[Met Performance] CID:110390
Simon Boccanegra {4} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 02/16/1932.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 16, 1932

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave/Arrigo Boito

Simon Boccanegra........Lawrence Tibbett
Amelia..................Elisabeth Rethberg
Gabriele Adorno.........Giovanni Martinelli
Jacopo Fiesco...........Ezio Pinza
Paolo Albiani...........Claudio Frigerio
Pietro..................Paolo Ananian
Maid....................Pearl Besuner
Captain.................Giordano Paltrinieri

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

Review (unsigned) in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin


Verdi Opera Introduced to Local Audience by Metropolitan Company

The Metropolitan Opera Company introduced another novelty at the Academy of Music last evening, when Giuseppe Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" was heard for the first time in Philadelphia as far as available operatic records go, its performance at the Metropolitan in New York on the 28th of last month having been announced as the American premiere. The actual premiere of the work, however, dates back to 1857, in Venice, four years after the production of the Italian composer's perennial "Il Trovatore." It was not a success then, being coldly received, nor was it regarded with much enthusiasm upon its second premiere in a much revised version, at La Scala, Milan, in 1881, when a trio of great male singers appeared in it: Victor Maurel, Edouard De Reszke and Francesco Tamagno, respectively as Boccanegra, Fiesco and Gabriele. The opera then was neglected for a long time, with only occasional performances in various parts of Europe, and seems never to have reached America until its recent presentation in New York.

In the ponderous and involved nature of its story, which has so many incidents, such a variety of happenings and so bewildering a succession of melodramatic situations that an understanding of the plot seems well-nigh impossible, the opera bears a resemblance - as at times in its score - to some of the earlier works of Verdi. "Trovatore" is brought to mind, even more so the later "Aida," although, on the whole, the music reflects the after developments of the composer's genius when, late in life, he surprised the musical world by revealing new powers in "Otello" and "Falstaff," the former of these in particular being foreshadowed in many parts of its score. The Metropolitan Company gives the work every advantage of massive and picturesque staging, splendid direction under the significant leadership of Tullio Serafin - whose fine work was recognized by last night's audience with ovational applause - and a cast which, especially notable in the appearance of Lawrence Tibbett in the title role, includes, as other leading members, Giovanni Martinelli as Gabriele Adorno, Ezio Pinza as Jacopo Fiesco, Claudio Frigerio as Paolo Albiani and Elizabeth Rethberg as Maria (or Amelia) Boccanegra. Mme. Rethberg made her first appearance in the soprano role last evening, Maria Mueller having sung it in New York.

It seems futile to attempt even an outline of the story of "Simon Boccanegra," except to mention that, as founded on the drama of Antonio Gutierrez, the libretto, written by Francesco Maria Piave and revised by Arrigo Boito, tells how Boccanegra, plebeian and pirate, in the Genoa of the early 14th century, was appointed Doge of the Republic and many years later poisoned, thus providing an affecting "death scene" for the final episode of the opera. Meantime there is a long-lost daughter, an abduction, several murders. intrigues and other intricacies of plot, with impassioned "love interest" and the ascension of Gabriele, lover of the Doge's daughter, Amelia, to the lofty position of the poisoned ruler, all providing more than a sufficiency of romance and dramatic incident for the most Verdian of grand operas. The romantic and picturesque appeal of the work is not to be denied, particularly in view of the enlightening effect of the music that accompanies and in many places uplifts it. There are moments of tameness, parts where the music lacks the vitality in certain passages of some of Verdi's other scores - such as those of "Rigoletto" and "Aida,"" or even of "Trovatore" - but there is a wealth of melodious and dramatic material in the orchestration, and, in the latter part of the work, most notably in the second act scene in the Council Chamber in the Ducal Palace, finely written ensembles that have the power not only to interest but to thrill.

Amelia's aria at the [beginning] of the first act has melodious appeal, as has the duet for soprano and tenor - between Amelia and Gabriele - in the same scene: Gabriele also has a good aria in. the second act, while there are numerous passages in which the exponent of the baritone title has real opportunities for rich and sympathetic vocal utterance. These opportunities Mr. Tibbett does not miss. His portrayal last night was quite the best he has given here. In stature, bearing and posture, as in the ease and dignity of his acting, he gave real meaning to the character, while his voice answered to every demand of the music in richness of quality as well as in a dramatic breadth and power that in some former roles he had not seemed to possess. Mr. Tibbett's performance, in fact, was outstanding and distinguished. Much of praise also may be spoken of Mr. Pinza's interpretation of Fiesco, in his skillful acting of the part and the pliant use of his sonorous and sympathetic bass, and of Mr. Frigerio's excellent singing as Paolo. Mr. Martinelli also did some good singing, as Gabriele, especially in the first act duet with Mme. Rethberg and in his second act aria, at times modulating his tones to a pleasing quality though, in his determination to make the most of the dramatic possibilities of his role, he showed his well-known tendency to over-act and to indulge in exaggeration of vocal expression. The Amelia of Mme. Rethberg was stately, graceful and appealing in the unforced effectiveness of her impersonation, while there was genuine artistry in her use of a voice of pure soprano quality, clear and rich in coloring and in power and range equal to all the requirements of the role. Several smaller parts were competently taken and the large chorus - with one or two off-stage passages in the real Verdi manner - gave of its well-trained best in the ensembles, which, as before mentioned, are most effective in the latter part of the opera.

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