[Met Tour] CID:165700

Il Trovatore
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts, Thu, April 29, 1954

Il Trovatore (280)
Giuseppe Verdi | Salvatore Cammarano
Kurt Baum

Herva Nelli

Count Di Luna
Leonard Warren

Jean Madeira

Nicola Moscona

Maria Leone

Thomas Hayward

James McCracken

Algerd Brazis

Fausto Cleva

Review 1:

Klaus George Roy in the Christian Science Monitor
Herva Nelli as Leonora In Metropolitan Production

It can be done, after all! When the Metropolitan Opera brought “Il Trovatore” to Boston two seasons ago, some of us were ready to consider their production of this work a wasted effort. With a few exceptions, the performance was uninspired, and Verdi’s music seemed unnecessarily threadbare.

But last night the atmosphere was almost totally different. The effect must be credited to one man, too often overlooked at opera performance: the conductor. Fausto Cleva proved last night that “Il Trovatore” deserves its 101 years of popularity.

He felt this music. He communicated an impassioned intensity through his admirable orchestra. He guided each performer to give his utmost. He did not allow a moment of sloppy ensemble, or routine running-through-the-paces.

Not only did he know this score by heart, but he visibly insisted that every nuance be observed, every phrase be properly shaped and paced. The result was a fresh and meaningful presentation full of genuine excitement and Italianate gusto. Bravissimo, Fausto Cleva.

As Leonora, Herva Nelli, substituted at short notice for Zinka Milanov, who was indisposed. After a slow start, Miss Nelli gained security and poise, reaping several well-earned ovations. She is a beautiful woman and a fine musician, and her voice is lustrous. She may not as yet be a great singing actress, but her action is simple and convincing. No stranger to the part, Miss Nelli made Leonora a personality with whom the audience would feel more than courteous sympathy.

Kurt Baum as Manrico was in good voice, though it tends to become coarser year by year. A potentially attractive figure, Mr. Baum continues to act as if under extreme duress. Is it unreasonable to demand that so experienced a singer finally secure the fundamentals of acting technique?

It would have been pleasant, incidentally to make the acquaintance of Gino Penno in this role, the young tenor whose New York appearances as Manrico have been widely acclaimed.

It is no secret that Leonard Warren is one of the best singers this country has produced. In the part of Count de Luna, Mr. Warren was no less than magnificent, both for his ample baritone and the sheer effectiveness of his stage demeanor.

Jean Madeira as Azucena also distinguished herself. Verdi asked for a deep contralto, and rarely gets it. Miss Madeira is a ranging mezzo-soprano, and she managed to control her difficult music with grace and assurance. She threw herself into the part of the old and vengeful gypsy with an irresistible intensity and empathy for the implications of the character.

Maria Leone as Inez made a pleasing Boston debut, but the role is too small to tell much about her capabilities. Nicola Moscona was as always dependable and resonant as Ferrando, and Thomas Hayward, Algerd Brazis and James McCracken did well in supporting assignments. Excellent work was once again offered by the chorus, trained to perfection by Kurt Adler.

The scenery by Harry Horner (1940) remains impressive, and Mary Percy Schenck’s costumes are colorful and agreeable enough – except for the oddly checkered soldiery. Herbert Graf’s staging has gained in clarity and fluidity over the years. There are still a few moments, however, which strike us as comical rather than dramatic – such as the mysterious sword-play and surrender at the close of the second act.

And the music? Somehow – unexpectedly – the old magic worked once more. It may be early Verdi and all that – but what a masterpiece of melody and melodrama! To be sure, it required a Fausto Cleva at the helm to make us cheer again.

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