[Met Performance] CID:136730

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, February 3, 1944

Debut : John Sullivan

Tosca (265)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa
Grace Moore

Charles Kullman

Lawrence Tibbett

Salvatore Baccaloni

Alessio De Paolis

Lorenzo Alvary

Louis D'Angelo

John Sullivan [Debut]

John Baker

Cesare Sodero

Lothar Wallerstein

Set Designer
Mario Sala

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Tosca received five performances this season.
Joseph Novak designed the sets for Acts I and III, Sala the set for Act II.

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

Tibbett, Miss Moore, Kullman Sing in Lusty Performance of the Puccini Opera

One observer listened and looked at the performance of Puccini's "Tosca" last night in the Metropolitan Opera House with very mixed feelings. The interest and the excitement of the audience in this performance was manifest. The interpretation was dramatically short of the requirements of the libretto. The music was sung without finish or finesse, but with lustiness, and no refinements of style that higher standards might have enjoined and plenty of zip and go. So what of it? The opera itself had a sweeping triumph, a fact due primarily that it is almost damage-proof, thanks to the swooning melodies, the masterly orchestration and theatre-craft and sheer sadistic force of Mr. Puccini's score.

In point of individual performances the Spoletta of Mr. De Paolis, capped the show. The craven servility, the sinister understanding of his master, ordering the execution that was to be a fact and not a fiction, the ceremonious unction of the factotum when Cavaradossi met his end, made a portrait to be vividly if not too cordially remembered. An actor of equal skill in a minor part, and a fine singer to boot, was Mr. Baccaloni, the Sacristan, but he made too much of the part. One was not permitted to forget that a famous artist was making much of a minor roles. Perhaps this is overmeticulous.

But the deeds of the stars were something else again. On the whole, of the three who respectively impersonated - Scarpia, Mr. Tibbett; Tosca, Miss Moore; and Cavaradossi, Mr. Kullman - we preferred Mr. Kullman. He was prodigal of his voice, somewhat strained in his upper register in the first act, but brilliant of tone later on, and in the episode when Mario defied his torturer up to the hilt, sparing his audience nothing, which was in the prevailing key of the performance and the opera as well, thus adding materially to the evening's edification.

Mr. Tibbett summons more voice with each appearance that he makes. The inequalities of his vocal performance were recompensed in considerable measure by the resonance of the voice in the best moments; to which it can be added that Mr. Tibbett's Scarpia has considerably improved in the histrionic sense since he first took the part at the Metropolitan, while it is still far short of the subtle detail and the aristocratic veneer that should be present. And the spectacle of Scarpia, darkly plotting - "Va, Tosca" - of this Scarpia, without faintest thought of the dramatic situation, front of the stage, roaring his soliloquy at the audience. Why?

But neither Mr. Tibbett nor Miss Moore carry through this opera from the dramatic point of view, which is of the greatest importance, indeed necessity, where the adequate presentation of "Tosca" is concerned. Miss Moore has improved as a singer in late seasons. She has more voice, freer emission and is less inclined to stray from pitch. But for the flash, the Latin animation and caprice of the impetuous Tosca, or the desperation of the moment when Tosca, frantic as her lover is dragged from the room by the guards - dragging at her gloves - this isn't exactly music drama. Nor was it the royal, harassed creature of the libretto.

Review 2:

Review of Virgil Thomson in The New York Herald Tribune


Grace Moore has a star's presence and a beautiful voice. Puccini's "Tosca" is about the most dependable piece of musical theater in the world. Cesare Sodero conducts Italian opera intelligently. The foregoing sums up pretty well (except for Salvatore Baccaloni, who did good work in a minor rôle) the virtues of last night's performance at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Miss Moore was ever a delight to the ear. To the eye she is fascinating, but not wholly a pleasure. She has a high personal radiation but insurmountable insufficiencies as a serious artist of the theater. Her face, though pretty, does not express effectively any sentiment but cheerfulness. Her body is hopelessly that of a bouncing comedienne, and she moves it around awkwardly. Also, her judgment about clothes is not good. As a crowning visual error last night, she played Tosca, a tragic heroine, as a kinky-haired, near-platinum blond. Her kind of vaudeville presentation is inexcusable but presumably incurable. It was a relief to us all whenever she opened her mouth and started to sing, because that she did most beautifully indeed, beautifully, correctly, and with power, straight up to high C.

Miss Moore's singing was not only a pleasant offset to her own visual insufficiencies. It was in most agreeable contrast to the vocalism of the other principals. Charles Kullman bellowed as only a tenorino can, bellowed and cried and swelled up like a frog. Puccini in his style, all right; but his voice is not big enough for the music. At least he didn't bleat, though, as many a small-voiced tenor will.

Lawrence Tibbett sang, as usual, the leading barytone part. One hesitates to credit his constant appearances this year in major roles to the musical judgment of Messrs.. Johnson and Ziegler. There must be some other reason. Time was when Mr. Tibbett, especially in Italian opera, was an ornament to the company. But since the grave accident to his vocal chords that he suffered several years back, he has never recovered his true resonance. He sings huskily, as if he were clearing his throat; his pitch and his memory are both undependable; even his muscular movements are constrained. His work has no freedom, no beauty and no power.

Orchestrally the performance was clear, sometimes thrilling. And Miss Moore was good to listen to. It is unfortunate that her vocal excellence was not backed up and her dramatic weaknesses, so far as possible, compensated by a better casting of the other roles.

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