Dear Editor: I must take exception to a comment made by Francis Madeira in the article “A Voice Like Velvet” by Tony Villecco in the October 2012 issue of Classical Singer (pg. 49). “Risë Stevens had a firm grip on [Carmen] . . . she had a contract at the Met that said no one else could sing Carmen in the Met without her permission. Not until Risë Stevens bowed out of the scenery, so to speak, could Jean sing it at the Met.”
The statement is not based on fact since nowhere in Stevens’ contracts (all of which are on file in the Metropolitan Opera Archives, as well as supporting correspondence) for the years in which she sang Carmen was there a clause of that nature. Rudolf Bing, the autocratic general manager of the Metropolitan, would not have given any singer no matter how valuable they were to the box office (and Stevens was) that privilege.
Madeira first sang Carmen at the Met on tour in 1949, and her last was in 1959. Stevens’ last Met Carmen was in 1961. Madeira did not have to wait until Stevens relinquished the role as was stated. Moreover, during Stevens’ alleged grip on the role not only Madeira sang Carmen but so did Fedora Barbieri.
I, like Mr. Madeira and Mr. Villecco, am a great admirer of Jean Madeira. Both she and Risë Stevens were memorable artists, and to pit one against the other does neither a good service.
[Archivist with the Metropolitan Opera and author of Risë Stevens: A life in Music, Baskerville Publishers, 2006. The opinions expressed in this letter are Pennino’s and not the Metropolitan Opera’s.]
Dear Mr. Pennino: I do not know whether or not Ms. Stevens had a clause in her contract. In fact, I made an effort to contact and interview her but was told that she was unable to do so at the time. Therefore, I have no reason to not take Mr. Madeira at his word; I am sure, of all people, he knew best what occurred during his wife’s career at the Met. As far as “pitting one against the other,” this is an unfair assessment. I am far too professional and try to maintain integrity in all of my projects. I am sorry you viewed it that way.
I find it interesting that you speak for Mr. Bing, now deceased. We may never know if indeed there was a written or verbal agreement between him and Ms. Stevens. I certainly didn’t imply that Madeira had to wait “until Stevens relinquished the role.” Madeira sang it on tour quite often, in fact. As far as Fedora Barbieri, another superlative artist, singing the role, I simply find this irrelevant.
The December 2012 issue of Classical Singer included an article by Donald Callen Freed, “Stroke and Voice Therapy: One Singer’s Personal Journey.” CS inadvertently omitted a citation to a similar article by the same author that appeared in the Journal of Singing entitled “Stroke and Voice Recovery from a Singer-Pedagogue’s Perspective” (Journal of Singing 67, 5, 2011, 543-547). The editor regrets the omission of the citation, which the author included in his original submission.
In the article “An Early Start” by Megan Gloss in the October 2012 issue, Palm Beach Opera was stated as being in California. Palm Beach Opera is actually located in Palm Beach, Fla. The editor apologizes for the misstatement.