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The following program was produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation by W. B U R Boston. Boston University radio presents Hall of song the story of the Metropolitan Opera from 1893 to 1966. You're right the war. Was. A war. To get. Your hosts our Miles cast and Dick use a critical view of the world for you.
And those in cross. There's the date for the opening of the Metropolitans 1948 season loomed nearer and nearer more and more people were concerned about whether or not there was going to be an opening at all. The Metropolitan's conflicts with the various labor unions had been mounting steadily since 1946 and in one thousand forty eight five theatrical unions joined forces and locked horns with the Mets management. Their demands this time assented largely about two key issues. Wage increases on employment insurance with a deficit of over $200000 on the books from the previous season. Any thought of meeting these new demands was simply out of the question. The unions however refused to back down. Negotiations were broken off in July and on August 4th one thousand forty eight. Edward Johnson announced that the season would have to be cancelled at this point Billy Rhodes the well-known theatrical producer announced that he was prepared to take over the metropolitan and operate it without a deficit for one year.
The precondition to his assuming the post of impresario law is that he should be given a free hand and allowed to clean house. The officer was politely refused and Mr Rose's activities as an entrepreneur remained confined to his own Ziegfeld Theater. There were heated exchanges between the unions and the Metropolitan management throughout August but negotiations will finally resume toward the end of the month. Eventually an agreement was worked out whereby wages what to remain as they were and unemployment insurance would be provided as soon as an economically sound policy could be devised. And so once again the Metropolitan's most dreaded catastrophe cancellation of a season had been avoided. The opening night was held on November twenty ninth instead of November 9th as originally scheduled and the running time of the season was reduced from 18 weeks to 16. Actually the Metropolitan's activities during 1948 merely
accentuated the trend that prevailed at Broadway in 31st since the early 40s. The company was simply holding its own spending little or no money on new productions or in refurbishing old ones. All this of course came about in the interest of breaking even or perhaps making a small profit at the end of the season. By far the most inspiring night of the season came on February 4th when Fritz Reiner and Nuba village made their debuts in an electrifying performance of salomé that is still cited whenever the opera is discussed. While Bennett just debut was a widely heralded sensation the first metropolitan appearance of another new artist was almost completely obscured quite literally in the gloom of the dimly lit first scene of got to Demerol. A young American contralto named Jean Madeira sang the role of the first Norn not long after that the new singer realized she was going to have a difficult time getting out of the
shadows and into the spotlight of major parts. Our producer Richard Calhoun spoke with Madam Adair in her dressing room following her last performance at the old Metropolitan. Rather than beginning by talking about your career as it began at the Metropolitan you probably would be more appropriate to talk about today since just about an hour and a half ago you finished your last performance at the all Metropolitan. Yes that was a wonderful experience I must say that I can't imagine any more wonderful feeling than to and my season with the piece and with the Countess and I must tell you that after the ovation that I thank goodness I had. I absolutely broke into tears. I thought what a wonderful thing. God has given me to let me be able to enjoy in this house
private had a great many happinesses and a great many heartaches to let me enjoy the last season in the old house with no patient and with a beautiful role. And I look very much forward to the season in the new health. I think we ought to say too that this was the sixteenth season which is a pretty good record for any singer with any company. I am the pic done too was interesting since it was a revival after something like about 55 years. What's it really I guess it was that turned very close to it yet. I should say when I did your reaction to your last performance at the Metropolitan at least in this house compare with the one to your very first performance. Well you know my very first broadcast was after I had made my debut I made my debut as the first Norn in go to demo and then my first broadcast actually the first time they saw me because the North is in the shadows. It was Freddie can mean you know and I say move with you don't laugh. But
it was a very interesting thing because coming to the house in the taxi on the radio in the taxi they were playing the west side and imagine if I can only tell you that I was happy and certainly not as scared. How did you feel when you finally did get your contract with a motor problem. Well actually my contract came about directly after I had sung just sung in true talk and had just gotten out of Juilliard. And so it was a wonderful dream come true I had never sung in Europe. And so that this was a wonderful achievement and it was the dream of a young girl I didn't realize that my career was just beginning. All the hardships up to that time were nothing compared to what I was going to have. And that of course I realized that after a number of years at the Met after having done some student performances of Carmen and as a chain and
their dates I knew that if I were ever going to achieve what I have wanted and that was to be a leading contralto and not a small of a small part. I would have to go to Europe. It isn't that. It's a great art to be able to sing small parts but I was not the personality nor was I the force for a compromise. And I knew that if I didn't go to I went to Vienna. It so happened because that happened to be I suppose the hometown of our boss. Man Mr. being and I suppose that in my own little Indian way and typically American hype wanted to go to his hometown and show it it wasn't that at all actually. But it happened that I was offered a contract by Carter. I went to Europe without any contacts whatsoever. I just
had. To be a star. And so I wrote to several places the impresarios not a thing and poacher and Hans hotter those two gentlemen and those two great great artists I had heard me sing at the Metropolitan. I think I was singing Magdalene in my head to sing. And they both told me that with my voice and with my temperament and with my whatever I had that I had to go to Europe and so poacher that urge me to come to Vienna. And I went to Vienna from Southport I had a small little thing that I was singing in softball and so I got to see a piano and Burm was very very busy with a new house. It was the opening. Just beginning to open the new house. And so. It was very
interesting. I went with cheerfuller to the Vienna Opera and how Sam Hofer called perm and he looked at me and he said. To me again our director a music director says that he can hear you. Can you sing. In an hour and I said asking right now how do you know you want America to know that a case in one hour I went back and changed my clothes and got all ready and sang for for my strobe room and was immediately engaged to sing in the opening week of the new house in Vienna. But before that I made my debut as Carmen in Vienna in the old here after giving this a very interesting thing too because my my debut that I had made as an a musician was as a pianist. That's right and then well I have to Juilliard you made the change. Get a voice but I was that I was a little girl 12 years old and I sang the
Beethoven played the Beethoven C minor concerto with the saber symphony and how interesting that my big wonderful debut came at the Tiahrt on the theme where Beethoven gave his first performance of the semantic you get all your moments. Life is very interesting and very wonderful. In any case I went to Vienna thank goodness and that night was was something wonderful. My it was in September the 18th 1955. And I I was just stunned. I couldn't get out of the Opera House. I was mobbed. It was a wonderful experience. And from then on my career began to go well it seems then that the Met really is a place for stores. Did you have to be one and you can if you want to be one you can't develop there. Well I think the times have changed in the last 10 years I think that more Americans have gotten chances. But I do believe that
every American who has had a great deal of success has had to go to Europe first. Well Edward Johnson started bringing in more American talent. How much of that though I wonder did develop at the matter had to do what you did and get a start there get a foot in the door and then go somewhere else to really make his mark I know James McCracken has done that yet almost the same sequence of events he does exactly just exactly it was very interesting. He did I think the next year but he left the metropolitan I never left the metropolitan I never. God from under the wing of the Metropolitan. And I was very grateful for that. They helped me very much to go to Europe. And I mean this was a very friendly thing. Some of the people that I know left because they simply could not do anything else. I took some time off and I must say that Mr. Bean was very kind about
that. About that particular thing. And so I I was I was very blessed. However I don't think that that means that it has always been the case I know my best friend and Ballinger who everybody remembers is the most one of the loveliest singers in the world. And she was my very best friend and unfortunately she died of cancer a couple of years ago and we all mourned her very much. She left and went to Hamburg and. To Zurich and so forth. So and she had to go. You fight it's particularly hard for controlled to be a store and other you know we have so few rules fewer starring roles. Yes and there are actually. A lot not so many control those but metal Soprano's who are claiming some of the same part oh I really must be a scramble there were the contralto is I don't know.
Sounds very funny but I think that I don't know many contralto as they are met so I was but they are not controlled toes and it is not out of the range the range has a lot to do with it. But it is the color of the voice. And thank goodness in Germany and in all over Europe they love me for my low notes and this is such a joy. I believe that America and I am sorry. Only thing that matters is the high notes. What about the long notes that the ones who sing the high notes can't touch. In any case I am thank goodness a contralto and by Roy they love the lie contralto is in every most every house in Europe and I believe a bit like that but they also like kind of you know you've made your mark dramatically as well as vocally in a number of parts. Notably of course your Carmen and. One that I've always found
quite fantastic was the clear mistress in Rosa's Electra. Yes I love that role and you know we had a marvelous experience recording it because we went to dressed in the dark to gramophone record Id recorded it and I did my own death screams. Y'all tell us about that. Well I never do it in performance but after we had recorded the whole thing then I did the thing and we did it in the church which was fascinating. I'm an old sort of bombed out Church week. It's where we recorded the Electra and it carried tremendous atmosphere and I got a way into the R over the marble halls and got in did one scream and then the next scream further it made a very exciting time. And I'll never forget when we recorded Carmen to make some provocative recorded in it was in France in a little tiny theater which gave no
feeling of the theater at all not the way the electric was recording and it was like night and day in our whole atmosphere and our whole feeling about it. I say we have a few starring roles but those we I have made a career. I made a career and there's or failed. For example I've made a real career doing Carman I've done Carmen Spain and all over. I don't know almost every house in in the world and in two on two continents. And Delilah. And or fail for instance I did Delilah in Israel which is a marvelous experience and which. And I wanted to do Carmen in France in Spain and in France. Delilah in Israel and or fail in Greece. And I feel some marvelous power. That's a real that's a nother real contralto part. So there we have few roles but they're awfully good and one can make quite a good career. Well really.
Nose ring too you have a number of bites and you have the air done we have the frick up which is actually it's a meth so and then the wonderful Bob Trout and that's the first roll the top over the first rolls that I ever didn't buy right. Oh really. Yeah how did you were far in the staging there as compared to the Metropolitan's by half or were they still only were they in the abstract phase of things get anywhere. Yes they were and I happened to be one of the greatest and new admirers of Fox News and I must say I enjoy working with him tremendously and I've just done his new Electra a mystery in his due Electric which gave me an entirely different feeling. Also why the conductors have had done tremendous. Lot to shape my feeling and my musical background and my musical knowledge and my musical feeling about the roles.
I loved working with Sir Thomas Beecham. He didn't entirely different Carmen than say any Frenchman that I had ever done it with or any Italian which I've done. I don't for the number of the time. And they all have different ideas and I'm one of my favorites of course is cobber and I did my first elective with him you know it was a very funny thing. I would community and I had been engaged to do plea to Mr. and I think that it was in my repertoire. I never said I am not going to do tall I had learned the merit of covering when Reiner was he always tease me and he took up with his glasses and say Madera you know the role nice and maestro of course I know but I don't get a chance just sing it. If you go to Europe I did go to Europe and I sung a bit of Nestor all over Europe in any case. Berger knew that I had lied. He knew if he were to go through though. Oh so
because I was musically perfect. And but he was so mean every little thing and then after the performance he was so pleased and so wonderful to grow as much as you were. Yes well I knew a very wonderful conductor you were like him a lot then at the Met since then in yellow So yeah we're going to other then of course we recorded together and I've forgotten more true was my marriage. He really was my man. I he taught me he taught me Carmen and he taught me to live and he taught me all of the wonderful French style. Which was simply marvelous and he was my man. I loved him and I remember the I could never get the sound and he'd say I'd finally I had only met that god damned. And he said oh no you mean that got them too. And you know for so many it took me to
Brussels and he also taught me for fame and he and my dad. Motu were very much like my husband in there and you know she was a contralto. And my husband studied with mortar and we went up to Maine together and we had such a lovely time with them and they always said that we as young people reminded them of their data and they were it was very nice dodge and we had a beautiful relationship with the motors and I never forget when I did my last performance with mei. Was in the Hollywood Bowl. And of course everybody loved him so and he was so little and I with my big long legs striving now to take a little bit. I remember Leo Leon Fleisher came in and he said you know Max looks like he's on roller skates. But I mean we did a carbon together in Vienna and the
tender the tender didn't come over to me at one point. And he began to laugh and I began to speak to the joys of making music with a great human being and a great man and who knows the score and you know the score and you've done it so many times. And these are a few of the funny jokes that happen if I could tell you. Also the lovely time when I sang Delilah in San Carlo with Mario didn't Monaco my mark greatly. And the third the fourth performance. I'm only not a Pradelle the conductor and the fourth performance was supposed to be televised. And they. The stage director came to me and said oh please sing your mother please don't make it quite so sexy. Pope John is watching and I look in her eye to Pope John he'd love it. So Mario at the time when we were just about to do the seduction scene and I always up always. Malkus who
dropped off while lying flat on my back. I never throughout the whole moco supra. That was because this is logical. It's logical it's also hard. Well I maybe I'll sing better on my line down a bit. They gave Mario started to put his arm around me and suddenly he thought of the pope. And it broke me up. I remarked so much inside but of course I kept on singing. Well there have been some wonderful things that have happened I can couldn't begin to tell you the other thing I was just talking just in finishing because I wanted to say about the metropolitan because this is about a man. But I don't know any house that is friendlier. To new artists. Every one of my colleagues that come in from Germany and Italy say that it's a friendly house that people love you
and I. I took the last of the last year I took a leave of absence from the house because I had to so many engagements in Europe and I felt that it was time after 15 years to take a break and go to Europe and sing the whole season in Europe and then come back and I'm grateful that I did. I was so glad to be back because the Metropolitan is my home. I love it. I've had many heartaches and as I say many triumphs. But it is my home and I tell you the feeling that I had. After the piece. Was something that I will never forget. And I have see I fill up with tears again because I love the house. I I love the chorus. I love my colleagues. And it is an American institution. And God bless the old lady. That was the contrast. Jean Madeira and she recalled some of the highlights of her career at the
old Metropolitan. By far the greatest item of interest during the nine hundred forty eight season was the cloud of rumor and speculation surrounding the future of Edward Johnson as the company's general manager. His contract was to expire at the end of the season and it was generally known that he had frequently expressed his desire to resign. The mystery was cleared up when Johnson announced that he was accepting a one year extension of his tenure to round out his regime to an even 15 years and that he would then say farewell to the Metropolitan. But almost as quickly as this uncertainty was resolved. Another one along who would be Johnson's successor. There were a number of possible choices to be drawn from a group of men who were already connected with the Metropolitan. Among them were a lot of smelt your lot and stab it. Richard Vaughan Ellie and Frank St. Leger a former conductor who now serves as an administrative assistant to the company. The final choice however was to come from quite a different quarter in the spring
of 949 negotiations began to arrange for the Glyndebourne opera company to visit New York. That company's general manager was Rudolf being loud he was in New York to examine the prospects for a tour. He met Edward Johnson in a completely off handed way Johnson asking how would you like this job. It seemed like a casual joke but Johnson was serious. A few days later being met with George Sloan the chairman of the Mets board of directors. They discussed the matter at great length and when being left for England Sloan told him that he was a strong contender for the job. In any event he assured being that he would have a definite reply within six weeks of having Culloden reports that being later sent a letter to his good friend Fritz steed three in New York. The six weeks have passed and no notification wrote being Hallelujah. But at the bottom of the letter there was a postscript as I am signing this letter. I have received a cable reading come to New York at
once. SLOAN. Being went to New York in May to meet with the entire board of directors after a long series of interviews the board voted unanimously to engage him for three years as the impresario of the Metropolitan Opera. Then in an unprecedented move that aunt asked being to spend the 1049 season in New York as a salaried observer working with Edward Johnson and seeing how the metropolitan was run this they felt it would give him a good preparation for his first season on his own in 1050. Unfortunately this plan failed. Instead of making the transition smoother it only made it bumpy with two general managers in residence. One of them a lame duck numerous conflicts arose. Johnson was virtually ignored as he tried to fulfil the duties of his final metropolitan season and all attention was focused on what being right do in his first one. The situation might have been a little less
strained had the salaried observer been a salaried silent observer. But this was not the case. Finally on February 28 a grand farewell was given for the departing impresario Giovanni Martinelli Krishna body and Friedrich Schorr were among the artists who returned to the house to take part in the ceremony. But Rudolf Bain was conspicuous by his absence. Mr Johnson addressed the audience from the stage to be general manager of the Metropolitan is a great honor he said. But it carries also a great responsibility. One is not born a general manager. One learns the hard way by making mistakes and correcting them. And some of the 10 attend impresario left Broadway and 31st after twenty eight years of service. His contribution to the company in both capacities had been a highly significant one. As one chapter of the Metropolitans history was ending. Another was only beginning. Edward Johnson had
shouldered his responsibility he made his mistakes and corrected some of them for Rudolf Bing though it all lay in the future. On our program next week we'll learn about some of the difficulties most being faced during his first season at the Metropolitan. And we'll also be hearing from Basle Jensen a C.A.P who made his debut on the opening night of the big regime. For now all of this is Milton crossed on behalf of a biased cast in D.C. hoping that you'll be able to join us then. With. With. Boston University Radio has presented Hall of song the story of the Metropolitan Opera from 1883 to 966 the
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Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966
1948 Through 1949
Producing Organization
WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
1948 -1949. Contralto Jean Madeira makes her debut. She is interviewed about her career.
Other Description
Documentary series on history of the Metropolitan Opera Company ("The Met") in its original home at Broadway and 39th Street in New York. "The Met" closed its old location on April 16, 1966. Series includes interviews and rare recordings of noted performers.
Broadcast Date
Performing Arts
Media type
Host: Cross, Milton, 1897-1975
Host: Kastendieck, Miles
Interviewee: Madeira, Jean
Producer: Calhoun, Richard
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-41-32 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:24
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Chicago: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1948 Through 1949,” 1967-04-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1948 Through 1949.” 1967-04-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1948 Through 1949. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from