[Met Performance] CID:131060

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, February 27, 1941

Rigoletto (238)
Giuseppe Verdi | Francesco Maria Piave
Robert Weede

Hilde Reggiani

Duke of Mantua
Jussi Björling

Bruna Castagna

Nicola Moscona

John Gurney

Alessio De Paolis

George Cehanovsky

Count Ceprano
Wilfred Engelman

Countess Ceprano
Maxine Stellman

Thelma Votipka

Edith Herlick

Gennaro Papi

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun


Bjoerling, Reggiani in the Cast

It was not much of a "Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan for anybody but Robert Weede last night. However, what this American baritone accomplished in his first appearance at the opera house in this role was striking enough to make the occasion a memorable one, not only for him, but also for the audience. This will not count as Mr. Weede's Metropolitan debut, for he sang briefly in a spring season four seasons ago, but it was by far the best evidence of talent he has given there.

As a primary asset, Mr. Weede has a voice - a big voice, moreover, which fills the opera house with ease and doesn't require the forcing to which he sometimes resorted. But it has quality as well as size, as he showed in his second act aria, where the phrases "Ma in altr' uom" were formed with astonishing velvet and control. The duet with Gilda also went well, when Mr. Weede was successful in resisting the pull of Hilde Reggiani to inaccurate pitch. Possibly when Mr. Weede has had more opportunity (to which he is certainly entitled) to develop his characterization at the Metropolitan, it will have more subtlety and depth than it possessed last night. Certainly the vocal material he showed in "Cortigiani" would have been even more impressive if the tones were not pushed as much as they were. Despite this, Mr. Weede handled the drama of the scene ably and was entitled to the robust applause he received. One would have had more respect for him, however, had he resisted the temptation to bow and smile to the audience.

The performance was otherwise a distinctly variable one, due principally to the capricious pitch of Mme. Reggiani's singing and the curiously ineffective Duke of Jussi Bjoerling. Mme. Reggiani's "Caro nome" was applaudable when her personal intonation coincided with the orchestra's (as on the final E, which was brilliantly taken), but her conception of the part is wooden, pathetic rather than tragic. Mr. Bjoerling sang all of his music with ease and musical sensitivity, but there is little dash in his treatment of the part. All of the subordinate roles were excellently performed, with Bruna Castagna an unexpected boon as Maddalena, John Gurney as a somber Monterone, Nicola Moscona an excellent Sparafucile and Thelma Votipka a capable Giovanna. Gennaro Papi directed.

Review 2:

Review of Edward O'Gorman in the New York Post


Robert Weede, whose performance of the title role in Verdi's "Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan Opera House last night missed being an actual debut by only a slight technicality, an appearance as Tonto in "Pagliacci" during a spring season at the Met, is one of those Metropolitan mysteries that defy solution. Mr. Weede has been on the Met roster for years, has been acclaimed for his operatic performances in other cities - particularly as Rigoletto, but has been permitted to languish unseen and unheard at 40th and Broadway.

Patience, a splendid voice and exceptional dramatic ability received their just reward last night, however. Mr. Weede was acclaimed at every opportunity, and for his aria in the third act was tendered an ovation that threatened to stop the show. Mr. Weede has an enviable baritone voice, one that is full and robust, capable of a wide range of expression and yet one that has none of the coarseness usually encountered in a voice of its type. Its chief characteristic is perhaps its pliability.

But the element that distinguished Mr. Weede's characterization of Rigoletto was neither vocal nor histrionic, although each was telling in its way, but an uncanny sense of theatre that balanced the two in a performance that was a personal triumph for the singer and a feather - finally - in Mr. Johnson's cap.

Voices and figures familiar to Met audiences were heard and seen in the rest of the cast. Jussi Bjoerling and Hilde Reggiani, as the Duke and Gilda, concentrated on vocal matters, vouchsafing only an occasional nod to their dramatic obligations. More satisfying in an all-around way was Bruna Castagna, who sang the part of Maddalena. Nicola Moscona was Sparafucile and John Gurney was Monterone. Gennaro Papi conducted.

Review 3:

Review of Robert Bagar in the New York World-Telegram

Rigoletto at Met

A music drama, Verdi's "Rigoletto," told its harrowing tale on the stage of the Metropolitan last evening, but a human drama, one of those success stories, took complete charge of the proceedings. Specifically it had to do with the first Metropolitan performance - and events, or lack of them, leading up to it - of Robert Weede in the title role.

Mr. Weede has been a member of the Metropolitan company for four years or thereabouts. In that time he has done one Tonio in "Pagliacci," which came on May 25, 1937, during a spring season, several Sunday night tricks and last evening's "Rigoletto." People had begun asking themselves, "Why?" And, no doubt, it is possible that Mr. Weede had asked not only himself, but just about everybody else the same question. Whatever the reasons, they, must have seemed picayune, setting them against his very professional job as Rigoletto.

Despite some tones that were diffuse, unfocused, perhaps, is a better word, Mr. Weede's singing proved thoroughly compatible with the demands of the part. His impersonation grew in stature as the evening wore on, and in the emotional give-and-take of the third act he dominated the stage. Had Gennaro Papi's conducting been up to his better standards, there is the likelihood that Mr. Weede might have acquitted himself with even more honor.

Hilde Reggiani went listlessly through her paces as Gilda. Nicola Moscona supplied Sparafucile. John Gurney embodied Monterone. There was applause for all concerned, but the large audience made Mr. Weede the special object of its affections. He was given several prolonged ovations.

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