[Met Performance] CID:121000
Madama Butterfly {243} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/8/1937.

(Debut: Franca Somigli

Metropolitan Opera House
March 8, 1937


Cio-Cio-San.............Franca Somigli [Debut]
Pinkerton...............Frederick Jagel
Suzuki..................Irra Petina
Sharpless...............Julius Huehn
Goro....................Giordano Paltrinieri
Bonze...................Norman Cordon
Yamadori................Wilfred Engelman
Kate Pinkerton..........Lucielle Browning
Commissioner............Wilfred Engelman

Conductor...............Ettore Panizza

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Joseph Urban

Madama Butterfly received three performances this season.

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

Franca Somigli In U. S. Debut at Metropolitan
Soprano. New York Native, Sings 'Madama Butterfly' In Its First Staging of Year
Frederick Jagel Opposite
Enacts Role of Pinkerton; Julius Huehn the Consul

The last debutante of General Manager Edward Johnson's 1936-37 roster made her first American appearance, and a Puccini opera was presented for the first time this season at the Metropolitan Opera House last night, when Franca Somigli sang the title role in "Madama Butterfly," with Frederick Jagel as the bigamous Pinkerton and Julius Huehn as the Consul. The newcomer singing for the first time publicly in her home town, was welcomed with applause of considerable fervor by a large and interested audience.

Miss Somigli, whose non-professional name is Marian Bruce Clark, is one of the not inconsiderable number of young American singers who have won an operatic reputation in Europe before becoming known here. She left New York, her birthplace, in 1926 for study in Italy, where she made her debut in 1927, later going to La Scala in Milan. She was one of the principals in the production of Verdi's "Falstaff" under Arturo Toscanini's direction last summer.

Better in Second Act

"Madama Butterfly," in which the protagonist must make her first appearance at the end of an off-stage solo, is not the easiest of operas for a soprano's debut, and Miss Somigli did not begin to do her vocal powers justice until the second act. In this, however, she offset to a noticeable extent the slightly inauspicious impression made by forced top notes in the previous scene, which could be assigned to traditional nervousness attending first appearances at the Metropolitan. Once warmed up, her voice proved to be of a very promising strength, and the high notes exhibited no little climactic power with notable firmness of tone.

Sometimes in such notes a certain hardness of tone was noticeable, but yet, at first hearing, the new soprano's voice seemed to be a very effective vehicle, while in action, she showed an understanding of the dramatic situation and an ability to illustrate it convincingly and with considerable intensity. This was especially noticeable at the time when Sharpless hinted at Pinkerton's perfidy, and when the return of his ship was announced. The quality of tone, if slightly unfocused on a few occasions, was generally warm and pleasing in the middle and lower notes after the singer had gained acquaintance with the acoustic conditions of the house, and there were ovations of marked warmth after "Un bel di" and at the close of the act.

Panizza Conducts

Mr. Jagel was in very commendable voice, and Mr. Huehn offered a praiseworthy interpretation as a sympathetic and solicitous Sharpless, while Irra Petina's Suzuki also merited favorable mention. Lucielle Browning and Messrs. Cordon, Englelman and Paltrinieri sang the other roles while the orchestra under Mr. Panizza's direction played with eloquence and a sometimes excessive sonority.
This was probably the first time in about thirty years that a Puccini opera has waited until the final fortnight for a first hearing of the season at the Metropolitan. Last year Puccini came in second in the order of representation, with five works given twenty-one times as against a probable 1936-37 score of two or three operas presented six or eight times.

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