Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on Eleanor Steber from Opera L

I always felt that Eleanor Steber was a victim of simply "bad

timing". She was on the Metropolitan Opera roster during the same period
as Zinka Milanov and Renata Tebaldi (and don't forget about those two
Callas seasons!), and she couldn't hold her own against those titans. With
Milanov on the roster, Verdi was "locked up", and with Tebaldi on the
roster, Puccini was out of the question. I know that Steber had Tosca and
Violetta in her repertoire, but what chance could she have had when Callas
was singing Tosca and Violetta? I loved Steber and I think that in a
different era, she'd have become a real star. Today, she'd be regarded as
an international treasure.

I have to weigh in again here, since you're making odious comparisons.
eleanor was an american who made most of her career in this country,
her rare and most celebrated appearance abroad as a ravishing bayreuth
elsa. in her prime years, she dominated the met's french repertoire, as
well as singing butterfly and a handful of other lyric roles. tosca and
violetta were not in the core of her repertoire. she had made her met
debut in 1940 as sophie, a light role in which milanov, tebaldi and
callas would have been ludicrous. she was the met's first konstanze
and was by far the greatest fiordiligi of her (or any) time. her donna
anna was the gold standard, as the great bruno walter said. she was
a nonpareil arabella, and, of course was the original vanessa, as well
as the met's first marie in wozzeck. i'm afraid that when you entered
this market, you not only confused apples with oranges, but capers
with watermelons. steber, demonstrably had a vastly wider repertoire
than any of the three wonderful singers you cite ..... and you're also
ignoring the reality which some of us recall first hand, that mr. bing
had a predilection for imported european divas (maybe he didn't
know that callas was born in brooklyn). her intemperance offstage
undoubtedly foreshortened her career, but at her best, the steber
career can stand with any. and by the way, her recital and concert
careers totally dwarf the other three artists, none of whom would
have known the brahms requiem from mairzy doats.


1 comment:

The Art of Singing said...

I'll say first that she was a magnificent vocalist with a very
lovely and fluid tone that bloomed at the top

As fine as she was in opera, some exaggerated diction aside,
I enjoy her most in other works by Berlioz, Mendelssohn,
Bach and Handel. Hear ye, Israel is simply put, among the
greatest recordimga ever made. She has a magnifiicent
Inflammatus recorded in 1951 and as lovely a Danny Boy
as can be imagined. True greatness!

Dan I didn't notice you mention her Fanciulla with Del Monaco
from Florence.

Her Mozart had no equal in its time, to my ears, and she sang
the finest Donna Anna I ever heard or saw during the 59/60
Met season. Unfortunately, she sang the worst in my experience
two years later.

I'll keave it at that! ;-(