[Met Performance] CID:209660

Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, March 7, 1967

Review 1:

Review of Conrad L. Osborne in the Financial Times

In the past month, two dynamic conductors have applied themselves to late Verdi masterpieces: Zubin Mehta has led the series of "Otello" performances at the Metropolitan (with two separate casts of principals), and Leonard Bernstein has conducted the "Requiem" in a 100th birthday salute to Toscanini.

Neither first effort was very successful, but Mr. Mehta did have a string of performances which allowed him to settle into the score. His first performances were with a cast headed by Montserrat Caballé, James McCracken, and Tito Gobbi. and the one I saw (the second) was, frankly, pretty poor. Mr. Mehta gave the impression of one of those actors who tears into a cold reading without having first ascertained the meanings of words or the basic situation of the scene; he seemed to have no plan. The great score galloped by in disjointed frenzy, the climactic moments failing because they had not been prepared. Obviously, he was willing to commit any sin in order to avoid that of boredom; but there is nothing so boring as unstructured activity.

The production is no help. Eugene Berman's sets and costumes are the least interesting he has done for the Met, and the staging, never more than solid, old fashioned routine, is now nothing but a gesture, an indication, of what is in the work. The chorus is handled in a hopelessly tired, untheatrical manner, and such contributory episodes as the Cassio/Montano duel are downright unprofessional - how can the Metropolitan allow players of such roles to perform them season after season without learning a basic fencing posture, or how to hold a sword?

The evening's chief pleasure for me was the Iago of Tito Gobbi. It is wrong to say that it is well acted in any high sense, for a really convincing Iago would be founded on the proposition that the character must persuade everyone of his honest concern and trustworthiness, save when he is alone in the "Credo," whereas Mr. Gobbi is constantly showing us what a sly, nasty, conniving fellow he is. But what a pleasure to watch someone who is so thoroughly a man of the theatre, who makes the stage his native métier, who instinctively responds to all the imponderables of a stage situation. It is not only that he knows how to suggest things with a turn, an inclination of the head, a way of walking, but that he knows the theatrically effective

thing to suggest. I never quite took it seriously, but 1 watched with endless fascination and enjoyment.

Of Mr. McCracken's Otello, familiar in London and New York., little need be said, It is still intense and moving, though the voice seems increasingly baritonal, and one longs tor the clear ring, the singing line, of a real Italian "tenore di forza." The Desdemona of Miss Caballé was simply not interesting. The voice constantly makes the same, incessant, pretty sound, too small for such roles at the Met, and she shows no histrionic or temperamental gifts for such an assignment; her place in the drama was unoccupied. As Cassio, we had an inexplicable import named Ermanno Lorenzi (inexplicable not because he was less than competent, but because he seemed merely an adequate comprimario, brought across for nothing but this role).

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