[Met Performance] CID:124820
Aida {430} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/23/1939.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 23, 1939

AIDA {430}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Radamès.................Beniamino Gigli
Amneris.................Bruna Castagna
Amonasro................Carlo Tagliabue
Ramfis..................Nicola Moscona
King....................Norman Cordon
Messenger...............Giordano Paltrinieri
Priestess...............Thelma Votipka
Dance...................Maria Gambarelli

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

Review of Oscar Thompson in the New York Sun

Pandemonium among the standees behind the brass rail attended the return of Beniamino Gigli to the Metropolitan Opera last night after an absence of seven seasons. There was plenty of enthusiasm elsewhere in the audience chamber, but of a less hysterical kind. A poll of the Monday night subscribers might have yielded a considerable variety of opinion as to whether all this show of excitement was justified by the essential qualities of the performance. There might even have been a certain cynicism about the nature of the more violent handicapping and the accompanying shouts of ''bravo." It is quite enough, however, to accept the testimony of the ears and record for the tenor a triumphant re-entry.

Mr. Gigli's reappearance on the stage, where he had been a favorite for twelve years, from December, 1920, to the spring of 1932 was made as Radames in Verdi's "Aida," a role he had never sung at the Metropolitan and a fairly recent addition to his repertory. His chief companions in last night's cast were Elisabeth Rethberg, Bruna Castagna, Carlo Tagliabue, Nicolo Moscona and Norman Cordon, all familiar in the parts entrusted to them. The tenor prodigal aside, this was a standardized rather than a brilliant cast. Ettore Panizza conducted and shared with the singers the bows before the curtain. The tenor sang with much fervor and there was evident on the part of his associates a desire to match him in the spirit of the representation. But once the hammer-and-tongs intensity of the performance is conceded-the ensembles in particular having more than their everyday dramatic impact -there are to be faced a multitude of issues having to do with the vocal artistry of this performance.

It must be said frankly that Mr. Gigli's is not a Radames voice. It remains the voice for "Una Furtiva Lagrima" rather than for "Celeste Aida." The singer began last night's performance by pumping and pounding out the notes of that air and he pumped and pounded through much of the evening thereafter. There were some seductive phrases in the Nile scene and again in the duet with Amneris in the last act. But it was only occasionally that his hard-driven heroics permitted the true and treasured quality of the voice to be heard. Mr. Gigli's is basically an exceptionally good production. Yet his singing was characterized by almost every vice of style that can be charged against an artist-he scooped, he sobbed, he aspirated syllables and resorted to the glottis stroke in his attacks. He treated sundry legato phrases as if they were successions of small explosions and in his effort to enlarge his limited top notes he sang them so "open" that they resembled shouts.

Voice of Lyric Beauty.

Yet in spite of the punishment to which the voice was subjected, much of its beauty remained. There are few such voices, the reason for conserving the lyric charm of this one.

Both Mme. Rethberg and Mme. Castagna had difficulties with the pitch. The usually dependable contralto clearly was out of her vocal stride. Still, at considerably less than her best, she contributed a liberal share of the opera's best singing. Of the soprano, it can be said that she recalled other days and other Aidas at moments in the Nile scene and again in the final duet in the tomb. The Amonasro of Mr. Tagliabue recalled nothing in particular, but in the Gilbertian sense did it very well.

Some of the costuming suggested that Verdi's collaborators had been up to their old trick of mixing the babies. Aida at her first entrance could have passed for Azucena in any opera house in the world.

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