[Met Concert or Gala] CID:206150

Gala Farewell
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, April 16, 1966

Gala Farewell

Metropolitan Opera House
April 16, 1966
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds

Final performance by the Metropolitan Opera Company
in the Metropolitan Opera House at Broadway and 39th Street


Tannhäuser: Entrance of the Guests
Leopold Stokowski, Conductor [Last appearance]

Presentation of Honored Guests
Osie Hawkins, Master of Ceremonies


Marian Anderson
Rose Bampton
Giuseppe Bamboschek
Richard Bonelli
Karin Branzell
John Brownlee
Anna Case
Mario Chamlee
Eugene Conley
Richard Crooks
Vilma Georgiou
Hertha Glaz
Nannette Guilford
Frederick Jagel
Helen Jepson
Raoul Jobin
Alexander Kipnis
Charles Kullman
Marjorie Lawrence
Lotte Lehmann
Martha Lipton
Giovanni Martinelli
Edith Mason
Ruth Miller
Nina Morgana
Patrice Munsel
Irra Petina
Lily Pons
Elisabeth Rethberg
Stella Roman
Bidú Sayao
Risë Stevens
Gladys Swarthout

Lucia di Lammermoor: Sextet
Anna Moffo
Carlotta Ordassy
Arturo Sergi
Charles Anthony
Justino Díaz
William Walker

Un Ballo in Maschera: Eri tu
Robert Merrill

Otello: Sì pel ciel
James McCracken
Anselmo Colzani

Don Carlo: Ella giammai m'amò
Cesare Siepi

Conductor...............Francesco Molinari-Pradelli

Louise: Depuis le jour
Dorothy Kirsten

Carmen: Quintet
Regina Resnik
Thelma Votipka [Last appearance]
Marcia Baldwin
Paul Franke
George Cehanovsky [Last appearance]

Madama Butterfly: Un bel dì
Licia Albanese

Conductor...............Max Rudolf

Die Walküre: Winterstürme
Jon Vickers

Der Barbier von Bagdad: Heil diesem Hause
Fernando Corena

Conductor...............George Schick

Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fà
Roberta Peters

La Forza del Destino: Non imprecare
Delia Rigal [Last appearance]
Jan Peerce
Giorgio Tozzi

Conductor...............Silvio Varviso

La Gioconda: L'amo come il fulgor del creato!
Régine Crespin
Biserka Cvejic

Il Trovatore: D'amor sull'ali rosee
Leontyne Price

Manon Lescaut: Vieni Colle tue braccia
Renata Tebaldi
Franco Corelli

Conductor...............Fausto Cleva

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prize song
Sándor Kónya

Götterdämmerung: Immolation Scene
Birgit Nilsson

Conductor...............Joseph Rosenstock

Aida: Act II, Scene 2
Aida....................Mary Curtis-Verna [Last appearance]
Radamès.................Kurt Baum [Last appearance]
Amneris.................Jean Madeira
Amonasro................Mario Sereni
Ramfis..................John Macurdy
King....................Norman Scott
Dance...................Edith Jerell
Dance...................Patricia Heyes
Dance...................Harry Jones
Dance...................Donald Mahler

Conductor...............Zubin Mehta

Director................Nathaniel Merrill
Designer................Robert O'Hearn
Choreographer...........Katherine Dunham

Così Fan Tutte: Farewell Trio
Teresa Stratas
Mildred Miller
Frank Guarrera

Die Zauberflöte: Quintet
Mary Ellen Pracht
Joann Grillo
Gladys Kriese
George Shirley
Theodor Uppman

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf

Vanessa: Quintet
Eleanor Steber [Last appearance]
Mignon Dunn
Blanche Thebom
John Alexander
Clifford Harvuot

Conductor...............Kurt Adler

Der Rosenkavalier: Final Trio
Montserrat Caballé
Judith Raskin
Rosalind Elias

Andrea Chénier: Final Duet
Zinka Milanov [Last appearance]
Richard Tucker

Faust: Final Trio
Gabriella Tucci
Nicolai Gedda
Jerome Hines

Conductor...............Georges Prêtre

[Following the final number on the program, the entire company returned to the stage to join the audience in singing Auld Lang Syne as a musical farewell to the old Metropolitan Opera House. Note: The Honored Guests, with the exception of Karin Branzell and Gladys Swarthout, who were seated on the parterre level, were seated on stage during the performance]

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the April 30, 1966 issue of the Saturday Review
The Night The Old Met Died

ALMOST ANYTIME a person of prominence in the annals of opera has died in these last decades – a Caruso, a Chaliapin, a Toscanini or a Bruno Walter – it has been sagely said, and with some justice, that it marked "the end of an era." What is there left to say, then, when the place in which these and hundreds more spent some of the most productive years of their lives, itself dies? Only, perhaps, that it marks the end not of an era, but of an epoch which by dictionary definition, marks "a moment of time when a varying quantity had a certain given value .. . ."

For, whatever else Metropolitan Opera may be in its new home in Lincoln Center next fall, it will be different from what it has been in the old house to which an audience and a company of performers who could truly be called "gala" bade farewell with cheers, tears, regret, relief, pride and perhaps a sense of guilt in mid-April. There were as many emotions as there were spectators – not to say performers. And some of the deepest on this Saturday night belonged no doubt to those who were not present to share the moment of time and relive the second of it which belonged to them – Geraldine Farrar, Lauritz Melchior, Helen Traubel. They could not, for one reason or another, make the journey as "Honored Guests" to breathe the dusty old air for a final time and hear the echoes of the cheers they once enjoyed.

But there were some forty who did, and after a tolerable amount of confusion in getting the evening under way – the starting of the last night in the old Met was, like the first, half an hour late-they filed in, alphabetically from Anderson, Marian to Stevens, Rise, and took chairs placed about the stage – set which, for this segment of the evening, appropriately was the Wartburg (Hall of Song) scene from "Tannhäuser." Even in the manner of their reception there was a curious kind of back-reference to the time each had spent on this stage: when Richard Crooks entered, the tenors in the chorus seated on the stadium-tier set applauded with extra vigor; when the great Boris and Hagen, Alexander Kipnis, strode in, all the bassos stood up. There was but a patter of applause for some half forgotten conductor of the past, but a tidal wave of greeting for Elisabeth Rethberg. and a roar for the still leonine Giovanni Martinelli. Patrice Munsel had her moment, looking on the verge of a debut rather than in the has-been class. And when Lotte Lehmann, proudly erect beneath her years, came forward, everyone stood up.

What followed was, true to the surroundings, like a gaudy complex of all the operas ever written, dreamed up from the choicest morsels of Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Rossini, Puccini, even Giordano and Ponchielli. The first "act" might have been called, in the fashion of “ La Gioconda,” "In bocca al lupo" ("Into the mouth of the wolf,") the Italian term of good wishes for a performer about to make a debut. In addition to singing to an audience which had paid $290,000 to be present and was determined to have its money's worth, the performers in this first "act" were singing to their peers of the past, seated all around them. Thus, Robert Merrill performed his "Eri tu" not so much to the visible audience out front as to Richard Bonelli, his youthful idol, behind him. And when Licia Albanese launched into "Un bel di" it was against the critical ear not of some contemporary journalist, but of such perfectionists in Puccini as Rethberg, Sayao, Martinelli and Crooks. For Dorothy Kirsten, the "Depuis la jour" she performed (more beautifully than anything she had sung on this stage in a twenty-year span) was not for her alone, but also for her benefactress, Grace Moore. She sang it well enough for both.

As a program, this one was overlong, unimaginative, and full of devoirs to company convenience – too many solos by performers of marginal importance, snippets (such as the “Quintet” from” Carmen” with a Carmen – Regina Resnik, who had never sung the role in this theater) to discharge a debt of obligation, perhaps, rather than to purchase a memory, which could have been better marshaled to truly "gala" results. One may mention, by contrast, a similar occasion of the Nineties in which the Soldier's Chorus from “Faust” enlisted as participants: Melba, Calve, Jean and Edouard de Reszke, Plançon, Maurel, Campanari and a dozen others of similar repute

What redeemed it, in spite of its lumpy contrivance, was the natural competitive impulse it aroused among those who had something to compete with. It was a kind of mammoth “Meistersinger” prize song competition to experience the portion of “Act II” which presented, in almost dazzling succession, Leontyne Price singing beautifully “D’amor sull’ ali rosee” from “Il Trovatore,” Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli flexing vocal muscles in the second-act duet from “Manon Lescaut,” even the Prize Song itself spun into a lovely web of tone by Sándor Kónya. And, as a kind of epic summation of all that had preceded, Birgit Nilsson (wearing in pride the gold spray of bay leaves that had been presented to her great Swedish predecessor Christine Nilsson on the night in '83 when the Metropolitan was opened) performed the "Immolation Scene" from Götterdämmerung.

As tends to be the case with many an opera, the second act finale was also the artistic climax of this one. Unlike the excerpt from "Gioconda," which erupted some moments before with Régine Crespin and Biserka Cvejic into what is known in some circles as deci-“bel canto” or the strident effort of Corelli to prove that Puccini's des Grieux was really Radames in another costume – Nilsson worked solidly, steadily to a crux of artistic effort in which she held not only the stage but the attention of the audience for the fifteen minutes Wagner required to extol his hero. It was an exceptional instance of artistry in an evening in which the ordinary was intolerable, the superlative average and the exceptional available only to a very few.

It was verging on midnight when the last "act" began, and the marathon effort unfortunately reminded us that there were Metropolitan nights when even the best-dressed stage for the Triumphal Scene of “Aida” brought forth, not Price and Corelli, but Mary Curtis-Verna and Kurt Baum, as this one did. There followed a series of "farewells" operatically derived from “Così” (Stratas, Miller, Guarrera ), "Rosenkavalier" (Caballé, Raskin, Elias) and finally, the closing scene of “Faust” (Tucci, Gedda, Hines) to end the last night as the first one had. Along the way, the newest "retired" artist, Zinka Milanov, returned to reprise a part of her farewell performance of “Andrea Chénier” (it had taken place a few days before and was with Richard Tucker as this one was) and received what was generally esteemed as the most fortissimo of all the evening's ovations. Then, on a crowded stage of singers old and new, front of the house and backstage personnel, a mass chanting of “Auld Lang Syne.”

So passed an epoch of opera in New York – "a moment of time when a varying quantity had a certain given value. . . ." It passed though Leopold Stokowski used the opportunity afforded by his invitation to conduct the open*ing “Tannhäuser” march to harangue the audience to "Save this beautiful house"; it passed though Licia Albanese all but kissed the stage floor as she patted it affectionately; it passed as conductors from Molinari-Pradelli to Rudolf to Schick, Varviso, Cleva, Rosenstock, Mehta, Leinsdorf, Kurt Adler and Prêtre exchanged batons, in relay team formation, from one group of excerpts to the next. For where the company goes, there also go the standards. The given value, in this oddly inconvenient, unquestionably difficult and withal unforgettable place was the power of the human voice, to arouse, to excite, to inspire. Whatever it may be in the next arena, it will be different. If we are fortunate, it will be as good; if we are thrice blessed, it will be better. But it will be, as Rudolf Bing said in his blissfully short but effective words of greeting, "a future to which the Metropolitan can look forward with confidence." That is written in the stars, human as well astrological, under which, as one epoch ends, another begins.

Search by season: 1965-66

Search by title: Gala Farewell,

Met careers