[Met Tour] CID:149990

Gianni Schicchi
American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, March 1, 1949

Review 1:

Linton Martin in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Met Gives ‘Salome’ and ‘Gianni Schicchi’


The most sensational Metropolitan Opera performance this city has seen in years made musical and dramatic history when a scaring, sizzling “Salome” thrilled a super-capacity crowd in the Academy last night, and evoked a remarkable ovation for the new star after the grisly, gory climax.

The high-voltage, incandescent occasion was due directly to the first Philadelphia appearance of the Metropolitan’s new Bulgarian dramatic soprano, Ljuba Welitsch, who at the age of 35, with tawny tresses, greenish eyes, and voluptuous figure, as eloquent with her torso was her tones, gave an unforgettable performance of the most decadent damsel in modern music drama.




Stunning as was the impression produced by Miss Welitsch, the stage presentation could not have carried its fairly overwhelming power and impact without the inspired, electrifying conducting of Fritz Reiner, making his Metropolitan Opera debut here also on this occasion, but a familiar figure in Philadelphia for his distinguished direction of symphonic and operatic performances about a score of years ago.

Under Reiner’s masterly command, the instrumental score was revealed for the masterpiece that it is, unique in its depiction of erotic, perverted passion, and haunting horror.

For this penultimate performance of the Metropolitan’s seasonal series here, the Richard Strauss one-act tragedy was paired with another brief musical masterwork of a quite contrasting kind – Puccini’s bright and buoyant buffa opera, “Gianni Schicchi.”




In the period of more than two score years since its American de but in 1907 (for one performance only at the New York Metropolitan with Olive Fremstad) “Salome” has been sung in this city by Mary Garden, Gota Ljungberg, Marjorie Lawrence, and Lilly Djanel. But veteran opera enthusiasts agreed last night that the Salome of Ljuba Welitsch was a revelation, beside, or after, all or any of her predecessors in this almost literally inhuman part.

After all this time, “Salome” presumably has ceased to shock most super-sophisticated opera sensibilities. Yet it has never seemed as tense and nerve-tingling , as irresistibly exciting, as it did last night.




In appraising the performance of Miss Welitsch, her acting and singing claim twin attention. For they are so perfectly unified and inseparable, so fascinatingly fused in effect, that they cannot be considered separately. And that is the true test and triumph of Miss Welitsch’s art as a singing actress.

Miss Welitsch has the physique, force and feeling, the artistry and the equipment to meet the most rigorous requirements of a role that is terrible and terrifying. Her tones are full and free, emotionally eloquent, and she can subordinate beauty of utterance to dramatic demands in her performance that is as vital vocally as it is visually.

She even gets around the difficulties of the dance that some Salomes have dodged entirely, though it is no terpsichorean triumph. But her perverted apostrophe to the Prophet, when he is summoned from the cistern, and at the end of the opera, as she slavers over his severed head, before the horrified Herod, the effect is stunning and almost insupportable.

So far as space permits, compliments must be accorded other members of the quite capable cast – to Frekereick Jagel, for his Herod, repeated from five years ago (when the same double bill was given here); to Herbert Janssen as Jokanaan, and Kerstin Thorborg as Herodias.

Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” sole survivor of the triptych that was introduced here 30 years ago, was given a romping, rollicking performance, though the comedy was not.

However, this performance did delightfully demonstrate the versatility of Italo Tajo, the Metropolitan’s new Italian bass-baritone, following his flavorful and finely effective Figaro of six weeks ago.

Romantic interest in “Gianni Schicchi” is, of course, simply secondary and subordinate. But it was charmingly sustained by Licia Albanese and Giusppe di Stefano. The soprano aria ranks with Puccini’s most masterly melodies, and it was a  delightful highlight last night, while the duet also came in for its share of popular appreciation.

The performance was notable its sense of spirited ensemble, upon which “Gianni Schicchi” depends for full effectiveness, and Giuseppe Antonicelli conducted with abundant exuberance and enthusiasm.

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