I do not know how many people still exist who performed on the stage of the old Metropolitan Opera House down on 39th Street in midtown New York, but I do know that I am one of them.

In February 1950, at the tender age of 16, I carried a flag in the Triumphal Scene in Aida. The big star was Ljuba Welitsch whose debut as Salome under Fritz Reiner in New York in 1949, which I also witnessed, was the most sensational event at the Metropolitan in the early post-Second World War years.

Ljuba Welitsch, Metropolitan Opera Ljuba Welitsch as Aida. Photo © Louis Melançon, Metropolitan Opera Archives

Welitsch was also famous for her Salome in Europe and glimpses of it may be seen in the early post-war espionage film The Man Between. Her Metropolitan Salome is also available on underground CDs. Eloquence has released her Decca recordings. She is less well remembered now as she lost her voice in the early 1950s and her career was cut short. Even at the time of her Aida performances, critics were noting weaknesses in her voice that had not been apparent the previous year. The Radamès,...