[Met Performance] CID:167830

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, January 31, 1955

Debut : Renata Tebaldi

Otello (111)
Giuseppe Verdi | Arrigo Boito
Mario Del Monaco

Renata Tebaldi [Debut]

Leonard Warren

Martha Lipton

Paul Franke

Luben Vichey

Clifford Harvuot

James McCracken

Arthur Budney

Fritz Stiedry

Dino Yannopoulos

Set Designer
Donald Oenslager

Set Designer
Ellen Meyer

Otello received seven performances this season.
Ellen Meyer revised Acts I and IV using elements from the previous production of Donald Oenslager. Acts II and III were unchanged.

Review 1:

Review of Louis Biancolli New York World Telegram and Sun

Renata Tebaldi, the widely acclaimed queen of Italian sopranos, made a spectacular debut at the Metropolitan last night as Desdemona in Verdi"s "Otello."

As an appropriate setting for her debut, Fritz Stiedry and the company rose to the occasion and gave an equally spectacular performance. The crowd was electrified to the point of ceaseless cheers and applause. There seemed no hope of releasing the artists at the end. If this was the Metropolitan opera at its best, it was also the Metropolitan hospitality at its highest.

On this one showing, Miss Tebaldi would seem to have everything. The voice is full and firm and beautiful. It is capable of infinite shading and colored to suit every passing mood and fancy. The tones always lent glow and warmth to the gathering texture of Verdi's giant fabric of doom.

At all times she handled the voice with supreme mastery, from the hushed, unearthly pianissimi of the love music and prayer to the stunted outcries of shame and terror. This Renata Tebaldi is a first-class musician and an artists of rare thoroughness.

She was also an appealing figure as Desdemona, tender, passionate, and, in the moments of outraged dignity, moving and majestic. Considered as singer, as actress, as artist, as personality, it was easy to see last night that Rudolf Bing had acquired another winner.

Just as sensational was the Otello of Mario Del Monaco. This splendid young artist has moved far since his debut at the Met a few seasons ago. Last night he achieved his greatest triumph to date. The voice rang out brilliantly, and where necessary it sank down to an astonishingly expressive whisper.

It was also an Otello of gripping dramatic power, mounting gradually, in one of the most shrewdly planned build-ups to a peak of insensate fury that left you limp with the needless, yet inevitable, horror of it all. Those last moments, when the truth was hammered into Otello, were heartbreaking.

Leonard Warren was worthy of such company last night, providing an Iago of unctuous tone and phrase, sinister, yet suave, and only by degrees bringing home the full, calculated depth of his malignancy. Also fine in lesser roles were Martha Lipton, Paul Franke and James McCracken. The superlative work of the chorus again redounded to the credit of Kurt Adler.

I have no hesitation in saying that Fritz Stiedry conducted his best performance at the Met last night, and that Dino Yannopoulos attained the same distinction with the staging. And let's not forget Giuseppe Verdi, whose creative imagination, superimposed on Shakespeare's by way of Boito's, was the massive dynamo from which all that live current flowed.

Review 2:

Review of Raymond Ericson in Musical America

Verdi's Shakespearean tragedy, "Otello," received one of the most exciting performances in recent memory on the evening of Jan. 31. The reason was, of course, that the Metropolitan had available precisely the right kind of voices for the bigger-than-life, almost mythological roles.

Great anticipatory interest was generated in the New York debut of the Scala soprano, Renata Tebaldi, as Desdemona. The house was filled to the doors with eager well-wishers, and their bursting enthusiasm was not ill placed. Miss Tebaldi proved herself one of the great sopranos of her generation.

Her first-act entrance, "cold" and "mezza voce," is a difficult one, and most of her music for some time thereafter gives her little opportunity to get her teeth into the musical and dramatic meat of the performance. It was not surprising, therefore, that

she seemed a bit tentative at first. But in the last act, which is solely her possession and brings her character into focus virtually for the first time, Miss Tebaldi let the Metropolitan audience savor the full quality of her excellence. I found it difficult to recall any previous occasion when I had heard the "Willow Song" and the "Ave Maria" sung so poignantly, with such direct communication of feeling and with such consummate musicianship.

Miss Tebaldi is the complete mistress of her vocal mechanism. She can sing with as much control at pianissimo as at full voice; and, at pianissimo, her voice has that coveted quality of projection that permits it to make its way clearly and cleanly through the orchestral fabric. Miss Tebaldi also is a woman of infinite grace, serenity and personal charm. She is the consummate diva, who has already conquered her audience before she has uttered a sound. Anyone who heard her in the relatively unrewarding role of Desdemona cannot but be impatient to hear her in other more revealing characterizations.

In the part of the Moor there was Mario Del Monaco, a tenor for whom Otello is an ideal vehicle. It permits the broad Italianate style of acting in which Mr. Del Monaco excels, and it calls for the ringing, heroic tones that he possesses in abundance. His Moor was a fierce, almost savage, being, and his struggle with the green goddess was a violent affair-considerably different from the brooding, morose trauma we have become accustomed to in both the opera and the play.

Leonard Warren's Iago was very close to what Verdi said he had in mind for this part-a man of deceptively impressive figure and a seeming innocent heartiness-not at all the gaunt, gimlet-eyed schemer who fools nobody. Only his "Credo" could have been more persuasive.

Paul Franke made an intelligent and dignified personage of Cassio, one of the most impressive performances we have had from this gifted artist. Martha Lipton sustained the high musical standards of the performance as Emilia. Praiseworthy too were James McCracken (Roderigo), Luben Vichey (Lodovico), Clifford Harvuot (Montano), and Arthur Budney (Herald).

Fritz Stiedry brought his usual scholarship, combined with his extraordinary sense of vital theater, to the conducting of the opera. His ability to develop the subtleties of the score added immeasurably to the treasures of the evening.

Photograph of Renata Tebaldi as Desdemona by Sedge LeBlang.

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