[Met Performance] CID:243930

La Traviata
Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, January 13, 1976

Debut : Sarah Caldwell

La Traviata (622)
Giuseppe Verdi | Francesco Maria Piave
Beverly Sills

Stuart Burrows

William Walker

Cynthia Munzer

Charles Anthony

Baron Douphol
Robert Goodloe

Marquis D'Obigny
Gene Boucher

Dr. Grenvil
Edmond Karlsrud

Constance Webber

Abram Morales

Glenn Bater

Patricia Heyes

Ivan Allen

Jeremy Ives

Sarah Caldwell [Debut]

Alfred Lunt

Cecil Beaton

John Butler

Stage Director
Fabrizio Melano

La Traviata received fourteen performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times

All of the principals in Tuesday night's "Traviata" at the Metropolitan were appearing in that Verdi opera for the first time in the house. There was Beverly Sills as Violetta. There was Stuart Burrows as Alfredo. There was William Walker as Germont.... And, above all, there was Sarah Caldwell in the pit.

Miss Caldwell, it need not be stressed, has become America's newest culture hero. In Boston she has her own opera company, where she stages and conducts. Recently she led the New York Philharmonic in a concert of music by women composers. Tuesday she was the first woman ever to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera, which admittedly has been a rather conservative organization since it opened in 1883. When the conductor made her appearance, many in the audience rose to greet her. It may have been more than coincidence that the greatest number of risers were women.... Everybody seemed to like her conducting, as well they should. It was well-organized, it was brisk but not pell-mell in tempo, it was accurate in rhythm....

Above all, Miss Caldwell stressed clarity. The instrumental articulation in the accompaniment to "De' miei bollenti spiriti" was a case in point. Not often have the figurations been so clearly etched. Another characteristic was an avoidance of emotional heaviness. Miss Caldwell demonstrated that she felt the music - the drama of the last act was eloquent testimony - but she did not find it necessary to carry on high.

The singing last night was variable. Miss Sills had a great deal of pitch trouble in the first act. Later on she was closer to the note, but even there, one's enjoyment of her performance depended in large part on one's tolerance to pitch deviations. As expected, she presented a convincing dramatic realization of the role, progressing from vulgarian at the [Act I] curtain to the pathetic object at the end.

Mr. Burrows is a refined artist who was miscast as Alfredo. Perhaps he had a cold; his lyric voice did sound husky. But it also was clear that he was forcing at times for a bigger sound than is really his; and that the basic timbre of his voice is more Mozartean than Verdian. The best singing of the night came from Mr. Walker, who was a sonorous, lyric Germont. He also is as dependable an actor as he is a singer.

Review 2:

Review of Herbert Kupferberg syndicated from New York City

Sarah Caldwell's 'Traviata'

Despite Problems, She Clearly Takes Command

Sarah Caldwell's conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in Verdi's "La Traviata" was probably the most resounding triumph a woman performer has scored since Billie Jean King clobbered Bobby Riggs in a somewhat different art form.

For many years now, the 47-year old Miss Caldwell has been presenting imaginative and creatively original operatic productions with her own Opera Company of Boston, and lately she's been doing guest performances in other cities too. But the Metropolitan is the country's - maybe the world's - most renowned opera institution, and it's never before had a woman conductor. So it was no surprise that an avid, eager capacity audience - including a sizable delegation from Boston - was on hand to welcome Miss Caldwell with a preperformance ovation as she climbed to the conductor's stand.

What's more, they were still cheering at the end, because Miss Caldwell demonstrated, as she so often has in Boston, that she's a woman with musical ideas who knows how to put them across, as well as a conductor with the capacity to control and shape a performance. Whether "La Traviata" - that passionate story of a romantic young man in love with a dying Parisian courtesan - is made to order for Caldwell's talents is another question. Meticulous as it was, her conducting gave a rather subdued musical portrayal of high society goings-on in mid-nineteenth century Paris. For all the admirable clarity she brought to Verdi's score, she did not exactly imbue it with unbridled passion.

Vocally, at least, her singers didn't throw themselves into their parts either. Beverly Sills, singing her first Met Violetta, gave, as she always does, a convincing stage picture, portraying vividly a woman who feels both life and love slipping from her grasp. But her voice was sometimes edgy, and she never poured out those richly romantic tones inherent in the music. Stuart Burrows was a rather lightweight Alfredo, pleasant enough to hear but without much tenoristic lushness. William Walker, substituting at the last minute for an indisposed Ingvar Wixell, made for a sonorous, but stiff, Giorgio Germont.

But in spite of all problems - and of a stage production that is beginning to look a bit tacky - Sarah Caldwell conveyed an impression of being a commanding personality in the opera house. In Boston, of course, she creates and stages her own productions as well as presiding over them on the podium. But in New York, so far, her talents have been divided. The New York City Opera has let her stage two operas - "The Young Lord" and "Ariadne auf Naxos" - without conducting them. Now the Metropolitan Opera is having her conduct "La Traviata" without staging it. Perhaps the next thing to do would be to give her a production of her own -planning, staging, and conducting - and let her put it all together.

Photograph of Beverly Sills as Violetta in La Traviata by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

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