rias and Duets by Hal╚vy (La juive), Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor), Verdi (Rigoletto, La traviata, Un ballo in maschera and La forza del destino), Meyerbeer (L'africana), Ponchielli (La gioconda), Leoncavallo (I pagliacci), and Puccini (La boh╦me, Tosca and La fanciulla del West). Jan Peerce, tenor, with Dorothy Sarnoff (soprano); Arthur Kent (bass-baritone); Licia Albanese (soprano); and Leonard Warren (baritone); RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Wilfred Pelletier, Erich Leinsdorf, Sylvan Levin, Frieder Weissmann, and Jean Paul Morel, cond.
PREISER  89562 (F) (AAD) TT: 74:12

Tenor 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.

Throughout 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The recordings included on this new Preiser disc were originally made for RCA and span the period of 1941 (the year of Peerce's Met debut) to 1949.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.

These 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)