Forza  (Stiedry;  Zinka Milanov, Richard Tucker, Leonard Warren, Jerome Hines)  (2-St Laurent Studio T-679)
Item# OP3254
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Product Description

Forza  (Stiedry;  Zinka Milanov, Richard Tucker, Leonard Warren, Jerome Hines)  (2-St Laurent Studio T-679)
OP3254. LA FORZA DEL DESTINO, Live Performance, 29 Nov., 1952, w.Stiedry Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Richard Tucker, Leonard Warren, Jerome Hines, Mildred Miller, Gerhard Pechner, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio T-679. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


"On this 1952 afternoon [Milanov] is at the peak of her form. From the first, the voice is surely placed, fruity in the extreme, alternately bronze or silver as suits the moment. Seldom has one heard the Milanov instrument so firmly channeled, so free of the hint of strain in altitudinous fortes - the role is loaded with high Bs and every one of them, whether brazenly exuberant or ethereally serene, is well-anchored. Milanov's FORZA recordings are magnificent vocal documents, but the lifeblood of the theatre courses through her broadcast performance. 'Pace, pace, mio Dio' is exemplary; I marvel at the several grades of piano which Milanov manages to employ in the initial phrases. Of particular note is the plaintive inflection of 'Pace' at the reprise of the opening phrases...nothing can dim the exaltation which Milanov and Tucker have summoned on this memorable afternoon."

- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.191

"Leonora is the role that would probably be most opera lovers' choice if they were forced to choose one that best fit Zinka Milanov. She had the right vocal weight throughout her evenly-produced dramatic soprano, she was capable of the most remarkable floated pianissimi, and her generous, long-breathed phrases suited the music perfectly. Of the three recordings with her singing this role, I think most would agree that this one is first choice. The 1958 RCA studio recording caught her too late, and despite some lovely moments there are too many awkward passages. A 1953 performance from the New Orleans Opera finds her at almost the same level as she is here, and Mario del Monaco is a very able Alvaro as well. Leonard Warren is great on both. But the overall performance is less tidy, particularly from the orchestra, and the recorded sound of that one is quite constricted. This, on the other hand, has superb monaural sound, splendidly transferred by St. Laurent Studio. This was released on Sony in cooperation with the Met, and making an A-B comparison of both reveals a slight gain in clarity and naturalness of color (both vocal and orchestral) on this version. The difference is subtle, and if you have the Sony and are satisfied with it you might justifiably resist this issue. But if you don’t have it, or if you love the performance as I do and want the very best possible reproduction of it, then this is the version.

Even here there are occasional moments when Milanov is not centered on pitch (though they are very few) and where the voice turns a bit harsh (but those too are minimal). For the most part, however, this is how I imagine the role to sound in my dreams. There is a glow to the sound that few have duplicated, a richness of tone that even fewer have matched, and the arc of Verdi’s line is limned ideally. Her soft singing in 'Madre, pietosa Vergine', 'La Vergine degli angeli', and 'Pace, pace mio Dio' should be heard by every soprano studying voice and thinking about singing this role. And those soft floated high notes are fully integrated into the phrase and shape of the music, not highlighted in a 'look what I can do' manner. This is vocal greatness of a kind rarely heard in any era.

The rest of the cast is on an equal level. Richard Tucker occasionally over-emotes (the little sob he puts in at the beginning of 'O tu che in seno agli angeli' detracts from the musical line), and there is a bit too much sforzando singing, but is on good behavior for most of the time, and his voice was certainly one of the glories in an era with a good many glorious tenors. He also had a better feel for legato and an evenly produced line than he was often given credit for. In addition, his passion is an important component of his scenes with Leonard Warren. One easily gets caught up in the fierceness of those scenes. Warren deserves a lot of credit for that as well. In addition to one of the greatest, richest baritone voices of his era, he was a compelling vocal actor. You have to go back before Warren, perhaps to Lawrence Tibbett or Pasquale Amato to find a Verdi baritone of equal vocal authority.

Jerome Hines, in his prime here, is a sonorous and believable Padre Guardiano, Mildred Miller a rich voiced and musical Preziosilla, and the remainder of the cast is excellent as well. One could not assemble a FORZA cast on this level today. Fritz Stiedry, not usually thought of as a Verdi conductor, acquits himself very well, giving the singers the freedom that they require to make their presence felt, but keeping continuity and forward-motion throughout. Unlike the later Met production, the Overture here is at the beginning, where it belongs. The fairly standard cuts of the day, about 30 minutes worth, are employed.

I suppose that the 1952 monaural sound would keep this from being a first-choice of this opera for most collectors, but I will state categorically that this is the one I turn to most frequently. (The 1962 Price/Corelli version, also issued by St. Laurent Studio, is probably a second choice, and only then do I get to any of the studio recordings). St. Laurent Studio, as is their norm, includes no notes, but full track listings and cast. The label is available through Norbeck, Peters & Ford (”

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE

"...for some thirty years, until his sudden death in 1975, Tucker's vocal security, boundless energy, unceasing enthusiasm, and thorough professionalism ensured a level of popularity that necessitated comparisons to some of his greatest predecessors....Tucker sang thrillingly and delivered the goods, communicating his own joy in singing to all who would listen...."

- Marc Mandel, FANFARE, May/June, 1997

"Leonard Warren emerged as the principal baritone of the Met's Italian wing in the early 1940s and remained so until his untimely death on the Met's stage, 4 March, 1960, at the peak of his career. His smooth, velvety, and beautiful voice was powerful and had an unusually large range in its high register. It was easily and evenly produced, whether he sang softly or roared like a lion. Warren acted his roles primarily by vocal coloring, expressivity, and his excellent diction...his singing was unusually consistent. Warren's legacy should be of interest to all lovers of great singing."

- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2006

"[Warren's] remarkable voice had a dramatic intensity which did not come naturally to him. As with everything else in his life, he worked at that until he got it right. Fortunately, his incomparable voice and dramatic power are still available to us on recordings of some of his most famous roles....[He] became one of the most famous and beloved operatic baritones in the world....Warren's flawless technique, seamless flow of sound, and brilliant top voice were his vocal trademarks and these qualities became the standard by which others would be measured, including me."

- Sherrill Milnes, AMERICAN ARIA, pp.76-77

"The American bass Jerome Hines had a long and distinguished career at the Metropolitan Opera singing a wide variety of roles with true consistency of voice and style. He appeared with the company for more than 40 years from 1946. An imposing figure - he was 6ft 6in tall - he had a voluminous bass to match his stature.

His charismatic presence made him ideal for the many roles demanding a big personality. It was thus hardly surprising that Sarastro in THE MAGIC FLUTE, Gounod's Mephistopheles, the high priest Ramfis in AIDA, the Grand Inquisitor in DON CARLOS, Boris Godunov, and King Mark in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE were among his leading roles.

Although always faithful to the Met, Hines made many forays abroad. In 1953, he undertook Nick Shadow, with Glyndebourne, at the Edinburgh festival, in the first British performances of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS. That led to engagements in leading houses in Europe and south America, and eventually to Bayreuth, where he sang Gurnemanz, King Mark and Wotan (1958-63). In 1958, he made his La Scala debut in the title part of Handel's HERCULES, and, in 1961, he first appeared at the San Carlo in Naples, in the title role of Boito's MEFISTOFELE. His Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1962 was, by all accounts, a deeply impressive portrayal.

He was fortunate to arrive at the Met just as the opera house was in need of replacements for the great Ezio Pinza, who had decided to appear in SOUTH PACIFIC. Unlike his distinguished predecessor, Hines could also sing the German and Russian repertory, in addition to Italian and French. In all, his innate musicianship stood him in good stead. Most of his discs derived from live performances. They reveal a sterling voice, a refined style, consisting of a burnished tone, a fine line and exemplary diction, although he never seems to have have been a very profound interpreter.

Hines was both a deeply religious person and a good writer. He combined these qualities in his own opera, I AM THE WAY, a work about Jesus, performed, with Hines as the protagonist, at Philadelphia in 1969. The previous year, he had published his autobiography, THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG, but his most lasting volume was GREAT SINGERS ON GREAT SINGING (1982), in which he made discerning comments on the art of many colleagues.

Hines' later appearances befitted his advancing years: he was Arkel, the elderly grandfather in PELLEAS ET MELISANDE (Rome, 1984), and the blind father in Mascagni's IRIS (Newark, 1989). His last stage appearance was as Sarastro, in New Orleans in 1998, when he was 77."

- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 13 Feb., 2003