VERDI: Il trovatore (broadcast of February 4, 1961)
VERDI: Rigoletto (broadcast of February 22, 1964)
VERDI: Un ballo in maschera (broadcast of December
VERDI: Don Carlo (broadcast of March 7, 1964)
Here are four major Met broadcasts of enormous interest to operaphiles. Surely the most exciting is the Trovatore which was the first Met broadcast by both Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli. About a week early they had made their debut, and I was fortunate enough to be in the audience. What a night that was! This was the first of more than 200 performances by Price, the first of more than 380 for Corelli who about two weeks later would sing the first of his many performances of Calaf in Turandot. And both Price and Corelli are at their youth peak of performance—quite amazing indeed, and producers have included all of the vociferous applause. This is a thrilling account of Verdi's masterpiece, an opera that both Price and Corelli would record commercially, but not with each other. The Rigoletto is a typical high-quality Met broadcast of the era with Robert Merrill a sterling jester, Roberta Peters (who briefly in 1952 was married to Merrill) a brilliant Gilda, and a strong, reliable supporting cast. The December 1955 broadcast of Ballo was historic: the first time a Negro singer appeared at the Met in a major role. By that time, Marian Anderson had been singing publicly for three decades. Her Azucena is not the firmest vocally, but her unique sound is memorable. And it is a pleasure to hear the great Zinka Milanov as Amelia, a role she did not record commercially. Jan Peerce is not ideal as Riccardo (if you search around on the internet you might be able to find the 1940 Met broadcast in which she is matched by Jussi Bjoerling. Don Carlo is an opera Corelli performed mostly at the beginning of his remarkable career and never recorded commercially; there is a 1970 Vienna State Opera live performance available on several labels. About a decade ago, this site covered a Myto release of excerpts from Don Carlo and Forza with the Philadelphia Opera (REVIEW). As was the custom at the time of the Met broadcast ,Don Carlo is cut quite a bit, and this does allow the entire performance to fit onto just two well-filled disks. Fans of Leonie Rysanek will welcome this opportunity to hear her Elisabeth although she is hardly at her best. Mono sound on all of these is excellent. Don't expect libretti, but that won't matter to most collectors.
R.E.B. (October 2011)