Sound Fountain

These pages are for serious music listeners and are best viewed on a desktop, a laptop or a tablet.


Ivan Petroff (1899-1963)








Ivan Petroff sings great baritone arias: Pagliacci, La Favorita,

I Puritani, Rigoletto,

The Barber of Seville, Macbeth.












Excerpts from the complete Rigoletto recording.































Search The Remington Site











































Click here for more opera on Remington.

It was originally intended that Ivan Petroff should become a lawyer and initially he carried out his father's wish. Petroff studied law in Vienna. At one time however, he persuaded his parents to allow him to travel to Naples under the pretext of taking a 3-month course in Italian law. While there he met with the great Neapolitan tenor Fernando de Lucia (October 11, 1860 - February 23, 1925). That encounter marked the beginning of his carreer.


Fernando de Lucia had sung in the premiere of Mascagni's Amico Fritz (1891) and Iris (1898), and he had been the first Canio in I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) in London. He was a man of the belcanto. His most famous pupils were Gianna Pederzini and Enzo de Muro. But as he was most impressed with the baritone voice of 19 year old Petroff and with his eagerness to study, he gave him lessons too.

This short period of study was certainly most significant for Petroff's development. When it was time for him to return to Vienna, Petroff first traveled to his homeland Bulgaria and interrupted his journey and gave a recital in Sofia. His parents were so astounded with his success and obvious talent, that they agreed to allow him to return to Naples to continue his musical studies.

Ivan Petroff (sometimes spelled Petrov).
Picture taken from the cover of Remington R-199-93 and edited.

In 1928 Petroff made a successful debut in Bologna, Italy, in the opera The Barber of Seville. Basso profundo Feodor Chaliapin (February 13, 1873 - April 4, 1938), heard this performance and engaged him as principal baritone in his opera company for a number of years. For Ivan Petroff this was a most valuable experience as during this period he sang and acted in over 50 roles.

After the death of Chaliapin in 1938, Petroff sought refuge in the United States and eventually became an American citizen. For 5 years he toured with the San Francisco Opera Company and toured in the United States, Canada and South America. From 1943 till 1946 he sang at the San Francisco Opera House and from 1946 on he was engaged by Laszlo Halasz to join the New York City Centre Opera Company, hence the link with Don Gabor and Remington. After his appearances at the Maggio Musicale of Florence he returned to the US and was until his death a member of the Pacific Opera Company, again in San Francisco.

Ivan Petroff on Remington:

R-199-40: Il Pagliacci (Leoncavallo) - Vocal Highlights with Anne La Pollo, Ivan Petroff, Gino Sarri, Bruno Donati, Orchestra of the Maggio Musiale Fiorentino, the chorus of Teatro Communale, conducted by Erasmo Giglia. This recording was later issued on the Masque label (M 10013).

Remington RLP-199-58/60:
Rigoletto with Orlandina Orlandini, Ivan Petroff, Gino Sarri and Mario Frosini, and conductor Erasmo Ghiglia.

RLP-199-58/60: Rigoletto (Verdi) with Orlandina Orlandini, Ivan Petroff, Gino Sarri and Mario Frosini and conductor Erasmo Ghiglia. Released in 1952.
Warren De Motte says in his Long Playing Record Guide: "Remington's forces know their way around this score. They perform without distinction, albeit with competence and the recording is fair."

There is mention that Don Gabor travelled to Italy at several occasions. At one of those early visits he may have negotiated the release of the performances of Petroff and others on the Remington label. The Rigoletto recording was made when Petroff made many guest appearances at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He sang there with other famous opera singers like Astrid Varnay in the role of Macbeth.

Preiser records has transferred this performance to Compact Disc. The reviewer states that the sound is far beyond an acceptable level. The reason is that the transfer of the original tape to the matrices for the Remington discs was not too successful. Don Gabor often made a copy of the original tapes, using a less sophisticated tape recorder, and the tape with the dubbed recording was the source for cutting the lacquer as Tom Null told me. So one could agree if the Preiser CD was done from those tapes. But Preiser states that the recording was transferred to CD using the original tapes. Original can mean either tape of course.

Remington discs do have less harshness if played back using a moving magnet cartridge with a spherical diamond tip instead of an elliptical. For private use it may even be better to use a ceramic or crystal mono pick up cartridge as they were generally used in the nineteen fifties.
When transferring old tapes to CD, be it of a piano, a violin, an orchestra or a complete opera cast, many technicians are too eager to completely clean up the signal, and often to such an extend that there is not much naturalness left. They are afraid that hiss and other noise may keep the collector from buying the discs. The signal may be clean, but the music may have lost much of its warmth and harmony and the performance loses much of its original charm and emotion.

Laura Homonnay-Demilio writes about Ivan Petroff's Highlights of Pagliacci (R-199-40, released 1951) and about Excerpts from the complete recording of Rigoletto (R-199-103, released 1953). She dedicates this review to her father who certainly loved classical and operatic music and recognized Remington records as a popular budget brand in his youth, and as an inexpensive way to amass a record collection and find some real treasures.

Once more the allure of an earthy performance compensates for the frankly terrible recording quality of Remington’s offering of Pagliacci highlights, heralding from that very early 1950’s market of cheap Long-Play record labels. The ambience is, as usual, tinny and with too much treble, and only the use of the amplifier's tone controls will somewhat help the (alarmingly so, for its reputation) thin and scrappy-sounding Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestra somewhat perfunctorily led by Erasmo Ghiglia. But here we have a featured baritone in Ivan Petroff, gamely taking on and succeeding in portraying two characters within the same opera, which was one of the perks of the recording industry; not least for the money it saved, although almost always this device was applied to very minor, bit-part roles and never leads. Petroff, however, portrays the bitterly scheming hunchback Tonio, and Nedda’s clandestine lover from the village, Silvio.
The Prologo is tuneful and characterful, with a fast vibrato, and none of the lachrymose affectations many Tonios assume in their starring solo opening the opera. Reflective at the right moments, Petroff nevertheless “gets on with it” and announces the command to ring up the curtain without the stagey bray some Tonios feel compelled to call for.

Selections on any Pagliacci recording are considerably less truncated than other “highlights” albums because it is a short opera, but still there has to be some abbreviation to accommodate one budget-quality LP disc. Gino Sarri’s Canio seems a little thin for a tenor on his Un tal Gioco, yet he is adept and musical, with good high notes, only a little noticeably below the stave in his later Vesti la Giubba, and unfortunately giving way to the campy sobbing of Canios the world over.
Anne Lo Pollo’s Nedda is interesting – she sounds like Carla Gavazzi, a star soprano of Italy’s Cetra records, but without the shimmering vibrato, and admittedly there is little bottom to her voice, as well as obvious strain during her Bird Song. She comports herself with satisfactory drama when it comes to the love duet with Petroff, and now, instead of the frustrated, thwarted clown he is the ardent lover. Somehow the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra wakes up and remembers they are an outfit with some merit, and not a fistful of exhausted post war musicians holding forth on cheap shellac and vinyl. Through the raspy, muddy blur of low-quality manufacture and acidic indifference of instruments suddenly comes music to match the drenched heat -- more romantic than libidinous - -of adulterers on a summer afternoon, and Petroff’s voice is quite beautiful here.
Bruno Donati portrays a youthful, strong Beppe – I so like his voice, with its prominent Florentine pronounciation, that I wish he’d been cast as the Canio, but he’s certainly affective and one can picture this Beppe as a strapping post-teen who would have been just as useful a stage hand as he is the comedic performer in the play.
Fortunately for listeners, the action doesn’t crumble into a mélange of they’ve-just-been-stabbed screams when Canio confronts the cheaters. The opera ends on a blast of cheap-LP shrillness but the point has come across.

In Rigoletto, Petroff leads as the gruff hunchback. Although this recording in its complete form has been complimented as being a very serviceable “despite” – despite harsh recording sound, a couple of less-than-starring principals, and sometimes live-performance-level acoustics, it can be rated up there as acquitting itself passably with big-name labels. However, Petroff seems to give a slightly more heartfelt and warmer manner of singing in the mixed-bag notoriety of Remington’s editions of Cavalleria Rusticana and Tosca. His Cortigiani tends to heavy breathing in some spots and he even labors a bit in his “Piangii” duet with Gilda – perhaps running out of a little steam?
Gino Sarri is more refulgent in this recording as the Duke of Mantua – some now-expected strain, but no hamminess. Orlandina Orlandini (WHAT a name!) is an adequate if somewhat vinegary Gilda, sometimes quavering off the staff and not quite tuneful. I very much like the basso. Perhaps when I obtain a copy of the complete recording , and with less surface scratch and the distracting clicks and crackles of a much-played, inexpensive early-50’s LP, I can more thoroughly review this recording. - Laura Homonnay-Demilio, February 2011.

(Laura Homonnay-Demilio is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Jussi Björling Society USA)

R-199-74/2 (2 LP) Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni) with Vassilka Petrova, Eddy Ruhl, Ivan Petroff, Rina Benucci, Lidia Malani. Orchestra of the Maggio Fiorentino and Chorus of the Teatro Communale and conductor Erasmo Ghiglia. Released in May 1952.

R-199-93: Ivan Petroff sings great baritone arias. The orchestra of the Maggio Fiorentino is conducted by Erasmo Ghiglia. These performances were previously released on Continental 107 and is listed as such in Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog, September 1950 edition.

R-199-103: Excerpts from the complete Rigoletto recording. Released in 1953.

Preiser 20017 CD contains the Rigoletto recording and the recording of the arias.

Ivan Petroff performed with Maria Callas, Kurt Baum and Giulietta Simionato in 'Il Trovatore' in Mexico in 1950. And there is a recording of him in 'Macbeth' with Astrid Varnay and conductor Vittorio Gui taped in 1951.

At left is the front of the Melodram 3 LP set with the performance of Macbeth from 1951 with Vittorio Gui conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Ivan Petroff (Macbeth), Astrid Varnay (Lady Macbeth), Italo Tajo (Banco), Gino Penno (Macduff), Gino Sarri (Malcolm), Luciana Veroni (Dama), Camello Righini (Medico). Melodram 335.

Ivan Petrov, was born in 1899 in Tarnovo, Bulgaria. He died in Los Angeles, 19 September, 1963.

Rudolf A Bruil - February 2002

Baritone Ivan Petroff should not be confounded with the Russian basso Ivan Petrov who was born in 1920 in Irkutsk (Siberia) and is known for his outstanding performance of Boris Godunov.



Copyright 1995-2009 by Rudolf A. Bruil