[Met Performance] CID:130230
Don Pasquale {34} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/21/1940., Broadcast


Metropolitan Opera House
December 21, 1940 Matinee Broadcast


Don Pasquale............Salvatore Baccaloni
Norina..................Bidú Sayao
Ernesto.................Nino Martini
Dr. Malatesta...........Frank Valentino
Notary..................Alessio De Paolis

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Designer................Jonel Jorgulesco

Don Pasquale received four performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

As if in exchange for the depressing experience of Friday's "Pelleas," the Metropolitan Opera Association gave us yesterday afternoon one of the most brilliant and delightful performances of opera in the lighter vein which has graced its history of recent seasons. The opera was Donizetti's "Don Pasquale." The performance was entertainment of the most amusing and artistic sort, from the first rising to the last falling of the curtain. The central reason for this achievement was the Don Pasquale of Salvatore Baccaloni.

Mr. Baccaloni had shown himself in earlier performances of the "Marriage of Figaro" the wholly exceptional artist that he is. Yesterday he had opportunity to display all the qualities known, and the public is enormously his debtor. For the matter of that, he is an enormous man, weighing, according to authoritative information, over three hundred pounds. This bulk, this Falstaffian, Rabelaisian, Hogarthian bulk, made him the more unctuous and comical a figure on the stage, and it sets off the quickness of his gestures, the play of feature, the nuance as well as broad comedy of which he is such a master.

Story Droll and Lively

His story was so plain. In characterization, diction, the inflection and the coloring of the voice, that every one understood it, whether or not the Italian words were comprehended. Everything was droll, lively, and significant. And greatest of all-having made the world laugh with him, Mr. Baccaloni provided, astonishingly and memorably, the moment of pathos which must touch comedy to complete it. This was the place in the third act when, fooled to the top of his bent, the foolish old man gets his face slapped by the minx Norina.

In a trice, illusion drops from him. He sees himself as he is, the years as they are, and the end of the story. Then the pompous lump of a man caved in, his blindness and self-sufficiency shorn from him, and life the shell of what it had been an instant previous. He was weak, unshapely and ludicrous, and he knew it. At that moment-"E finita, Don Pasquale"-suddenly, and to its own vast astonishment, the audience ceased laughing.

Recitative "Wonder of Clarity"

But Mr. Baccaloni is not only an actor, comedian, a clever diseur, He sings with admirable ease and variety of affect, and the voice is a very fine one. His recitative is a wonder of clarity and declamation. The moment that nearly approaches the tragic, past, his ensuing passage with Dr. Malatesta, the patter of their repartee to Donizetti's swift and riant music, the innuendo and sly plotting, provided the final diversion. Who saw them than, sees them now: the Doctor displaying his calf, the Don unhappily trying to do likewise, the bowing and scraping to the lilt and sparkle of the orchestra, the parting to come together again the vast embrace as the curtain falls to the glorious music of Donizetti.

He, of course, is infinitely the greater composer and artist in his comedies, including the one heard yesterday and the "Fille du Régiment," which comes next Saturday than in his operatic tragedies. In "Pasquale" he is between Rossini and Mozart. He shakes endless melodies from his sleeve, combines melodies and characters in the sort of ensembles which are to the everlasting credit of Italian opera, and which, in this lighter form, are dramatically, as musically, wonderfully apposite to each situation and character.

But to fully expose all this, the opera needs singing actors and a vivid ensemble. It had both these ingredients. One need not claim that a cast of uniformly great voices signalized the performance, but there was no dull or routine interpretation, and all cooperated. The chorus, alone and by itself, got a hand for its singing and stage business. It became for the moment protagonist, and an irresistibly diverting one. Each one of these singers became an ingredient of the plot, as each member of the cast gave the impression of a part of an extremely vivid and amusing ensemble.

Bidu Sayao Sings

Thus Miss Sayao, who sang with exemplary technique and musicianship her passages of sustained song as also florid airs which she fitted dramatically to the stage picture, tossing off vocal virtuosity only utilized for its meaning. Mr. Valentino warmed increasingly to his work as the performance progressed, and was capital in solos and as a foil to the other figures. Mr. Martini, it is true, forced at times and fell off pitch. Mr. de Paolis was inimitable as the cackling notary. Mr. Papi contributed valuably to the afternoon, for he led orchestra and singers with authority, animation and vividness of detail.

This little opera becomes a bright jewel in the Metropolitan's crown. It bespeaks something of the special service Mr. Johnson has done operas of this sort since he assumed the association's leadership, and the new conception of opera buffa which must now be entertained by his public, The unity evident in yesterday's performance was no doubt in part due to the fact that the cast of an Italian opera was interpreted by Italian or Italian-American cast; that it was instinctive as well as practiced for these artists to treat the recitative, action and musical idiom as effectively as they did. For the production of "Don Pasquale" is like that of "Figaro" in its liveliness and its dramatic unification. An immense audience testified to its approval.

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