[Met Performance] CID:122090
Il Trovatore {199} Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall, Hartford, Connecticut: 12/7/1937.


Hartford, Connecticut
December 7, 1937

Giuseppe Verdi--Salvatore Cammarano

Manrico.................Giovanni Martinelli
Leonora.................Gina Cigna
Count Di Luna...........Richard Bonelli
Azucena.................Anna Kaskas
Ferrando................Virgilio Lazzari
Ines....................Thelma Votipka
Ruiz....................Giordano Paltrinieri
Gypsy...................Carlo Coscia

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Mario Sala
Set designer............James Fox

Il Trovatore received five performances this season.

Review of Carl E. Lindstrom in the Hartford Times

Opera in Top Form Is Kaskas Triumph

Gina Cigna, Bonelli and Martinelli, Also Bring Distinguished Singing to a Satisfactory "Il Trovatore"

The perennial power of a good tune well sung was never exampled to better effect than in last night's performance of "Il Trovatore" by the Metropolitan Opera at Bushnell Memorial. Four acts and twice as many scenes brought a procession of arias, cavatinas and choruses which garlanded the choicest blooms in Italian opera; and the manner of their doing was best attested in the frequent punctuation by applause in mid-scene and curtain calls without which Italian opera is hardly quite itself. There was a common denominator in this performance the reduction of which makes it necessary to make Gina Cigna, Giovanni Martinelli, Richard Bonelli, Anna Kaskas, and all the others wait a moment for a complete examination of their success.

Martinelli Pauses

In the first scene of Act II at the conclusion of one of the most powerful arias of the opera, which had already been interrupted several times for applause, there was a spontaneous ovation for Azucena. Gennaro Papi lowered his baton and waited. It was really the veteran, Giovanni Martinelli, who waited, for the tenor was to take the next note on his own cue unaccompanied. The half reclining figure of the gypsy was motionless in spite of a demanding audience, and remained so. Martinelli would like to have seen her take a bow. There was every reason in the world, and one very special one, why she should. There was no bow and Martinelli took his next tone.

Regarding Opera

It has never been satisfactorily explained why such a thing as opera ever came into being in the first place or why it was neither killed nor cured by the great musicians who gave their best inspiration to a hybrid art. Wagner thought it was a legitimate form and only partially succeeded in substantiating his convictions; Verdi - and for the ten thousandth time it was proven that opera is Verdi - knew that a melody could triumph over any artificiality, any contradiction, yes any absurdity and live deathlessly even among an appreciative people who didn't know what the words meant.

It pleased Verdi to set a gruesome narrative to mazurka rhythm, to let a vindictive heart express its venom in waltz time, to let a troubled heroine pass the time of day spinning trills and cadenzas, to write choruses when it was time for a chorus regardless of plot and to worry not a bit if the plot didn't hang together very well anyway.
In the "Trovatore" period of his career he had surpassing faith in melody and he justified it resoundingly. Now from the singer's standpoint there are two ways to go about the matter: To sing sublimely and with sublime superiority to the dramatic implications of the piece; or to attempt to be dramatically authentic and use the voice as a part of the picture.

Two Methods

We had examples of both approaches last night. Martinelli and Cigna, the experienced and traditioned singers of Italian opera, went about their dramatic tasks with polished acting. but it was polished operatic acting which just isn't acting at all, but a formula having almost the sole virtue of leaving the voice reasonably free. Bonelli knew the tradition and had the experience but he is native to a country in which opera is not indigenous and he could not completely compromise with a conscience that wanted his stage business to mean something. Kaskas, with characteristic earnestness, thought of Azucena as something more than a stage gypsy, and while it was plain that she has had more vocal coaching than schooling in histrionics, it must be said to her everlasting credit that when it was all over one felt that Azucena was particularly suited this strange character of the vengeful gypsy. Her scale is vastly improved and she used it with ease over its entire range. It is to be hoped that she never sacrifices her low tones which are rich and vibrant. She has been heard in many operatic styles, but there is none in which she could surpass her Azucena or even want to, for it was a splendid investiture of a difficult operatic character.

Cigna and Others

This is perhaps to over-emphasize the theatrical factor in the opera, but the vocal quantities were on so uniformly high a level that there is no beginning nor a leaving off. Gina Cigna, who was new to Hartford, began rather tentatively and was troubled with a cough in her first scene, but she was not long in establishing the fact of a brilliant, evenly tempered voice which was capable of cold, clear strength. The rather subdued start came to be a
characteristic, even to the point of dealing with individual phrases the same way, reserving the substance for the finish. The penalty she paid for this was occasional obtrusion by the orchestra, which had body and none could blame Papi for wanting it to show.

Martinelli's voice, first heard offstage, retains its familiar clearness and pliant legato. It found its best advantages in the famous "Miserere" of Act III. A singularly striking feature of their duets was that his and the voice of Anna Kaskas were highly compatible, a happy result in which it was not apparent that he favored the younger singer unduly. Bonelli was somewhat uncertain as to tonality on his first entrance but more than compensated for it by his musicianly handling of an excellent voice throughout the opera. His ability to sustain a single tone, manifested with unusual effect in the second scene of Act II, "Il balen del suo" contrasted vividly with the immediately succeeding pianissimo with the chorus.

The excellent singing for which this "II Trovatore" will be remembered began with the [first] scene in which Virgilio Lazzari made of Ferrando's bass an eloquent, clear-cut, singing part. Thelma Votipka as Inez, Giordano Paltrinieri as Ruiz, Carlo Coscia as a gypsy contributed to the general effectiveness of the opera.
The so well-known "Miserere," the even better known "Anvil Chorus," and such landmarks as "Tacea la notte placida," Leonora's florid "D'Amor sull' ali rosee" and its closing scene, "Si la stanchezza" were all awaited in their turn and there is no reason to think any of them disappointing.

A Voice and a Circumstance

It remains only to say that from a vocal standpoint the role of Azucena was taken with entire success, mindful even that the part is the most trying one in the opera. No allowances of any kind need be made. As to power, the voice of Anna Kaskas was equal to any ensemble including the instrumental one. There was, in addition, a tone quality. It is an interesting circumstance that Anna Kaskas is a Hartford girl, but it is only a circumstance, for if a choice is to be made, she was the hit of the evening.

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