[Met Performance] CID:130030
Madama Butterfly {251} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/5/1940.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 5, 1940


MADAMA BUTTERFLY {251}
Puccini-Illica/Giacosa

Cio-Cio-San.............Licia Albanese
Pinkerton...............Charles Kullman
Suzuki..................Irra Petina
Sharpless...............John Brownlee
Goro....................Alessio De Paolis
Bonze...................John Gurney
Yamadori................George Cehanovsky
Kate Pinkerton..........Maxine Stellman
Commissioner............Wilfred Engelman

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

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

Madama Butterfly received eight performances this season.

Review of Robert Lawrence in the Herald Tribune

"Butterfly" Sung In Season Debut At Metropolitan

Licia Albanese Sings Role of Cio-Cio-San; Papi Conducts; Kullman is Tenor

After functioning as a cipher during the last several years, Gennaro Papi rehabilitated himself last night and led an orchestral performance of "Madama Butterfly" which brought him new respect. Even more significantly, it opened a new approach to Puccini's score through which the composer's symphonic treatment, his admirable fusion of drama and music could be completely grasped. Not often has one heard such tonal shimmer and sensitivity rising from the Metropolitan's orchestra pit, and Mr. Papi deserves all the credit that is due him when he takes enough of an interest in the work at hand to erase previous impressions of routine ennui.

For the most part, his efforts drew a subtle response from the artists on the stage. They did not own big or sensuous voices, necessitating a small-scale performance. But all were in the picture; all had worked out their respective parts. In the case of Licia Albanese, singing the music of Cio-Cio-Sam, her understanding of the drama and of the tragic import of her lines did much to compensate for the lack of necessary volume at the climaxes.

If one accepts Miss Albanese's miniature version of Cio-Cio-San at the start, there is a great deal in her work to be praised. Nearly all of her singing last night had tonal beauty, especially the soaring phrases of her flower duet with Suzuki. The entrance music of the first act - a trying moment for any soprano - was well negotiated except for a final high D, and the entire love duet sounded with an appealing quality. What served to heighten the effect of the music was Miss Albanese's intelligent acting, her sympathy with the opera.

The least successful pages of the evening were reserved for the artist's singing of "Un bel di." She had not enough power, and she spoiled whatever mood she may have created by stepping out of her part to acknowledge applause. With the advent of new gold curtains and a revamped grand tier, it is time for the management of the Metropolitan to forbid such archaic goings-on.

Irra Petina was a splendid Suzuki and Charles Kullman, when he did not drive his upper tones, was an agreeable Pinkerton. John Brownlee brought distinction to the role of Sharpless. The bit parts were all competently taken last night with Alessio de Paolis outstanding as Goro. In general, a good performance.



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