[Met Tour] CID:165350

Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland, Mon, March 29, 1954

Norma (55)
Vincenzo Bellini | Felice Romani
Zinka Milanov

Gino Penno

Blanche Thebom

Cesare Siepi

Paul Franke

Maria Leone

Fausto Cleva

Photograph of Zinka Milanov and Rosa Ponselle by Morton Tadder.

Review 1:

Review of George Kent Bellows in the Baltimore Sun
The Metropolitan Opera Company’s two performances this week at the Lyric were gala events, the most distinguished production Baltimore has had in many years.

Audiences that packed the theater with hundreds standing cheered and applauded the artist both nights.

Monday night featured Bellini’s tragedy, “Norma,” with superb sets by Charles Elson. The starkness of the primitive life of the ancient Druids was completely realized, and the majestic movements of the characters on stage were made believable by the splendid stage direction of Dino Yannopolis.

The entire performance was well integrated, with moments of great beauty and exemplary singing.

Zinka Milanov, for whom the opera was revived, was most impressive in her cantilena passages, her pianissimo tone one of heavenly sweetness. When she forced her voice, however, for the dramatic scenes, the quality was often hard, and did not fully project.

This is one of the most taxing roles in opera, for added to all the other vocal demands of the part, the singer must also be able to sing brilliantly in the traditional coloratura of the period.

Mme. Milanov’s florid phrases are by no means impeccable, and so much of the religious fervor of the famous “Casta diva” aria was lost, as well as the closing part of her third act duet with Adalgisa.

Mme. Milanov was superb in the third act, when Norma’s mother-love stayed her first impulse to murder her children. Less forceful, and indeed inadequate, was Norma’s fury at learning of her husband’s betrayal, in Act II.

Tenor Scores Triumph

Blanche Thebom, as the younger priestess, was completely satisfactory – visually and histrionically. Vocally, she was not always up to her usual standard.

The new Italian tenor, Gino Penno, as the Roman proconsul Polionne, scored a triumph in his local debut. He acted with technical skill and real self-possession. His singing, uneven at first, gained perceptibly in point and flexibility as the evening progressed.

Cesare Siepi made an impressive figure as the chief Druid, Oroveso, and the chorus, beautifully trained by Kurt Adler, was unusually fine, and full-bodied.

Fausto Cleva conducted with perception (occasionally overplaying the perfect acoustics of the Lyric) save for a much too fast tempo at the close of the third act duet of Norma and Adalgisa.

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