[Met Performance] CID:124740
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {160} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/17/1939.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 17, 1939


Figaro..................John Charles Thomas
Rosina..................Bidú Sayao
Count Almaviva..........Nino Martini
Dr. Bartolo.............Virgilio Lazzari
Don Basilio.............Ezio Pinza
Berta...................Irra Petina
Fiorello................Wilfred Engelman
Sergeant................Giordano Paltrinieri

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

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

[In the Lesson Scene Sayao sang Ah vous dirai-je maman from Le Toréador (Adam).]

Il Barbiere di Siviglia received five performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


'Barber of Seville' Produced at Metropolitan Before a Large Audience


John Charles Thomas Heard in the Role of Figaro - Gennaro Papi Directs

The incomparable "Barber of Seville" was performed, to the vast delight of the audience assembled, last night in the Metropolitan Opera House. A late substitution in the cast was the appearance of Bidu Sayao, who took the part of Rosina instead of Lily Pons, indisposed. Nino Martini sang Almaviva for the first time on any stage. The opera was given as a benefit for the Children's Aid Society. The performance was a lively one, while refinements of humor or style were largely conspicuous absence. It is true that the opera deserves better than this: better than slapstick gambolings about
the stage.

Method Is Discussed

The management, however, could supply certain defenses for this procedure. One argument could be that distinction in acting and singing are things largely forgotten by performers and audiences of this generation of operagoers in America. Another could be that when an opera is sung in a language foreign to a great majority in the audience, broad pantomime and triple emphasis of every detail are serviceable in conveying the significance of dialogue and the meaning of stage situations. These would he arguments of expediency rather than principle; to support them not to strengthen the quality of art interpretation.

The performance, at least, was a lively one, briskly conducted by Mr. Papi. The cast included some fine voices, and in one or two cases highly intelligent and musicianly singing. This was true of Miss Sayao, who performed, if not with exceptional fullness or glamour of tone, with very creditable technical execution and with a plan consistently dramatic. Nor did she overdo comedy, a thing of which most of her associates on the stage were guilty. In the lesson scene she sang
Acqua's "Villanelle," heartily applauded.

Allowance should be made for Mr. Martini's first interpretation of the Almaviva role on any stage. Histrionically it was reasonably in accordance with tradition. On the vocal side Mr. Martini was not adequate to Rossini's more florid passages, nor does the part appear to lie comfortably and well for his voice.

Thomas's Singing Praised

Mr. Thomas's fine vocal organ stood him in good stead; the part has gained in the direction of amusing stage business, tone-color, facial play. Now and then he ignores, or simplifies, the original curve of Rossini's melodic line, but how many, when so they choose, can sing so or handle a phrase so well? One who can do so at will is Mr. Pinza, who produced prodigious tonal volume and overacted with triumphant effect. The "calumny" aria brought down the house. The Bartolo of Mr. Lazzari chimed it well with this fooling.

The most brilliant moments of all, highly creditable to the performers, came with the miraculously composed, and last night most fortunately performed, ensembles at the end of the first and second acts -music of sheer genius, and laughter of the gods! We had not heard the part of Berta the maid so well done as it was by Irra Petina, to whom the audience gave special recognition. Mr. Engelman's Fiorillo was in place, Mr. Papi conducted with uncommon enthusiasm and efficiency.

Note: In the program it stated that Lily Pons would sing "Vilanelle" in the Lesson Scene. Miss Sayao, who substituted for Miss Pons, in fact sang "Ah vous dirai-je maman" from "Le Toréador" (Adam). The critic got it wrong.

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