Had we but world enough and time, I would gladly have commented on hundreds of the 1,024 portraits on the Metropolitan Opera Wall of Fame, the subject of my latest essay for The New York Times (see "The Corner of Falstaff and Zerbinetta"). Of course that wasn't possible. But a few omissions pained me especially, for various reasons. The veteran chorister Maria Savage shows up in soft focus as the silent Widow in "Der Rosenkavalier, exuding tragic dignity. For much of her 39-season run, she had a lock on walk-ons like Manon's maid in "Manon" (the vehicle for her solo debut, in 1912) and the Forewoman of the sweatshop in "Louise" (the vehicle of her official farewell, in 1943). She was also tapped for dressy cameos like the mute Countess of Aremberg in "Don Carlos" and the comic Duchesse de Krakentorp (a speaking role) in "La Fille du Régiment." A trusty laborer in the vineyard, she receives the same pennyworth of remembrance as Charles Anthony with his record 2,923 Met performances; the promising young Chinese bass Shenyang, lately seen as the bumpkin Masetto in "Don Giovanni" as well as the doleful Parisian philosopher Colline in "La Bohème"; and Harriet Henders, who gave a single, excellently reviewed, Met performance, as Sophie in "Der Rosenkavalier." Her daughter, the philanthropist Ann Ziff (not shown), made headlines in 2010 for her gift to the Met of $30 million, the largest in the company's history.
A final note. Two old friends, James McCracken and Sandra Warfield, long gone, got more space in this story than anyone else. Opera fans interested in their story may be curious to know how the Met was casting them when they decided to strike out for Europe. Here is a partial list of the roles they sang on the same nights in the same operas in the early days: Missail and one of Marina's four companions in "Boris Godunov, a priest and the Third Lady in "The Magic Flute," (Nathanael and the Voice of the Mother in "Tales of Hoffmann" and the like. Their final appearances before heading off for Europe in 1957 with big dreams and empty pockets were in "Trovatore" (Jimmy sang the Messenger ) and "Nozze di Figaro" (Sandra sang Marcellina). I guess they felt that had nothing to lose.