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Jan Peerce (1904 - 1984)

Jacob Pincus Perelmuth, known professionally as Jan Peerce (1904–84), was New York-born. Originally he sang in synagogues, played the violin in dance bands and appeared as a popular singer in cabaret before studying singing with Giuseppe Boghetti. Between 1933 and 1938 he sang at the Radio City Music Hall before he made his stage début as the Duke in Rigoletto in Philadelphia during 1938. This was followed by a solo appearance in New York City the following year and in 1941 he joined the Metropolitan Opera where he sang Alfredo in La traviata. He would sing 205 performances over 26 seasons of eleven rôles that would include Edgardo, Cavaradossi, Riccardo, Rodolfo, Ottavio, Faust and Turiddu. In 1956 he became the first American singer to appear at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow since the end of the Second World War. He also visited Austria, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. Leaving a full-time association at the Met in 1966, he made his farewell appearance in the house two years later. He subsequently appeared as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway before failing eyesight and physical problems forced his retirement. Although small of stature he possessed a strong vocal technique and metallic ringing top register despite a somewhat dry tone. He is best remembered for the complete recordings of La bohème, La traviata, Fidelio and Un ballo in maschera that were conducted by Toscanini.

— Malcolm Walker


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