OP3305. LA GIOCONDA, Live Performance, 3 Jan., 1953, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Zinka Milanov, Kurt Baum,
Fedora Barbieri, Leonard Warren, Cesare Siepi, Jean Madeira, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-684. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Ready and willing, [Milanov] offers what is perhaps the most emotional, fully committed performance of her long broadcast career….As Milanov fills Ponchielli’s churning lines with splendid arcs of sound, the heroine’s pain and sorrow are fully exposed - the soprano, too, has opened her heart to us. One expects Milanov to soar grandly over the third-act choral mass, but more welcome is the wide dynamic range of her singing, especially in the final act….’Suicidio’ is a flamboyant example of her art. As seems appropriate to the theatre, the reading is more expansive than in her celebrated recording….in the abandon of her portrayal she flirts with danger throughout the afternoon….Milanov and Gioconda are one….Gioconda looms as the ultimate image of her stage persona and vocal manner.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, p.153
“In the dramatic Italian roles, the greatest soprano I ever sang with was Zinka Milanov.…Milanov had one of the greatest voices of this century…she had such power, such dramatic drive in her voice — and she had such pure top tones, including a pianissimo even on the high C, if she wanted.”
- Alexander Kipnis
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
“Zinka never paused to consider the effect her ‘Milanovisms’ might have on others. She once saw very religious Kurt Baum crossing himself before the third act of TROVATORE. Zinka just looked at him and said, ‘If you don’t know it Baum, Gott ain’t gonna help you.”
- Anna-Lisa Björling, JUSSI, p.261
“A dramatic tenor alternately gauche and exciting, Kurt Baum filled a crucial spot for the Metropolitan Opera and other houses without ever quite having attained star status. Long after his nominal retirement from the stage, he continued to make concert appearances. Noted throughout his career for stentorian top notes, he later wrote several treatises on preservation of the voice and singing well in old age. Whatever his deficiencies as an artist, he was an exemplar of longevity. Baum spent his high school and college years in Cologne, Germany, before entering medical school at Prague University in 1927. During this period, Baum engaged in a number of athletic activities, becoming the amateur boxing champion of Czechoslovakia. He also evinced a strong interest in music. Urged by friends to sing professionally, Baum left medical school and enrolled at Berlin's Music Academy in 1930. By 1933, Baum was sufficiently well prepared to win the Vienna International Singing Competition, taking first prize among 700 contestants. Heard by the Intendant of the Zurich Opera, Baum was engaged for that company and made his début there in 1933 singing in Alexander von Zemlinsky's DER KREIDEKREIS. After singing a variety of lyric roles at Zürich, Baum was engaged the following year by the Deutsches Theater for a succession of more dramatic roles. Feeling the need for further study, Baum traveled to Italy to work with Eduardo Garbin in Milan and with faculty at Rome's Accademia Santa Cecilia. Fortified with additional technical expertise, Baum sang in many of Europe's leading houses in Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Monte Carlo, and at Salzburg. Heard in Monte Carlo by the director of the Chicago Opera, Baum was engaged and made his American début in Chicago on 2 November, 1939, singing Radames to the Aïda of Rose Bampton. He was heard in subsequent seasons as Don José and Manrico. Meanwhile, Baum joined the Metropolitan Opera, making his début on 27 November, 1941, as the Italian Singer in DER ROSENKAVALIER. In this short but memorable part, his talents were well matched to the role's requirements. For the next quarter century, Baum sang the spinto repertory at the Metropolitan to reviews both complimentary and critical. When the company mounted WOZZECK for the first time in 1959, Baum found a highly congenial role in the preening Drum Major. After WWII, Baum returned to Europe and made his début at La Scala as Manrico and re-established relations with several other major companies.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"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