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by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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Road Show: Peltz, Warren and Brownlee on the Met tour OPERA NEWS Archives  

The very spruce little lady in the picture to the left is Mrs. John DeWitt Peltz, the first editor of OPERA NEWS. The photo was taken at a train station in the late 1940s, during a stop on the Met's annual spring tour. The gentlemen clowning for the camera are two of the era's top Metropolitan Opera baritones, Leonard Warren and John Brownlee. One might say that this candid snapshot — in which Mrs. Peltz stands just far enough away from the fun to preserve her dignity but seems completely comfortable with opera-star antics — offers a visual metaphor for this formidable woman's relationship with the art form and the opera company that she loved above all others.

Born Mary Ellis Opdycke in 1896, Mrs. Peltz — as she was always known in her twenty-one years at OPERA NEWS — was a member of an old New York family. Highly intelligent and energetic, a graduate of the Spence School and Barnard College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Mary Ellis Peltz was educated to appreciate opera. Polite appreciation turned to abiding love when she was still a girl; for the rest of her life, Mrs. Peltz spoke and wrote about opera with a missionary's zeal. At twenty-four, she was appointed assistant music critic on the New York Sun, where she served on staff until 1924; after marriage, Mrs. Peltz worked as drama critic of The Junior League Magazine and published critical articles and poetry in a variety of periodicals, including Voices, Harpers and Poetry.

In 1936, when the Metropolitan Opera Guild received its certificate of incorporation, Mrs. Peltz was listed as one of the directors of the fledgling organization, committed to "develop and cultivate a wider public interest in opera and its allied arts." Mrs. Peltz's particular charge, as chair of the Guild's publications committee, was the foundation of a newsletter for Guild members, which developed in short order into OPERA NEWS. The magazine reflected Mrs. Peltz's taste and erudition — she had a passion for quizzes — and it spoke to its readers in its editor's unapologetic, forthright voice. According to an admiring 1946 profile of Mrs. Peltz written by Guild founder Eleanor Robson Belmont, Mrs. Peltz — a firm believer in editorial anonymity — was the author of every unsigned article that had appeared in the magazine since its founding some ten years earlier and performed all OPERA NEWS editorial duties with the aid of a single assistant. Mrs. Peltz's brisk, clubby style was unmistakably present in every issue of her tenure, as was her fondness for quirky, punning headlines: believe it or not, her 1938 cover story on Jan Kiepura was titled "Magnetic Pole."

Mrs. Peltz's tenure at OPERA NEWS lasted until 1957, when she founded the Metropolitan Opera's archives, where she remained as director until a few months before her death in 1981. This season, OPERA NEWS will mark its seventy-fifth anniversary — a testament to its founding editor, who had the vision and courage to start a magazine from scratch and the vitality to make it last. spacer 

F. PAUL DRISCOLL


The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.


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