[Met Performance] CID:127720
La Gioconda {139} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 01/23/1940.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 23, 1940


LA GIOCONDA {139}

La Gioconda.............Zinka Milanov
Enzo....................Frederick Jagel
Laura...................Bruna Castagna
Barnaba.................Carlo Morelli
Alvise..................Ezio Pinza
La Cieca................Anna Kaskas
Zune...................Wilfred Engelman
Ispo...................Giordano Paltrinieri
Monk....................Louis D'Angelo
Steersman...............Carlo Coscia
Singer..................Wilfred Engelman
Singer..................Giordano Paltrinieri
Dance...................George Chaffee
Dance...................Rita Holzer
Dance...................Sari Montague
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Grant Mouradoff
Dance...................Rosa Rolland
Dance...................Mary Sigler

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

Review of Henry Pleasants in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Zinka Milanov Makes Philadelphia Debut in Metropolitan's "Gioconda"

The Metropolitan Opera Company presented Philadelphia with its first "La Gioconda" in eight years at the Academy of Music last night, with a cast headed by Zinka Milanov, Carlo Morelli, Frederick Jagel, Bruna Castagna and Ezio Pinza. It was an animated and full-voiced performance, and excited many demonstrations of pleasure and excitement from the audience.

Miss Milanov was making her Philadelphia debut in the title role. A young Croatian soprano and a pupil of her celebrated country-woman, Milka Ternina, she is now in her second season with the Metropolitan and rapidly on the way to becoming the outstanding dramatic soprano of her generation in the Italian repertoire.

Her performance last night fairly substantiated advance reports from New York. She has extraordinary dynamic and vocal resources not yet fully realized. The voice is warm, brilliant, wide in range, and large. It has a tendency at present to spread and go slightly sharp under pressure, but the pianissimo is something quite exceptional in every part of the scale. Only the matter of control in climactic passages is wanting to complete Miss Milanov's technical equipment, and this applies to her work as an actress as well as to her vocalism. For a singer of her years and her gifts this should not be a difficult problem.

The other principal members of last night's cast were all familiar troupers. Mr. Jagel, substituting for Giovanni Martinelli who was indisposed, sang robustly but not very musically as Enzo. Mr. Morelli, who has been heard heretofore only at Robin Hood Dell, proved an exceptionally effective Barnaba, his ample but rather rough voice accommodating itself nicely to the music of Ponchielli's malevolent villain. Miss Castagna's Laura was vocally opulent, barring the disconcerting chest tones upon which this justly admired contralto has depended more and more in recent seasons. As Alvise, Mr. Pinza did the best singing he has accomplished here this season, contributing a richly intoned and dramatically imposing characterization. Anna Kaskas sang well as La Cieca. Smaller roles were acceptably taken by Wilfred Engelman, Giordano Paltrinieri, Louis D'Angelo and Carlo Coscia. The ballet scored handsomely in the "Dance of the Hours" and the "Furlana." Ettore Panizza conducted with admirable authority and kept the musical proceedings at the requisite fever pitch.

The opera itself was a welcome novelty after its relatively long absence from the Metropolitan's repertoire. Its libretto is melodramatic nonsense which even the skilled hand of Boito could hardly render credible, and the music is pitched to an unrelieved melodramatic intensity which palls after an hour or so, but there are many magnificent passages, and certain scenes, notably the second of the third act, which disclose a sense of dramatic construction nearly equal to some of the best scenes from the better operas of Verdi. "La Gioconda" wanders in and out of the repertoire, more or less dependent on the availability of singers who can give it the right measure of vigor and histrionic ardor. The Metropolitan obviously has such a cast on hand at the moment, and it will not be a regrettable consequence if Ponchielli's single masterpiece lingers in the repertoire for a few more years.



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