Intrepid opera-goers inevitably live lives peppered with deep regrets about performances they might have attended—but didn’t. Perhaps my most painful and long-lived involves the 1977 May Festival. Even though I was in Cincinnati for school at the time, it somehow escaped my notice and I missed hearing van Dam as Elijah and, worse still, Régine Crespin’s final Didon in Les Troyens opposite Guy Chauvet, no less!
Although van Dam and Crespin escaped me, Quivar on the other hand made frequent appearances in Cincinnati where I heard her in everything from Handel’s Messiah to Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. With the Cincinnati Symphony she was also my first Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust.
While I didn’t get to hear him in Mendelssohn, I managed to catch van Dam at the Met three times during the 1980s in some of his finest roles: Mozart’s Figaro, Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande tormenting Frederica von Stade and the four villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. After I moved to New York, he crossed my path just once more as Frère Laurent in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with the Philharmonic in 2003.
The very first pirate recording I ever ordered featured van Dam in a superb Le Nozze di Figaro; has anyone ever heard “Tutto è tranquillo e placido” in the fourth-act finale sung more gorgeously?
Another, rather rare van Dam performance is scheduled in two weeks, and there will be some absolutely essential Benacková in April.
22 August 1984
Widow/Soprano I — Gabriela Benacková
Boy/Angel/Soprano II — Madelyn Renee
Angel/Queen/Alto I — Florence Quivar
Alto II — Margaretha Hintermeier
Obadjah /Tenor I — Francisco Araiza
Ahab/Tenor II — Thomas Moser
Elijah/Bass I — José van Dam
Bass II — Alfred Muff
Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien
Conductor — James Levine
Elijah can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.
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The archive listing all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has been updated to include all material as of late last month.