Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-1950


For over sixty years the weekly broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York has been an important part of American cultural life. The broadcasts, whose continuity was ensured when Texaco assumed sponsorship in 1940, have played a significant role in introducing an audience of millions to the splendors of opera. Paul Jackson, whose own recollections of the broadcasts start in 1940, presents a rich and detailed history of the broadcasts from their inception in 1931, when the imperious Gatti-Casazza ruled, on through the troubled, yet often triumphant, regime of the more affable Edward Johnson. This was a time when the Wagner operas were performed with unparalleled grandeur, when the Mozart operas were introduced to a nationwide public, and the American singer came to the fore. Above all, it was an age of glorious voices and memorable characterizations - Pinza's Figaro, Melchior's Siegfried, Lehmann's Marschallin, Martinelli's Otello, Milanov's Gioconda, Bjoerling's Manrico, Albanese's Violetta. Beecham,,Walter, Reiner, and Szell contributed to the era of legendary conductors in the forties. Jackson, a musicologist with an uncommon ability to combine narrative history with musical analysis and criticism, brings to life the more than two hundred broadcasts of which recordings, pirated or archival, survive. They constitute a unique record in sound of one of the Metropolitan's great periods. The author explores the glory and decline of Tibbett's and Rethberg's careers, the probity of Ponselle's Carmen, the premiere of Hanson's Merry Mount, the debuts of Flagstad and Sayao. Nor are the blemishes on the Met record slighted in this candid critique. In addition to these primary sources oflive performances, Jackson utilizes unpublished documents and letters from the Metropolitan Opera Archives to tell the story of intricate maneuvers between the Met and the National Broadcasting System, and artistic intrigues

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Portland, OR
Publication year:
  • 1992


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