[Met Performance] CID:131160
Don Giovanni {101} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/7/1941.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 7, 1941 Matinee

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Ezio Pinza
Donna Anna..............Zinka Milanov
Don Ottavio.............Tito Schipa
Donna Elvira............Jarmila Novotna
Leporello...............Salvatore Baccaloni
Zerlina.................Bidú Sayao
Masetto.................Arthur Kent
Commendatore............Norman Cordon

Conductor...............Bruno Walter

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Joseph Urban

Don Giovanni received four performances this season.

Photograph of Ezio Pinza as Don Giovanni.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Beauty and Distinction

A performance of great beauty was yesterday's "Don Giovanni." Of great beauty and distinction. The cast and clothes and scenery and acting were all excellent and in some cases super-excellent. But the real grandeur of the rendition came from the pit.

There is no getting around the fact that first-class conducting is a great deal more satisfactory than second-class, particularly in the theater. It is not luxurious tone and refined phrasings that make great conducting great. Those are the characteristics of the great instrumentalists that make up our more heavily endowed orchestras. Great conducing is what takes place when a great conductor conducts any orchestra. It is not a wealth of ultra-refined detail that makes great theater either. Power and delicacy from moment to moment are enough to expect from a singer or from any other musician who plays a single voiced instrument. These qualities plus certain flexibility in accompaniment and the habit of meeting emergencies, are all we can legitimately demand, I think, from medium-priced staff conductors. To get in addition authoritative tempi and the symphonic architectonics that we are all used to nowadays one must have really authoritative leadership of the whole performance centered in one man who is capable of exercising that authority.

Yesterday's performance was so led and commanded by Bruno Walter, His Mozart is superb; his conducting superb; the "Don Giovanni" we heard was, in consequence, finer than any performance of that work I have ever heard on this side of the Atlantic.

Mr. Pinza's interpretation of the title role was a delight both vocally and dramatically. If it were not so well-known already, it would merit more attention that I feel justified in giving to it at this time. Mr. Baccaloni's Leporello was musical and not too funny. Mr. Kent's Masetto was charming; and Mr. Schipa's Don Ottavio was, though vocally a little white, musically most satisfactory. Mr. Norman Cordon, as the Commendatore, did the afternoon's finest sustained singing among the male members of the cast.

Among the ladies, Miss Sayao, as Zerlina, gave the most completely satisfactory performance. By voice, vocalism, histrionics and personal charm she is a natural for the part. Miss Novotna's Donna Elvira was a triumph of musicianship and of personal distinction. Her voice is not large enough to make the role ideal for her. Nor is she quite Mozart and da Ponte's irate female whose anger must always burst out into arpeggios and great vocal skips. But she did sing beautifully, and her interpretation of the role was full of pathos and nobility. Miss Milanov, as Donna Anna, was excellent dramatically and ravishing musically, whenever she sang softly. When she sang loud, especially in the upper regions, her pitch was vague and she had a tremolo that passed the bounds of the permissible. Yesterday it sounded once or twice as if she were trillilng a minor third.

All these excellent artists sang the concerted numbers with delicate and accurate team-work. They moved around with dignity, too, like really Spanish ladies and gentlemen, and were handsomely set off by their clothes and by the fine Joseph Urban settings that the opera house acquired in 1929.

The orchestra was at all times a delight. I wondered, the last time I heard them play for Mr. Bruno Walter, whether the musicians were at all times giving him of their best. I have since received a letter from the orchestral membership assuring me that I was in error even to imagine such a thing and assuring me of their admiration for Mr. Walter and of their complete loyalty to his direction. Delightful as it is to receive such a testimonial, it would not have been necessary for the musicians to make any such formal statement in order to convince me that they can play ball as well as music. Hearing yesterday's performance was sufficient. No lovelier or firmer foundation could have been desired for the beautiful and distinguished performance that the artists of yesterday's cast achieved under Mr. Walter's firm and loving leadership.

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