Metropolitan Opera House
New information proves that Vicent Ballester made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera house touring with the “Opera Caravanning”. That happened on November 11th 1925 in Philadelphia performing Faust and sharing the stages with Feodor Chaliapin and Giovanni Martinelli. Back in New York’s headquarters, he performed from November 16th until the end of the season, April 19th 1925. During this season he shared the stages with such important singers like Beniamino Gigli, José Mardones, Amelita Galli-Curci, Miguel Fleta, Armand Tokatyan, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi and a long etcetera. And in between, he did a solo performance in the Carnegie Hall.
There’s a piece of news form a Spanish speaking American newspaper, talking about his soon to be performance in New York’s Metropolitan. It’s quite interesting in order to give us a view of Ballester’s personal attributes, which we lack: “Will he sing? Will he not? If he’s allowed by his doctor, we’ll gladly hear his majestic voice; if he’s not allowed, we won’t have any other option but to be thankful to see his smile under his legendary “quevedos” (his glasses, popularized by the Spanish writer Francisco de Quevedo)… Ballester is not only worth because of his performing abilities but also because of his working attitude, that tires the most persistent piano player. He’s able to write in the back of his contract the name of the 42 operas he’s been a part of and that’s something that very few artist can do at the end of their careers. Ballester is quite young. The best of the Spanish-background population wishes to give him the warm welcome he deserves the moment he performs in the Metropolitan”. Other praising papers can be found. He was considered an international celebrity and one of the best baritones in the world.
Performances in the US: the baritone takes it easy
Once the season is over in the Metropolitan, references of a play in Ann Arbor (Michigan) can be found: May 23rd during the “Musical Festival”. He sang La Gioconda in a concert.
His next performance was in November. I have no information about him. Just a performance: the opera Otello on November 6th in New York’s Manhattan Opera House, whose manager is Anthony Begarozy. There’s an interesting fact here I haven’t been able to further investigate: A newspaper says that Ballester will take part on Verdi’s Otello, managed by Anthony Bagarozy, as a fund raiser for Columbia’s University Italian House that same day. Bagarozy appears as Ballester’s manager then and also since his first contacts with the Met, back in 1918.
With the Los Angeles Opera Association, Vicent sang in LA only twice performing Rigoletto and Cavalleria Rusticana on September 30th and October 5th. He was presented as the Metropolitan Opera House baritone. The company’s scene director was Désiré Defrère who also sang in the piece. Ballester had shared the stage with her several times. There’s a review about Rigoletto that says that Ballester’s performance as the hunchback is one of the best ever, maybe only improved by Titta Ruffo’s.
From October 12th until November 7th Vicent toured around several American cities. He only took parts in concerts. Maybe it was due to health reasons, but my grandfather focused his career on concerts. On November 2nd he and Maria Kurenko were two of the artists that took part of the so-called “Auditorium Artist Series”, in Los Angeles’ Philharmonic Auditorium. All reviews are very praising and they note Ballester’s ability to get in the character.
According some New York’s newspapers, on December 11th 1925 he sang in the “Democrat Congress”. He also performed several times in the radio.
As shown by the January 1926 paper from “Cine Mundial” magazine, during his stay in Los Angeles, Vicent used to hang out with some movie starts. According to his sons, my grandfather was a close friend to the brothers John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore or Bebe Daniels.
Again no information until early May 1926 when he played with Alfredo Salmaggi’s company in the new Manhattan Opera House. He sang Otello with his fellow Fidela Campiña and Antonio Paoli.
He was supposed to be part of the Metropolitan’s crew for the 1925-1926 season and so can be found in several Met’s annals. But no contract can be found and it seems like he never sang there again. I don’t know what might have happened. However he was still announced as the Met’s baritone.
January 19th 1922, Chicago
Portrait in the "Musical Courier"
March 3rd 1922
Newspaper "San Francisco Call & Post"