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Brotherly love

Again dipping into the rich archive of live recordings remastered and made available by the late Mike Richter, we find this selection from his early disc “Odd Opera 2.”  It’s Bellini’s I puritani, as performed on April 18, 1963 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

From Mike’s liner notes for this release:

Although private recordings have been issued quite frequently, all appear to come from late generations of a tape which I received from the recordist in better sound than I have found on the market. So I take this opportunity to include it here. Note that the sound quality is inconsistent, but consistently less than would be achieved with modern hardware.

Conductor: Richard Bonynge
Company: American Opera Society
Elvira: Joan Sutherland
Arturo: Nicolai Gedda
Riccardo: Ernest Blanc
Giorgio: Justino Diaz
Enrichetta: Betty Allen
Gualtiero: Raymond Michalski


  • 1
    Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

    Very nice to have this on La Stupenda’s birthday, too -- thank you!

    • 1.1
      Camille says:

      I’ll raise a toast to that and what would you recommend to celebrate this anniversary of a birthday and the splendida I Puritani, which thus far has
      not sounded one false note.

      A Sweet Thursday, indeed!

    • 1.2
      Clita del Toro says:

      Joan is tremendous on this Puritani. I fear that we will never hear anything like it again. As I always wrote, her Eb’s sounded as if they came from outer space--they just filled the whole hall.

  • 2
    pasavant says:

    I was there! Will never forget Gedda’s high notes. One of the great experiences of my life.

    • 2.1
      Camille says:

      Those high notes, carried up so far with so much full chest voice, are just unbelievable. I had forgotten how much I used to love Gedda, a prince among tenors.

      This is a wonderful performance. You were so truly lucky to have been there!

      • 2.1.1
        pasavant says:

        Opera buffs in Philadelphia still talk about it. It was a concert performance by a traveling group called , I think, the American Opera Association. My first year of high school. Fortunately my parents shared by love of opera so they paid and we had fabulous seats. Sutherland sang so many great performances here: Norma, Traviata, Maria Stuarda . Unfortunately opera is now moribund in Philadelphia

          Camille says:

          Yes, the American Opera Society! its chef was a Mr. Allen Oxenburg, or Alan Oxenberg, I know not which. If anyone at all knows anything more about all the operas they presented, or where there may be an archive of their presentations, please let us know, as I have a friend interested in such.

          They also presented the Amercian debut of Joan Sutherland in Beatrice di Tenda, along with the debut in Carnegie Hall, at least as I know not where she had yet sung in NYC at that time, of Marilyn Horne.

          One wonders about such an enterprise and what wheeled its performance and why they ended.

          Thank you very much.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Cammie, I would love a list of AOS performances--and the Concert Opera Association’s. I did see many of them including Joan’s and Caballe’s NY debuts and Callas’ Pirata. Others who sang with AOS were Schwarzkopf, Simionato, DFD, Horne, etc. My parents and I had subscriptions. I did see a Puritani with about the same cast as the Phil. recording Also a Sonnambula.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              I don’t remember half of the performances I saw at AOS. Will have to pull out my old programs.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              Was Suliotis’ Norma part of the AOS? Don’t remember???

            • Camille says:

              Clita darling,

              I tried to find out from the YouTuber with the Suliotis Norma in Carnegie Hall, entitled “Trainwreck”, but I can’t start up another as I am listening to the Puritani again.

              I wish someone had some information other than the little bit on Wikepedia about the AOS, an important group.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              One day I will go my storage locker and look for the old AOS programs. Maybe others can find theirs--if they are still alive! :)

            • Camille says:

              I am afraid it is all up to you, ClitadelT! You are the last (and best) man left standing!

              If I do go to Chicago for that Rusalka, I’ll come along and help you out as I have abundant experience with storage lockers and know how to attack them.


            • Clita del Toro says:

              In the past I have asked about the AOS on opera-l and no one seems to care. There must be someone out there who has that info.

            • Krunoslav says:

              I have access to someone else NYC concert performance database, which I augment from time to time, should other such questions arise:

              American Opera Society:

              11/9/67 New York, Carnegie Hall
              Suliotis, Tatum, Cecchele, Roni (Cillario)

    • 2.2
      Ilka Saro says:

      Gedda was the first tenor whose voice I got to know. When I was a lad of 8 or 9, I got an album of highlights from his Boheme with Freni. This was followed by his Elisir with Freni, and then also his Carmen with Victoria de Los Angeles (whom I adore, even if her Carmen is oddly virginal).

      When I got a recording of Aida with Gigli, I was satisfied with him. No doubt partly due to the fact that to my 10 year old ear, he “sounded like Gedda”. Now this just makes me laugh, but at the time, these were my standards.

      • 2.2.1
        moi says:

        Yeah, the standards are set with the first impressions… mine was Freni’s Butterfly.
        Pavarotti and Ludwig are not bad either.
        Callas was more of an aquired taste… but has stayed big time.
        Then reading Sergio Segalini, the editor of the french Opera International Magazine, taught me a lot …
        Unfortunately he did not like Caballé

  • 3
    kashania says:

    Can’t wait to have a listen. The Sutherland/Gedda Sonnambula is heavenly so I have high hopes for this.

  • 4
    Camille says:

    This compares somewhat to the earlier Glyndebourne performance of Dame Joan’s Elvira, but is quite a bit more assured, professional and bobble-free.

    The earlier one, reviewed herein by our dear Ercole Farnese, is a treasure, though, and much to be cherished.

    The trills and spills are to-die-for!

  • 5
    La Valkyrietta says:

    She was always a wonderful Elvira. This performance with Gedda is a luxury.

  • 6
    mjmacmtenor says:

    I attended a master class in the 80s led by Betty Allen, the Enrichetta in this performance. A great lady, this African-American mezzo later was head of the Harlem School of the Arts. It was in her master class that I first heard the term “witches, bitches, and britches” to refer to typicaly roles a mezzo plays in operas. I am sure she did not invent this line, but I always think of her when I hear it.

  • 7
    Camille says:

    La Cieca had a Canard Thread (gee, that sounds funny) up last week or so about “PERFECTION”, and used a Sutherland/Horne duet as an example. Honest to g-d, this I Puritani, to which I have now listened THRICE, is about as close to perfection as any performance of any work I’ve ever heard. The unison high D that she and Mr. Gedda sing in the third act has got to be heard to be believed!

    I am now going to play it a fourth time and hope it never goes away.
    And Dame Joan WAS truly Stupendous! Say what you will about her, based on a late experience or an unhappy experience, or her lack of stage presence in the beginning, she made a sound that is just simply, as I read in some Italian rag once, quasi metafisici -- just out of this world.

  • 8
    kashania says:

    Just listening to “Vergine vesozza”. Joanie is in brilliant voice but did I hear her fudge a few of the turns near the beginning? I don’t think I’ve everheard Joan sing coloratura with anything other than breathtaking precision.

    • 8.1
      Clita del Toro says:

      Contrary to popular opinion, Joan was human just like the rest of us.

      • 8.1.1
        kashania says:

        LOL. It’s true. Mind you, she sang the piece at a very fast clip and what I’ve always loved about her “Vergine vezzosa” is the bounce and rhythmic light-foootedness.

      • 8.1.2
        antikitschychick says:

        Nonsense. Anyone can see she is an alien haling from planet fierce (albeit not as glittery as Adam Lambert) :-P.

  • 9
    Ethan says:

    This is amazing. The sound of Philadelphia tapes is notoriously terrible. Someone issued a Phil. Rondine with Licia Albanese that has to be the worst sounding CD in bootleg history. But this Puritani is…happy.

  • 10
    kashania says:

    Just finished Gedda and Sutherland’s big final duet. What glorious singing. Their unison D-flat is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

    • 10.1
      Camille says:

      Yes, D FLAT! You are quite correct and merci buttercups for correcting my misperception. I was assuming they sang it as written but upon second hearing I realized my error and went to the piano and struck the note. In any case, it was just as well for he has to sing that same note in the climactic note to “Credeasi misera”, so fine.
      I have rarely heard such a perfect, dynamic unison of two singers on an extreme high note as this and listened to the whole damn enchilada four times yesterday, such was my delight at this marvelous performance. The only flaw was that Cougher nearly blotting out Joan’s gorgeous trills in the third act. Coughing aggressively seems to be a favoured sport at opera performances, in particular.

      • 10.1.1
        kashania says:

        Ah, so the duet is written a semi-tone higher in the score. Good to know. For this voice lover, there is nothing more thrilling than hearing two supreme singers hit that note in such magnificent style. To achieve such thrilling vocalism in a live performance makes it extra special.

      • 10.1.2
        scifisci says:

        While Sutherland’s supremacy in this role and especially in this insanely amazing performance really cannot be questioned, I do recall being pretty bowled over by netrebko+kunde’s unison D-flat and thinking to myself that the size and glamour of netrebko’s tone on that note must compare somewhat with dame joan’s, though I have never heard her live so i cannot really say.

  • 11
    figaroindy says:

    I believe Eileen Farrell’s debut (in opera) may have been with AOS, also (Medea?). And I think Fischer-Dieskau’s first NY performances were with AOS.

    • 11.1
      Clita del Toro says:

      I did see Farrell’s Medea at Carnegie Hall. I think she sang it a two different times. Don’t remember which years. I saw the second. Was not impressed with the opera (or her) until I heard Callas’ sing the role. Go figure.
      DFD sang Doktor Faustus (or whatever that opera is called). A memorable night!

  • 12
    rysanekfreak says:

    I loved hearing this spectacular performance, although it was distracting that the person taping it was apparently seated next to Violetta Valery.

  • 13
    ilpenedelmiocor says:

    It kind of depresses me to realize that you could hear performances like this with casts like this in cities like Philadelphia just 50 years ago.

    • 13.1
      Clita del Toro says:

      What depresses me more is much of what we hear today. ;)

    • 13.2
      wotan46 says:

      You can explore the amazing depth and breadth of opera performance in Philly of years past in this incredible online database created by Frank Hamilton. Not tapes, but a listing of performances, complete with dates, venues, casting, etc. The variety of performances featuring everytyhing from obscure, local artists to the greatest international superstars is really mind-boggling. Have not been able to track down Mr. Hamilton. Wish I could find him and thank him for this treasure.

  • 14
    Clita del Toro says:

    OT. Tomas Tomasson is the worst Luna I have ever heard. A real party tape, if you can stand it. He just sang Il Balen, or something like it.

  • 15
    MontyNostry says:

    OT -- a curiosity: Bumbry and Studer live in 1987 (Vienna) in Gluck’s Telemaco.

  • 16
    Hans Lick says:

    Oxenburg started American Opera Society on a whim and a prayer, and masterminded many a glorious evening. “Concert opera” as we know it was not yet a going concern; he made it classy and sponsored lots of folks who had not yet reached the Met: Price and Flagello in “Coronation of Poppea,” Price and Siepi in “Giulio Cesare,” Schwarzkopf in a repeat of “Cesare,” Callas in “Roberto Devereux,” the jaw-dropping New York debuts of Sutherland, Horne and Caballe…. Sutherland sang “Semiramide” for him, and also Haydn’s “Orfeo” (with Gedda), the first night I ever heard them. The same season included besides Suliotis’ disastrous “Nabucco,” Caballe and Verrett in “Maria Stuarda” and Tebaldi in “La Wally.” Was it the next year that New York last heard “Tiefland”? and Sills in “Les Huguenots”? and Caballe in “La Straniera”?

    Anyway, I have never seen a tidy list of the complete performance history of this amazing company.

    There were, in the early 70s, too many Caballe cancellations (entailing much forfeit on management’s part) and, rumor has it, a great deal of syphoning off of “corporation” money to Mr. Oxenburg’s antique furniture collection. A sad end. Happily, Eve Queler was there to take up the slack, though things were never the same, seldom quite as thrilling as those early astonishments. But she gave us some fabulous nights.

    • 16.1
      Ethan says:

      Callas never sang Roberto Devereux. Could you be thinking of Il Pirata? A different composer, but the same style. Callas did sing Imogene for the American Opera Society, in 1959. It was a bootleg for years, and is now on EMI.