Jan Peerce was born in New York on 3 June 1904. He began his
professional singing career in 1932 performing at Radio City Music Hall
making his Metropolitan Opera debut on 29 November 1941 in a performance
of Verdi's La traviata. Over
the next 27 years Peerce sang 324 performances at the Met, in roles that
ranged from Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni to Alvaro in
Verdi's La forza del destino.
Peerce continued to appear as an operatic and concert artist well
into his 70s. In 1982 he
gave his final concert at Carnegie Hall.
After suffering from several strokes, he died 15 December 1984 at
the age of 80.
his long and distinguished career Jan Peerce was noted for his vibrant
delivery, rock-solid technique, and admirable musicianship.
These qualities helped to compensate for the absence of a
commanding stage presence, and a rather nasal tone quality that lacked
the sheer beauty of Jussi Bjoerling or Ferruccio Tagliavini.
The recordings included on this new Preiser disc were originally made for RCA and span the period of 1941 (the year of Peerce's Met debut) to 1949. Throughout, the tenor is in fresh, youthful voice, with plenty of ring to his top notes. There is also a welcome vitality and passion in his delivery. On the debit side, Peerce does not offer much in the way of tonal variety or specific characterization. And on occasion, the tenor's usually admirable legato is compromised by an aspirate, or the intrusion of extraneous vowels (in the prayer from La juive, "parmi nous descends!" becomes "parmi-eh nous-eh descends"). But overall, there is certainly much to enjoy in these early Peerce recordings, and the appearances of Licia Albanese (La traviata) and Leonard Warren (Forza and La Boh╦me) certainly add to the attractiveness of the collection.
recordings should have been issued by RCA/BMG.
Given that company's reluctance to do so, Preiser must be
commended for making these performances available on CD, particularly
in such fine transfers. The
booklet features a biography of Peerce in German and English, and two
photos of the singer. There
are no texts or translations of the selections.
K.M. (March 2003)