[Met Tour] CID:123460

Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts, Thu, March 24, 1938

Review 1:

Review of Cyrus Durgin in the Boston Globe


Review 2:

Review of Verdi's Rare Dramatic Masterpiece That Began Opera Season Last Night

Proverbial brilliance and especial distinction attended the beginning of another engagement by the Metropolitan Opera Association at the Boston Opera House last night. For the [first night] bill "Otello" was relatively unfamiliar to many in the audience, and one of the two great masterpieces of Verdi's old age. While any Metropolitan first night is bound to be glamorous, there was more than customary interest on the far side of the footlights.

"Otello," derived from Shakespeare's drama by Arrigo Boito - one of the finest librettists who ever lived - offers to singers of dramatic ability three vivid roles, Otello, Desdemona and Iago. Perhaps the last should come first, because, as in the play, Iago has been bestowed with the lion's share of dramatic intensity. In Lawrence Tibbett the Metropolitan has a remarkable singing-actor to whose artistic measure the role might have been fashioned. Iago's villainous character is developed both with broad and subtle strokes, not one of which eluded Mr. Tibbett. The ample voices of Mr. Martinelli and Mme. Rethberg are admirable vehicles for the communication of Verdi's expressive musical speech. None of the three artists had previously been heard here in these roles.

Although acknowledged as a masterpiece since the time it was first performed, "Otello" has had varying fortunes. The score is as demanding as it is displayful in the dramatic sense, and robust voices of considerable range are demanded. Furthermore it requires a large and highly skilled orchestra.

"Otello" used to be sung here more or less frequently, but there has been no performance in the essential grand style since 1931 (when the late Chicago Civic Opera last offered it to Boston). The records contain but one subsequent performance of smaller stature, that in 1932. The Metropolitan revived it this season after a lapse of 25 years.

Verdi was in his artistic maturity - the "last period" as some like to catalogue it - when he composed "Otello." His symmetrical type of melody had given way to a much more intense, declamatory style, not imitative of Wagner, but in some degree influenced by the Lion of Bayreuth. Here Verdi was infinitely more concerned with the drama of his text than he had been earlier in his career, even in the case of "Aida." Further evidence of the influence of Wagner lies in the use of a few characteristic themes. Verdi's instrumentation of "Otello" was the most elaborate he had ever written up to that point in his career. His orchestra had grown from the comparatively slight body employed mostly for rhythmic accompaniment of arias, to a large array of expressive instrumental voices.

If "Otello" offers less in the way of stage spectacle than "Aida," for example, it is considerably more moving. Shakespeare's drama, so profound and real, is also melodrama in the best sense of the word.

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