[Met Performance] CID:193800

Cavalleria Rusticana
Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, April 1, 1963

Review 1:

Review of William Bender in the Herald Tribune

James McCracken Sings Canio Role in 'Pagliacci'

What James McCracken did was sing "Vesti la Giubba." He didn't shout it, or sob it, or gulp it. He sang it. He sang it with one of the finest dramatic tenor voices the Metropolitan Opera has had in some time. And it was grand.

This is by way of reporting that McCracken appeared last night in his first principal role (Canio in "I Pagliacci") at the Met since his stunning appearance March 10 as Otello in the company's fine new production of Verdi's great opera.

As the Moor, he was noble of bearing, proud of manner and truly a tragic figure. He was completely musical in the use of a large, excellent voice, strong as if been forged with the steel that abounds in his birthplace, industrial Gary, Ind. As Canio, he was believable as the extroverted leader of a touring group of players, yet he revealed the torment of a jilted lover.

Mr. McCracken, burly and robust, clearly takes time to study his roles. His Canio had many touches clearly his own, such as gestures and the like, He has an expressive face. Coupled with this fine acting is a voice that seems to have unlimited energy in reserve. Mr. McCracken, 35, has come a ways since he left the Met six years ago and bit role assignments.

"Pagliacci" also saw the first appearances at the Met of soprano Laurel Hurley as Nedda (fine singing and acting, although her voice was too light at times) and Roald Reitan as Silvio (well acted, but his light, pleasant baritone lost quality when forced).

In "Cavalleria Rusticana" the tenor Flaviano Labo was heard singing Turiddu, the swaggering ex-soldier whose romantic exploits bring him death at the hands of a jealous husband. Labo made good use of a strong, clear voice, especially in the behind-curtain serenade during the prelude. He has a tendency to shout at the beginning of phrases, however, and he could explore the expressive possibilities offered by more imaginative use of dynamics. Visually, his characterization left something to be desired. For one thing, he doesn't know what to do with his hands, like many opera singers.

It was the final performances of the season for "Cav" and "Pag," the traditional operatic twin-bill. Fausto Cleva conducted both works.

Review 2:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

McCracken Sings First Canio at Met

American tenor James McCracken as Otello sounds as if his inevitable destiny were to sing and act the title role in Verdi's great opera. We hope, however, that he will not turn out to be a monogamous tenor. Hearing his first Metropolitan Opera Canio in Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci" made us a little worried on this score.

His wig or his own hair - whichever it is - looked the same for both roles, stirring up a bad mental set to begin with. But much more serious, he sang too heavily throughout, resulting in a coarse quality on some high notes. They were like inserts of burlap on brocade.

By nature his voice is gorgeous like the rich color of a Rubens painting, and his male figure certainly emulates and exceeds the girth of the artist's fleshy females. But Rubens is consistent, on the same canvas at least, and McCracken was not so. His acting as the fiercely jealous actor, though intense, didn't even approximate the impact he projects as the tormented Moor.

Hurley as Nedda

Coloratura soprano Laurel Hurley, singing her first Met Nedda was miscast. Her "Ballatella"`bird song showed clearly that she should remain a coloratura and not try lyric roles, at least on the Met's gigantic stage which requires a more able-bodied quality than hers. She looked and acted convincingly, however.

Roald Reitan in his first Met Silvio proved adequate vocally but completely unconvincing as Nedda's lover. He behaved like a school boy trying to muster up courage for his first kiss. Fausto Cleva conducted the double bill which opened as usual with Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana."

Search by season: 1962-63

Search by title: Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci,

Met careers