Jan Peerce & Enzo Mascherini live broadcast 1950
Jan Peerce made his debut at the Metroplitan Opera as Alfredo in „La Traviata“ in 1941, five years before his brother in law, Richard Tucker made his as Enzo in „La Gioconda“. Although Tucker had married Peerce´s sister in 1936, the two men, from a certain point on, did not speak to each other anymore (Peerce did not speak to Warren either in later years) and their relationship was yery complicated. – Peerce was convinced (and rightly so) that he had contributed to bringing Tucker to the Met and felt that Tucker was not only being ungrateful, but that he was overshadowing him. Two tenors in a family are one too much, especially since both men had very proud and strong personalities. Yet – both generally refused to discuss their „issue“ in public.
Alvaro is not a role one associates primarily with Peerce. He sang Alvaro sporadically from the late 1940s on, at the Met only in the season of 1962. It was Tucker who „owned“ this role at the Met practically since his role debut in 1952.Yet, Peerce was such a musical and clever singer with such an excellent technique that he could afford to stray from his usual repertory (which stretched from Bach and Mozart to Verdi) every once in a while.
This version with Mascherini shows in an excellent way the difference between a modest voice, steered by a great and expert singer and a beautiful and gifted voice, but a not more than average singer.
To listen to Peerce tackling a role which on the whole is too heavy for him is highly interesting: all he actually does is darken the voice (naturally) and add more accento and vocal focus. He is not broadening the sound, but bundling the tonal concentration, without putting eccessive weight on it. Not for one second the voice sounds forced or over-driven. What it lacks occasionally in dramatic outburst Peerce is compensating with accento and fervent diction. The voice is in splendid shape here in his mid-Fourties (even though with slight nasal inflections) totally even in range (even „io mi prostro al vostro piè“ which puts most tenors in considerable difficulty – here, Peerce catches it actually better than Tucker) and totally secure.
In this concert broadcast from 1950 Mascherini makes it clear from his very first words on who is the bad guy here: singing out fully in the recitative, his diction is good and incisive, but his singing is not really nuanced. His ringing top is impressive („da un lustro n´ero in traccia“). Yet, often he tends to open too much, sounding a bit driven at „tu contami il mio nome“ and „una suora mi lasciasti“ and low range not well focussed.
Peerce´s „Vissi nel mondo“ boasts a perfectly focussed and concentrated tone and an incredibly steady vocal line. „più non brAAma questo cor“ and „cOODAAardo“ is perfectly covered and steady, but not overcovered. „Sulla terra l´adorava“ is not exactly „dolce“ as noted in the score and „l´amo ancor e s´ella m´AAma più non brama questo cor“ is impressive but does not have the beautiful climax and vocal line of Pertile. Peerce´s „un brAAAndo, un brAAndo – uscIIIte“ has a great ring as has „l´inferno non triOOOOnfi“. More than a routine version, but not an outstanding one – yet Peerce teaches many a vocally more gifted Alvaro a lesson…
Richard Tucker & Leonard Warren live MET 1956
Alvaro was one of Tucker´s trademarks during his career and at the Met he practically owned it from the day of his debut in 1952 as long as he lived.
Warren is more nuanced than Mascherini and starting off more pensative building a climax to „il sangue sarà il tuo sangue“ calming down on „lo giuro a Dio“ erupting only when he faces Alvaro „Riconoscimi!?!“.
Tucker´s „Vissi nel mondo“ does not have quite the urge and concentration of Peerce´s but he soars out beautifully and effortless in „Le minaccie, i fieri accenti“ with a perfectly placed „o fratEEEL, pietà, pietà“) Stiedry takes quite a broad tempo, a bit too much so for my taste, but both singers have enough breath reserve as to be put into difficulty. Like Peerce´s „sulla terra l´adorava“ Tucker´s isn´t really „dolce“ either. „Non si placa il mio furor“ is quite slow, giving Tucker ample opportunity to show his endless breath for „s´ella m´ama più non brama questo cor“. „Ah la macchia del tuo stemma“, „sangue il tinge di mulatto“ and „ti fai dunque di me scherno“ finds Warren with a terriffic „grinta“. What occasionally is a bit tiresome is his „whiny“ sound. Tuckers full and ringing top at „un brAAAndo, un brAAndo“ is impressive.
Even if the italian diction is a bit marred occasionally, this is a great version. Dramatic, intense with great vocal outpour – yet mostly fully sung out and concentrating more on the big picture, lacking just a little in structure and nuance.
bis: Richard Tucker & Robert Merrill live Boston Pops 1973
I have included this „bonus“ for two reasons: first, because we have to have Robert Merrill in here (although he is past his prime in 1973) and second because it is fascinating to watch Tucker sing. Listen to „assistimi, signore“ and „le minaccie, i fieri accenti“ and „sulla terra l´adorava“ – still sounding solid as a rock at the age of sixty he/they would bring any house down at any time.