[Met Performance] CID:180450

La Gioconda
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 11, 1958

Debut : Scott Douglas

La Gioconda (180)
Amilcare Ponchielli | Arrigo Boito
La Gioconda
Zinka Milanov

Richard Tucker

Nell Rankin

Robert Merrill

Giorgio Tozzi

La Cieca
Belén Amparan

George Cehanovsky

Alessio De Paolis

Norman Scott

Louis Sgarro

Calvin Marsh

Robert Nagy

Lupe Serrano

Scott Douglas [Debut]

Fausto Cleva

Désiré Defrère

Set Designer
Antonio Rovescalli

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Costume Designer
Mathilde Castel-Bert

Alexandra Danilova

La Gioconda received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Robert Sabin in the January 1, 1959 issue of Musical America

A handsome new ballet by Alexandra Danilova did much to brighten up the Metropolitan's dilapidated production of Ponchielli's "La Gioconda," which had its first performance of the season on this occasion. It served to introduce Scott Douglas, one of the new guest soloists, to the Metropolitan audience, and Mme. Danilova had provided him with some brilliant opportunities to display both formidable technique and polish of style.

Lupe Serrano, his fellow soloist, also had a glittering role, and the corps was used effectively. Mme. Danilova has not put as heavy an accent on the sinister contrast of light and darkness as did Zachary Solov, but she has worked out a lively ballet along sound traditional lines. (Incidentally, she should not obscure Mr. Douglas' dazzling series of entrechats at the close of his solo by having other figures pass in front of him, but this can easily be remedied.)

The company acquitted itself brilliantly and the ballet deservedly enjoyed the major ovation of the evening. Mme. Danilova, stunningly gowned in red, shared a bow with Miss Serrano and Mr. Douglas.

Two of the singers were new to their roles at the Metropolitan. Robert Merrill was heard as Barnaba, and Robert Nagy as one of two Singers. It will be better to wait until Mr. Merrill has sung the role of the melodramatically vicious spy several times, to judge what he can do with it. At this first appearance he was obviously ill at ease, and although his rich voice made itself felt, his performance as a whole was dramatically pale and vocally cautious. There is only one way to perform this part-with all the stops out - and this requires supreme assurance and flamboyant virtuosity.

Zinka Milanov has always sung the title role of this opera in the grand manner, and there were many phrases in this performance that were breathtaking in curve, sustained line, and tonal roundness-especially the piano and pianissimo phrases. There were others, notably in the "Suicidio!," that revealed effort and that were not perfectly focused. But, all in all, this was singing of genuine format and grandeur of style. As to Miss Milanov's costume, make-up, and acting, these are matters that her admirers accept as a matter of course.

The entire "Gioconda" production is extremely seedy. Désiré Defrerè's stage direction was not very imaginative in the first place, and the production looks as if no one had bothered about it for decades. The stone walls are full of wrinkles and waver at the slightest touch or draught. Some of the costumes may have been cleaned but most of them look as if they would fall apart if roughly handled. And the whole stage picture has overtones of Mme. Tussaud's.

"Cielo e mar" has always been one of Richard Tucker's showpieces, and he sings the whole role of Enzo with both passion and artistry. Nell Rankin was a vivid Laura, but her naturally beautiful voice could sound far better than she allowed it to on this occasion, with her forced and hectic singing.

The role of Alvise presents no vocal problems to Giorgio Tozzi, but he does not make the character cold, proud, and cruel enough to carry conviction. We all know that Mr. Tozzi is one of the most likable artists at the Metropolitan, but he should make us hate him in this role, as Ezio Pinza did. Belen Amparan has the volume and flexibility of voice for the role of La Cieca, but she should sing it with more authority and presence. Other familiar figures in the cast were George Cehanovsky (Zuane), Calvin Marsh (A Singer). Alessio De Paolis (Isepo), Norman Scott (A Monk). and Louis Sgarro (A Steersman).

Fausto Cleva conducted with unflagging zest and authority. Obviously he has a profound affection for this score which remains an extremely effective local showpiece for all its fustian.

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