8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This documentary about the great American tenor provides examples of Peerce in his prime as "Toscanini's tenor," as well as at the age of 79, still singing with undiminished passion & sheer love of performing before adoring audiences.
Back in the late '70s, I had the pleasure of hearing Peerce, still singing brilliantly in his early 70s, twice in person, as Tevye in "Fiddler" & in solo recital performing operatic arias. As a professional music critic, I was also privileged to conduct a prearranged lengthy interview with Peerce in his backstage dressing room right after the "Fiddler" performance. He was ebullient, voluble & articulate, & this aspect of his personality comes through, loud & clear, on this DVD, in filmed interviews with Edward R. Murrow & Isaac Stern. (Stern also narrated this documentary; I had the opportunity, on a different occasion, to interview Stern who was, like Peerce, not given to false modesty.)
I enjoyed this DVD immensely, even though not all the musical selections are top-notch. Peerce's "Il mio tesoro" was anything but Mozartean in style & I would have preferred more of Peerce in his prime rather than the extended selections from his last years. But there's certainly enough great singing here to satisfy even the most demanding listener.
If you're familiar with Peerce's remarkable & distinctive vocal artistry through live performances &/or his many recordings, you'll want & will enjoy this DVD; if you're an opera lover unfamiliar with Peerce, you owe it to yourself to rectify this situation & get this DVD. I expect that you, like me, will end up wishing this film were another hour longer.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The title of this excellent 1990 film by Peter Rosen comes from the fact that singer Peerce played the role of Tevye in a production of Fiddler on the Roof during the last years of his life. His life had many connections to the show. He was born in the US to recently emigrated parents from Russia. He believed in the Jewish "Tradition".
Peerce, though an opera singe, found singing later in life. He played violin until he was in his 20s. In the conversation held with the film's narrator, Isaac Stern, Peerce tells a great story - one of many told in an engaging manner - of being discovered by impresario Roxy Roxenfeld (the guy who started Radio City Music Hall) at a dinner for the vaudeville team of Weber & Fields. He spent eight years on the stage at Radio City. THEN he discovered opera and made his Met debut in 1938. Peerce had one of the first "crossover" pop hits in 1945 when his recording of "Bluebird of Happiness" hit #1 on the pop charts.
He died in 1984 at age 80.
This film was available on VHS many years ago and I remember enjoying it then. It was just as entertaining now on this re-release from EuroArts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Although popular with the public back in the 50s and 60s, thanks to his cross-over appeal, ("Bluebird of Happiness" was his signature song), Jan Peerce has largely faded from today's memory of great opera stars. This hour-long show, narrated (a little too much) by Peerce's good friend, violinist Isaac Stern, presents a fascinating look at an American original. Born in 1904 in New York of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Peerce originally began as a violinist and didn't start singing professionally until he was in his late 20s, doing popular music. He didn't start singing classical and opera until he was in his 30s, making his Metropolitan Opera debut when he was 37 in 1941, replacing Tito Schipa who opted to return to fascist Italy.
He became a sort of protege of Toscanini, who recorded a number of opera with him--often from live radio broadcasts. Many of these are available on Amazon, such as Peerce's first recording with Toscanini, a 1946 La Traviata, with Licia Albanese and Robert Merrill, pieced together from the rehearsal tapes. There is also an incredible 1957 Don Giovanni with Cesare Siepi in the title role, Jan Peerce as Don Ottavio, plus Elenor Steber, Lisa della Casa, Roberta Peters, Fernando Corena, Theodore Uppmann and Giorgio Tozzi, conducted by Karl Bohm. In addition, the Met has just released, on Sony, the 1955 broadcast of Un Ballo in Maschera, with Peerce, Merrill, Zinka Milanov, Roberta Peters, and making her historic debut, Marian Anderson.
Peerce had an ease and flexibility of voice, plus tremendous diction, which may have come from his early singing as a cantor. His repetoire was varied, including Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, and Pucinni. Also one who sang on the "interest, not on the principle", he was able to continue singing and singing very well into his late 70s. His voice was bright and brassy, which can come across as a nasal quality. But he sang with tremendous style and conviction.
I would have liked a little more depth on his career, such as why Rudolf Bing didn't favor him, and his long-standing feud with his famous brother-in-law, tenor Richard Tucker. Still, this DVD is a valuable piece of history about one of America's top tenors of the 1940s and 50s, and a delight to watch.