[Met Performance] CID:132540

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 9, 1942 Matinee

Review 1:

Review of Robert Lawrence in the Herald Tribune

Alexander Sved Sings Scarpia in Benefit Performance

Puccini Work Presented for Barnard in Its Second Performance of Season

There is an old legend in musical circles that benefit performances should not be written up. If they are bad, and the critic says so, the wrath of the worthy cause for which they are staged is likely to descend on his head. Yesterday afternoon, in spite of this tradition, the Metropolitan Opera Association sent out press tickets for its second presentation this season of Puccini's "Tosca," given for the benefit of Barnard College. And encomiums are in order this morning.

Except for a new Scarpia and Angelotti, the cast was the same as

at a performance given a few weeks ago. The prevailing spirit, however, and the general standard of artistry proved far different than on that former occasion, which had not drawn favorable comment. All of the artists were at their best yesterday. Above all, a fresh and vital impulse generated by Alexander Sved, the Scarpia, struck a response in the other principals.

Not since I heard him sing "Eugene Onegin" in Vienna several years ago have I been so impressed with Sved's magnificent voice and feeling for the stage as on this occasion. He has been a long time finding himself at theMetropolitan:?only now has he begun to adjust his vocal resources correctly to the auditorium and to learn that the size of the house has little to do with the volume of tone produced. Yesterday he sang like a lyric barytone, with an exquisite timbre that penetrated the farthest reaches of the auditorium. And, when the situation demanded, he achieved vocal climaxes that were strong but never forced.

Problems Encountered

This is not to say that Mr. Sved's use of his voice is invariably well advised. He has, at times, a tendency to lose focus; the lower end of the scale could well envy the solidity of the upper octave; and a more brilliant tone quality might occasionally be brought into play during the climaxes. Add to the solution of these problems the loss of excess weight and Mr. Sved might be the outstanding barytone of our time. In him the Metropolitan has a most valuable asset. Given chance to develop in the right direction, he could strengthen the Italian wing incalculably,

Certainly his Scarpia stems back to the elegant tradition of Antonio Scotti. His first appearance in the Church of Sant' Andrea della Valle - one of the most impressive of all operatic entrances - was neither overdramatic nor underplayed.

Mr.. Sved's full triumph as a singing-actor was reserved for the second-act scene in Scarpia's chamber. Every subtlety of the text emerged here with beautiful nuance, and the whole situation was handled knowingly. This Scarpia impressed the spectator with his camouflage of politeness, his occasional reversions to the beast by wiping his wine-stained hands on his jabot, and the granite wall of evil that one felt within - a wall against which the most persuasive impulse of humanity would be dashed into a thousand pieces. And, even in death, this Scarpia remained the beast. His last frantic cries, his refusal to expire, the reflex of the legs after the breath had left his body were eloquent testimony that in Mr. Sved the Metropolitan has found the man for its "Tosca."

Miss Moore's Performance

It is good to report that Grace Moore was in very much better vocal condition yesterday than at a previous mounting here of Puccini's opera. The voice rang out, especially in the third act, with real splendor. One could not always endorse Miss Moore's Italian pronunciation or certain moments of her acting, notably in the church scene. But her second act, inspired the new Scarpia, was done convincingly; and, by the time she had reached the concluding scene, Miss Moore was totally in command of voice and plastique. She has achieved few things more touching than her tragic collapse at the death of Mario. The duet, too, with the doomed Cavaradossi, was voiced affectingly. There is still more in this role to be worked out; but Miss Moore is now on the way.

Some of the best singing of the afternoon was accomplished by Charles Kullman. He seems freer as Mario than in any other of his parts and, in this performance, maintained an excellent quality of tone and dramatic intensity. The "E lucevan le stelle," in particular, was beautifully delivered. Gerhard Pechner repeated his very effective Sacrisitan and Arthur Kent, appearing as Angelotti for the first time here, did well.

The staging by Lothar Wallerstein and the repainted scenery were welcome to the eye and showed what the Metropolitan can accomplish on a limited budget if it sets its mind to the task. Ettore Panizza, despite an occasional tendency toward slowness and a passing inflexibility with certain singers, conducted ably and with temperament. This was a stirring performance.

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