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Mar., Chicago Début Recital – 1st reviewer

Tragedy Fails to Halt Margie Mayer Début

By Herman Devries, Chicago American, 12/1938.

Margie Mayer, contralto recently engaged by the Chicago Civic Opera Company for the coming season, effected her Début at Kimball Hall last evening under the most trying circumstances. Her teacher and accompanist, Zerline Muhlman Metzger, had gone through the tragic ordeal of attending the burial of her beloved father, Adolf Muhlman, the great Wagnerian baritone of the golden age in opera.

The plucky Mme. Metzger’s consideration for her pupil lent her sufficient courage to mask her sorrow and she went through with her part of the program like a true Spartan, worthy daughter of a Wotan, a part her late father so

often portrayed here at the Auditorium Theater and in many metropolitan opera houses.

Début Successful
Miss Mayer, whose voice is of rich and sensuous beauty and who is further endowed with dramatic instinct, shone especially in songs requiring emotional surge and demanding greater temperamental display than most of the lieder chosen for her initial appearance in recital. Excellent musicianship and artistic phrasing, coupled with an exceptionally clear diction, to say nothing of her magnificent voice, are at present her most outstanding qualities.

Mar., Chicago Début Recital – 2nd Reviewer

Margie Mayer a Sensation in Début Recital

By Edward Barry, Chicago Tribune, 3/1938.

It is quite embarrassing that Margie Mayer’s Kimball Hall recital of last evening should follow so close upon Marc d’Alberts appearance in identical surroundings on Tuesday. For a reporter to turn up two superlative artists in a single week and to the same place is certainly giving the irreverent and the imaginative plenty of ammunition.

Margie Mayer is a 20-year-old Chicago mezzo endowed with a voice of such indescribable quality and power that if her endowments stopped right there she would still have an excellent chance of making a splash in the world. But nature, usually so parsimonious, showered other gifts upon this happy young lady. Things such as a natural musical sense, the ability to acquire knowledge of life by intuition and by vicarious experience, and the knack of using this knowledge of life to give power and conviction to her music making. Unsatisfied still, nature gave Margie Mayer a dark personal attractiveness.

Having called her voice indescribable, I shall now proceed to describe it. Dark, round, richly textured. Full of a passion which never vents itself in throbby, churchy tones. Substantial always, but not viscous. Well produced and supported. Capable of infinite variety

of shade without going outside its natural color scheme. When she lets herself be carried away by a song, everything becomes instinctively right. The voice is really a contralto rather than a mezzo.

In German Lieder of Wolf, Schubert, and Brahms, in a quintet of French songs, in three pieces by John Alden Carpenter, and in five or six encores, Miss Mayer proved that her ability to compass a wide variety of feeling is no less remarkable than her other characteristics. When she is emotionally moved by the song which she is singing her phrasing and her handling of nuance become superlative. …

When she lets herself be carried away by a song, everything becomes instinctively right. The voice is really a contralto rather than a mezzo.

Responsible for much of Miss Mayer’s excellence and for the quality of last evening’s performance is Zerlina Muhlman Metzger, her teacher and accompanist. Mrs. Metzger’s father, the distinguished voice teacher and critic, Adolf Muhlman, died this week. Realizing the impossibility of concealing the recital or breaking in a new accompanist, Mrs. Metzger heroically went through with her assignment.

Mar., Chicago Début Recital – 3rd Reviewer

Margie Mayer Sings at Kimball Hall

J.W., 3/1938.

To those concert-goers who are thoroughly sated with recitals by would-be contraltos, Margie Mayer’s Kimball Hall recital Friday evening, April 29, came as a pleasant surprise. For Miss Mayer’s voice has a true contralto quality, with depth, warmth, and color, and she sings with an excellent sense of melodic line and phrasing. For all her youth, she has the voice and poise of maturity.

The recital material chosen by Miss Mayer was tastefully presented and grouped, the Brahms selections being especially well done. The program closed with three songs by John Alden Carpenter, exacting materials, excellently performed.

Any review of the recital would not be complete without mention of Zerline Muhlman Metzger, Miss Mayer’s teacher, a competent and sympathetic accompanist.

Nov., Début with Chicago Opera – 1st Reviewer

Miss Mayer in Début Proves a Real Artist

By Edward Barry, Chicago Daily Times, 11/1938.

The swaggering role of Niclaus in Offenbach’s fantastic “Tales of Hoffmann” provided a vehicle for the Début of Margery Mayer, 19-year-old (sic) Senn High school girl, at the Civic Opera House last nights.

But it must be hastily recorded that there was nothing high-school-ish about Miss Mayer’s performance. She displayed a degree of poise that would have done credit to a veteran,

and sang her role with the polish and ease of a seasoned artist. Her voice is a mezzo-soprano of unusual mellowness and charm.

In the more spectacular roles, Lawrence Tibbett led off with thoroughly Tibbettesque characterization of that triple devil Coppelius-Dapertutto-Miracle. As usual, he was in top voice and his acting and his costumes added the necessary eerie effect.

Nov., Début with Chicago Opera – 2nd Reviewer

Gala Night at the Opera

By Janet Gunn, Chicago Herald and Examiner, 11/1938.

Many Opera-devotees of the upper social strata sally forth in resplendent formal regalia to the Civic Opera House on Monday evenings, which traditionally is gala night during our opera season.

Such was quite the case last evening, and the festive audience was in something of a dither over the revival of Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman.”

Margery Mayer Excels
Margery Mayer, Chicago’s own blossoming contralto, sang the part of Niclaus. It was hardly apparent that this young girl was making her operatic Début, for she played and sang the swaggering boy’s role with veteran poise and assurance.

Miss Mayer has fulfilled our prophecy of a notable operatic destiny, and the part of the gallery can only root for her.

Dec., Lily Pons in ‘Lakmé’

Lily Pons in ‘Lakmé’
By Janet Gunn, Chicago Herald and Examiner, 11/1938.

The Civic Opera House limit was exceeded last evening with folk who had come to hear the Bell Song in ‘Lakmé’ as sung by the world’s tiniest coloratura, Lily Pons.

The audience fully enjoyed Delibes’ exotic opera, which is given so rarely that its occasional mounting provokes a pleasant flavor of novelty. And they en-joyed the youthful poise and fresh loveliness of Margery Mayer, who is assuredly the best vocal ‘find’ of the year.

Opera Addicts Hear Stars at Benefit
By Edward Barry, Chicago Daily Tribune, 12/1938.

From random notes on a crowded evening:

The sensuous splendor of Margery Mayer’s contralto and the warm way in which she can personalize a phrase.

For December 10, 1938.

The name of Lily Pons again filled the house on Wednesday night for ‘Lakmé’. The small, but potent French magnet, whose fragility is so appealing, sang deli-ciously and ware once more the costumes that are as celebrated as her Bell Song’. … Miss Mayer as Lakmé’s slave was of great competence, particularly in the duet with Miss Pons.

Local Find Gets Hand at Benefit
By Robert Pollak, Chicago Daily Times, 12/1938.

A dozen members of the Chicago City Opera appeared in mufti at the opera house last night for the company’s annual benefit concert.

Your reporter especially was taken by Margery Mayer, the local find of the season, whose poignant and expertly used contralto drew a big hand for a slice of ‘La Gioconda.’

Jan.-Dec., ‘Faust’ with Pinza

Chicago City Opera performs Gounod’s ‘Faust’
– Edward Barry, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 11/1939.

The name part of the evening “Faust” went to reliable Armand Tokatyan. Ezio Pinza turned in a sulfurous, sardonic Mepistopheles and Carlo Morelli a round voiced, powerful Valentine.

Margery Mayer sang her first Chicago Siebel with the intensity and with the vocal depth and darkness which help make her such an exciting artist.

“Breezin’ Round”

By Lenott Field, 1/1939.

… And like a news reel flashing before us is, – that Heifetz is about to make a movie – that de Falla is snug and safe in Granada writing an opera – that even the employees of an important local radio station are “raving” over a new staff contralto, aged nineteen and named Mayer which is real praise – that Elisabeth Schumann, late of Vienna Staatsoper is teaching in the U.S.A.

Miss Mayer Performs with Illinois Symphony Orchestra
– Edward Barry, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 11/1939.

Margery Mayer, young Chicago contralto who has been engaged by the Chicago City Opera company for this coming season, appeared as soloist with the Illinois Symphony orchestra, Albert Goldberg conducting, in the Great Northern theater yesterday afternoon. “Erda’s Warning” from “Das Rheingold” and one song apiece, of Wolf and Brahms constituted her contribution to the program.

Miss Mayer brought along her spectacularly beautiful voice – dark and menacing and when the script calls for such an effect, shot with unearthly light in the Brahms “Von ewiger Liebe.” That the occasion was not quite so exciting as one could have reasonably expected it to be was due to a certain stiffness of delivery and to the resulting lack of that priceless impression of effortless flow and complete spontaneity.

“The voice of Margery Mayer floated in velvety, luscious tones, as the Sandman.”
– Herman Devries, The Chicago American, 12/1939.

“Margery Mayer made a vibrantly voiced Sandman.“
– Edward Barry, The Chicago Daily Times 12/1939.

Dec., Chicago City Opera – Rigoletto with Tibbitt

Verdi’s Rigoletto closes season at Chicago Opera

By Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 12/1942.

Tibbett’s Plea for Mercy.
Malformed, malignant and melan- choly, Mr. Tibbett’s Rigoletto is the ideal dupe of courtiers who find it amusing to give him a dose of his own cruel wit. His singing of “Cortigiani” was no mere baritone show-piece, but a climactic piece of music drama. In that wonderful voice, which seems haunted by shadows

and memories and sorrows, he sang the bitter plea for mercy on a mounting crescendo of feeling that had true operatic impact.

…. Mr. Lazzari’s business like bandit (Sparafucile) and Miss Mayer’s handsome Maddalena sang in the rich, almost fruity voices that sound so right from the big stage of a major opera house.

Feb. Il Trovatore with San Carlo in Boston Opera House

Il Trovatore” with San Carlo Opera at the Boston Opera House, Carlo Peroni Conducting
By Rudolph Elie, Jr., 2/1943.

…The singing varied considerably in quality ranging from the most acceptable work of Margery Mayer as Azucena to the less rewarding but occasionally goo efforts of the other principals.

Mr. Carlo Peroni, the conductor managed to whip up considerable liveliness, and in the scene in which the Count di Luna condemns Azucena, he drove the singers into a fine frenzy. The scene of consequence, marched off with the principal honors of the evening and Miss Mayer, who sang “Ai nostri monti” with especially distinction, achieved a fine reception.

Although she has appeared in a number of the current series, the role of Azucena was Miss Mayer’s most important so far. The role for that matter, is the most important in the opera … Azucena is a great character throughout. In addition to her vocal excellence, Miss Mayer had much more dramatic presence than the rest, and often created the illusion of acting.

Notation in Mayer’s Clippings Album: “This performance was my 1st Azucena and landed after singing six different operas in the previous six nights, beginning with my first Amneris in Aida.”

Mar., San Carlo Opera in S.F. – Carmen

San Carlo Opera Opens With Carmen
By Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/1945.

The San Carlo Opera Company opened its season last night at the Opera House with the bet “Carmen” it has ever given here, and one of the best performances of any opera in its local history.

The cast was extremely well balanced and even in its virtues, but particular interest attached to the first San Francisco appearance of a new singer, Margery Mayer. In the title role, Miss Mayer’s interpre- tation reminded one of W. J. Henderson’s famous quip utter-ed when he was asked which ‘Traviata’ he preferred-Mme. X’s or Mme. Y’s. “Neither,” replied Henderson. “I prefer Verdi’s.”

We have had Carmens who acted the role, others who danced it, still

others who clowned it, and some who turned it into a parade of gowns.

Miss Mayer sings it, and one of the reasons for that is that she possesses the wherewithal for exercise of the vocal art.

She is a splendidly rich, deep and lustrous contralto. Her voice is wide in range and it has no weak spots. It is the kind of voice that makes you sit up and take notice from the first note, and it holds you throughout with the fineness of its quality. Her interpretation is not the subtlest in the world, but gets the part over.

What you particularly remember afterward is the singer’s magnificent tone.

Jun., San Carlo Opera performs Aida (Amneris) outdoors at Watergate, Washington, D.C.

Potomac Proves Rainier Than Nile And Aida Misses Her Rendezvous

By Alice Eversman, The Evening Starr, Washington, D.C., 6/1950.

Aida and Rhadames never got a chance at their rendezvous on the banks of the Nile last night and, as far as the Watergate audience was concerned, Verdi’s hero was saved from dishonor. For just as the hand of Amneris, the Egyptian King’s daughter, had been conferred upon him in the San Carlo Opera’s presentation of “Aida” on the banks of the Potomac, the heavens opened in one of Washington’s best downpours.

It is most disheartening for, from all appearances, this was to be one of the times we could bring out all our finest adjectives. They are still begging for utterance for the four scenes of the two acts heard guaranteed a superb performance by the San Carlo artists.

Seldom has so fine a cast been assembled. Gertrude Ribla’s magni- ficent voice made the Aida music sound glorious. She also has dramatic intensity, and the scene with Amneris burned with emotion.

Margery Mayer was an inspiring Egyptian princess, making the part glamorous by her appearance and giving joy with the continual beauty of her singing.

The role of Rhadames was taken by Alessandro Grandi, who if not equalling vocally either Miss Ribla or Miss Mayer, nonetheless has the breadth and range of voice and the style for this taxing tenor part.

Feb., Pittsburgh Opera – Lohengrin with Steber – 1st Reviewer

Pittsburgh Opera with Eleanor steber Presents Wagner’s Lohengrin

By Ralph Lewando, Music Critic of The Pittsburgh Press, 2/1954.

A Grand Voice
However with the second act, Mr. Vinay sang his part convincingly and with devoutness. The duet scene with Miss Steber was a truly fine endeavor. Miss Steber’s artistry was top flight.

Margery Mayer had the thankless but vocally powerful role of Ortrud.

Her dramatic contralto imported wonderful resonance and tonal contrast to every note. Here is a grand voice, always vibrant, ever gauged to the music, and well-controlled in every phase of emotional expression. Certainly Miss Mayer has one of the best contralto voices in the business.

Feb., Pittsburgh Opera – Lohengrin with Steber – 2nd Reviewer

‘Lohengrin’ Sung at Mosque

By Donald Steinfirst, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/1954.

Richard Wagner’s immortal “Lohengrin” is the opera of the week-end at Syria Mosque. The Pittsburgh Opera presenting two performances of the work, is attempting one of the most difficult and at the same time rewarding of lyrical stage pieces.

Role Suits Eleanor Steber

In Eleanor Steber, “Elsa” had a protagonist of incalculable beauty and strength. Miss Steber’s voice is ideal for the role. …

Ramon Vinay’s “Lohengrin” grew in stature, as the opera progressed.

Mr. Vinay too was a commanding stage figure achieving much of the curious, mysterious double role of saint, and mortal. …

The two supporting roles of “Telramund” and “Ortrud” were no less successfully sung last night. …

Margery Mayer, was a fine voiced “Ortrud.” Her mezzo was excellently used in the role. The voice is sonorous, and the few opportunities for coloristic treatment were observed.



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"Margery Mayer sang Amneris with such opulence, conviction and assurance that her protrayal stood out as the most artistic and praiseworthy of the night." - The New York Journal American

"Margery Mayer who sang the title role ('Carmen') for the first time here is the most satisfying newcomer in the part to be heard in many a year.

Her voice fits the song, which is to say that it is warm and luscious in tim- bre, flawlessly produced, with an innate refinement in the phrasing of the immortal Bizet melodies. Miss Mayer's perfect singing dominated the performance with ease." -Glenn Dillard Gunn, Washington Times-Herald

"A voice of rich and sensuous beauty. Miss Mayer shone especially in songs requiring emotional surge. Add to this excellent musicianship and artistic phrasing." - Chicago American

"Her dramatic contralto im- parted wonderful resonance and tonal contrast to every note. Here is a grand voice, always gauged to the music, and well controlled in every phase of emotional expres- sion. Certainly Miss Mayer has one of the best contralto voices in the busi- ness." - The Pittsburgh Press, 2/1954

"The mercury has risen on Miss Mayer's impersonation of Carmen since she first sang this role two years ago. Fiery pace has shar- pened and the tones throw off more heat. Phrasing and style were on a high level last night and so was grasp of mood. Miss Mayer's Carmen is one of the best in town - at any price." - Louis Biancolli, New York World-Telegram

"Miss Mayer sang beautifully, almost as if her voice matched the viola that is Hindemith's chosen instrument." - Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Tribune, 12/1945

"Miss Mayer Splendid: ... To sing such difficult and polytonal music so impeccably was an outstanding feat." - Sun-Times, 12/1945

Within the first week of the 1943 tour, Margery Mayer was cast to appear in 7 operas in 7 days, leading off with her début in the role of Amneris in Aida and culminating with another début in the role of Azuchena in Il Trovatore.

The company's impresario, Fortune Gallo, had known Miss Mayer from the Chicago Opera where he had just finished the season as Artistic Director. Conjecture might be that these two debut's bookending five other operas under fire were both an initiation and a test before assigning her the title role of Carmen.

As a sign of the confidence this clever showman had in the 25 year old singer, he reserved her début in this title role to be sung in front of the high profile New York audience and critics at the Broadway Theater. By the end of this tour, Miss Mayer had sung 7 Amnerises, 5 Azuchenas and just one Carmen ( title role).

Based on her success, the following year, on a coast to coast tour of the United States and Canada, Gallo entrusted the three roles to Miss Mayer exclusively on the next years eight month tour for a total of 47 performances (see Map 2).

"Miss Mayer was what made last night's Carmen different. She has a lush contralto voice which has been excellently trained and which she used with consistent merit. It is one of really beautiful timbre, has ample power and range, and Miss Mayer made effective use of it both vocally and dramatically." - San Francisco News (Editor's comment: thawing out from Canadian winter, Carmen burns bright and hot in Frisco as per excerpt from review of 1/8/45)

In the coming decade, while Miss Mayer had become a regular member of the New York City Opera, Mr. Gallo secured her services on four occasions for another 3 Carmens and four each of Amneris and Accucena for a total of 71 performances across the three roles, with more than 50% of these in what was to be her signature role, Carmen.

"Margery Mayer made the most of her opportunities as Suzuki .." (In her NYCO debut with Camilla Williams) - The New York Times, 5/1946

"The outstanding perfor- mance was that of Margery Mayer as Amneris." - Boston Herald

"The role of Azucena was sung by Margery Mayer with superb effect." - Washington Evening Star

"...the work we did in class laid the groundwork for my understanding and appreciation of the works we saw performed. The class is scheduled to attend a rehearsal of Verdi's Falstaff, in which work Margery Mayer starred as Mistress Page and Dame Quickly, with the Montreal Opera and the New York City Opera. Miss Mayer communicates her love for the opera, as well as her grasp of the material at hand, as she performed the roles herself." - Quote from student enrolled in Prof. Mayer's graduate level course: 'Exploring Opera in New York' at Wagner College, 1975.

Mayer as Amneris in 'Aida'. Photo: G. Nelidoff, Chicago