[Met Performance] CID:176890

Gianni Schicchi
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 24, 1958

Debut : Andrew Strasfogel, Inge Borkh

Gianni Schicchi (58)
Giacomo Puccini | Giovacchino Forzano
Gianni Schicchi
Fernando Corena

Nadine Conner

Gabor Carelli

Mildred Allen

Thelma Votipka

Belén Amparan

Alessio De Paolis

George Cehanovsky

Clifford Harvuot

Nicola Moscona

Andrew Strasfogel [Debut]

Gerhard Pechner

Ezio Flagello

Osie Hawkins

Louis Sgarro

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Hans Busch

Set Designer
Horace Armistead

Salome (49)
Richard Strauss | Oscar Wilde
Inge Borkh [Debut]

Norman Kelley

Blanche Thebom

Mack Harrell

Jon Crain

Margaret Roggero

Charles Anthony

Robert Nagy

Alessio De Paolis

Paul Franke

Lawrence Davidson

William Wilderman

Calvin Marsh

Norman Scott

Louis Sgarro

Osie Hawkins

Mildred Allen

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Set Designer
Donald Oenslager

Gianni Schicchi received six performances this season.
Salome received six performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Winthrop Sargeant in The New Yorker
Salome Incarnate

Richard Strauss’s "Salome" is not among those fine old operatic masterpiecesthat can be badly sung and badly acted and still retain some charm for peoplewho are familiar with them. Its scoring is technically too intricate to allow forthe slightest miscalculation. Its general effect on the listener is usually that of building up nervous tension, rather than kindling human sympathy. And its music, considered apart from the drama it intensifies, is often extremely vulgar, in spite of its scintillating harmonic and orchestral textures. Yet there can be performances of "Salome" that approach greatness. They are comparatively rare, and they depend almost entirely on a peculiar ability of the singer who undertakes the title role — an ability not so much to sing (though that is necessary, too) as to project the shifting psychological features of the part in such a way that Salome becomes a believable and fairly normal human being, and not simply a psychotic. The singing actress who can accomplish this feat automatically raises "Salome" from the category of melodrama to that of genuine tragedy, and sends the audience home feeling like participants in a moving experience, instead of passive witnesses to a spectacle of horror.

As I have said, this doesn't happen often. But it did happen on Friday night of last week at the Metropolitan, when the role was sung by Inge Borkh, a German soprano who first appeared hereabouts a little more than a year ago. To begin with, Miss Borkh, who was making her Metropolitan debut on this occasion, is a rather handsome figure of a woman, with a mop of blond hair, a great deal of the sort of restless energy popularly known as "temperament," and a voice that, though not particularly strong in the lower register, is sufficiently powerful elsewhere to bring off the most strenuous passages in this remarkably strenuous opera. The voice is also notable for its youthful vitality, its accuracy of pitch, and its responsiveness to the niceties of musical style. But these admirable qualities were not what most impressed me about Miss Borkh's artistry the other evening. Good-looking, large-voiced, furiously energetic Salomes have turned up often enough in the past, and few of them have made me really enjoy the opera. What Miss Borkh has that most of the others haven't had is the sort of dramatic subtlety that can turn Salome into a portrait in perspective. Obviously, Miss Borkh had subjected every successive emotional nuance of the role to the most thoroughgoing scrutiny, and calculated her means of expressing it with the greatest exactitude. On her initial entrance, she gave the impression not of the usual slavering tigress but of the young, impulsive, spoiled, and irresponsible girl that one imagines Salome, as a real person, must have been. The psychotic aberrations were left to accumulate gradually. The rejection of her advances by Jochanaan produced just the right progression of feeling from surprised petulance to anger, and as she lay on her stomach on top of the cistern, one could see the whole battle of wounded pride, erotic longing, and growing fury reflected in her face. Even the "Dance of the Seven Veils," certainly one of the most banal things Strauss ever wrote, and customarily the occasion for a rather perfunctory and irrelevant exhibition in which a singer tries to prove that she can also dance, was for Miss Borkh a gripping integral feature of the drama. She danced for Herod very gracefully and with the air of a sly, covetous prostitute, but there was no doubt in the onlooker's mind that the erotic inspiration for her dance arose from her longing for the prophet in the cistern. Altogether, Miss Borkh's Salome was one of the most dramatically penetrating that I have ever encountered, and though I have frequently heard the role sung equally well, I have only once or twice come across as convincing a total interpretation of it.

As for the subordinate parts, Norman Kelley, substituting on short notice for Ramon Vinay, who was ill, gave the role of Herod a mincing, epicene quality that was quite effective; Mack Harrell, as Jochanaan, sounded louder in the cistern, where I presume he used a megaphone, than he did aboveground, where he had some difficulty competing with the brass; Blanche Thebom sang well enough as Herodias; and at least one of the less important performances — William Wilderman's First Nazarene — seemed to me outstandingly good. Dimitri Mitropoulos owed himself to be the perfect conductor for this tempestuous score.

Mr. Mitropoulos, to my mind, did not do as well in the preceding item on the evening's double bill — a revival of Puccini's completely enchanting little comic opera "Gianni Schicchi." I found his reading of it disjointed, often exaggerated, and generally lacking in suavity and humor. It was pleasant, however, to renew acquaintance with the deft comedy and the occasional passages of jewel-like lyricism in this work, and Fernando Corena's impersonation of the title role was at least funny enough to infect the audience with a great deal of spontaneous mirth.

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