[Met Tour] CID:130940

American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, February 18, 1941

Review 1:

Review of Samuel L. Laciar in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger

Metropolitan Gives "Otello"

The greatest of all tragedies set to operatic music and the most human in both text and in musical delineation, Verdi's "Otello," was presented last evening at the Academy of Music by the Metropolitan Opera Association before a house almost entirely sold out and wildly enthusiastic.

Edward Johnson had sent over some of the strongest members of the Metropolitan roster to take the principal roles. The incomparable Giovanni Martinelli, who has made the role of Otello his own since its revival by the Metropolitan two seasons ago (after an absence of 16 years), assumed the part last evening and gave his usual masterly performance, both vocally and dramatically. There are no "set" pieces such as individual arias, duets, etc., in "Otello," but each of the principal roles has plenty of singing to do.

Mr. Martinelli has thoroughly mastered the role in every respect, and his development of it was one of the features of last evening's performance from his entrance in the first act to the death scene in the last one. He has always been a great favorite in this city, both by reason of his personality and his artistry, and he was received with immense enthusiasm.

Tibbett as Iago

The sinister role of Iago was well taken by Lawrence Tibbett, and his singing of the famous "Credo" of the second act invoked spontaneous applause; so also did his dramatic portrayal of the malicious character of the role, which in importance is fully equal to that of Otello. In fact, Verdi's first choice of the title for the work was "Iago" and not "Otello," he having been led to change it only on the insistence of librettist, Boito. Like Mr. Martinelli, Mr. Tibbett was in excellent voice.

The third great role of the opera is, of course, the unfortunate Desdemona, which was taken by Stella Roman, a newcomer both to the Metropolitan and to Philadelphia. Mme. Roman revealed a complete knowledge of the role and a beautiful high soprano voice of great brilliance, but which she had under admirable control. There was perhaps a little too much brilliance in her two finest numbers, the "Willow Song" and the "Ave Maria" of the last act, but her acting was exceptionally fine, and her singing throughout was excellent, these combined with a most attractive stage presence.

The Lesser Roles

Compared with these three, the other roles of the opera might almost be considered as minor ones, but it is one of the joys of Metropolitan performances that those taking these parts would be assigned to major roles in virtually every other operatic organization in the world.

Alessio de Polis brought to the role of Casio an importance not often vouchsafed to it, and the others were well taken by John Dudley as Rodrigo; Nicola Muscoda as Lidice; George Cehanovsky as Montano; Wilfred Engelman as a Herald; and Thelma Votipka as Emilia.

Panizza as Conductor

Ettore Panizza conducted and did excellent work, keeping a good balance - not an easy thing to do in an opera scored as heavily and effectively as "Otello." The large chorus sang exceedingly well and with much spirit in the great choral numbers, especially of the first act, and the stage settings were fresh and attractive.

Herbert Graf managed the stage with great skill and effectiveness, except that in the first act and the last one the stage was kept so dark that the figures of the principals could be distinguished only with the utmost difficulty, notably in the first act, where the stage is filled with people. Darkness on the stage does not necessarily imply eyestrain on the part of the audience.

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