Featured are Massenet’s Chérubin with Frederica von Stade (her 77th birthday was yesterday), Ashley Putnam and Samuel Ramey, plus Dialogues of the Carmélites in which she joined by Felicity Lott, Régine Crespin, Pauline Tinsley and Lilian Watson.

Last year Trove Thursday presented Masterson in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard and Handel’s Scipione.

While G&S and Handel were two of her specialties, another was French opera. In addition to the two works presented today, she also performed Roméo et Juliette and Manon—both at the ENO with frequent partner John Brecknock; Faust in which she starred opposite Alfredo Kraus at Covent Garden and in Philadelphia with Alain Vanzo: Les Contes d’Hoffmann (her debut at Chicago Lyric as Antonia); Les Pêcheurs de Perles; Louise and Gounod’s Mireille which was televised from Geneva.

Though Masterson appeared often in New York City on tour with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company early in her career, I believe Chérubin, part of a season of three French operas in concert at Carnegie Hall curated by Matthew Epstein all featuring von Stade, was her first local appearance since those Gilbert and Sullivan days.

She returned later in 1984 as Gilda in Jonathan Miller’s “Mafia” Rigoletto when the English National Opera visited the Met and as Angelica to Marilyn Horne’s first-ever Orlando, again at Carnegie Hall. That Handel performance was the only time I heard Masterson in person and it’s available on a Trove Thursday post from 2016.

Massenet’s 1905 comédie chantée, a sequel of sorts to Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, had its US premiere with this NYC performance. The title role was created by Mary Garden with the glamorous Italian soprano Lina Cavalieri as her L’Ensoleillad. Von Stade recorded Chérubin for RCA seven years after this Carnegie show, again with Ramey but her leading ladies then were June Anderson and Dawn Upshaw. The first in von Stade’s Carnegie Hall series that season was Offenbach’s La Périchole, narrated by Madeline Kahn, which Trove Thursday posted in 2019.

Dialogues, previously posted in French with Poulenc’s muse Denise Duval as Blanche, is performed in today’s Covent Garden broadcast per the composer’s wishes in English, the language of its audience. Masterson may be an unexpected Lidoine, but she’s part of an unusually interesting cast.

Massenet: Chérubin

L’Ensoleillad: Ashley Putnam
Nina: Valerie Masterson
La Comtesse: Lorraine Nubar
La Baronne: Judith Christin
Chérubin: Frederica Von Stade
Le Philosophe: Samuel Ramey
Le Comte: William Stone
Le Duc: Nico Castel
Le Baron: Joseph McKee
Le Captaine Ricardo: Peter Kazaras
L’Hotélier: John Fiorito
Un Officier: Wilbur Pauley

Orpheon Chorale
American Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Henry Lewis

Carnegie Hall
19 February 1984
In-house recording

Poulenc: Dialogues des Carmélites (in English)

Blanche: Felicity Lott
Madame de Croissy: Régine Crespin
Madame Lidoine: Valerie Masterson
Mère Marie: Pauline Tinsley
Soeur Constance: Lilian Watson
Soeur Mathilde: Eiddwen Harrhy
Mère Jeanne: Patricia Payne
Le Marquis de la Force: Jonathan Summers
Le Chevalier: Robin Leggate

Conductor: Michel Plasson

Royal Opera, Covent Garden
18 April 1983

Chérubin and Dialogues can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.

In addition, nearly 600 other podcast tracks are always available from Apple Podcasts for free, or via any RSS reader. The archive which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has just been updated.