Cher Public

All about my mother

On her 90th birthday “Trove Thursday” presents the late great Belgian mezzo Rita Gorr parenting Régine Crespin in Massenet’s Hérodiade, a 1963 concert by the American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall which also features Guy Chauvet and Robert Massard

In the 1950s and 60s the American Opera Society, founded by Allen Sven Oxenburg and Arnold Gamson, produced many star-studded concert performances of rarely encountered works at Town Hall or Carnegie Hall. Notable were Cherubini’s Medea with Eileen Farrell, Giulietta Simionato in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Jennie Tourel’s La Grande-duchesse de Gérolstein, and even Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Orfeo ed Euridice (with Lucia Popp as Amore!)

Joan Sutherland made her NYC debut with AOS in 1961 as Beatrice di Tenda beside Marilyn Horne in her local debut and together they reappeared four years later in Semiramide. Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi sang both La Wally and Mefistofele (with Nicolai Ghiaurov) for AOS which also hosted Elena Souliotis’ notorious 1967 Norma, as well as her less controversial Anna Bolena opposite Horne, Janet Baker and Placido Domingo.

In 1965 Horne canceled her scheduled Lucrezia Borgia with AOS and instead New York heard Montserrat Caballé for the first time. She made history that evening and returned to AOS for La Straniera, Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda opposite Shirley Verrett. Beverly Sills sang her only Marguerite in Les Huguenots (with Angeles Gulin and Tony Poncet) and her only French La Fille du Régiment during AOS’s final season in 1970. But the most famous AOS concert of all was, of course, Maria Callas’s 1959 Il Pirata.

Like today’s Hérodiade and all of the other performances I have mentioned, a much-circulated recording of that Pirata exists because it was taped by (appropriately) a “pirate.” Unfortunately any number of tantalizing AOS projects seem not to have been recorded; I would love to hear Spontini’s La Vestale in French with Crespin also from 1963; Les Dialogues des Carmélites with Denise Duval presented the following year and the unlikely pairing of Schwarzkopf and Cesare Siepi in a 1958 Giulio Cesare with countertenor Russell Oberlin as Sesto!

Soon after American Opera Society ceased, Eve Queler started Opera Orchestra of New York and for over 40 years it too introduced important singers and rare operas, but apparently OONY is no more. Collegiate Chorale has become MasterVoices and begun to focus on lighter music and Leon Botstein’s American Symphony Orchestra performed no opera this season, so perhaps the decades-long tradition of eagerly awaited, locally-produced high profile concert opera is over.

Many thanks to parterre’s own Dawn Fatale who kindly supplied me with her copy of Hérodiade after I discovered that mine was corrupted. By the way, this Massenet performance took place just three days after the famous Met Aïda broadcast conducted by Georg Solti with Leontyne Price, Gorr, and Bergonzi.

Massenet: Hérodiade
American Opera Society
Carnegie Hall
10 December 1963

Salomé: Régine Crespin
Hérodiade: Rita Gorr
Jean: Guy Chauvet
Hérode: Robert Massard
Phanuel: Robert Patterson
Vitellius: Allan Cathcart

Conductor: Alain Lombard

“Trove Thursday” offerings can now be downloaded via the audio-player on this page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, Hérodiade, both Mozart and J.C. Bach’s versions of Lucio Silla and all previous “Trove Thursday” fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

  • danpatter

    So happy to hear this, thanks for posting. However, I never knew that Crespin sang VESTALE here. I sure wish there were a recording of that. She should have been near ideal. Anybody out there see it? I’m nuts about that opera. Thanks again, Mr. Corwin.

    • danpatter

      Great performance, thanks again. There is nothing like French opera sung by great French singers.

  • messa di voce

    Thank you. Very much looking forward to listening to this. If nothing else, I’m sure it will be LOUD.

    • mrsjohnclaggart

      I am very stupid as all know but I don’t see an audio player here (I’m on chrome, that being the color of heart). Can someone suggest where I’m not looking? When you’re 342 years old these new fangled tech devices are devious and hard.

      I was at this performance, with the young girls of the Central High Opera Club (except they thought we were boys). I got into all sorts of trouble that I won’t go into. It WAS loud, Rita and Regine had immense voices, and Regine may have had the biggest voice I have had ever heard (but it was nearly a tie between them). I want to check to see if this is cleaner than my tape (transferred years ago to CD).

      EMI released ten CDs of their early 60’s French highlights records in the late 90’s. That has a fabulous Herodiade highlights (with the only music worth a second listen) with Regine, Rita in incredible form, the Australian Albert Lance who made his career in France and Michel Dens as Herode — he’s stronger on style than on voice there but was, after all, a veteran. It also has the amazing Rita in Iphegenie en Tauride highlights, with Gedda, Blanc and the beloved Louis Quilico as Thoas, my part (when in drag). Anyone who sees that box used for a reasonable price should snap it up. Not every selection in sung by a legend but it has wonderful performances in the right style.

      Otherwise … help?

      • Not sure what happened just now, but I re-edited the post and the player should now be visible right under the cast list. Please reload this page and if it’s still not showing up let me know. LC

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          Thank you, La Cieca! Although I would normally say that when I can see it, it’s probably not really there, I CAN SEE IT!!! And it’s there! I appreciate it.

  • JohninSeattle

    This sounds like it will be a real pleasure. Thanks for the post.

  • Satisfied

    Wahoo! BSO just confirmed my tickets for Un ballo in maschera (7/30) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (7/31)! Cannot wait!

    Feldmarschallin: I’d love to hear your suggestions regarding restaurants and/or hotels in Munich. It’s been ages since I was last there and stayed near the Marienplatz. I would be open to other locations, however.

  • Two favourite singers but, alas, in a Massenet opera. ;)