[Met Performance] CID:131300
Don Giovanni {103} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 03/18/1941.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
March 18, 1941


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

Review of Henry Pleasants in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Walter Conducts "Giovanni"

Makes Local Opera Debut as 'Met' Series Ends

Bruno Walter made a belated Philadelphia debut as an opera conductor in the performance of "Don Giovanni" which brought the Metropolitan Opera Association's local series to a close in the Academy of Music last night.

The ways of the Metropolitan in the matters of conductors are strange. Mr. Walter, who conducted his first opera in the United States only a few weeks ago, is one of a number of fine opera conductors who have made their reputations in the lyric theaters of Europe and came to America to devote themselves to symphony orchestras. Others are Otto Klemperer, Fritz Busch, Victor de Sabata and Fritz Reiner. The latter has conducted opera in this country, but not at the Metropolitan.

Last night's "Don Giovanni" was a revelation of discovery and loss. Following the capable but seldom inspired time-beaters and co-coordinators who have served in the Metropolitan pit this past decade, he beamed a fountain of vitality and thought. The beneficiaries were the audience and Mozart. Singers are better able than composers to get along without great conductors.

Mr. Walter's participation was so much more than merely the satisfactory performance of a professional service. One might have supposed that Mozart had appointed him as his special ambassador to the 20th century and that the conductor had occupied the office as a sacred privilege.

Under the affectionate and understanding direction the orchestra enthusiastically revealed the splendor and genius of Mozart's score, its wealth of melodic invention and the richness of its dramatic resources. And the singers participated wholeheartedly in Mr. Walter's and Mozart's behalf. The performance was not faultless, but the faults were not of the ensemble - on the stage or in the pit.

Mr. Walter's occupancy of the conductor's chair is the most important of many changes which the Metropolitan's "Don Giovanni" has undergone since it was last seen here three years ago. Of the former cast only Mr. Pinza, in the title role, remains. Last night's cast included Zinka Milanov, Jarmila Novotna, Bidu Sayao, Salvatore Baccaloni, Tito Schipa, Arthur Kent and Norman Cordon. It is a strong and tremendous improvement on the former one, if also considerably less than ideal.

Mr. Pinza sings magnificently, and he has the figure for the part, but as a character his Don Giovanni is singularly developed, a strange and unconvincing mixture of Figaro and Mephistopheles and Pinza. Mr. Baccaloni has been criticized in New York as an insufficiently servile Leporello. He could easily reply that there is a lot more to Leporello than the character of an ordinary servant, which, indeed, he demonstrates in his intelligent and skillful embodiment of the part. Of course, there is also a lot more to Mr. Baccaloni than there is to most people - somewhere between a 100 and 150 pounds, but if that is a disadvantage nothing can be done about it at this late date.

Among the other gentlemen of the cast Mr. Cordon as I commandatore, made excellent use of his strong voice and his imposing height in the banquet scene and Mr. Schipa sang Don Ottavio's two airs with admirable style, although with little color and rather less animation. Mr. Kent probably did as he was told in making Masetto a kind of non-stuttering Wenzel, and he did it very well, but the conception of the part is open to question.

Among the ladies Miss Novotna's Donna Elvira enjoyed the intelligence and the distinction of style and bearing which the Czech soprano brings to all her work. Miss Sayao was a delightful Zerlina and Miss Milanov a Donna Anna of great vocal resources, but not always of great vocal control.

But the quality of the performance as whole was superior to the sum of the individual parts and this was the work of Mr. Walter who was properly singled out by the audience for prolonged expressions of respect, admiration and welcome.

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