OP3392. PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Live Performance, 2 Jan., 1954, w.Monteux Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Nadine Conner, Theodore Uppman, Martial Singher, Martha Lipton, Jerome Hines, etc. [A minor caveat is the thin and occasionally variable sound, yet this sensitive performance plays most clearly] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-526. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Last night the music of PELLÉAS was most sensitively conducted by Pierre Monteux. The authority, the shimmering orchestral textures that the veteran conductor achieved, the atmosphere that he was able to evoke, made for a first class hearing of one of the rarest and most ephemeral of musical experiences. The fabrics of this luminous orchestral tapestry were the evening's chief delight.
Theodor Uppman as Pelléas and Jerome Hines as Arkel carried off chief honors among the singers. Mr. Uppman's Pelléas was a wonderful combination of poignant immaturity and instinctive passion and sophistication. He seemed singularly right with his youthful, graceful movements and his touching and ardent delivery of the music.
Mr. Hines...was a towering figure as the aged Arkel, and his noble voice adorned some of the most beautiful passages of the entire score with a grandiose sonority....
The Mélisande of Nadine Conner was a disappointment. It gave a feeling of being compact, matter-of-fact and efficiently planned, which was fatal to the dream-world atmosphere. There was little of the elusive mystery suggested by Bori and, particularly, by the incomparable Mary Garden. Comparisons can be tiresome, but there are times when it is difficult not to feel them.
Singher presented a strange Golaud, not nearly so rough or primitive as it should have been. This was an elegant man, constantly conscious of his appearance. Mr. Singher's diction and style were the best of the cast….
Excellent indeed were the Geneviève of Martha Lipton and the Yniold of little Vilma Georgiou. The latter was the best Yniold in this reviewer's considerable experience with PELLÉAS. A word also for Lubomir Vichegonov's nicely drawn physician.
Perfect performances of PELLÉAS are rare, but this is an opera, more than most, where near-perfection is to be ardently desired.”
- Max de Schauensee, THE PHILADELPHIA EVENING BULLETIN
“Nadine Conner made her New York debut on Dec. 22, 1941, as Pamina in an English version of Mozart's MAGIC FLUTE, conducted by Bruno Walter. She was hailed for both her vocal promise and her youthful beauty. It was not generally known that she was then about 35. After singing the role of the Forest Bird in SIEGFRIED, she went on to demanding roles in 1943, singing the first of 25 Sophies in DER ROSENKAVALIER. She also sang with the New York Philharmonic beginning in 1942, when she took a solo part in Mahler's Second Symphony, under Walter, who then chose her for annual performances of the Bach ST. MATTHEW PASSION.
Among her outstanding recordings was one of HANSEL AND GRETEL in 1947, in which she and Risë Stevens sang the title roles. It was the first complete opera recording made in this country, according to the Met archivists.
In 1951, also under Walter, she sang Marzelline in FIDELIO, in which her voice had to stand up to the heroic sounds of Kirsten Flagstad. She progressed to a memorable Tyrone Guthrie production of CARMEN in 1951 and 1952, and sang Mimi in a new production of LA BOHÈME as well. Altogether she gave 249 performances of 15 roles before her last Met performance, in FAUST, on March 12, 1960. THE NEW YORK TIMES said her final performance made ‘an appealing Marguerite’ that showed her vocally in admirable form’. ‘Her farewell performance’, wrote John Briggs, ‘was one of the best of her Metropolitan career’.''
- Wolfgang Saxon, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 March, 2003
“The American baritone Theodor Uppman, best known for creating the title role in Benjamin Britten's opera BILLY BUDD in 1951, had won high praise in 1947 for a concert performance of Debussy's PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE with the San Francisco Symphony, opposite Maggie Teyte as Mélisande. The conductor was Pierre Monteux, who became an important mentor to Mr. Uppman. Mr. Uppman repeated the role of Pelléas for his successful 1948 debut with the New York City Opera.
What came his way was BILLY BUDD. Britten had begun to doubt that he would ever find a suitable baritone to portray the young, winsome and innocent tragic hero of his new opera, based on the Herman Melville story. David Webster, the administrator of the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, which was presenting the premiere, had received a tip about Mr. Uppman. So he invited Mr. Uppman to New York for an audition. ‘At that time’, Mr. Uppman later recalled, ‘I was very blond and curly-haired, and I had been working a good deal of the summer out of doors, rolling great big barrels of oil, my shirt off, and I had a pretty good set of muscles and I was nice and tanned’. Webster was duly impressed with Mr. Uppman's voice and physique. So was Britten, when Mr. Uppman, who looked much younger than his 31 years, flew to London for an audition. ‘Apparently he felt that I was Billy Budd’, Mr. Uppman later recalled. After the opera's premiere at Covent Garden, Mr. Uppman repeated the role for a broadcast on NBC television. His Metropolitan Opera debut followed in 1953; he again sang the role of Pelléas. With his high, lyric yet robust voice, youthful vigor, boyish looks and musical sensitivity, he excelled at the Met in lighter roles, like Mozart's Papageno, Offenbach's Piquillo in LA PÉRICHOLE and Strauss' Harlequin in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. He gave almost 400 performances in 15 roles with the company.
In recent years, the live recording of the world premiere performance of BILLY BUDD, with Britten conducting the forces of Covent Garden, has become available. Mr. Uppman often spoke of how gratified he was that over the years young singers taking on the role had come to him for tips, most recently, the American baritone Nathan Gunn.”
-Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 March, 2005
"Martial Singher, a French baritone, made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1943. He made his debut at the Paris Opéra in 1930 and soon became a principal baritone with the company. After 11 seasons with the Paris Opéra he enjoyed many guest appearances in Europe and South America. In more than 100 opera roles and in recitals with leading orchestras, he eschewed showmanship and histrionics and stressed smoothness, subtlety and clarity. He was particularly celebrated for the lean, elegant phrasing of his native French repertory.
Of his Met debut as Dapertutto in LeS CONTES D'HOFFMANN, Virgil Thomson in THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE reported Mr. Singher 'gave a stage performance of incomparable elegance and did a piece of singing that for perfection of vocal style had not been equaled since Kirsten Flagstad went away'.
Several weeks later at the Met Singher sang his first Pelléas. Mr. Thomson found him 'the glory of the evening, vocally impeccable and dramatically superb'. Olin Downes of THE NEW YORK TIMES hailed the baritone as 'a fine and experienced artist, an authoritative actor, one firmly grounded in the traditions of his language and stage action and a potent element of the occasion'.
The baritone remained with the Met until 1959, when a severe heart disorder forced him to shift to teaching. He taught at the Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and, as director of the voice and opera department, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara (1962 to 1981), where he also produced operas. He was also an artist in residence at University of California at Santa Barbara."
- Peter B. Flint, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 March, 1990