[Met Performance] CID:155280

Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, December 6, 1950

Il Barbiere di Siviglia (227)
Gioachino Rossini | Cesare Sterbini
Giuseppe Valdengo

Lily Pons

Count Almaviva
Giuseppe Di Stefano

Dr. Bartolo
Salvatore Baccaloni

Don Basilio
Cesare Siepi

Hertha Glaz

George Cehanovsky

Paul Franke

Ludwig Burgstaller

Alberto Erede

Désiré Defrère

Set Designer
Joseph Urban

In the Lesson Scene Pons sang Ah vous dirai-je maman from Le Toréador (Adam).
Il Barbiere di Siviglia received sixteen performances this season.

Review 1:

Cecil Smith in Musical America

To those who have entertained the immoderate hope that the entire repertory would be transformed and purified during the first year of Rudolf Bing’s administration, the current revival of Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” is recommended as a corrective. Long one of the most shamefully mistreated masterpieces in the Metropolitan’s list, Rossini’s comedy re-emerged after a two-year lapse with every bit of the cheap vulgarity, mirthless horseplay, and downright lack of musical taste and skill to which we were painfully accustomed during the previous managerial regime. It was a blunder of the first magnitude for Mr. Bing to restore a production that was, except for the contributions of one or two individuals in the cast, a violation of both the letter and spirit of a great comic work. When Mr. Bing retains such productions as “Don Giovanni” and “The Magic Flute,” which are no worse than second-class, it is possible to understand that he has no choice in the matter, that resources of the company being what they are. But the re-animation of this production can only be viewed as an act of pure cynicism, and a wholly unnecessary departure from Mr. Bing’s avowed intention of doing the best he can with the standard repertory.


Lily Pons, making her season re-entry, was a bright element in the generally blighted evening. She sang with care, accuracy, and patrician taste, and with the exception of Herta Glaz, as Berta, she was the sole member of the cast who did not behave like a member of a rowdy party having a high old time in a restaurant on Bleecker Street. Cesare Siepi, singing Don Basilio for the first time, stopped the show with his splendid delivery of “La Calunnia,” and rightly so; but he shaped his acting along with that of his colleagues, in terms of the horrid distortions of farce the stage director, Désiré Defrère, learned in Chicago a generation ago when the gaucheries of Feodor Chaliapin as the music master – the performance from which most of the present ills of the “Barber” stem – were allowed to submerge most of the proper traditions in performing the work. Nearly all the business of the men – Mr. Siepi; Salvatore Baccaloni, as Dr. Bartolo; Giuseppe Valdengo, as Figaro; Giuseppe di Stefano, as a new Almaviva – was conceived and executed with a degree of exaggeration that ceased to be amusing many years ago, if indeed it ever was; and the timing and control of everyone except Mr. Baccaloni were so inexpert that even those features of the acting that were not intolerably overdrawn frequently failed to make a precise effect.


Mr. Di Stefano, trying his hand at a florid role for the first time at the Metropolitan, was many fathoms beyond his depth. He did not sing the ornamental passages badly; much of the time, instead he did not sing them at all. Scales emerged as smears; three-note turns were simplified into staccato-accented single notes. He should not have been willing to sing the role in public, and the management should not have been willing to let him do so. Mr. Valdengo was scarcely more adept in the coloratura passages of Figaro’s music, although elsewhere he sang with a firm, if unyieldingly colorless, sonority. His impersonation of the title character was prevailingly dry and waning in humor, though he was docile about gallivanting around the stage in accordance with Mr. Defrère’s instructions. In another context, and with a firmer treatment of the ensemble, Mr. Baccaloni would, I think, be exceedingly funny. Even as matters stood, he kept his performance, broad though it was, within a consistent stylistic framework, and he delivered Dr. Bartolo’s usually tedious aria with magnificent aplomb.


Alberto Erede conducted with rather more authority than he has shown in “La Traviata.” At least the tempos did not get out of hand, and the texture of the orchestra was generally lively. It is hardly fair to judge his conducting of the “Barber” more fully until he is supplied with a cast all of whose members might give some reflection of his musical intentions. Small parts were taken by George Cehanovsky, Paul Franke, and veteran Ludwig Burgstaller.

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