[Met Performance] CID:124690
Simon Boccanegra {17} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/13/1939.

(Debut: Leonard Warren

Metropolitan Opera House
January 13, 1939

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave/Arrigo Boito

Simon Boccanegra........Lawrence Tibbett
Amelia..................Maria Caniglia [Last performance]
Gabriele Adorno.........Giovanni Martinelli
Jacopo Fiesco...........Ezio Pinza
Paolo Albiani...........Leonard Warren [Debut]
Pietro..................Louis D'Angelo
Maid....................Pearl Besuner
Captain.................Giordano Paltrinieri

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Camillo Parravicini

Simon Boccanegra received two performances this season.

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

"Boccanegra" Staged Again at Metropolitan

Verdi's Opera Receives First Performance Since '35; Tibbett in Title Role

After three season's absence from the repertoire, Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" returned to the Metropolitan Opera House last night when Lawrence Tibbett reappeared in his impressive impersonation of the noble and tragic Doge of Genoa. Except for Maria Caniglia as Maria Boccanegra (or Amelia Grimaldi) and Leonard Warren as the evilly plotting Paolo Albiani, the other members of the cast, including Giovanni Martinelli as Gabriele, Ezio Pinza as Fiesco, Louis d'Angelo as Pietro, Girodano Paltrinieri as a captain and Pearl Besuner as a maid, also reappeared in the roles which they had sung when "Simon Boccanegra" had been first heard in this house on Jan. 28, 1932. Its return was hailed by a large audience.

Until Giulio Gatti-Casazza had decided to add this work to the Metropolitan's Verdiesque list, it had apparently been unheard in the United States, except for Fiesco's aria "Il Lacerato Spirito," which had long been included in the list of songs which every basso is expected to know. The opera, with a libretto of unusual complexity by Francesco Maria Piave, had first been produced in Venice in 1857 and received with a complete lack of enthusiasm; productions in Milan and Naples fared no better. Much later, Verdi and Arrigo Boito radically revised "Simon Boccanegra" for a production in Milan in 1881, but, even with Maurel, Edouard de Reszke and Tamagno in the cast it did not win permanent popularity. At the Metropolitan, however, it was well received in its first season.

As before, "Simon Boccanegra" gives the impression of a curious blend of strength and weakness; much of the strength being due to what Verdi added when he revised his score. In much of the orchestration, in the force and color of the points of greatest dramatic intensity, we have the Verdi of "Otello," produced six years after the revised "Simon"; the scene of the council room is vivid, engrossing and climactic, and the music of descriptive power characteristic of the later Verdi can also be found here and there elsewhere in the score. But the skill and power with which Verdi has treated his musical ideas are not matched by the ideas themselves, which, if craftsmanly and fluent, lack distinction and saliency. The lack of inventiveness marking certain stretches of the score is the principal reason why absorbing and memorable periods alternate with impressions of lengthiness.

Mr. Tibbett's Simon remains one of his great impersonations, in its dignity, force and tenderness as well as in its prevailingly high vocal standard; the Doge's appeal for peace in the council scene was, in particular, a notable example of artistic expressiveness. Mme. Caniglia's singing marked her best work at the Metropolitan thus far, with unusual clarity of tone, dynamic control and ability to present a long lyric line. There were some unfocused tones at the top of her vocal range, but as a rule, her voice was firm and well concentrated. The characterization was generally appealing, but would gain by fewer semaphoric gestures of the arms. Mr. Martinelli sang with strong and firm tones, and Mr. Pinza's Fiesco was satisfactory, if not among his most distinctive roles.

Mr. Warren, who had sung before in opera concerts, but not in a regular subscription performance, displayed a voice of good size and generally commendable quality, if leaving room for more emotional color. In action, the young New Yorker left some of the dramatic significance of the role unrealized, except at the climax of Simon's curse, but some allowance is in order for what was virtually a debut. Mr. D'Angelo merited commendation while much praise was due to the unity and dramatic color of the singing of the chorus, the general effectiveness of the stage direction, and the work of the orchestra under the imaginative direction of Mr. Panizza.

Photograph of Leonard Warren as Paolo Albiani.

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