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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 are war the war. Ghoul world. Your posts are miles past indie music critic of The New York World. Journal Tribune. And noton cross.
When Edward Johnson took over the helm of the Metropolitan in the 1935 season he found that he was not going to have the same free hand of determining policy that got his acts I had enjoyed. The principal restraint was imposed by the conditions which accompanied the Julliard Foundation's financial assistance in the future. The Metropolitan's budget was to give every promise of operating without a deficit. There was to be a drive to substantially increase subscription sales and young American talents. But to be given increased opportunities for appearing at the Metropolitan. The interests of the foundation were also guarded by the four members of the Juilliard School who were given seats on the Metropolitan's board of directors. Still further supervision of the impresarios activities was provided by the upper management committee which also included some representatives of the Julliard foundation. All of this makes it easy to understand why autoconf felt that they
metropolitans normal programme would have been impeded if he had accepted the foundation's first offer of assistance in one thousand twenty four. But a great deal had changed in 10 years and it can be imagined that Edward Johnson was more than willing to accept the additional funds no matter what the conditions. The drive to increase subscription sales was greatly aided by an organisation which was formed even before the 1935 season got underway. The new group was called the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the guiding force behind it from the very beginning was Mrs. August Belmont under her direction the Guild has probably done more to stimulate interest in opera and the metropolitan than any other organisation. The first step Edward Johnson took toward fulfilling the promise of operating without a deficit was to set $1000 as the absolute top fee that any artist would receive for a single performance. This was a drastic change from the nearly
$3000 a performance that was paid to artists like before the Depression. Contrary to some people's opinions this turn of events did not lead to a large scale withdrawal of singers and many artistes were added to the company as well. Proving that the Metropolitan and all it stood for made singing their worth while at any fee. Some doubts were expressed however about the worth of a few of the singers who launched their careers at the house during this period. There's your Jada desire to have more young Americans added to the roster was admirable but it had to be conceded that age and nationality could not become the only standard by which new artists were judged in the Herald. WJ Henderson wrote it is necessary to keep in mind the radically changed character of the Metropolitan. There was a time when a debut in this theater meant the climax of a career developed upon steadily growing artistic success hereafter. If you said Jarvis will be heard while
young Americans will be brought forward and permitted to begin their careers on the stage of the greatest opera in the world. But no one could raise even the slightest doubt about the accomplishment of the artist who made a debut on the opening night of the 1936 season Kirsten tub. After 10 seasons at the Metropolitan during which she gave outstanding performances in the roles from the German French and Italian repertory she returned to her native Sweden it was then that Madam top dog met with our producer Richard Calhoun to talk about a distinguished metropolitan career. Well after many many years of singing at opera companies all over Europe and other parts of the world how did you feel when you first came to the Metropolitan madam to a book. Yes first of all you know I was taught to think that my most happy memories from my career was said to me when I was thinking age 14 seasons. Met these of course all over the musical world as their very top. They go on to reach the musical directors
as well as soap but I think seeing us start. There you have it the most efficient management. The tradition of big stars and during my appearance was there. We had such men at the head and we had John's own general manager and we saw it at senior as assistant manager it was not only that one owner as if they had to feeling security it was the personal interest these men took in their seeing us. Any time you could come to them and talk over things and it never failed that Mr. Johnson or nice to see you or boss of them receipted Are they single moms before their performances wishing good luck. And after the fall of the carton congratulated us these men to get a deal and quanta Bute did to their solidarity with their institution and the quality
of their performance. I wish that all general managers in that world would do with the CM. It would mean much happier seeing as and much better souls on that stage. You need appreciation to get further. What did you find at the sort of thing occurred in Europe too or was there something very special for them. I think it is especially for the Met. And everyone of us and I said I would like to mention to a pulldown Skee who conducted the Wagnerian or pass. He was so real it was a real pleasure to sing under him he was sung usually streak about they way you interpret it you are parched and he will really appreciate it. Good work and by personality. Got the singers to do their best. He wants to fashion it in person. And I admired him both as him you see some S and
S a person. Will you work with him an awful lot and you're doing a lot of the Wagner operas. I worked mostly with him because I send so many. The first day I send so many many young men oppressed you made your debut as involved in 1936. Yeah I did. Together we the madam flags that and missed the main show. We thought you were free from Scandinavia. Well that's funny you sung together in Scandinavia before. Never flex that once you're in Sweden. But never with it meant to make things easier working with colleagues you know that you would known. No not I'd like to see them because they're with but it would seem fresh but it didn't make any difference to me. If a song before with that or not surely in your 14 seasons with the Metropolitan there are a lot of funny incidents that happened along the way. Really it has been. In the long theatrical career it
can't be avoided that incident or rather comical in nature. So for instance once when I made my entrance as freakin devolved that I usually saying we did yeoman want them. This fellow has a head gear helmet with big wings as the helmet was too big for his head. He had it padded with cotton wool. Now it can't happen that at the performance before the Swan had been eaten and another vote done with a big head. Had to take over the part that Cotton had to be removed and hadn't been replaced. Thus it happened when my ordinary was done at my entrance has to move his head quickly towards me. He's shiny head and it slid down on one of his ears which made him look happily pickled and quite ridiculous when he
conscious all of them alert and frightfully nervous. They having at me exclaimed in his mother tongue mind what. I hardly was able to start my singing. I am sure I watched and heard over the footlights. The first three S's. Runs Iraq almost on the point of leaving then that I had recently that means that in order to ask him for your release for next season but he was hesitant so I told him I had then to go back to Europe after this disappointment. I had to go on go on the steerage as a gift to minister in a director and there my first three is to go to that vice to cane me gig and after the performance we saw that sealant knocked at my door and put in his white head and said is there and I
replied rubbing my fingers vise to kind me till he drew back his head shut the door and I got my erased. So they took a season out there. I have a story to sort at the top where you were not when you were talking when you were touring with the Met in Cincinnati on nor in Cincinnati where they used to have this summit or where the singers and conductors come from the minute I say many performances. Once when they're saying Ill throw my daughter under the marsh to the directorship far strictly about it happen that they don't know what I've got some competition by unbidden saying yes when she sang the OP but I use located in there so a lot you can garden where amongst are the inhabitants. They have peacocks who seem not to like a sou he says they almost drown the poor Soprano when they contributed her singing
with their powerful and not particularly to Laurie says. It certainly was a more story didn't I compliment to their disenchanting music and something that audiences want to forget in a hurry. Neither did I. How did you find living in New York while you were at the Met. Oh I liked it very much and I lived at the Astor Hotel and it was very convenient. But it happened one evening. I was going to sing in the Met and I was late and I had to drive with a taxi driver to do this theater and I told him to hurry up and then he he turned his head quietly and said to me relax and I didn't say it word we got you there on time. Yes I did. Another of the parts you did at the Met was or fail in looks or failing that was
conducted by Bruno Valter on it. Did you like working with him. If I lie here who is he I want to address what I say. He was something unbelievable. Believe it. I mean he was something every I think everything you'd like to sing with him. Because because what he was so understanding or see he understood seeing as you see you know every every conductor doesn't understand seeing actually what he did I. But I mean well with anything I know what I would like to place really well actually you sang with a lot of the very greatest conductors that the Met ever had over the years Beecham and Reiner all those Toscanini too. Yes I am glad that I had there for reporters a fortune you know to sing with one of the best all the
tops with a very different I mean each one you're going to work with. They were very different. But they would want to if they're all good you know you are at least good in their way but no really I did one of them well in the same way as working with a lot of conductors you worked with a lot of different singers to us especially again in the Wagnerian you had to milk your own like studs and then later on with Helen triable and those people seeing a sheath. They have she has to be able to ice. Not to talk about flex than she had. She had their wonderful voice too and it was so nice to see him with them. They were nice colleagues all of them. I may have sung with you telling a funny story earlier about people confusing your name with flags. Because she came one year before me and her name was kids then cashed in
and they thought maybe I couldn't spend my own damn. So they called me. Then I told him catch the no kids then. And I like that talk but I think he thought I didn't know my own damn thing. But then of course another great Scandinavian singer in a Swedish one too was at the Met at the time when I was U.S. buring and you did quite a bit of work with me I thought I sang it very often with him and I sang it concepts with him too in with the Toscanini. I think he was. I can think you can find I find it a beautiful voice than his and he was so good to see and he could learn to party I think in India would be really you know he was without a meal ticket and it was a nice as a person too. And it's a pity that he died too early. Then another of the brain elders or he's older rather
that you worked with as Marjorie Lawrence. What this NG and rocked an artist she was. I remember when she was sick you remember she forgot she was sitting and singing and you couldn't think that she had it and what is it you really did want to. You couldn't because she was on the phone. Well after those few olders she did and Venus was after she was sick I was or wasn't she never saying much again. Poor one. But if she if she is really one of the greatest artist I met and sang with. She had everything too. Oh she was so wonderful. I could I would like to say well you much but I think I said what. Need to see. Well in spite of having a very large range of parts within the general repertoire of our dinner and Italian opera you also did some parts
that really aren't for metal Soprano such as the quandary and Parsifal I guess you got your first chance at singing that once when Dad was absent for one season. Or yes I'd love to see that part now. But when you have the top notes why should you. Was that a difficult part for you to do no. It wasn't it was YOU not me and I want to feel higher but I like you too. You know maybe I wouldn't bag it but but at that time I like to sing these. How many rolls altogether Did you sing. Oh if I could remember. Maybe you remember better than I do. Well it was an awful lot you know like Solomon the rodeo sums all of my old Rico all the all of odd numbered so you know. And Martin you know who would know and you know
I feel I know that but oh what a wonderful party. You know it's not so easy to see that. I mean they must have many good devices you know but don't you think you should let it is it wonderful. I do what I do and that's why I've always wondered the Met doesn't do it much and it never has really. Did you find that the Mets repertoire was more limited than some of the other companies are saying within Europe. No no. You know the first year I sang on to Wagner. So I you want to say it like Indian seeing you see that you get you know Medicare you get you if you start with you know past you I did you I mean you want to you know seeing he you would if you could sing every part you see. You know how did you break away from that than I do. Really I don't know how it happened that day because so few of them have you know like Frida lied or wanted to do a lot of other things and you know
I don't understand that I really sang Italian or Bessie in America because I thought I will never sing that one on my part because I think I NEED IT WAS ON MY The part I sang mostly in Europe are they telling us I sang very many times here in Europe. BUSH I sing with I sang with him in Germany embodying I sang with Bush and then in South America I sang with him. Do you see him when I say this. And at that time and in the Italian they had Yemen season and Italian and they turned their season there where. Deeley he was single and you know on his own you know they're all put out. So now he's saying if you met him he will swallow singing really well and if you where the nearest thing any camp singing always singing he said or at least one of you didn't do any work with him at the MET not dog you.
I guess he had left then he wasn't that. No I didn't see him with him. It's nice to hear a person only singing. Now in the course of your career you saw all of the artists that you you know were singing with earlier like MLK or trouble and all of those. But then in the later years people like Jan Peerce and Leonard Warren were coming along. The use of the American type singers I sang there for the first time didn't say at their best I sang with him. He was he had to be true. Well he died suddenly just about the same time you're rolling a little bit before. Did you find that these American artists were any different than the Europeans you had worked with earlier in their approach. Nor was there any change in styles of singing or I don't know but they were not nervous as we are from you were that they were not nervous at all you remember it. I will not mention her name. She sang for the first time in oh in orbit
and I said no as I said to know it I know my part he said. So now American singer it's what I thought of myself I had sung the part many thanks and and I was really keen to ya. When I came on this city throughout all the bad before but she said you know I know my populous and that's wonderful. But they have a wonderful seeing and the American seeing it are very very good. I think you have a lot of them now when they have many many beautiful ices in America and I think it daunted us you know from you would have been pretty soon. Well they can always use good voices no matter where and it is good. I think they're seeing it would be their diplomats. They would and we wouldn't be here if we could we would sing all over the world where literacy would be much better if we had quality it's not so doesn't mean so much.
But I think it would be a good idea I think it all but it certainly is a good for Balkan artists to be invited to appear on the same stage as such world famous celebrities as Geralyn found out in Rico kind of so if you are shopping and so forth. And to share with them their texts relating joy or feeling or their appreciation or if fastidious or Dettori you wish to the very best in my memory. I sometimes go back to moments when the curtain of the MIT C edge went up after a good performance and we seniors met with there and thought stick that if you would from a top capacity Fieldhouse Another thing I want to say about the met you two are seeing the lariat free from in three and jealously and if one had a successful evening one only a myth we've spun 10 years praise from colleagues.
I really not conclude an interview like this without saying some thing about my many fans from my engagement at the Met. They were seemed wonderful in their encouragement and friendship even they meant an awful lot to my feeling of being at home in America or being happy there. Still they remember me. We let those and let them talk to us a fiction and now and again I get they lease it from one or another of them here in my home in Sweden. It is a remarkable number of Swedish singers that have been engaged by the Met through its existence effect that we are very proud of. As a curiosity I would mention that the famous Swedish soprano by name case the union son sang at the first opening night at the Met. Eighteen hundred eighty three. And that another not less famous
Swedish will put on to be a good new song used to seeing at the last performance at the Met 960 seeks in its old location some new songs for my country to be proud of. And some top books too. Thank you Kirsten. Another of Scandinavia is incomparable musicians. Her magnificent interpretation of wild trout is seen from good to Demerol His find proof of why an artist of her caliber would be a source of pride for any country in the world. Will. Was.
On next week's program we'll hear about life at the Metropolitan from the conductor's
standpoint as we talk to Eric lynes doth Maestro Leinsdorf arrived in New York. He was only in his early 20s and he never expected that his responsibilities would be as great as they were. And he'll tell us all about this and the many other interesting experiences he had. For now this is Milton Cross. On behalf of Myles custody hoping that you'll join us again then. I'd love. Boston University Radio has presented Hall of song the story of the Metropolitan Opera from 1883 to 966. The series is created and produced by Richard Calhoun a grant
from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of these programs for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
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Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966
1934 Through 1937
Producing Organization
WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
1934 -1937. Transition to Edward Johnson's managerial regime. Lucrezia Bori gives her farewell speech at her last performance. Kerstin Thorberg is interviewed.
Series 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: Thorborg, Kerstin, 1896-1970
Producer: Calhoun, Richard
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-41-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:05
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Chicago: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1934 Through 1937,” 1967-02-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1934 Through 1937.” 1967-02-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1934 Through 1937. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from