[Met Performance] CID:174010

La Bohème
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, February 8, 1957

Review 1:

Review of Jay S. Harrison in the Herald Tribune

As Renata Tebaldi interprets Mimi in "La Bohème" it seems as though Puccini had gone directly to the soprano herself and said, "Madame, I have it in mind to write an opera about Bohemian life with you as the central figure. Tell me: what would you like to sing? What do you sing best?" And Renata Tebaldi told him.

That, at any rate, was the impression gained last night at the Metropolitan, as Miss Tebaldi made her first appearance of the season at the opera house. Upon her arrival on stage the audience went mad; at the close of "Mi Chiamano Mimi" it went wild; and-following the curtain fall on the end of the [first] act it went berserk. It was a heartening sign - that the Met's public, though not infallible, has taste. Give them an artist worth cheering and they will cheer.

And Miss Tebaldi is very much an artist - that frayed term being used in its highest sense. For the soprano is not only concerned with singing, though she could easily and without impunity open a vocal studio for angels; she is also an actress of vast communicative powers and a musician to whom phrases are living things rather than idly delimited breathing exercises. Indeed, as regards her theatrical ability, any young singer worth her salt would be wise in studying Miss Tebaldi's activities not only during her own numbers but especially during the arias of others.

Her trick is simple - she listens and responds. Whatever is sung to or about her evokes an immediate response, so that the listener is led to believe that she is actively thinking of the business on stage instead of the supper that she will have come to at the opera's end. And as far as Miss Tebaldi's musical reflexes are concerned, she sings a line with precisely the coloration and dynamic intensity implied by the text, and takes liberties solely at those moments when she feels she has lighted on a tone worth sustaining.

These ingredients, rare in opera generally, are rarer still in performances of Puccini. As any conductor will tell you, Puccini often brings out the worst in singers, most of whom feel impelled to add their own throat-sobs to those already handily supplied by the composer. That there is no need for this foolishness, Miss Tebaldi is perfectly willing to demonstrate. She does not find it necessary to hug herself to show that she is in love; neither does she find it indispensable that she thump her brow, claw the air or roll her eyes to express anguish. Her voice - sans sobs - does it all. And what a glorious voice it is.

The whole performance of "Bohème," in fact, was painted with a magic brush. Mr. Tucker, Miss Krall and their colleagues sang as though their larynxes had suddenly sprouted wings, and Mr. Schippers - though his slow tempos surely must have unnerved certain soloists - reached the poignancy saturation level in every measure. It was, in all, a "Bohème" straight out of dreams, the kind of dreams one would be proud to relive again.

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