[Met Performance] CID:220120

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, January 10, 1970 Matinee Broadcast

Review 1:

Review in the Hofstra Chronicle

Tebaldi and Konya Sing 'Tosca' at Metropolitan

A few seasons ago, Renata Tebaldi, prima donna assoluta and renowned Tosca, decided the time had come. And at the next performance of the Puccini melodrama Floria, Tosca donned a new outfit in the second act, designed by Peter Wrigley and paid for by the soprano. Management may have gotten the point, and last season the remains of the antiquated "Tosca" production, (which already had been "redesigned" in 1955) were replaced with new settings by Rudolf Heinrich.

According to "Opera News," that bastion of information, Heinrich's creations "attempt to mirror the social structure of the opera's period" (Rome, 1800). Unfortunately, the accent falls on the first word, and if the sets mirror anything, it is the Met's budget and a designer's paltry imagination. The first set, and the prominent scaffolding gives one the ridiculous impression that Mario is repainting the Sistine Chapel. As the main aisle to the high altar is placed extremely far downstage, the entire "Te Deum" procession filters by haphazardly, partly unnoticed, partly out of step and mostly very sloppy. Musically, the situation was similarly unsatisfying, as the Scarpia, sung by Cornell MacNeil was frequently inaudible (though under Francesco Molinari-Pradelli's baton, neither chorus nor orchestra were reaching any stupefying dynamics). The baritone's second act, however, was powerfully sung, his characterization brutal and never attenuated by undue elegance.

In the second and third act sets were merely acceptable, the costumes proved attractive, and Miss Tebaldi will undoubtedly find no reason to threaten with a return of the Wrigley creation. Director Otto Schenk arrived at his "Tosca" ideas partly through the reversals of tradition, and thus Tebaldi made her initial entrance in a peach and yellow gown, minus the usual plumed hat, without a cane and bearing a solitary rose. The effect was primavera like and charming, though whether Tosca, vain diva that she is, would go anywhere, especially to a cathedral, without being dressed to the teeth, is questionable. And she would certainly never present the Madonna with one little flower, as evident from her aria, "Vissi, d'arte" in which she expressly points out that she brought flowers, rare gifts and jewels to her Madonna. Tosca was not one to take chances.

Miss Tebaldi sang the aria with insight, and unlike her many colleagues, did not find it necessary to lie on her stomach (an athletic feat of dubious merit started many decades ago by Maria Jeritza). But the remarkable impact of her Tosca is not achieved solely though arias or duets, but rather in the handling of the smallest - to many sopranos insignificant - phrase and nuance, which receives caressing treatment. The subtle eroticism of mere words such as "Mario, mio" is conveyed with the most floating tone imaginable, while just the entrance to "Non la sospiri" is a study in musicianship. The longest duet could not equal the emotion of the short interchange consisting of exactly 22 words between Tosca and her Mario just after his final torture and preceding his "Vittoria" outburst.

Her Mario, Sandor Konya, equaled his partner in both lyric and dramatic aspects, while looking most attractive in his finely tailored brown and tan costume. In the first act he handled his temperamental Tosca with the humor that so many tenors tend to lack, and from the first duet there was a rapport between Konya, Tebaldi and audience that is rare indeed. The tenor's outburst of "Vittoria" on a high A sharp, abetted by brilliant staging, had a chilling impact, while "O dolci mani" demonstrated fine phrasing and tone.

Gene Boucher and Robert Schmorr were the capable Sciarrone and Spoletta, agents of Scarpia, while Clifford Harvout appeared in the ungrateful role of Cesare Angelotti. Of course, Fernando Corena had waddled in for the first act to present his, by now, classic Sacristan. Franceso Molinari-Pradelli seemed to breathe with the singers, and the orchestra, aside from some dreadful intonation in the cellos, during the prelude to Mario's last act aria, played with the vitality that Puccini's melodrama warrants.

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