THOMAS BEECHAM (1879 - 1961)
Puccini is not a composer with whom one would readily associate the quintessentially English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) but he had known the composer personally and had discussed La Bohème in great detail with him in London in the 1920s. The conductor had spent a huge amount of time (and money) in the opera house in the years leading up to the First World War and immediately afterwards. He was in overall control of the International Seasons at Covent Garden from 1933 until 1939 and during his years in the United States between 1941 and 1944 had conducted opera at the Metropolitan in New York. His post-war operatic operations were confined to a series of BBC studio broadcasts, Strauss’s first version of Ariadne auf Naxos at the 1950 Edinburgh Festival, two operas at Covent Garden (Die Meistersinger and Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl in 1951), Delius’s Irmelin at Oxford in 1953, and a memorable season at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1958. He also made commercial studio recordings of Gounod’s Faust (Naxos 8.110117-18) in 1948 and Bizet’s Carmen in 1958-59 in addition to this celebrated and much loved version of La Bohème in 1956.