[Met Performance] CID:88060

New Production

La Gioconda
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, November 8, 1924 Matinee

La Gioconda (70)
Amilcare Ponchielli | Arrigo Boito
La Gioconda
Florence Easton

Beniamino Gigli

Margarete Matzenauer

Giuseppe Danise

José Mardones

La Cieca
Merle Alcock

Vincenzo Reschiglian

Giordano Paltrinieri

Louis D'Angelo

Pompilio Malatesta

Tullio Serafin

Samuel Thewman

Set Designer
Antonio Rovescalli

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Costume Designer
Mathilde Castel-Bert

August Berger

La Gioconda received ten performances this season.
Rovescalli designed the sets for Acts I and III, J. Novak those for Acts II and IV.

Review 1:

Review of H. O. O. in the Musical Courier

'La Gioconda' Revived at the Metropolitan

Remarkably Fine Performance Given Under Serafin's Direction, With Easton, Matzenauer, Alcock, Gigli. Danise and Mardones in Leading Roles.

Ponchielli's opera, La Gioconda, was revived at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoon, November 8. The work had been absent from the repertory since the season of 1914-15 when its bright and shining feature was the late lamented Enrico Caruso in the role of Enzo. Saturday's performance was by far the finest production that the Metropolitan has put on in a good many years. There were no loose ends. For once, cast, chorus, orchestra and mise-en-scene were all balanced and all of the very first order. And one does not have to go far to find out to whom the credit belongs. It was to Tullio Serafin, the new conductor. The quality of the performance gave striking testimony of the need for such a figure, which has existed so long at the Metropolitan, where there has been no really first class conductor in many, many years.

Ponchielli's score, almost half a century old now (Milan, 1876), is one of those that is full of melody, almost to the point of saturation. It drips with tunes, some of them good, some of them commonplace, but with the average surprisingly high on the whole. And Mr. Serafin, with unfailing taste, picked out the good parts for special attention and managed to blend the less worthy ones unobtrusively into the background so that the score sounded decidedly better than it had any right to, especially as the orchestra, under his baton, has taken on a quality that it has lacked for years, viz: enthusiasm.

Not only was the musical side of the performance excellent but the mise-en-scene, particularly the handling of the many mass scenes, showed a hand unfamiliar at the Metropolitan. One suspected Mr. Serafin again, for it was a decided improvement over anything that Mr. Thewman had ever shown. The third act, in fact, was so faultlessly done and worked so effectively up to the tremendous climax, that this blasé and hardened old operagoer got a real thrill out of it. The audience knew at once where the principal credit belonged. So did the artists, and when Mr. Serafin came out with them after the third act curtain, he was gracefully and deservedly thrust to the front to take the brunt of the applause.


Mr. Gatti-Casazza had taken a handful of his best talent to make up the notable cast. In the title role was Florence Easton, who had learned the part in ten days (owing to the illness of Rosa Ponselle, originally counted upon to sing the first performance), and sang it as if she had had ten years to prepare it in. La Gioconda is a role second to none in difficulties, but Miss Easton took the vocal hurdles without a sign of effort and at the same time gave a thoroughly convincing portrayal of the heroine's character. The part of Laura fell to Margaret Matznauer, who gave her usual entirely competent performance from the histrionic point of view and, in beautiful voice, sang the exacting music to great effect. Particularly fine was the aria in the first scene of the third act. Merle Alcock, as La Cieca, had the most important role of her Metropolitan career and came up fully to its requirements. She sang it excellently and her ability as an actress was a surprise to those who had not seen it put to the test before.


When Beniamino Gigli came to the Metropolitan three or four years ago he was a good tenor, an excellent tenor; but today he may, with entire justice, be called a great tenor. Enzo was the first role of his career (his little son bears the name in memory of that fact), and it is, without question, one of his best parts. Mr. Gigli sings with a magnificent artistry. He does not (one must add, "Thank heaven!") yield to the tenorial temptation to sing too loud all the time, the result being that when he does come to a climax the effect is twice as telling. His is a voice of truly exquisite beauty, and controlled with an astonishing mastery. Also as an actor he has made tremendous strides since he first came here. Of course the "Cielo e Mar," beautifully sung, brought him a tremendous ovation and cheers innumerable.

Giuseppe Danise, as Barnaba, did more artistic work than one always hears from him. His presentation was excellent and his singing restrained, to its decided advantage. Jose Mardones was Alvise. It must be thankless to be an operatic bass. In splendid voice, he sang the big aria at the {beginning]of the third act magnificently, with no less art than Gigli had displayed in his aria in the previous act, but reaped a bare hatful of applause. Smaller roles were effectively taken care of by Vincenzo Reschiglian, Giordano Paltrinieri, Louis D'Angelo and Pompilio Malatesta.

The chorus work was up to the best traditions of the Metropolitan, and those are the best traditions of the world today. Ponchielli has given it opportunity after opportunity and there was never any neglect to take full advantage of them on the part of Giulio Setti's charges. The style of the ballet belonged to about the same year as the opera, 1876, but, in this style, it was well arranged and beautifully executed, getting a well deserved round of applause, which lasted so long that many a young lady, cast in a most unnatural pose and held there by Serafin's reluctance to proceed, must have nursed a strained back all day Sunday.


The scenery did not date quite back to the seventies, but it did not belong more than a decade later, though all made especially for this production. The best picture, because the simplest, was the ship of the second act, by Joseph Novak. Rovescalli showed some flapping palaces in the first act and two interiors in the third which recalled the worst efforts of an interior decorator in the movies. Fortunately, no one leaned against the canvas pillars. This sort of thing really isn't done today, though nobody seems to have told Mr. Gatti.

But except for the scenery, it was quite the finest all-round performance the Metropolitan has given in a number of years, with moments of real operatic greatness. Mr. Serafin, be it repeated, is a heartily welcome figure. This was the first opportunity he had had to show what he could do in preparing a production, and he showed it to the queen's taste. Also some day, when there is a free afternoon, one listener hopes to be able to sit down and find out what the worst libretto that Arrigo Boito ever wrote is all about. Or perhaps ignorance is bliss.

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