[Met Performance] CID:259700

La Gioconda
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, November 29, 1979

Debut : Bruna Baglioni, Jocelyne Taillon, James Courtney, Terry Emanuel

La Gioconda (247)
Amilcare Ponchielli | Arrigo Boito
La Gioconda
Grace Bumbry

Carlo Bergonzi

Bruna Baglioni [Debut]

Mario Sereni

Paul Plishka

La Cieca
Jocelyne Taillon [Debut]

Gene Boucher

Andrea Velis

James Courtney [Debut]

Herman Marcus

William Mellow

Paul De Paola

Suzanne Laurence

Jane Muir

Marcus Bugler

Terry Emanuel [Debut]

Jack Hertzog

Giuseppe Patanè

Beni Montresor

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Norbert Vesak

Stage Director
Bruce Donnell

La Gioconda received ten performances this season.

Revival a gift of Fredric LeVine

Review 1:

Review of Robert Jacobson in the March 1980 issue of Opera News

Returning to the world of grand opera, the Met revived Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" with, to steal from Pirandello, two Giocondas who are not Giocondas. (See December 28). The first night (Nov. 29) seemed too much like six characters in love with a prompter, so little did they relate to one another or manage to push the emotional temperature much above freezing. As a soprano, Grace Bumbry has a big voice, but one without voluminous sound. Unsupported in the upper middle, empty at midrange and yelled on top (where the tone seemed skimmed off rather than real), she had a tendency to wobble at all dynamic levels. Her pushed vocalizing, combined with unsympathetic acting of this hapless creature, left a large hole in the middle of the proceedings.

As Laura, debutante Bruna Baglioni revealed a smallish, brightly focused mezzo with little impact for the Act II aria and duets, while another debutante, Jocelyn Taillon, sounded shaky and mushy as La Cieca. Mario Sereni lent a choked, colorless baritone to Barnaha, acting not at all, and Paul Plishka made a sonorous, uneventful Alvise. So it was left to veteran Carlo Bergonzi, despite some shortness on top, to lend the right Italianate flavor to things with his brand of style and action. Giuseppe Patané, whose "Gioconda" proved so splendid at his debut a few seasons ago, appeared affected by his cast and so less involved, though he knows how to pace while mixing passion with detail. Bruce Donnell's direction did not always sort out the opera's chaotic happenings with alacrity, and Norbert Vesak's choreography for the "Dance of the Hours," busy and meaningless, tried to attempt an uneasy mixing of seria and buffa figures.

Review 2:

Review of Patrick J. Smith in Opera

The United States seems the only place left where the rumbustious fustian of Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" is ever put on view. Given first class singing, the opera still generates an excitement, probably because of its melodramatic libretto by the master Bono, although the music is stretched very thin over the Meyerbeer length of the evening.

The performance at the Metropolitan Opera (November 29) was presented in the "grand-opera" manner, by which I mean emphasis on full-throated emotion at the expense of any subtlety. Giuseppe Patané's conducting was smartly purposeful. Grace Bumbry's soprano, in the title-role, was heard loud and clear, after a somewhat veiled start. If her acting, and that of her colleagues, recalled the glorious days of opera as semaphore waggles and fists smote to brows, it seemed appropriate for this work. Carlo Bergonzi (no surprise) brought the most sense of style to the proceedings as Enzo, although the voice must now be carefully handled, and although he delivered "Cielo e mar" and much of the rest of the role as if singing a recital. Jocelyne Taillon made an acceptable Cieca; Bruna Baglioni a strong, if dry-voiced. Laura. Paul Plishka was his usual sonorous self as Alvise. Mario Sereni, as Barnaba, was miscast - his voice is a lyric baritone forced into a dramatic mode, and his stage presence is negligible.

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