Jan Peerce in 1953
Jan Peerce (June 3, 1904 – December 15, 1984) was an American operatic tenor. Peerce was an accomplished performer on the operatic and Broadway concert stages, in solo recitals, and as a recording artist. He is the father of film director Larry Peerce. He was Jewish.
1 Family life
4 Film appearances
6 External links
Jan Peerce was born Jacob Pincus Perelmuth. His parents, Louis and Henya Perelmuth, came from the village of Horodetz, formerly in Poland, now Belarus. Their first child, a daughter, died in an epidemic. In 1903 they emigrated to America along with their second child, a boy named Mottel. A year later, on June 3, 1904, their third child, Joshua Pincus was born in a cold water flat in the Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York. He was nicknamed "Pinky" by his neighborhood friends. When he was three years old, his older brother Mottel was killed in an accident as he hitched a ride on an ice wagon. Jan remained on the Lower East Side until his 1930 marriage to Alice Kalmanovitz (1907-1994), a childhood friend. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and Columbia University. At his mother's urging he took violin lessons, and gave public performances, including dance band work as Jack "Pinky" Pearl. Sometimes he also sang and it was soon discovered he was an exceptional lyric tenor.
Peerce was the brother-in-law of fellow Jewish-American tenor Richard Tucker. He died at his home in New Rochelle, New York on December 15, 1984 at the age of 80. Peerce is interred at Mount Eden Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County.
Peerce studied singing in New York City with Giuseppe Boghetti. In 1932 he was hired as a tenor soloist with the Radio City Music Hall company by the impresario Roxy, who renamed him John Pierce. They soon compromised on the spelling Jan Peerce, which the singer felt better reflected his ethnicity. Thanks to radio broadcasts and stage programs, Peerce soon had a nationwide following. The legendary maestro Arturo Toscanini heard him singing Wagner on the radio and was able to contact Peerce through a mutual friend to see if he would like to audition for him. Toscanini found him to be the tenor he had sought to sing operatic and choral works with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The recordings made during, or following, the NBC broadcasts are among the outstanding musical legacies of the mid-20th century. Toscanini was