[Met Performance] CID:158240

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, December 8, 1951

Review 1:

Review of Cecil Smith in the January 1, 1952 issue of Musical America

In the fifth of the season's performances of Verdi's "Aida," Delia Rigal, in the title role, and Cesare Siepi, as Ramfis, sang their parts for the first time at the Metropolitan, and Blanche Thebom sang her first Amneris in the new production. The singers were otherwise familiar from earlier occasions-Mario del Monaco, George London, Lubomir Vichegonov, Thomas Hayward and Lucine Amara. Fausto Cleva again conducted.

Miss Rigal's Aida was well conceived. She understood the fundamental facts about the character, and she manifested a deep feeling for the long line, the pulsation and accent and the color and inflection of the music. But her acting, while consistently to the point, was often a trifle gauche and uncontrolled in gesture and movement and she was made up about ten shades darker than Mr. London, as her father. Her vocalism was more stable than it has usually been, but it was marred by constant disturbing imperfections. At the bottom of her voice she was seldom able to call upon sturdily supported chest tones, although she achieved two or three. In the lower middle register, her chronic wobble persisted, although it was limited to three or four notes instead of extending over six or eight, as it used to. Above this, a singular absence of vibrato often made her tone sound bleak, even in so radiant a passage as the Nile Scene duet in which Aida cajoles Radames into agreeing to go away with her. Her top notes were resonant and bright and often very beautiful, but she could not sing any of them pianissimo; at one point she indulged in the deplorable subterfuge of turning her back on the audience to make a tone sound softer, or at least more muffled. But despite these glaring faults, the audience understood what she was driving at, and applauded with real enthusiasm at the end of the third act. The implicit excellence of her whole performance gave added reason for believing that Miss Rigal could become one of the most impressive members of the company if she were to get down to brass tacks about disciplining her natural gifts.

Mr. Siepi's voice sounded especially sonorous and rich in Ramfis' music, as almost any fine bass voice will. He was entirely at home in the part, even to the extent-disappointingly, for those of us who are unbelievers in it-of obeying Margaret Webster's stage direction. Miss Thebom, whether through strength of will or lack of rehearsal, was firm about retaining her own ideas of action and characterization. She sang easily and forcefully and her visual realization of the judgment scene was even more convincing than it used to be. This was far and away the most persuasive performance of the role we have seen and heard this year.

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