[Met Tour] CID:155200

Don Carlo
American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, November 28, 1950

In Italian

Don Carlo (20)
Giuseppe Verdi | François Joseph Méry/Camille du Locle list Italian text as translators?
Don Carlo
Jussi Björling

Elizabeth of Valois
Delia Rigal

Robert Merrill

Princess Eboli
Fedora Barbieri

Philip II
Cesare Siepi

Grand Inquisitor
Hans Hotter

Celestial Voice
Lucine Amara

Luben Vichey

Anne Bollinger

Count of Lerma
Paul Franke

Countess of Aremberg
Tilda Morse

Emery Darcy

Fritz Stiedry

Review 1:

Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune



Cesare Siepi stopped the show for several minutes last night, singing the role of Don Basilio in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” at the Metropolitan Opera House. The rest of the cast, including Lily Pons, got a good hand; but Mr. Siepi received massive applause. Deserved applause, too, in the opinion of this reviewer. Brilliant bass singing and pantomime of the highest comic potency united to make an effect that dominated the whole evening’s entertainment, which was, for the rest, mostly on the low comedy side.


This opera has long been played, at its best, for clowning. Often, indeed, on a quiet evening at the Met, one has longed for more of the circus-like exaggeration that the music of it seems to invite. Last night we got it. Whatever musical faults the performance bore, it was at all times a lively show. If the present cast, which seems to understand the character Italian farce, will practice up on its music, “The Barber of Seville” may become one of the Met’s more striking numbers. At the present it needs tightening up all over. Even in the comic effects, for the lack of precise timing, the actors have a little air of just horsing around.


Precision is what all the singing needed more of last night. From the pit Alberto Ereede directed a reading orchestrally impeccable and animated. On the stage a general lack of accuracy in the execution of vocal turns and skips made Miss Pons, long a sinner in this regard, seem by comparison a marvel of dependability. One asks, perhaps, a stricter observance of the musical amenities from an artist so celebrated than from the others; and last night Miss Pons was pretty careful and always pleasant to hear. Mr. Siepi was also less obscure about his pitches than some of the others. Herta Glaz, as always, was musically expert.


The misbehavors were Di Stefano, Baccaloni and Valdengo. These artists gave an animated, a busy show, often a funny one; but the amount of real singing they accompanied it with was barely enough to make one remember that “Il Barbiere” is supposed to be an opera, not just a play,. I suspect that they all got a bit excited finding that they could make it work as a play, for a change, and forgot to sing. Vocal practice and a bit more rehearsal should clean up their execution, and I do hope this will take place. The present cast seems to like the show. Their performance of it still lacks, however, the tension that comes from thorough musical preparation and completely disciplined stage rehearsal.

Review 2:

Max de Schauensee in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Met Opera Brings “Don Carlo” to Academy


Rudolf Bing brought his stunning revival of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” to the Academy of Music as on opener to the Metropolitan’s Philadelphia season last night.


This was the new general manager’s local bow and it must be recorded as an unqualified success. The chief reason was the superb finish and obvious care given this production, plus the fact that individual members of the large cast – numbering five Philadelphia debuts – were allowed to retain their personal flavor and impact against a background of the utmost polish and sophistication.


The Metropolitan opened its New York season with this revival of Verdi’s gloomy and grandiose opera, and last night’s performance was the sixth the company has given since the season’s inception.


It was only natural to notice the great improvement and development that has occurred since New York’s [beginning] night. This was true of several members of the cast, especially of Delia Rigal and Robert Merrill.


Flavor All Its Own


“Don Carlo” has a flavor all its own. It is gloomy in the most imagination-stirring way, presenting a fascinating picture of 16th century Spain under the heel of the Inquisition, gutted by the struggle between church and state.


Verdi’s score, to be sure, is uneven, but three quarters of it is of overwhelming power and suggestiveness, a score that grows on the sensibilities of the listener with repeated hearings.


Since the announcement of Mr. Bing’s choice as the Metropolitan’s general manager, there have been many rumors and misgivings. A general impression existed that the new manager would streamline effects and do away with grand opera in its intrinsic grandiose flavor. Last night showed that Mr. Bing intends to preserve and cherish the grand manner so necessary for the presentation of serious opera. Nothing grander could possibly be imagined than last night’s “Don Carlo.” And once and for all, opera may rest assured that such misguided enthusiasts as Billy Rose will not obtain a foothold in their favorite medium.


The production was under the intelligent direction of Margaret Webster, whose taste and alertness were ever apparent in the fluid and sensible account of a story which is not too easy to follow. The scenery and costumes, extremely evocative and carefully chosen, were the work of Rolf Gerard. Both these artists gave their painstaking services to bring about a performance that can be only described as memorable.


Five Make Local Debuts


As to the cast, there were five singers making their local debuts and some old favorites.


The audience especially singled out the young Italian bass, Cesare Siepi, whose very impressive singing and impersonation of Philip II of Spain heralded the advent of a new bass star.


But Mr. Siepi was only part of last night’s story: Fedora Barbieri, as Princess Eboli, sang her great aria “O don fatale” in a way that brought down the house. Hers is a vibrant mezzo-soprano by a temperament both healthy and vigorous. Delia Rigal, Argentinian soprano, was every inch Elisabeth de Valois. An artist of great distinction, with an unusual presence and a flair for looking to the manner born in regal costumes, Mme. Rigal came into her own in the final act with her darkly eloquent voicing of the great scene, “Tu che le vanita.”


Terrifying indeed was the unforgettable entrance of Hans Hotter as the 90-year old, blind Grand Inquisitor. Mr. Hotter riveted one’s attention, and in this, his first appearance in Philadelphia, suggested that he is a great singing-actor. His scene with Mr. Siepi was the highlight of the performance.


Merrill Has Improved


Familiar to local opera goers were Robert Merrill and Jussi Bjoerling. Mr. Merrill as Don Rodrigo, has improved enormously since his first New York essayal of the role. There is now valued nuance to his singing, and he has an authenticity in this role he has never had before.


Even Margaret Webster’s directoral magic cannot give Mr. Bjoerling a dignity and distinction he does not possess. But the tenor used his light voice cleanly and clearly, and added much to the vocal enjoyment of the evening.


Lubomir Vichegonov was admirable as the mysterious monk who is in reality the ghost of the emperor Charles V, and Anna Bollinger and Lucine Amara took care of their assignments competently.


Fritz Stiedry conducted with great sensitivity and a just perception of balance between voice and orchestra.


Applause was deserved and plentiful. In short, Mr. Bing’s first Philadelphia season has gotten under way with a bang. May he have many more.

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