[Met Performance] CID:208010

New Production

La Gioconda
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, September 22, 1966

Debut : William Mellow

La Gioconda (197)
Amilcare Ponchielli | Arrigo Boito
La Gioconda
Renata Tebaldi

Franco Corelli

Biserka Cvejic

Cornell MacNeil

Cesare Siepi

La Cieca
Mignon Dunn

Russell Christopher

Robert Schmorr

Norman Scott

Nicola Barbusci

Paul De Paola

William Mellow [Debut]

Sally Brayley

Robert Davis [Last performance]

Fausto Cleva

Margherita Wallmann

Beni Montresor

Zachary Solov

La Gioconda received twenty-two performances this season.

Production a gift of The Metropolitan Opera Guild

Review 1:

Review of Winthrop Sargeant in the New Yorker

I should term Beni Montresor's and Margherita Wallmann's "La Gioconda" entirely splendid. Its first showing took place last Thursday night. Though some of its sets - particularly in Act I -were a little disorienting to those acquainted with the geography of Venice, the spirit of the place was admirably conveyed. Mr. Montresor had created an ideal background for the affluent, frivolous and murderous seventeenth-century society with which "La Gioconda" presents us. During the overture, a series of projections on scrim showed us first a market scene near the Campanile, next the Piazzetta (or something like it) and finally a scene suggesting at once both the exterior and the courtyard of the Doges' Palace. The ship in the second act did not blow up (the one disappointment) but merely emitted a little smoke. The Ca' d'Oro interiors of Act III were extremely lavish, with four half-nude female statues holding chandeliers, and the Giudecca scene of Act IV, looking out over the lagoon, was appropriately grim and dilapidated.

Renata Tebaldi sang the title role and provided two surprises. Her singing did not in any way show the defects that I have noticed for the past several years. She had recovered her voice completely and sang as well as I have ever heard her - which is saying a great deal. The second surprise was her acting. Miss Tebaldi has always heretofore had a tendency toward reserve in her stage demeanor. This time she was as passionate and uninhibited a Gioconda as anybody could wish. Franco Corelli sang opposite her as Enzo. He is still not the most cultivated tenor in the world, and he had a good deal of trouble with his pianissimos and in mezza voce, but when he sang out, there was that magnificent vocal organ that makes Corelli buffs swoon - a voice unequalled today, as far as I know, for power and brilliant edge. Just by way of swank, he began his "Cielo e mar" with his back to the audience. Cornell MacNeil made a superb Barnaba, villainous to the eye and eloquent to the ear. From both the singing and the acting points of view, he seems to be becoming a logical successor to the late Leonard Warren, and his physical build is handsomer than Warren's was. Mignon Dunn's La Cieca was one of the finest I have encountered -large and rounded in tone and knowing in matters of phrase. Cesare Siepi, as Alvise, was not in good voice. For the first time, I heard this polished artist sing flat during an important aria. Biserka Cvejic was, I am afraid, not outstanding in the role of Laura. Her voice was breathy, insecure at the top and afflicted here and there by a tremolo.

For the third act, Zachary Solov had choreographed a fairly decent "Dance of the Hours" ballet, but operatic ballet, when it is not a simple nuisance, seems every so often to go wrong in one way or another. This time the principal male dancer stumbled about the stage in an outrageous manner and several times nearly let the female star fall to the floor. The effect was a satire on ballet, and the occurrence was roundly booed by the audience. The veteran Fausto Cleva conducted the performance with authority and coherence.

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