Bel Canto(r): Jewish Superstars of Song

October 24, 2003 - January 30, 2004

This 30-minute video, on view in the new Goodkind Media Center, celebrates the careers of mid-20th century Metropolitan Opera superstars Robert Merrill, Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker and critically examines the media’s role in the creation of music heroes.

The Goodkind Media Center, which opens October 24, 2003 on the third floor, includes an exhibition space dedicated to video and new media. Its first program, Bel Canto(r): Jewish Superstars of Song, is a 30-minute video that celebrates the careers of mid-20th century Metropolitan Opera superstars Robert Merrill, Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker and critically examines the media’s role in the creation of music heroes. This compilation of excerpts from the Museum’s broadcast archive includes interviews, arias, popular music, ethnic folk songs and hazzanut from programs such as Your Show of Shows, the music series Voice of Firestone, Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person, and the NBC religious series The Eternal Light.

Merrill, Peerce, and Tucker—exemplars of the Bel Canto(r)—shifted roles to appeal to a broad and diverse audience during their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. These roles included not only dramatic parts they made famous onstage and in recordings, but also television personas shaped by managers, producers, audiences and the singers themselves. As in the case of today’s pop stars, television blurred the private and public lives of Merrill, Peerce, and Tucker, leaving audiences with a complex and occasionally distorted view of the Bel Canto(r).