[Met Performance] CID:127360
L'Amore dei Tre Re {57} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/1939.

(Debut: Joseph Santoro

Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 1939

Montemezzi-S. Benelli

Fiora...................Helen Jepson
Avito...................Armand Tokatyan
Manfredo................Richard Bonelli
Archibaldo..............Ezio Pinza
Flaminio................Alessio De Paolis
Maid....................Lucielle Browning
Young Woman.............Maxine Stellman
Old Woman...............Anna Kaskas
Youth...................Nicholas Massue
Shepherd................Joseph Santoro [Debut]

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Mario Sala
Set designer............Joseph Novak [Act II]

L'Amore dei Tre Re received two performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in the Sun

Italo Montemezzi's "L'Amore del Tre Re" had a rather sorry revival at the Metropolitan last night, after having been absent from the repertory since March 9, 1933, when its last previous inclusion in the active list was carried no further than a second performance.
Prior to last night's representation the opera had been heard forty-two times in thirteen seasons. By far the larger part of this total was in the years immediately following its introduction to the house under the ignescent leadership of Arturo Toscanini on January 2, 1914, within nine months of its world premiere at La Scala. Since the middle twenties the work has had absences of two to five years, with the fate of successive revivals indicating a decrescendo of favor. Those who have dearly cherished the score have been reluctant to attribute this falling off of interest to any paling of the opera's own basic appeal.

Certainly, reasons were not far to seek for the failure of "L'Amore" to make any very vivid impression: last night. The casting was not such as to bear out the implications of the title. There were not three kings on the stage. Only Ezio Pinza, who towered above his associates in the role of Archibaldo, wore the purple. Armand Tokatyan, who made his first appearance of the season in the role of Avito, sang acceptably. The same must. be said of the Manfredo of Richard Bonelli, the one member of the cast who had figured in the last previous representation of six years back. But something more than acceptable singing, and its equivalent in the business of the stage, is required if this opera is to be brought back to the place it held in its vital years.

Helen Jepson also sang well as Fiora. She was agreeable to gaze upon, though her good looks were not particularly suggestive of the opera's place or period. The Metropolitan's first (and last previous) Fiora was Lucrezia Bori. Others have been Claudia Muzio, Florence Easton and Rosa Ponselle. No less to be remembered was the vermilion Fiora of Mary Garden with the visitors from Chicago. These impersonations were by no means all great. The Fiora of Miss Garden was the most highly colored. Miss Bori had from the …of the exquisite. But for both of them, and for at least two of the others, the role came to life. This can scarcely be said for it in Miss Jepson's earnest and painstaking impersonations, which had neither the flame nor the plasticity for the great scene of Flora's surrender to Avito's passionate wooing in the second act.

Chief Fault in the Pit.

But the basic weakness of the production was not so much in the failure of most of the singers to rise above a level of the commonplace, as it was in the nerveless and devitalized conducting of Gennaro Papi. "L'Amore del Tre Re" is both a singers' and a conductor's opera. The score may be termed symphonic, in that an orchestral web is spun, virtually independent of the stage voices. It scarcely will be contended that Mr. Papi is a conductor for symphony; nor, on the basis of last night's performance, for operas that provide something more than accompaniments for the singers.

There is no need to evoke memories of the miracles Mr. Toscanini accomplished with this score, or to make comparisons with his various successors in the city's "L'Amore" performances-Polacco, Moranzoni, Serafin and (with the Chicagoans) Marinuzzi. It is enough to note that much, or most, of the polyphony of the score was left unrealized; that voice after voice in the orchestra simply did not sound; that strand after strand of the fabric was never brought into view, and that yet there were times when it was difficult to hear the singers. Some listeners may have remembered that at the American premiere Mr. Toscanini could not be persuaded to come before the curtain and bow. Mr. Papi was more obliging.

Pinza Dominates the Cast.

Remaining to be considered is the Archibaldo of Mr. Pinza. Here was a contribution worthy of substantial, if scarcely extravagant praise. In voice and figure the admirable basso dominated the stage. Better assisted by the orchestra, no doubt, others have made quite as much of the first act narrative. It is conceivable, too, that artists of less repute have been more successful in suggesting the old king's blindness. But the entire performance had possessed the quality of this one characterization today's tale would be a very different one. A good word may be said for Alessio de Paolis in the secondary role of Flaminio. Others concerned in a subsidiary way were Nicholas Massue, Lucielle Browning, Maxine Stellman and Anna Kaskas. Desire Defrere had charge of the stage.

"L'Amore dei Tre Re" is a short opera, but it was converted into a long one last night by intermissions of approximately the same duration as the acts. These long waits did not help the opera to hold interest. But even this procedure is preferable to that of tacking on a "Cavalleria" or a "Pagliacci," as had been done in the past. Surely there could be no harm in sending the opera habitués home at ten fifteen or thirty now and again.

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