[Met Performance] CID:107080
La Traviata {171} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/16/1931.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 16, 1931 Matinee


LA TRAVIATA {171}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Violetta................Rosa Ponselle
Alfredo.................Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Germont.................Giuseppe De Luca
Flora...................Minnie Egener
Gastone.................Giordano Paltrinieri
Baron Douphol...........Alfredo Gandolfi
Marquis D'Obigny........Millo Picco
Dr. Grenvil.............Paolo Ananian
Annina..................Philine Falco
Dance...................Rita De Leporte
Dance...................Mildred Schneider
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

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

Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun

Rosa Ponselle in 'La Traviata'

Singer as Violetta Gives New Interpretation of Verdi's "Lady of the Camellias."

For the benefit of the Florence Crittenden League, Rosa Ponselle released her long-heralded Violetta in "La Traviata" yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House. Customarily, no comment is made on benefit performances. But this was an exceptional case, and the revelation of Miss Ponselle's conception of Verdi's lady of the camellias assumes the dignity of a news event. The impersonation began with much promise. There was a hectic gayety in the banquet scene and, in the resolute rejection of love's lure, an abandon verging on desperation. But even in this first and best scene the new Violetta betrayed her defects.

Miss Ponselle's voice is quite well enough suited to the music. It is not a heroic organ, but rather a lyric one with dramatic power and color. One can hardly fancy it in Isolde or Bruennhilde, but singers who have successfully sung those roles have also been admirable as Violetta. Miss Ponselle's version of the part was one which in the hands of a woman of genius might have been triumphant. There are well-established traditions of "La Traviata" and a genius might throw them overboard with impunity. But the risk is not to be taken lightly.

Miss Ponselle elected to disregard the fact that Verdi's music in this opera is essentially lyric. It was conceived on the lines of sustained cantabile with smoothly flowing phrases and nicely balanced rhythm. The eminent soprano endeavored to make every number passionately emotional by introducing methods verging closely upon the declamatory. She modified the melodic flow of "Ah, fors e lui" by spasmodic utterances. She took the "Sempre libera" at an exceedingly swift pace. She dragged out the [beginning] measures of "Dite alla giovine" till they were cold and heavy. She sobbed and struggled and panted and even talked in some of the subsequent scenes. She indulged in violent contrasts between piano and forte, making explosive transitions from one to the other.

Her first act was her best. Her last was her weakest. Her attempt at transforming Verdi's plaintively pathetic conception into hard-breathed tragedy was most unfortunate. But throughout the opera she made it clear that she was sincere in her conviction that a compelling interpretation of Verdi was to be accomplished by the means she had chosen. There was never any evidence of empty search after superficial effect. Her mistake was in the attempt to escape the well defined limitations of the style. This music demands a perfect preservation of the melodic line, fastidious balance of phrase, accuracy of rhythm and a substructure of elegant legato. Verdi's music lays bare the soul of his Violetta; it has to be sung as he wrote it. These demands were not always apparent to commentators of the forties and, fifties, who thought the music strenuous and in places even violent. We moderns have met sterner stuff and we enjoy better perspectives.

Miss Ponselle's chief associates were Mr. Lauri-Volpi as Alfredo and Mr. de Luca as Garment. They did things which they have done before and as they did them before. The audience doubtless enjoyed the performance and probably would have bestowed much applause upon it if the obstreperous claque had ceased its uproar long enough to permit it.



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