[Met Performance] CID:189960

New Production

Un Ballo in Maschera
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, January 25, 1962

Debut : Nello Santi, Judith Chazin, Ita Maximowna

Un Ballo in Maschera (75)
Giuseppe Verdi | Antonio Somma
Leonie Rysanek

Carlo Bergonzi

Robert Merrill

Jean Madeira

Anneliese Rothenberger

Bonaldo Giaiotti

Luben Vichey

Calvin Marsh

Andrea Velis

Robert Nagy

Judith Chazin [Debut]

Ron Sequoio

Richard Zelens

Nello Santi [Debut]

Günther Rennert

Ita Maximowna [Debut]

Thomas Andrew

Un Ballo in Maschera received eight performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Review 1:

Review of Robert Sabin in the March 1962 issue of Musical America

The Metropolitan's new production of Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" proved a brilliant success in every department. Nello Santi, who made his debut at this premiere, is an authoritative conductor who loves Verdi and makes sure that every strand of the score is firmly integrated. The ensembles were a joy in their solidity and clarity, and the solo arias were impeccably framed and shaded.

Ita Maximowna, one of the most sensitive and imaginative of contemporary designers, had provided beautiful sets and costumes, including a last act rococo opera theatre interior that was one of the most sumptuous spectacles ever to grace the stage of the Metropolitan. This was her first work for the House. May she do many! Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had made the production possible, had every reason to be gratified.

Gunther Rennert's production, too, was exciting, and full of original touches. Typical was the [first scene], in which the courtiers sing their tribute to the sleeping king in a darkened, shuttered room. As the monarch enters, the shutters are thrown open, admitting the splendor of the morning sun and symbolizing the brightness of his presence. Ulrica's den was on a wharf instead of in an improbable cavern.

Another typical Rennert touch was the staging of the trio of the conspirators in Act II, Scene 2 (which is in Renato's mansion in the Metropolitan version in three acts of two scenes each). "Dunque l'onta di tutti sol una" is one of Verdi's grandiose clichés, so Rennert answers it in kind by bringing his conspirators forward, hand in hand.

Of the superb cast, all but Mr. Merrill, Miss Madeira and Mr. Marsh were new to their roles at the Metropolitan. "Un Ballo in Maschera" is full of marvelous things. Nothing is more fascinating than the music of Riccardo. And how beautifully Mr. Bergonzi sang it! Here is an artist of fine taste, discernment and thrilling delivery. He sensed Verdi's masterly contrast of the contradictory facets of Riccardo's character and mirrored them in his singing and acting.

Like Mr. Bergonzi, Miss Rysanek reveled in the vocal and dramatic possibilities of her role, and never has her voice sounded more glorious, or has her acting been more compelling. In the tremendous monologue which introduces Act II, Scene 1, she captured every shade of anguish, terror and resolution, and her love duet with Riccardo was unforgettable. Most moving of all was her heartbreaking singing of Amelia's plea to see her son once more, "Morro, ma prima in grazia." Seldom in the theatre does one encounter such a combination of beauty, intelligence and musicality. The final phrase sent shivers down one's back.

Mr. Merrill was in superb vocal form. The "Eri tu" would have been even more exciting, however, if Mr. Rennert had gotten him to contrast more vividly the first section (an outburst of fury and thirst for vengeance) with the second (an expression of tender remembrance).

Mr. Rennert gave full play to Jean Madeira's flamboyant temperament in the role of Ulrica, and I, for one, enjoyed it. The music is unashamedly melodramatic and sensational, and it should be performed in that spirit. Furthermore, Miss Madeira has the kind of voice the role requires, with huge volume, wide range and dark, rich coloring.

Miss Rothenberger's Oscar implanted this charming artist even more deeply in my affections. The part was not written for a bird voice or a bird brain, and she rightly treated its coloratura aspects as a subordinate element. Technically brilliant, emotionally effervescent, she made this role the important facet in the action that Verdi intended.

The others were also admirable. A special word of praise should go to the chorus, which was equally impressive at pianissimo and fortissimo. Thomas Andrew showed great tact in subordinating the dancing in the last scene to action. His solution was very effective. It was a banner evening and the explosive ovations were richly deserved.

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