[Met Performance] CID:121480
Aida {414} Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/15/1937.


Cleveland, Ohio
April 15, 1937

AIDA {414}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Radamès.................Frederick Jagel
Amneris.................Bruna Castagna
Amonasro................Carlo Morelli
Ramfis..................Chase Baromeo
King....................Norman Cordon
Messenger...............Giordano Paltrinieri
Priestess...............Thelma Votipka
Dance...................Daphne Vane
Dance...................William Dollar

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

Review of Elmore Bacon in the Cleveland News

"Aida" Is Another Triumph In Met's Opera Coup Here

Aida, the biggest showpiece among the operas, drew a crowd of 7,750 to the Metropolitan Opera performance at Public Hall last night.

It was an enthusiastic crowd, too, with the usual percentage of top hats and gorgeous gowns.

Last night's attendance boosts the mark for the first four days of the opera season to 33, 951. Thus, Cleveland keeps right on breaking Metropolitan opera records.

The crowd's enthusiasm was easy to understand. There was a fine cast of singers, a succession of stunning stage pictures, exceptional ballet dancing, beautiful music and an absorbing story of love triumphant in death. All of it was synchronized with Metropolitan skill.

"Aida" has a distinction not claimed for many other operas. Giuseppe Verdi, who wrote it, got $20,000 for it. And in those days, back in 1873, that was a lot of money. Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt, commissioned the great Italian composer to write it in honor of the [inauguration] of the Grand Opera House in Cairo.

And maybe the knowledge that he was to get a goodly sum for it spurred Verdi onto higher endeavor. At any rate this story of the love of an Egyptian princess is one of the most beautiful and spectacular operas of his creation.

Perhaps it would have been just as well to call it "Amneris" as "Aida." Amneris sung last night by Bruna Castagna, holds about as important a place in the tragedy as Aida.

Elisabeth Rethberg, formely a star of European opera halls, was the Aida. Frederick Jagel, well known in Wagnerian roles, was the Radames. The rest of the cast was equally strong. Chase Baromeo being the wily Ramfis, high priest, Carlo Morelli, the Amonasro, king of the Ethiopians, and Giordano Paltrinieri the messenger.

Norman Cordon, a newcomer to the Met ranks, was a most successful king, and Thelma Votipka, Cleveland girl, pleased again in the role of the priestess.

As usual with "Aida," the triumphant entry scene was spectacular in the extreme. Radames didn't return from his victory on the back of an elephant, as he has in some productions, and he didn't ride a horse either. However, the returning soldiers, the captives, the blaring brasses, the brilliant costumes and the colorful scenic investiture, coupled with the stirring music, made a thrilling scene.

Pawn of Love and Hate

Aida, as sung by Mme. Rethberg was the simple, loving dark-hued girl, the pawn of the love and hate of the crafty Amneris. Mme. Rethberg sang the part beautifully. Her voice, of golden warmth, was used most artistically, but it lacked something of power, excepting in the occasional higher notes. In the portrayal of the part, especially in the Nile Scene when she induces Radames to flee with her, and in the entombment scene, she was most artistic.

Miss Castagna's resonant contralto has been heard here before. She gave to the part of Amneris an artistry that made it stand out. She was especially thrilling in the judgment scene, waiting to hear the fate of Radames at the hands of the priests. The effectiveness of this scene for those seated in the faraway reaches of Public Hall would have been enhanced if the priests had done their voting a bit louder.

Jagel was at his best last evening. And that means that he gave a thoroughly artistic performance as Radames. His clear, well-rounded tenor was particularly beautiful in that "Celestial Aida" heard so often. It won him an ovation.

Again in the entry scene where he wins the freedom of Amonasro and in the entombment scene with Aida his beautiful voice thrilled. His duet with Amneris in the judgment scene was beautifully done. Especially lovely, too, was his duet with Aida when the two sang of the delights they were to find in Ethiopia.

Cordon's King was of the proper dignity and vocally was a most artistic performance. His fine bass is a glorious instrument. And he has a commanding presence. Baromeo's bass was equally compelling. His High Priest was a fine portrayal.

Morelli was a properly tricky Amonasro. He was especially effective in the scene where he traps Radames with his daughter.

We always expect impressive scenic settings in "Aida." The temple picture was outstanding for its feeling of immensity. And in this Cordon and Jagel, with the chorus, were superb. The responses by the chorus in the early part were not loud enough for so large a hall.

The chorus in the triumphant entry scene was beautifully handled, Conductor Ettore Panizza, in this as in all the rest of the performance, directed with authority and restraint.

Not content with intriguing the eye, with spectacular scenic display, Verdi and his aides in the handling of the libretto put in some effective ballet offerings for good measure.

Particularly lovely was the dignified temple dance. The Nubian dance in the scene in Amneris' room was cleverly done too. The victory dance by Daphne Vane and William Dollar, with the assistance of all the rest of the dancers, was breathtaking. Such expertness is unusual. The solo dancers and the ensemble made a fitting addition to the oriental picture of voluptuousness and splendor.

Praise is due Fausto Cleva, chorus master, and Desire Defrere, stage director, for their fine contributions to the evening's performance. And did you notice those ancient Egyptians putting French heel prints in the dust of Thebes and the sands of the Nile.

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