[Met Performance] CID:205540

Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, February 25, 1966

Debut : Reri Grist

Il Barbiere di Siviglia (306)
Gioachino Rossini | Cesare Sterbini
Nicolae Herlea

Reri Grist [Debut]

Count Almaviva
George Shirley

Dr. Bartolo
Fernando Corena

Don Basilio
Giorgio Tozzi

Gladys Kriese

Gene Boucher

Andrea Velis

Peter Sliker

Silvio Varviso

Cyril Ritchard

Eugene Berman

Stage Director
Patrick Tavernia

From February 19, 1954 until 1/23/71, the selection sung by Rosina in the Lesson Scene was Contro un cor, the aria originally written by Rossini for this episode.
Il Barbiere di Siviglia received fifteen performances this season.
Photograph of Reri Grist as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Louis Mélançon.

Review 1:

Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times
Opera: Bel Canto Attempts a Comeback at the Met
Tomfoolery Redeems “Barber of Seville”’ Clear-Voiced Shirley Lends Spiritedness

One always attends a performance of Rossini's “Barber of Seville" — or any bel canto opera — with a certain amount of trepidation. Hardly anybody these days has any grounding in the tradition. Either singers attempt to sing the notes as written, which is entirely in opposition to the composers' intent; or they simplify, which immediately makes the music sound flat; or they get ambitious and try to sing with virtuosity, blurring scales and getting all mixed up.

Last night, "The Barber of Seville" returned to the Metropolitan Opera. Vocally it demonstrated the pit into which bel canto opera has fallen. No singer in the cast could really handle the coloratura writing, though there was one interesting attempt. Nobody really had the beauty of tone, the long line, the nuance, the shaping of vowel sound and the precision of diction that marks the bel canto style. This cannot be blamed on the Metropolitan Opera. No company anywhere in the world today has singers trained in this style.

Nevertheless, as "Barber" performances these days go, last night's had its compensations. In George Shirley there was a clear-voiced tenor who was youthful, spirited and ardent. In Fernando Corena there was the outstanding buffo in action today (and the greatest scene stealer in the history of opera). Mr. Corena is a slapstick artist, but on a transcendent level, and when he and that other old pro, Giorgio Tozzi, get on the stage at the same time, each trying to upstage the other, life suddenly becomes more pleasant.

For this kind of tomfoolery is implicit in Rossini's irrepressible opera. Corena and Tozzi think Italian and act Italian, in gesture, speech, movement. They are wonderful. It is where an alien hand enters the proceedings that this production of "The Barber of Seville" falls flat on its Rossini. Such a moment, for instance, occurs at the end of the second act. Cyril Ritchard's staging here is derived more from the Follies of 1927 than from opera in the Rossini style. Such hectic, unidiomatic, busy-busy motion! Such flat attempts at humor!

Two new singers were in the cast, in major roles. Reri Grist made her debut, singing Rosina. There was a good deal to admire about her work. She is bewitching on stage—pert, beautiful, a wonderful ingenue. She and Mr. Shirley made a handsome team, and it appears to be the first time the Metropolitan Opera has had two Negro singers appearing in leading roles in the same opera.

Miss Grist made a brave stab at the role. She constantly interpolated her own cadenzas, and difficult ones they often were. But whether because of the pressure of her debut, or whether she really is not equipped for elaborate coloratura work, she did have her troubles. Her voice was not in proper focus, sounding breathy and unsupported. On the other hand, she did indicate she had a voice of good size, coupled to a great deal of temperament. She is a most attractive singer who comes over the footlights in strong fashion, and it may be that in future performances she will resolve the technical difficulties that held her back last night.

Nicolae Herlea sang his first Figaro at the house. He acted well and sang competently. There might have been greater control in the running passages; but, then again, real Rossini baritones are not around. Other newcomers to the cast, all in small roles, were Gladys Kriese as Berta, Gene Boucher as Fiorello and Andrea Veils as the Sergeant. Silvio Varviso, the conductor, also was new. He kept things together, and little more.

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