She made her Metropolitan debut in LA BOHEME in 1940, singing with Jussi Björling. THE TIMES review noted her ‘charming simplicity, feeling and high artistic intelligence’. That year Downes also praised her ‘great’ Violetta at the Met: ‘She conceived the music, from first note to last, dramatically, and portrayed the character with an aristocratic sensibility and simplicity. The word and the tone were indissoluble; the phrasing was that of the finest musician’. In her years at the Metropolitan Opera, Miss Novotna sang 193 performances -142 in the opera house, the rest on tour - and won consistent praise for her expressiveness and musicianship.
Her acting abilities and regal appearance also led to other offers: the director Max Reinhardt urged her to devote herself to the theater; the studio head Louis B. Mayer asked her to become a film star. During the course of her career, she appeared in Hollywood films (THE GREAT CARUSO and THE SEARCH), on Broadway (as an unscrupulous concert singer in the 1953 drama SHERLOCK HOLMES) and on television (as Kim Stanley's mother in a postwar drama set in France). But she resisted all attempts to steer her away from singing, which was her first love. ‘Of course there are many important things in life besides music’, she said in a 1989 interview in OPERA NEWS, ‘but that doesn't make music unimportant. If you love music, what would life be without it - can you imagine? Art is what brings beauty into life’.
Miss Novotna studied with Emmy Destinn and made her debut at the age of 17 with the Prague National Opera. She continued her studies in Milan and became a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1933 to 1938, eventually singing opera and concerts in most of the major houses of Europe. The Met invited her to sing in 1928, but she did not want to be separated from her future husband, the Baron George Daubek, whom she married in 1931. Toscanini brought her to the attention of the Met again after she sang Pamina under his direction in Salzburg in 1937. She came to New York in 1940, arriving, she noted years later, the day Hitler marched into Prague. During the war years she recorded ‘Songs of Lidice’, in memory of the victims of the Nazi massacre. The recording presents folk songs of her native land; the piano accompaniments are by Jan Masaryk, the son of the former president of Czechoslovakia. Masaryk died in 1948, and the loss of his protection led to the nationalization of the Daubeks' 3,700-acre estate and castle. That same year, Miss Novotna appeared in Fred Zinnemann's film THE SEARCH, as a mother seeking her lost son at the end of World War II.
Miss Novotna moved from Vienna to New York after her husband's death in 1981. She was frequently seen at opera performances and at events celebrating the art of singing.”
- Edward Rothstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 Feb., 1994
“Born in Budapest, Tibor Kozma graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 1931. He then pursued further studies in Dresden at the Hochschule fur Musik in the orchestral program associated with the Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden. After graduating in 1933 he worked as an opera conductor in Europe. At the outbreak of World War II, Kozma left Europe to join the conducting staff at the opera house in Quito, Ecuador in 1939. In 1941 he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. In 1948 he became a vocal coach at the Metropolitan Opera, eventually joining the conducting staff in 1950. Kozma made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 4, 1951, leading a production of Johann Strauss II's DIE FLEDERMAUS. He conducted a total of 82 performances at the house over the next six years. He then had a successful teaching career at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University from 1957 until his death 19 years later.”