[Met Performance] CID:103900
Don Giovanni {78} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/2/1930.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 2, 1930


Don Giovanni............Ezio Pinza
Donna Anna..............Rosa Ponselle
Don Ottavio.............Beniamino Gigli
Donna Elvira............Elisabeth Rethberg
Leporello...............Pavel Ludikar
Zerlina.................Editha Fleischer
Masetto.................Louis D'Angelo
Commendatore............Léon Rothier

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Review of Oscar Thompson in The New York Post

Before an audience that included the last admittable standee, Rosa Ponselle had her belated "Don Giovanni" triumph last night at the Metropolitan. After Norma, Donna Anna seemed the inevitable next step in the career of the opulently endowed soprano. Some talk had been heard of Isolde, but Miss Ponselle has yet to undertake a German, much less a Wagnerian role. Donna Anna, whatever the stages of Central Europe may do to alter it, is an Italian role if of that classic character Miss Ponselle first essayed in the Julia of Spontini's "La Vestale," the part which may be regarded as having prepared her for both Norma and Donna Anna.

The American soprano's first Norma silenced every doubt with regard to the Bellini part. Her name was added forthwith to the roll of the few who in the course of a century had won really notable success in the character Lilli Lehmann declared more difficult that all three Bruennhildes. She was not just a singer who had essayed Norma. She became one of the historic Normas.

But Donna Anna? Could as much be expected of her in this other and perhaps even more exacting of the great traditional test parts for the dramatic soprano-the dramatic soprano equipped for heroic coloratura? The answer that had been promised for the last week in November was made last night;, but only in part, for the singer did not, as in "Norma," give the impression of having similarly developed the role to the fullest for her first performance. Her Donna Anna had moments that were as notably fine as her Norma, and she sang well in many others that fell short of equal success only because they had in them something of the tentative, even of the cautious. Though the voice lacked something of its old tonal beauty, it was singing better, just as singing, that it was as a vocal embodiment of the vengeful daughter of the Commendatore.

For once, Miss Ponselle was sparing of volume. She did not err on the side of strenuosity of dramatic accent, She seemed chiefly concerned with projecting her phrases cleanly, accurately and with an earnest effort to encompass the Mozartean style. In large degree she accomplished these ends; and by so doing she put a new face upon the entire performance-perhaps most of all in the ensembles. The stupendous recitative preceding "Or sai chi l'onore" was disappointing. It lacked weight, intensity, finality, and the singer did not succeed in maintaining the sense of musical and dramatic continuity necessary to tie together the bitter exclamatory utterances. The succeeding air, if also unexpectedly lacking in volume, had more of dramatic bite, and its troublesome concluding phrases were gratefully free of the hit-and-miss character more often theirs than not.

"Non mi dir" was more nearly the apparently unattainable "Non mi dir" that the singing orchestra forecasts, but which voices never fully attain, than any other in the experience of this reviewer. It was lovely of tone in the Larghetto and easy of delivery and clean cut in the bravura of the Allegretto, with the last rapid variation on the word "pieta"-which too often is little more than indicated clearly and musically delineated. As a characterization, this Donna Anna was by no means nondescript, but it should be a more definite personage as additional performances enable the singer to cast off some obvious restraints. She is not likely to overdo, with the care of Mozart's music upon her.

Of the others in the cast-identical with previous performances, save for Miss Ponselle-there is no need to speak anew. Mr. Serafin in some details increased the snap of his orchestra, but the scenes of the specter again lacked their due measure of sepulchral emphasis.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

Rosa Ponselle added another opera portrait last night to her list of notable acievement when as Donna Anna in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan Opera House she roused her audience to demonstrations of enthusiasm which recalled the legendary days of the opera gods of the past generation. Such singing as she accomplished in a role far removed from the vocal and dramatic style to which she is accustomed was something of a revelation even to her most ardent admirers.

In the typical Italian roles with which Miss Ponselle has been identified she has often-legitimately, perhaps-employed her unique voice in a style occasionally mannered, toying with grandiloquent phrases and reveling in the sheer beauty of a mellow flood of tone. Last night she consecrated herself wholeheartedly to the very essence of the Mozartean tradition, never projecting herself out of the picture, always maintaining an aristocratic elegance of line, an aloof distinction and a careful coordination of vocal and dramatic elements with the performances of her associates.

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