[Met Performance] CID:106910
Lucia di Lammermoor {147} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/3/1931.

(Debut: Lily Pons

Metropolitan Opera House
January 3, 1931 Matinee


Lucia...................Lily Pons [Debut]
Edgardo.................Beniamino Gigli
Enrico..................Giuseppe De Luca
Raimondo................Ezio Pinza
Normanno................Angelo Badà
Alisa...................Minnie Egener
Arturo..................Alfio Tedesco

Conductor...............Vincenzo Bellezza

Director................Armando Agnini
Set designer............James Fox
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Lucia di Lammermoor received eight performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

Tumultuous applause and cheering were evidences of the pleasure of the audience when Lily Pons, the young French coloratura soprano, made her American operatic début in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House. Much curiosity had been aroused about this début. It was learned on the morning of the day of Miss Pons's appearance that strong men had burst into tears when she sang at the Metropolitan rehearsal. There were all sorts of stories and rumors concerning her artistic capacities set in motion in advance of her appearances. These ancient methods of creating paper values in artists should be relegated to the dark ages of American opera from which they came, for they do a young singer much more harm than good, and in the end help her not at all to establish a real position or enduring fame. It is to Miss Pons's great credit that she overcame this handicap in a large measure and that, so far at least as her public reception yesterday was concerned, she had a reception more brilliant than any young Metropolitan singers since the day that Marion Talley, also a coloratura soprano, made her début in the same theatre. Is the fact ominous as well as significant?

The climax of Miss Pons' performance and reception came after the "mad scene." In earlier moments, applause had not been so strenuous or widely distributed. It now crashed from all parts of the auditorium, instead of from selected places. Earlier Miss Pons had not gained full control of her powers. Limitations of technique and experience beset her. A young and serious musician, in her early twenties, she was ill at ease and not equal to the situation. In the "mad scene" the voice was warmer, more brilliant and surer than it had been. Sustained E-flats, which, if they were a little fuzzy, were real tones which carried, added greatly to the excitement. The personality of the singer evidently gave pleasure. The audience wished to make the most of her, and did so.

These are among the facts of yesterday's performance. When the province of the music reviewer as well as reporter is entered, Miss Pons is a much more interrogative figure. What will her future be, the future which no one prophesy after the performance?
Certain things are obvious, notwithstanding the tumultuous ovation, which, like other tumultuous ovations that have rung from Metropolitan rafters after debutante performances of the past may be tomorrow non-existent and forgotten in the snows of yesteryear. Miss Pons is not, and will not be, a Patti or a Tetrazzini. Her voice has range and freshness when it is heard at its full value, and not marred by faulty breath-support or vibrato. Certain passages yesterday were sung with marked tonal beauty and emotional color. In the "mad scene" some of the bravura passages were tossed off with a hint of the virtuoso spirit that this thinly glazed music demands. In other places the singer was not so fortunate. Although an artist should not be judged in any conclusive way by one appearance, or by singing accomplished under special nervous strain, these same circumstances do show the degree of mastery that they have in reserve to meet trying moments. Naturally, Miss Pons has not yet this mastery. She has not had enough experience of opera and the voice naturally opulent and brilliant enough to cover up technically weak spots. What impressed this writer yesterday was less what Miss Pons accomplished than what she may accomplish.

Her mad scene was a foretaste of full-fledged virtuosity. Some of the phrases of "Regnava nel silenzio," and also of the duet in Act 1 showed that warm beauty and expressive quality can be attained and sustained with this voice, given the right development and technical groundwork. With certain capacities, which are rather those of hard work than a great voice or genius, much can be done. Miss Pons gave the impression of sincerity, intelligence, ability to work. She never did a cheap thing, barring those pyrotechnical displays expected in this opera, and when possible subjected technical display to musical expression. As an actress she is stiff and in communication, unconvincing. Her song tones varied too much in quality between registers, and some wavering intonation was due, apparently, not to intonation badly conceived but to a lack of clean focus and deep support of the tone. There was brilliant singing of staccato passages, which sound difficult and are among the easiest technical feats of the coloratura singer. It was in sustained song, most often, that Miss Pons fell short.

There will be more to say of her when she appears in other rôles in the near future. The other features of yesterday's performance do not call for extended report. Mr. Gigli, when he did not force or attempt to produce a bigger tone than that which is naturally his, had of course the finest voice on the stage. But when one remembers the beautiful singing of Edgardo's music by more than one of hie predecessors it is not possible to wax enthusiastic over his style of yesterday. Mr. de Luca as Ashton was in poor voice. Mr. Pinza made more of Raimondo's music than is common. Mr. Bellezza conducted.

Review by W. J. Henderson in The New York Sun

Lily Pons, a soprano leggiero from France, made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera House Saturday afternoon, singing the name part in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor." Miss Pons proved to be a much needed addition to the company and the Metropolitan once again possesses a light soprano who may be counted on to continue the active existence of certain old operas with heroines of fragile character and delicate utterance. Miss Pons is several years under thirty, slender and prepossessing, if not strikingly beautiful, gifted with a voice of pure and pleasing quality and a technic far above the slovenly average of today.

The demonstrations of approval were badly marred by a vociferous and tasteless claque, but there could be no question that the well-seasoned hearers among the occupants of stalls and boxes recognized the advent of a young singer of more than ordinary promise. Miss Pons disclosed a voice of the range (about two and a half octaves) required for "colorature" rôles, of good volume and generally well delivered. The tones were forward even to the top of the scale. The breath control when at its best was substantial and the singer in numerous places showed ability to "spin" tone, as the old masters called it, with skill. The attacks were clean, direct and accurate for the most part, though at times the soprano seemed very cautious in beginning a phrase. But on the other hand there was never any violence in attack, which is a rare merit in this day.

The legato was well sustained and there was evidence of an excellent command of the messa di voce. Miss Pons betrayed some nervousness in the first few measures of "Regnava nel silenzio," the entrance air of Lucia, but soon recovered her composure. In this air there was a momentary disturbance of the legato in the descending runs, but the applause which followed the number encouraged the young singer so that her "Quando rapita" was very well done. But of course there were other evidences of nervousness and some of technical uncertainty. She sang her share of the famous sextet admirably, and her voice carried well over the ensemble. Her final D flat was a trifle below pitch, but this was merely a slip, for her true intonation proved to be one of her valuable musical assets.

She sang the mad scene well, but failed to establish the mood. It was an old-fashioned parade of vocal accomplishments that she gave rather than a presentation of Donizetti's demented heroine babbling pathetically in her tragedy. The cadenza with the flute was delivered with beauty of tone, elegance of phrasing and exquisite observance of melodic line, but there was no great brilliance in it. The young lady was not over hasty with her "Spargi d'amaro pianto," which would hardly have compelled one to obey its plea. 'Shed thou a tear of sorrow." But it was a piece of finished singing. She concluded the scene with a clear and well sustained high E flat.

Miss Pons has already done much. She is evidently a musician and an artist of taste and refinement. That she did not convey an emotional thrill is not at all remarkable. Only two Lucias within the memory of this writer have done that-Gerster and Sembrich. Miss Pons is far from being in their class or even in that of the more brilliant and less affecting representative of the unhappy Scotch lassie. Let us hope she will not be killed by absurd publicity. She made herself very welcome and she will doubtless prove quite as pleasing in some of the other incarnations of the sacrificial virgins of opera. The demonstrations made by the disinterested auditors of Saturday afternoon-burried, as we have noted, by the offensive claque-were doubtless evoked by the astonishment and delight of an assembly which found on the Metropolitan stage a new singer who could actually sing.

The soprano was in goodly company. Mr. Gigli treated the audience to a generally discreet and lyric Edgardo and showed himself bon camarade in his attitude toward the debutante. Mr. De Luca was not in good voice, but got through the role of Ashton on his routine. Mr. Pinza made more of Raimondo than is usually made of that dignified old gentleman. Mr. Bellezza conducted with ability.

Review of Oscar Thompson in The New York Post

Lily Pons, Mr. Gatti-Casazza's newest coloratura soprano, made her American debut in "Lucia" at the Metropolitan Opera House Saturday afternoon and was prodigiously applauded. If success is to be gauged by the number of curtain calls taken alone or with other artists, hers was exceptional. Whether the young French singer is to make a more lasting mark than that left by a young American who created a much greater initial flurry remains for her subsequent performances to show. Her first appearance, applause and recalls aside, was that of a gifted but uneven vocalist, who had youth, good material and a feeling for style in her favor; one for whom the right sort of development might open the inviting possibilities far beyond her present achievements.

Coloratura worthy of the name is such a rarity in the opera of the day that poised and musical singing which legitimately meets the requirements of such showpieces as the "mad scene" without technical concessions and evasions is likely to seem more sensational that it is. Miss Pons elevated this air to the key of F, yet had the high notes and the skill to encompass both its altitudes and its fioriture without awkwardness or undue sense of effort. It was her best singing-much better than in the Sextet or the earlier scenes. The quality of her tone was variable and at the outset was beset with a vibrato that indicated insecure breath support, possibly attributable to nervousness. The singer gave the impression, however, of complete assurance. One of her assets would seem to be taste in the treatment of ornament. She avoided showy tricks, other than those that Donizetti wrote into his music. Her bravura was musically fashioned; her legato, when the vibrato permitted, was an attribute of good style.

The voice, on first hearing, left the impression of being an ordinarily good one, unusual chiefly as to compass. She sang very high, ascending to F in Alt, in legitimate note, not bird whistles or falsetto, and with rather more volume than these topmost notes ordinarily possess in voices of this character. Not all were squarely attacked and some tended toward the wiry. But they were at her sure command and they had solidity, even when the breath support seemed dubious. Some scale passages were tender, some brilliant. Vibrato left the ear somewhat in doubt as to her trill. If the singer's acting suggested nothing outside of ordinary routine, it was competent. It is understood that before she took up an operatic career, as recently as three years ago, she had appeared on the spoken stage in Paris. Another role may give more evidence that this contributed something definite to her stature as an artist of the theatre.

Others in the performance were Beniamino Gigli, who effaced himself gallantly before the curtain, but sang Edgardo with no reluctant display of voice; Giuseppe de Luca, whose Ashton seemed seriously affected by the weather, and Ezio Pinza, whose virile voice resonantly denied the white beard of his grandfatherly impersonation. Vincenzo Bellezza conducted.

Backstage photograph by Wide World Studio of Vincenzo Bellezza, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, Lily Pons, and Beniamino Gigli.

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