[Met Performance] CID:270060

La Gioconda
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, September 25, 1982

La Gioconda received eleven performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Lou Cavetillo in the Gannett Westchester Newspapers

Amilcare Ponchielli's grand opera, "La Gioconda," is the prototype of operatic exaggeration. Anything that can happen in an opera, happens sometime during the four acts of this extravaganza. It combines all the excesses of drama with a score that is as stirring as it is splendid, both orchestrally and vocally.

Although Ponchielli is remembered for this solitary work, he is nonetheless revered due to the creation of the difficult prerequisites of the title role. Only the greatest dramatic sopranos have survived the role of La Gioconda. There have been scores of pretenders for this treacherously difficult role, but only a handful remain as greats in the annals of opera.

Saturday evening the Metropolitan Opera presented latest and newest Gioconda, Eva Marton. Since there is no record of Miss Marton having performed "La Gioconda" before Saturday, one can safely assume this was one of the first of her career, if not the first.

Eva Marton came to the attention of the operagoers last season when she costarred with Birgit Nilsson in "Die Frau ohne Schatten." Miss Marton, who has made most of her career as a soprano in the German wing, was hardly a candidate to cross over into the Italian repertory, which is sadly lacking a major, dramatic soprano. And, when it was announced she was to sing her first Gioconda in the Met this season, the feelings were that she had neither the temperament nor the idiomatic grasp of the Italian sector. Well, after Saturday night there should be little doubt the Met and the operatic world have a new sterling Gioconda. Miss Marton all but stole the show from the rest of her cast. She sang this demanding rule as if it were a ditty. Her intensity of voice as well as drama, made this the most memorable Gioconda since Renata Tebaldi sang it at the Met in the late '60s.

Miss Marton's voice is not only huge and expressive, but it has a full-bodied resonance and warmth. In her Act IV aria, "Suicidio," Miss Marton stopped the show cold with a storm of "bravas" and thunderous applause. For a moment the old magic was once more back at the Met. It was fun to hear the old sounds of audience hysteria for a great performance, instead of the mild applause that so often caps a performance in that house.

Perhaps the main reason for Miss Marton's success in adapting to the Italian style was the expert conducting of Giuseppe Patane. Patane is clearly the most outstanding conductor in the Italian wing of the Met today. He conducted Ponchielli's score with concern for not only the voices and the ensemble but for the orchestral colorations that are crucial for a thoroughly enjoyable performance of this work. Patane always kept the momentum of this performance in hand and refrained from charging the volume of the orchestra to the point of being overbearing. It's a shame we don't have more of Patane in the Met's pit. (An interesting sidelight to Patane's performance is that the orchestra members showed their approval and respect for him by shuffling their feet, when he arrived in the pit. This is the classic way by which an orchestra shows respect for an exceptional conductor. That sound is currently not being heard when other, more publicized conductors take the podium.)

Placido Domingo sang the role of Enzo Grimaldo with lyric beauty. His voice had its best moments in the lyrical passages and there were times that the hefty passages of this role eluded him. However, he looked wonderful as the young nobleman and as usual gave a dramatically credible performance.

As his Laura, mezzo-soprano Bruna Baglioni offered some very attractive vocal moments in Act II and Act IV. Miss Baglioni seemed to catch the excitement being generated by Miss Marton and in the Act II duet, "L'amo come il fulgor," she and Miss Marton created a sensation of emotion and sound.

Bianca Berini sang the contralto role of La Cieca, Gioconda's mother with moderate success. Her mezzo voice is too light to fully master the lower resonance of this role. Her sound was too youthful for the role of the old woman and there were times that her production was hampered by a slight wobble.

The Alvise for this performance was Ferruccio Furlanetto, who did little with this role vocally or dramatically. His voice sounded throaty and forced and his acting bordered on being disinterested.

As the villain Barnaba, baritone Cornell MacNeil was just a shadow of his vocality of years gone by. MacNeil still has a sizable voice and the Verdian quality is still in evidence, but the fullness and beauty of his once glorious baritone are now a thing of the past. Dramatically, MacNeil is a pro. He managed to compensate for his vocal failings with a well-planned approach to this vile character. His rage in the final moments of the opera was frightening.?

The Beni Montresor production, which premiered the second night of the '66-'67 season (the first season in the New Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center), is still attractive, but many of the original costumes worn by Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli in '66, were destroyed in a fire in one of the Met's warehouses. The new costumes were simply not of the calibre of the originals.

"La Gioconda" is an exquisite work of exceptional beauty. Certainly the plot lacks realism and true character delineation, but considering the high calibre of conducting and singing, especially by Eva Marton, this is one opera not to be missed this season.

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