1978 New York City Opera La traviata

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Our old friend, tenor Henry Price alerted us to the recent posting on You Tube (https://youtu.be/wxEsheyl3-8) of a 1978 City Opera La traviata with him in the role of Alfredo, the Rumanian soprano Mariana Nicolescu as Violetta, and the late Puerto Rican baritone Pablo Elvira as Giorgio Germont. The Hungarian maestro Imre Pallo leads the NYCO orchestra at a fast clip. The recording is a typical vintage pirate one, complete with occasional coughing and Bravi from the audience.

Ms. Nicolescu sounds great, with a darkish middle voice and fearless high notes, plenty of flexibility for Sempre libera and enough heft to get her through the heavier second and third acts unscathed. Pablo Elvila, a true Verdian baritone delivers a great performance as Germont, with one of the most beautifully sung Di Provenza this listener ever heard. Henry Price is impeccable as Alfredo, with clarion top notes and a lovely lyric tenor voice that serves him well in his duets with Violetta and in a perfectly sung Dei miei bollenti spiriti. Price is not fazed by the more dramatic moments in the gambling scene in act two, which he sings with a keen understanding of text and character.

The comprimarios are all top notch and they bring to mind what a treasure trove the old City Opera was. Ditto for the chorus and orchestra, led by Pallo at times with breakneck tempi but always sympathetic to the singers.

For those of us who feel nostalgic for the great years of City Opera and wonder what became of so many young singers who got their first breaks on that stage, this You Tube link is a welcome gift.

Rafael de Acha   http://www.MusicNotes.com

4 thoughts on “1978 New York City Opera La traviata

  1. Gosh, and I forgot to mention Imre Pallo! I sang countless performances with him! I loved working with him!

    And, his ex-wife mezzo cum soprano, Rose-Marie Freni, who I simply fell in love with during production of Faust…one of the dearest people I’ve ever known, turned right around and sang a series of Turandots with City Opera! Big jump from Martha in Memphis!

    Thanks for promoting such dear memories, Rafi!

    Ken

    Kenneth Shaw

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  2. Dear Rafael,

    I was both astonished and giddy reading this! So many more connections we seem to have.

    I don’t know Henry Price, but he was a stalwart at NYCO for years, and he has taught a number of students who came to CCM from Pepperdine, where I believe he is still on faculty.

    I do know Mariana, however, having been her Baron Duphol in a New Orleans Opera production of La Traviata in 1980, my professional debut year, and second production with that company. She was a serious, consumate professional. I believe some of the “diva” stories about her might well be true, but much exaggerated, in my opinion because of petty jealousies, I imagine. Everything she did in that production was considered, and respectful in every way. I would see her later at the MET and at NYCO back stage and she would always remember those early days and would wave me over to say hello, calling me “Barone!”.

    And, what can I say about Pablo?? He and I shared the role of Germont when NYCO went to Taipei, Taiwan to open their new Cultural Center; the Opera House, specifically, in November and December of 1987. I was alternating performances of Germont, and Marcello in La Boheme. Unfortunately, I, along with several other company members began to lose my voice due to the excessive pollution in Taipei. As a result, I sang two good performances of Marcello, but began to lose strength, so my first, and ultimately, only Germont for the company was not what I wished it to be. All the notes were there, but not the quality, nor the ease. So, before the second performance, I called Beverly Sills to cancel. That was the first and only cancellation of my career until 2018, when I had to cancel both performances of Monterone in Dayton’s Rigoletto – again to due to a rapid onset laryngitis.

    But, that’s not the end of the Germont story! Of course, Pablo Elvira was also singing Germont, but Beverly was initially hesitant to ask him to sing two performances in one day – as I was scheduled for the afternoon matinee and he, for the evening performance. Pablo, needless to say, was ready and willing to jump right in. And, if anyone knew Pablo, he did everything with bravura! At the end of the second act, Germont tries to stop his son from running off to find Violetta, calling desperately after him, “Che dici? A ferma!” Depending upon either tradition or edition, Germont usually sings octave F’s on “a ferma” (on “a”, and “fer-“, ending on the lower Bb “-ma”) Well, Pablo had a high, almost tenorial extension, and in EVERY performance in Taiwan, he ended that act on the high Bb for “-ma!” And, he held it until the orchestra finished, and the curtain descended! The show-off!

    One wanted to hate him for that, but if you knew Pablo, the last thing one could ever do is hate him. What a wonderful man, and what a loss that he passed away too soon!

    Thanks for posting this! It touches me where I live, and brought back such wonderful memories!

    Kenneth Shaw, Bass-baritone

    Professor of Voice

    University of Cincinnati

    College-Conservatory of Music

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    1. Dear Ken – Lovely account! I was at City Opera as a rookie stage director, working as an AD to Frank Corsaro, Gerald Freeman and, best ever, to Gian Carlo Menotti on THE CONSUL. I stayed for two seasons, then went off to freelance as a stage director and eventually to found our own New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida. I believe, being of an older generation than yours, that I preceded you at NYCO by a few years, although I witnessed Pablo Elvila’s debut at the Lincoln Center house during the less-than-felicitous Rudel era. Funny how our paths never crossed until we met at CCM less than ten years ago.

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