[Met Performance] CID:120760

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, February 17, 1937

Debut : John Brownlee

Rigoletto (220)
Giuseppe Verdi | Francesco Maria Piave
John Brownlee [Debut]

Josephine Antoine

Duke of Mantua
Frederick Jagel

Helen Olheim

Chase Baromeo

Norman Cordon

Angelo Badà

George Cehanovsky

Count Ceprano
Wilfred Engelman

Countess Ceprano
Charlotte Symons

Thelma Votipka

Lucielle Browning

Ettore Panizza

Review 1:

Review by Olin Downes in The New York Times:

It was a pleasure to recognize, as soon as he appeared, a singer who had not only the routine of the part well in hand, but who had a consistently and proportionately developed conception of the character, which he reinforced with a voice of good quality and a style which was that of a musician.

The second act, as it is called at the Metropolitan-that is, the scene that transpires inside and outside the house of Rigoletto,was sung by Mr. Brownlee with such feeling and simplicity in the passage with Gilda and with a fine dramatic emphasis in the dialogue with Sparafucile and in the great monologue, "Pari siamo". The third act was excellently planned by the baritone, with some admirable details of stage business, and sung with a sincerity that evidently moved the audience. Here a voice with more mettle would have served the singer well.

His manner of vocalization may not be in all respects the most advantageous for his tone. That is a thing which later appearances will show more clearly. It need not be claimed that this is one of the historic Rigolettos that the Metropolitan stage has known, but by and large it is an excellent and highly competent interpretation.

Review 2:

Review of J. D. B. in the New York Herald Tribune


Australian Barytone Appears with Josephine Antoine

The repetition of Verdi's "Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan Opera House last night was the occasion of the debut of the Australian barytone, John Brownlee, in the title part. His associates in the otherwise familiar cast were Jospehine Antoine as Gilda, Frederick Jagel as the Duke, Chase Baromeo as Sparafucile, Norman Cordon as Monterone, Helen Oelheim as Maddalena, and Mmes.Votipka, Symons and Browning and Messrs. Cehanovsky, Bada and Engelman in the remaining parts.

Mr. Brownlee is a mature artist, and his delineation of the hunchbacked buffoon was dramatically convincing and often moving. Both his makeup and costuming of the part were among the most appropriate seen here in recent seasons. From the vocal aspect, Mr. Brownlee was rather less impressive. His voice is naturally one of sympathetic texture and moderate in size, but his tones were for the most part throatily produced, and his aria in the third act, "Cortigiani, vil razza," as a consequence, was disappointingly delivered; the highest tones were achieved with difficulty and the phrasing was often short-breathed?.There was a sizable audience present, and Mr. Brownlee was warmly received.

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