Mozart, Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera House, March 7, 1942 Matinee Broadcast: Don Giovanni: Ezio Pinza; Donna Anna: Rose Bampton; Don Ottavio: Charles Kullman; Donna Elvira: Jarmila Novotna; Leporello: Alexander Kipnis; Zerlina: Bidú Sayao; Masetto: Mack Harrell; Commendatore: Norman Cordon.
Le Nozze di Figaro: Metropolitan Opera House, January 29, 1944 Matinee Broadcast: Figaro: Ezio Pinza; Susanna: Bidú Sayao; Count Almaviva: John Brownlee; Countess Almaviva: Eleanor Steber; Cherubino: Jarmila Novotna; Dr. Bartolo: Salvatore Baccaloni; Marcellina: Irra Petina; Don Basilio: Alessio De Paolis; Antonio: Louis D'Angelo; Barbarina: Marita Farell; Don Curzio: John Garris. 2012 digital restoration from new sources by Ward Marston; extensive notes by Tim Lockley.
Don Giovanni (1942) / Le Nozze di Figaro (1944)
Bruno Walter, one of the twentieth century's great conductors, was born in Berlin in 1876. He had a distinguished career throughout Europe and the United States lasting more than sixty years. Although his extensive discography ranged from the acoustic era, through electrical recordings, to stereo long playing records in the 1950s, Walter's operatic legacy is limited to the justly famous Act 1 and segments from Act 2 of Die Walküre. These 78 rpm recordings were made in Vienna in 1935, and the first act, recorded complete with the finest exponents of the roles, Lauritz Melchior, Lotte Lehmann, and Emanuel List, has long been regarded as perhaps the best of all versions. Considering its artistic excellence and critical acclaim, it is difficult to explain why Walter never recorded opera in the studio again.
For this reason we must be very grateful for the survival of a number of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts that preserve his interpretations. . Recorded fragments exist of Walter conducting some operas in Salzburg in 1937, and there are also complete Salzburg performances of Don Giovanni and Nozze, but the surviving Met versions restored for the present set are superior in terms of sound quality and the uniform excellence of the casts.
The New York critics, familiar with Walter on the concert platform, were overwhelmed by his ability as an opera conductor. Howard Taubman thought 'the inspiring leadership of Bruno Walter was a source of endless delight' while Olin Downes described Walter's first Don Giovanni performance as 'the finest interpretation of Mozart that the writer has witnessed in this lyric theatre.' Le nozze di Figaro did not feature in Walter's first two seasons at the Met, but he conducted the opera nine times between December 1942 and April 1944. The 1944 broadcast presented here earned Olin Downes' admiration: 'Bruno Walter conducted with inspiration, with ... love for every note of the score, and also reverence.' Contemporaries clearly knew they had an exceptional musician leading these two performances and writers and critics of our time concur. Paul Jackson in his monumental three-volume overviewof all Metropolitan Opera broadcasts praises the merits of this 1942 Don Giovanni: 'a cast of exceptional musicality and nearly uniform strength aids Walter in his Beethovenesque reading of Mozart's bequest to nineteenth-century romanticism.' Discussing the 1944 Le nozze di Figaro broadcast, Jackson simply notes 'in Walter's hands Mozart's Figaro at last receives his due.'
Walter had a well-known affinity with Mozart's music. He seems to have been able to adopt just the right tempi at key moments, and his lightness of touch and swift reading of the score never allows the story to flag. We are fortunate to be able to present these live performances in the best possible sound.