23 November 2003 | harry-76
Classical music lovers in the mid-20th century thrilled weekly to "The Bell Telephone Hour." That the series lasted for so many years under major sponsorship demonstrates the general public's appreciation of musical art during that period.
Opera divas like Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, Helen Traubel, to mention a few, appeared under the orchestral baton of Donald Vorhees.
The series was always beautifully prepared and mounted. No one minded the black and white format, for that was the norm at the time. Entire families would regularly gather around the tv to experience superlative performances by major artists.
A few of these programs have been preserved and are available today on vhs. I have two of Ms. Traubel's programs and she is a joy to hear. She performs selections she rarely got to perform as the leading Wagnerian soprano of her generation -- such as Verdi, Mozart, right down to a Negro spiritual at the end.
Another "Bell" video I cherish (this one in color) is of Ms. Price, rendering an astonishing Nile Scene from Verdi's "Aida" and Cio Cio San's aria from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." At "intermission" Vorhees interviews Price, with the program concluding with an aria from Verdi's "La Forza del Destino."
There was nothing on television in the classical arena more beloved by the public than "The Bell Telephone Hour," and those who have managed to obtain these programs today certainly have some rare treasures in their collections.