One of the great singers of his day, James McCracken was the “go-to” dramatic tenor at the Met in the ’60s, making a particular success with Otello and Radames. He sang both roles in Seattle, as well as Turridu/Canio in Cav/Pag
and Samson in Samson et Dalila
In his unpublished memoirs, Glynn Ross explained his decision to stage Verdi’s Otello
for McCracken in the early years of Seattle Opera:
“In 1967, it was time for me to make my annual European ‘search’ trip. I went to a performance of Otello
with Jimmy McCracken in the title role. I didn’t feel that we were ready as a company to produce this opera, but Jimmy put out so much energy that he was shaking with nervous tension. I didn’t think he could continue performing at this level much longer and so I thought that I’d better chance it while he was still performing.”
Here, from a recording of the Seattle performance, McCracken (goaded on by the Iago of Benjamin Rayson) launches into the great vengeance oath that brings down the Act 2 curtain. The orchestra of Seattle Opera was conducted by Milton Katims.