[Met Performance] CID:127000
Simon Boccanegra {19} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/27/1939.

(Opening Night {55}
Edward Johnson, General Manager
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 27, 1939
Opening Night {55}

Edward Johnson, General Manager


SIMON BOCCANEGRA {19}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave/Arrigo Boito

Simon Boccanegra........Lawrence Tibbett
Amelia..................Elisabeth Rethberg
Gabriele Adorno.........Giovanni Martinelli
Jacopo Fiesco...........Ezio Pinza
Paolo Albiani...........Leonard Warren
Pietro..................Louis D'Angelo
Maid....................Maxine Stellman
Captain.................Giordano Paltrinieri

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

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

Simon Boccanegra received two performances this season.

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the World-Telegram

"Simon Boccanegra" Opens Opera Season

A first night of Metropolitan Opera is always a gala affair both on the stage and off, an occasion of spectacle and rejoicing. Oftenest Verdi's "Aida" has been chosen as the opener. Scenic splendor, dances sacred and profane, a triumphal procession, crashing ensembles, stirring melodies, and the dominating trumpets of Egyptian Thebes furnish plenty of appeal for eye and ear. Various other operas have been tried, even "Tristan und Isolde" and Die Walküre." But from most of them the festive note is lacking.

When last night the Metropolitan reopened its doors it did so, to be sure, on an opera by Verdi, but not "Aida" of the sumptuous pageantry, the ear-filling sonorities. The choice had fallen on the gloomy "Simon Boccanegra," which incidentally had served the same purpose once before - on November 21, 1932. Yet, though undeniably gloomy, "Simon Boccanegra" is real grand opera. In an elaborate setting it offers spacious scenes of crowds and conflict and if pageantry is not a leading element it is by no means absent. Furthermore, it abounds in absorbing drama and impressive music.

The version we hear of the score is of course the revision brought out in 1881, 24 years after the original version. As has been frequently pointed out in this space, there is some disparity of period in the music, but although the texture is by no means homogenous the score contains fine pages from the Verdi of the 1850s and the Verdi of the 1880s. Indeed, a good deal of the music of "Simon Boccanegra," especially the great finale of Act I, ranks among the best that Verdi wrote.

The libretto offered problems from the beginning and does so still in spite of the editing of the accomplished Boito for the second version. The action is like one of those rivers that disappear underground and then reappear at a distance in an unexpected place. Nevertheless there is continuity.

The gaps may defy explanation and characters may have an upsetting way of assuming other names. Yet, coherence exists in the characters, as well as in the mounting climax of inevitable tragedy. And out of this sometimes mystifying mélange emerges a pre-eminent character, Simon Boccanegra himself, pirate and doge, whose portrait is one of the most imposing in the Verdi gallery.

Verdi had a special talent for the creation of striking baritone roles. Think of Rigoletto, Iago, Falstaff, of Charles V, the Conte di Luna, Renato, Amonasro - Simon Boccanegra stand with these, proud and unafraid.

No wonder Victor Maurel, that surpassing singing-actor, sang the praises of the role long after he had ceased to sing its music! In each production of "Simon Boccanega" at least since the revival of 1881 with Maurel in the name part, success has been largely dependent on the baritone who has embodied the hero.

At the Metropolitan that baritone has always been Lawrence Tibbett, and it is no secret that in depicting the Genoese doge who from sea rover becomes chief magistrate of a great maritime state, he has entered his paramount claim to renown both as singer and actor. In pure compliment it can be said that the Simon Boccanegra of Mr. Tibbett even recalls the Boris of Chaliapin.

However, Simon Boccanegra is by no means a one-man opera. The prominent and somewhat enigmatic role of Jacopo Fiesco also demands singing and acting of a high order, both of which it had last evening from Ezio Pinza.

There is Gabriele Adorno, Giovanni Martinelli's role. The admired tenor, back from Chicago, where he had sung the first Tristan of his life, triumphed in the music of a very different sort. He was in exceptionally good voice and his legato and his phrasing were matters for praise and thanksgiving.

The charming vocalism of Elisabeth Rethberg as Maria or Amelia, take your choice of names, the vigorous declamation of Leonard Warren as Paolo Albani, the singing of the chorus and the playing of the orchestra, directed by Ettore Panizza, also had their due share of the effectiveness of one of the best performances the Metropolitan management has set in years before any first-night audience - this one being an assemblage of exceptional brilliance and prodigious size.

Indeed, the vividness and control of Mr. Panizza's conducting made his participation an outstanding feature of a notable evening.



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