[Met Performance] CID:186000

Opening Night {76}, Metropolitan Opera Premiere, New Production, General Manager: Rudolf Bing

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, October 24, 1960

Debut : Bonaldo Giaiotti, Günther Rennert

Nabucco (1)
Giuseppe Verdi | Temistocle Solera
Cornell MacNeil

Leonie Rysanek

Eugenio Fernandi

Rosalind Elias

Cesare Siepi

Carlotta Ordassy

High Priest
Bonaldo Giaiotti [Debut]

Paul Franke

Thomas Schippers

Günther Rennert [Debut]

Teo Otto

Wolfgang Roth

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

Nabucco received fourteen performances this season.

Production a gift of the Metropolitan Opera National Council

Review 1:

Review of Robert J. Landry in Variety

Met Excavates Verdi's 'Nabucco' As Opera Opens Sans Shenanigans

The noisy Russian bears having decamped the east side of Manhattan, greatly relieving the traffic jam, capitalism's fat cats of culture were able comfortably to proceed Monday (24th) in their limousines to the Metropolitan Opera opening. Always it is the 39th Street entrance, with the east-to-west motor flow, which is the principal press ambush. Here, too, in previous years there were occasional displays of expensive vulgarity. But not this time. Mr. K. seems to have given bad manners a bad name in the town.

Basically the news of the 1960 opening is just this: Another Verdi opera, "Nabucco," composed in 1942, makes six Verdi works in the Met repertory to four Puccini, three Wagner, two Mozart, two Strauss and seven scattered. The tickets were priced at an all-time high of $45, which produced a night's gross of $91,482.

With politeness in vogue, nobody seemed to mention, or even to think about, the future Lincoln Center, possibly because the many delays there created a mood of hazy bye-and-bye. In the same connection, who's worrying what happens to the present Met when the company moves? Destruction of this structure will be disastrous for New York because it will create a culture monopoly which is anything but desirable. Meanwhile in the here and now, the premiere audience distinctly enjoyed "Nabucco," however stilted the libretto about the Jewish captivity in Babylon. With this never-before production, the Met's Rudolf Bing competes with the American Opera Society, the Little Orchestra and several other groups as a musical archeologist.

"Nabucco" is tough on the soprano, Leonie Rysanek, who is up-and-down the breakneck steps and the break throat scale without ever having a very comfortable aria. In a smaller role, Rosalind Elias was happier. Two of the participants were reminders of other talents, Cornell MacNeil clearly being the Met's hoped-for answer to the loss of Leonard Warren and conductor Thomas Schippers definitely its response to the Philharmonic's Leonard Bernstein.

"Nabucco" is a choral opera, with a number of fine massings of voices. Not the least of its impressions on this first viewing is the Germanic staging of Gunther Rennert, here in debut from Hamburg. Certainly Rennert is a man of pronounced theories about and a firm hand with stagecraft. His groupings are surely more expertly handled than often the case in opera. Notable were the few, deft moves to form a pyramid picture at one point, the close-packed movement of the captives, and most of all the distribution of the figures on the mound for the sotto-voce chorus opening the third act. The scenery was meager of ideas and budget.

The definite emergence of MacNeil as a stellar baritone of the company, the strong pitmanship of Schippers and the fresh vigor of staging by Rennert dominated the premiere. As to whether this early Verdi is a great opera, that will be an academic debate among the PhD's of music. As staged, as directed, as sung, it was a strong and somewhat daring presentation. For average taste it will pass as great grand opera, rich in melody and no more awkward in libretto than the run-of-repertory.

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