Sunday, February 20, 2011

James Melton Debut at the Metropolitan Opera

James Melton as Tamino in "The Magic Flute" at the Met

Like so many of my father's accomplishments, performing at the Met did not come without hard work and determination. But there was also a certain synchronicity involved. Opera in the United States began to suffer from the conflict in Europe in the autumn of 1939, with a number of European singers failing to show up. This provided the opportunity for local talent.  Also on the plus side, a number of European conductors, in America at the time, decided to stay. The great Bruno Walter was one of them.

New York newspapers were unanimous in praise of Melton's debut. The New York Times wrote:

 “James Melton’s name and voice have been known to the American public for a good many years as a result of his work in radio, concert, records and the movies. If that public needs any further endorsement of his attainments, Mr. Melton provided it last night by becoming a member of the Metropolitan Opera Association.  He made his debut in the role of Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and proved beyond question that he belongs in the company.  The only question was: Why had it taken the company so long to add this gifted American tenor to its roster? Mr. Melton acted and sang with the poise that a singer gains only from years of appearing in public...Mr. Melton's is a true lyric tenor voice. It is not like some other lyric tenors that are too frail for the vast spaces of the Opera House; it is sturdy enough to be heard...Mr. Melton sang it intelligently, and with sensitive regard for the Mozart style. He brought dignity and elegance to the part of Tamino. He should grace other roles.”


In that memorable debut performance, on December 7, 1942, the other leading roles were taken by Ezio Pinza as Sarastro, Jarmila Novotna as Pamina, John Brownlee as Papageno, and Norman Cordon as the High Priest. Bruno Walter conducted.  Good company, to say the least.

More about that debut in a later post.

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