Research Catalog

Jan Peerce papers

Jan Peerce papers, 1918-1985.
Peerce, Jan, 1904-1984.
Supplementary Content
Finding Aid

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Box 1TextSupervised use JPB 95-6 Box 1Offsite
Box 2TextSupervised use JPB 95-6 Box 2Offsite
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Box 13TextSupervised use JPB 95-6 Box 13Offsite
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Box 20TextSupervised use JPB 95-6 Box 20Offsite


Additional Authors
99.5 linear feet (166 boxes)
  • Clippings.
  • Correspondence.
  • Interviews.
  • Memorabilia.
  • Photographs.
  • Plaques (flat objects)
  • Programs.
  • Radio scripts.
  • Scores.
  • Motion picture plays.
  • Speeches.
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Television scripts.
Biography (note)
  • Jan Peerce (1904-1984) was an American tenor whose career as an opera star and concert performer extended more than fifty years.
Language (note)
  • The Clippings series includes items in Afrikaans, French, German, Hebrew, Russian, and Swedish.
Indexes/Finding Aids (note)
  • Finding aid available in repository and on internet.
Call Number
JPB 95-6
Peerce, Jan, 1904-1984.
Jan Peerce papers, 1918-1985.
The Jan Peerce papers encompass both the public and private sides of his life. Peerce's correspondence incorporates personal and professional communication, including a substantial number of letters between Jan Peerce and his wife, Alice. The collection contains over fifty years worth of programs, clippings and publicity materials relating to Peerce's concert and operatic appearances. There are scrapbooks documenting his travels, contracts tracing the course of his career, and appointment books detailing his schedule. His repertoire is represented by a sizable collection of scores, many of which are original arrangements for Peerce's concert appearances. Scripts of many of Peerce's radio, television, nightclub and motion picture appearances are included in the collection, although most are not annotated. There are transcripts of interviews with Peerce, as well as copies of articles and speeches written by him. The collection includes various notes and drafts of Peerce's memoir, The Bluebird of Happiness. Memorabilia includes a large collection of plaques presented to Peerce and his wife, honoring their commitments to various causes, as well as his talent. The collection includes photographs documenting Peerce's professional appearances and family life. There are also signed photographs from many of his colleagues. While the collection documents Peerce's career in great detail, it includes much less about his personal life. There is very little material from his early life or with regard to his family, apart from the extensive correspondence with his wife.
Jan Peerce (1904-1984) was an American tenor whose career as an opera star and concert performer extended more than fifty years. Born Jacob Pincus, he studied violin as a child and began his professional musical career by putting together a small dance band. Under the names Jack Pearl and Pinky Pearl, he began singing the vocal choruses with the band, utilizing his impressive tenor voice. In 1932 a job brought Jacob together with impresario Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel, who changed his name to "John Pierce" and hired him as a singer at Radio City Music Hall. Jacob convinced Rothafel to compromise and call him "Jan Peerce". The new name had the sound that Rothafel wanted, but made Jacob feel more comfortable and closer to his own identity. As Jan Peerce, he also worked in radio. His repertoire grew wider and began to include operatic arias as the 1930s wore on. In 1938, Peerce successfully auditioned for Arturo Toscanini for a concert performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This appearance with Toscanini expanded Peerce's reputation greatly. Though Peerce was unsure of his suitability for grand opera, his wife, Alice Kalmanowitz Peerce, who was serving as his agent, booked him to appear in Rigoletto in Baltimore. Peerce received great acclaim for his operatic debut and would make his Metropolitan Opera debut in La Traviata on November 29, 1941. Peerce became a fixture at The Metropolitan Opera for twenty-five seasons. He was one of the institution's most famous and commercially popular tenors and was in constant demand as a concert performer from the 1930s through the 1980s. Although throughout his life, people mistakenly claimed he had been a cantor, Peerce did incorporate Passover services at various hotels into his appearance schedule. Peerce also was a frequent and successful recording artist and pioneered a trail between classical or operatic singing and popular music. His recording of The Bluebird of Happiness was immensely popular, eventually becoming one of the best-selling records by a concert artist and Peerce's most requested number.
The Clippings series includes items in Afrikaans, French, German, Hebrew, Russian, and Swedish.
Finding aid available in repository and on internet.
Connect to:
Tenors (Singers)
Added Author
Peerce, Alice.
Rothafel, Samuel Lionel, 1882-1936.
Toscanini, Arturo, 1867-1957.
Peerce, Jan, 1904-1984. Bluebird of happiness.
Research Call Number
JPB 95-6
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