For the first installment of Chris’s Cache, my new occasional series of live recordings, I’m offering the broadcast of that mind-blowing Chicago event, followed by a rich bouquet of diva/divo orgies from Munich, Vienna and Hamburg, San Francisco and New York.

I’ve edited out the radio announcements from several, but for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 25th Anniversary Gala I retained them as well as the on-stage spoken introductions as they are made by a breathtaking array of the 20th century’s very greatest performers. I won’t spoil the surprise by listing them here, but looking back now I realize how lucky I was to encounter those amazing luminaries on my birthday afternoon.

Lyric Opera of Chicago 25th Anniversary Gala

Orchestra: The Love for Three Oranges
Judith Blegen: Don Giovanni
Sherrill Milnes: Don Giovanni
Mirella Freni & Luciano Pavarotti: La Boheme
Alfredo Kraus & Richard Stilwell: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
Jon Vickers: Die Walkure
Nicolai Ghiaurov & Kathleen Kuhlmann: Boris Godunov
Geraint Evans & Richard Stilwell: Don Pasquale
Alfredo Kraus: Werther
Margaret Price: Otello
Carlo Cossutta & Sherrill Milnes: Otello
Leontyne Price: Aida
Jon Vickers, Geraint Evans, Martha Monastero, Kathleen Kuhlmann, Duane Carter, William Mitchell & Daniel McConnell: Peter Grimes
Frank Little, Ellen Shade & William Stone: Paradise Lost

Conductors: George Prêtre, Nicola Rescigno, Riccardo Chailly, Bruno Bartoletti, John Pritchard & Krzysztof Penderecki

14 October 1979

After that wonderful afternoon, I knew I had to begin in earnest to travel more often to hear great singers. However, it took me a couple years to get it together, and very cheap airfares from New York Air and People Express helped this poor graduate student achieve it. My second NYC opera trip was prompted by two Rameau operas scheduled during spring break, but there was also another anniversary gala: Opera Orchestra of New York’s tenth taking place at Carnegie Hall, hosted by Tony Randall!

Unfortunately, things turned out far less well than they had in Chicago as a number of announced artists failed to appear, including Tatiana Troyanos and Christine Eda-Pierre. Randall was raucously heckled throughout the evening when he announced each no-show, but two Verdi arias by Margarita Castro-Alberty were (by default perhaps) the evening’s big hits, and it proved to be the only time I’d hear Nicolai Gedda.

Opera Orchestra of New York 10th Anniversary Gala

Orchestra: Guillaume Tell
Mariella Devia: Lakmé
James Morris: Lakmé
Orchestra & Chorus: Khovanschina (abbreviated on this this recording)

Margarita Castro Alberty: I due Foscari
William Johns: Rienzi
Kristine Ciesinski: Hérodiade
Margarita Castro-Alberty: I masnadieri
Pablo Elvira: La Favorita
Nicolai Gedda: Les pêcheurs de Perles

Conductor: Eve Queler

Opera Orchestra of New York, Carnegie Hall

March 22, 1982

In-house recording

This broadcast captures an all-star special event celebrating the opening of the later-unlucky 1972 Munich Olympics. Duets don’t occur so often during these evenings, but this one features two unusual pairings: Gwyneth Jones and Piero Cappuccilli as Aïda’s daughter and father, plus Anna Moffo and James King performing the love duet from Madama Butterfly.

Munich Summer Olympics Gala

Orchestra: Strauss: Festliches Praeludium for Organ and Orchestra
Thomas Stewart: Der Fliegende Hollander
Gwyneth Jones: Fidelio
Anneliese Rothenberger: Le Nozze di Figaro
Hermann Prey: Faust
Karl Ridderbusch: Don Carlo
Patricia Johnson: Don Carlo
Piero Cappuccilli: Rigoletto
Anna Moffo: La Traviata
James King: Die Meistersinger
Anneliese Rothenberger & Hermann Prey: Die Zaubertlote
Karl Ridderbusch: Zar und Zimmerman
Piero Cappuccilli: Otello
Gwyneth Jones & Piero Cappuccilli: Aïda
Anna Moffo & James King: Madama Butterfly
Hermann Prey: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Gwyneth Jones, Anneliese Rothenberger & Patricia Johnson: Der Rosenkavalier

Bavarian Radio Orchestra

Conductor: Kurt Eichorn

1 September 1972


I don’t know the occasion that prompted the Hamburg Staatsoper to present this impressive array of singers, but I’m especially impressed that Margaret Price offered “O patria mia!” American soprano Judith Beckmann, a longtime Hamburg star who died in February, is featured in a duet from Arabella.

Opera Gala in Hamburg

Orchestra: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Thomas Stewart: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Rüdiger Wohlers: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
Bernd Weikl: Tannhäuser
Kurt Moll: Eugene Onegin
Tatiana Troyanos: Ariadne auf Naxos
Judith Beckmann & Franz Grundheber: Arabella
Orchestra: Manon Lescaut
Carlo Cossutta: Pagliacci
Eva Marton & Giacomo Aragall: Tosca
Piero Cappuccilli: Andrea Chenier
Grace Bumbry: Turandot
Orchestra: William Tell
Alicia Nafé: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Yuri Mazurok: La Traviata
Martina Arroyo: La Forza del Destino
Leo Nucci: Un Ballo in Maschera
Margaret Price: Aïda
Cristina Deutekom, Vasile Moldoveanu, & Harald Stamm: I Lombardi
James King, Hans Sotin, Eva Marton & Kurt Moll: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Conductors: Miguel Gomez Martines, Nello Santi, Christoph von Dohnanyi & Klaus Peter Seibel

Hamburg State Opera

21 January 1980


Later that same year, five of the Bolshoi Opera’s most important singers gathered at Vienna’s Musikverein to perform an exciting “Russian Opera’s Greatest Hits” concert.

Bolshoi Opera Gala in Vienna

Orchestra: Ruslan i Lyudmila
Yevgeny Nesterenko: Ruslan i Lyudmila
Elena Obraztsova: The Tsar’s Bride
Vladimir Atlantov: Eugene Onegin
Tamara Milashkina: The Enchantress
Yuri Mazurok: Pique Dame
Tamara Milashkina & Yuri Mazurok: Eugene Onegin
Orchestra: Khovanshchina
Vladimir Atlantov: Pique Dame
Tamara Milashkina: Pique Dame
Yevgeny Nesterenko: Prince Igor
Yuri Mazurok: Mazeppa
Elena Obraztsova: Khovanshchina
Yevgeny Nesterenko: Aleko
Elena Obraztsova & Vladimir Atlantov: Boris Godunov

Orchestra of the Bolshoi Opera (?)
Conductor: Yuri Simonov

Musikverein, Vienna

19 October 1980


To give American companies equal time, here’s one of San Francisco Opera’s legendary “Fol de Rol” concerts with on-stage commentary by Terry McEwan, the company’s General Manager at the time. He delights in introducing a bevy of divas which include Jones again, this time performing the “Csárdás” from Die Fledermaus (!). The evening’s most notable moment must be Leontyne Price and Régine Crespin having a ball with Rossini’s “Cat Duet.”

San Francisco Fol De Rol

Terence McEwen, M.C.

Carol Vaness: Ernani
Tom Krause: Don Giovanni
Evelyn de la Rosa & Stephen Nixon: Oklahoma
Teresa Zylis-Gara: Rusalka
Mikhail Svetlev: Turandot
Virginia Zeani: Manon Lescaut
Cheryl Parrish, Donna Bruno, Walter MacNeil & John Cimino: Rigoletto
Régine Crespin: Carmen
Gwyneth Jones: Die Fledermaus
Régine Crespin & Leontyne Price- Rossini: Cat duet
Donald Gramm: I want what I want
Pilar Lorengar: Las Hijas del Zebedeo
Rebecca Cook, Susan Quittmeyer, Thomas Woodman, James Busterud & Carl Glaum: West Side Story
Leontyne Price: La Forza del Destino

San Francisco Opera

11 November 1982

In-house recording

Maybe I’m prejudiced for the home team, but no one does this sort of thing better than the Met. Watching CBS’s hour of highlights from the Bing Gala on television when I was in high school sealed my fate.

Since moving to the city in 1990, I’ve attended four amazing Met gala events: 1996’s eight-hour Levine Gala; the 2006 Joseph Volpe Farewell Gala; the company’s 125th Anniversary celebration; and concert marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the new house at Lincoln Center from just five years ago. Although I think of myself as a Gesamkunstwerk kind of guy, I still relish these unpredictable and special events featuring a parade of singers strutting their stuff.

One of the most interesting Lincoln Center galas hosted stars performing music they’d never sung at the Met. A few, like Richard Tucker and Sherrill Milnes, would eventually perform their arias during a complete Met performance of the opera. Mario Sereni sang just one Rigoletto with the company, not at Lincoln Center but at Van Cortlandt Park in 1980 opposite Mariella Devia! The rest, however, were for “one night only”!

Metropolitan Opera Gala

Orchestra: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Joan Sutherland: Les Huguenots
Cornell MacNeil: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (in English!)
Teresa Stratas: Eugene Onegin
Fernando Corena: La Cenerentola
Nicolai Gedda: The Queen of Spades
Renata Tebaldi: Rossini: La Regata Veneziana
Ezio Flagello: I Vespri Siciliani
Richard Tucker: La Juive
Sherrill Milnes:  Pagliacci
Carlo Bergonzi: L’Africaine
Robert Merrill: Hamlet
Roberta Peters: Dinorah
Mario Sereni: Rigoletto
Leontyne Price: Louise
Franco Corelli: Cardillo: Core ‘ngrato & Di Capua: I’ te vurria vasà
Richard Tucker: Pagliacci
Giorgio Tozzi: Don Giovanni
James King: The Land of Smiles
Leonie Rysanek: Der Zarewitsch
Jan Peerce: L’Arlesiana
Joan Sutherland, George Shirley & John Macurdy: Faust

Conductors: Richard Bonynge, Thomas Schippers, Fausto Cleva, Francesco Molinari-Prandelli, George Schick

Metropolitan Opera

16 March 1968

In-house recording

Each gala 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 file will appear in your download directory.

Look for another Chris’s Cache later this month!