[Met Tour] CID:150240

Gianni Schicchi
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts, Thu, March 24, 1949

Gianni Schicchi (46)
Giacomo Puccini | Giovacchino Forzano
Gianni Schicchi
Salvatore Baccaloni

Nadine Conner

Giuseppe Di Stefano

Paula Lenchner

Thelma Votipka

Cloe Elmo [Last performance]

Alessio De Paolis

George Cehanovsky

Gerhard Pechner

Nicola Moscona

Peggy Smithers

Melchiorre Luise

Lorenzo Alvary

Osie Hawkins

John Baker

Giuseppe Antonicelli

Salome (31)
Richard Strauss | Oscar Wilde
Ljuba Welitsch

Frederick Jagel

Kerstin Thorborg

Joel Berglund

Brian Sullivan

Hertha Glaz

Leslie Chabay

Alessio De Paolis

Paul Franke

Frank Murray [Last performance]

Gerhard Pechner

John Baker

Dezsö Ernster

Jerome Hines

Philip Kinsman

Osie Hawkins

Inge Manski

Fritz Reiner

Review 1:

Rudolf Elie in the Boston Herald

The regrettable thing about so terrific an advance reputation as that enjoyed by “Salome” is that it couldn’t possibly fulfill its obligation to paralyze an audience that has waited 44 years to see it. It didn’t paralyze the audience last night, but a good many things about it did – and nobody who was on hand is likely to forget those things for some time to come.


There was, first of all, Ljuba Welitsch, the red-headed Bulgarian soprano whose conception of this female apotheosis of carnal degradation must stand as one of the most hair-raising spectacles of the stage. From the moment she shot onto the gloomy blue terrace of Herod’s palace, her hair a flaming mop, her costume of gold, purple and green swirling about her voluptuous figure, she held the spectator fascinated.


Her voice, of a light and crystalline, but extremely powerful quality, was subjugated throughout to her portrait of the Biblical creature who, failing to seduce John the Baptist in life, demands his head as the price of dancing before Herod’s lascivious gaze. Yet there was never any questioning of her vocal capacities; indeed it is a vocal role of the most demanding character; none, indeed, but the greatest of vocal masters can attempt it, for it requires ever greater effort as it continues. After an exhausting 12 minute dance, for example, she is called upon to perform a protracted vocal line in the highest range almost unsupported melodically by the orchestra – a truly formidable assignment.


Visually, save for some mannerisms possibly overdone for an American audience (her use of her arms, for instance), she was striking. Nobody in the world can carry off that dance of the seven veils; it’s too long, too repetitive, indeed, too corny. So it was to her vast credit she gave it as much contrast and as much conviction a she did. But it was the crazed woman sprawled on top of John the Baptist’s prison well, as the animal lusting over his severed head that she shook the audience up, and it remained to give her an ovation.


In the second place there were remarkable performances by Frederick Jagel, whose demented Herod was a vocal and visual tribute to his artistry; by Brian Sullivan as the captain who kills himself for love of Salome; by Joel Berglund, whose John was a tower of strength; and by Kerstin Thorborg, whose Herodias was a powerful characterization.


And in the third place there was the magnificent Metropolitan orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner, one of the towering figures of today’s musical horizon. It was a masterful piece of conducting, bringing out all the perfectly incredible effects of Strauss’ score. Yet, it was this very score that, in the end, hurt the total effect. For, despite its wonders – and they could keep one occupied discussing them for pages – it reveals an almost Wagnerian reluctance to stop. Strauss tells us he’s going to make his point, he makes it, and he then tells us he’s made it. You simply cannot stay with him; your attention begins to wander, you begin to notice things, you begin to get critical. Still and all, it is a great experience, and we can only praise the Lord the Metropolitan gave us a chance to see it.


All of which leaves no room to tell of one of the real operatic delights – an opera that is unendingly delightful through every one of its 50 or so minutes, “Gianni Schicchi.” It was marvelously well-done, too, with Salvatore Baccaloni giving another of his inimitable performances, as the rascal who outwits a pack of gold diggers. But why, in heaven’s name, can’t the Met do this in English? What possible excuse? Well, we’ll never know, but to get it in any language is reward enough. Tonight, “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Search by season: 1948-49

Search by title: Gianni Schicchi, Salome,

Met careers