[Met Performance] CID:131420
Le Nozze di Figaro {66} Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 03/27/1941.


Boston, Massachusetts
March 27, 1941


Figaro..................Ezio Pinza
Susanna.................Licia Albanese
Count Almaviva..........John Brownlee
Countess Almaviva.......Irene Jessner
Cherubino...............Risė Stevens
Dr. Bartolo.............Salvatore Baccaloni
Marcellina..............Irra Petina
Don Basilio.............Alessio De Paolis
Antonio.................Louis D'Angelo
Barbarina...............Marita Farell
Don Curzio..............George Rasely
Peasant.................Helen Olheim
Peasant.................Maxine Stellman
Dance...................Lillian Moore
Dance...................Julia Barashkova
Dance...................Josef Levinoff
Dance...................Paul Sweeney

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

Review of Edward Downes in the Boston Transcript

Opera Open*ing

Brilliant Performance of Mozart's "Figaro" by the Metropolitan Opera

A laughing masterpiece, one of the greatest comedies even penned with or without music, Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," rolled onto the stage of the Metropolitan Theater last night, bringing us the Metropolitan Opera and a long-awaited ten-day season of the greatest lyric theater in the world. The "Met" could not have made a happier choice for the [first] night. Not only is "The Marriage of Figaro" one of its newest and most brilliant productions, it is almost a symbol of the regeneration of the Metropolitan Opera and of the immense growth of public taste in recent years.

Time was when Mozart in the opera house constituted a very special enjoyment for a select group of connoisseurs, for the few who studied and honored his works. It was axiomatic that Mozart, even when performed by the greatest Metropolitan singers would never be popular.

Then along came Mr. Johnson and his versatile stage director Herbert Graf. They dumped the old axiom overboard and startled Metropolitan audiences into a realization that Mozart was fun. The dialogue of "Figaro," after all, crackles with racy jokes, witty lines, delicate scorn, savage irony, puns and an unending battery of verbal fireworks. And the music underlines the stage action with a suppleness, a buoyant humor, a mercurial imagination, an impudence and a warmth of sentiment that have not been equaled before or since.

All that was needed was a fast-stepping modern production and Mr. Johnson found that he had a hit on his hands. His revolution bore dividends, and "Figaro" became the talk of 20th Century Broadway.

Mr. Graf has not exactly streamlined "Figaro" (heaven forbid), he has simply made good drama of it instead of the musical costume party into which opera so often degenerates. In doing so, he has scrapped some of the subtlety of the best European traditions. He broadened the comedy, as is probably necessary for audiences which cannot follow every word of the foreign text. But to critics of his innovations, Mr. Graf has the handy answer that he has consulted the only surviving copy of the libretto for the original performance of "Figaro," which lies in the Library of Congress in Washington.

Da Ponte or Mozart

The stage directions of that libretto are of course by the librettist, Da Ponte, and it might be questioned whether there is not more of the burlesque Italian manner of Da Ponte in this production, than the more fine-grained comic spirit of Mozart. But, perhaps that is splitting hairs. This "Figaro" is both a popular and artistic triumph.

And at the head of the cast is the matchless impersonation of the name role by Ezio Pinza. He sings with a gusto and an opulence of tone, a dramatic power and a mastery of gesture and facial expression which dominate the stage at all times. His "Non pui andrai" and "Se vuol ballare" of the first act, and his tirade of the last act with its punning horns in the orchestra were the high points of the evening.

Licia Albanese as Susanna, though her voice is not extraordinary, sang and acted with great charm and intelligence. John Brownlee has grown considerably in the role of the philandering count and though he is not a commanding figure vocally, he is indeed the imperious aristocrat of Mozart and Beaumarchais, frustrated and torn between the desire to keep the dignity of his station and his overmastering human desire for the person of Susanna.

The only miscast principal was Irene Jessner as the countess. Miss Jessner is a serious artist, but she is neither vocally nor dramatically equal to one of the most difficult roles in all opera.

The Smaller Parts

The minor roles were, without exception, excellently taken. Salvatore Baccaloni, the Metropolitan's great new bass buffo, was an inimitable picture of sly conceit and pomposity as Dr. Bartolo. Irra Petina, who seems a finer artist every time you see her, made a touching ridiculous human being out of Marcellina, who can too easily be just another stock Italian comedy figure.

Risė Stevens was not only the handsomest Cherubino I have seen, she acted sensitively and intelligently, and sang pleasantly if not with all the finesse of Mozart tradition. Alessio de Paolis as the slanderous intriguing master, Don Basilio, looked like a character out of the commedia dell'arte, and he played his role to perfection.

Louis D'Angelo as the gardener, Antonio, sang well and was funny without caricature. Marita Farell was a comely and competent Barbarina, and George Rasley as the judge, Don Curzio, wisely did not exaggerate that poor man's stuttering.

Ettore Panizza conducted with a thorough mastery of routine though without much imagination. In places where the comedy resides in subtleties of orchestral rubato he was distressingly straightforward.

"Figaro" is a long opera and the last act usually sags. Last night there was not a moment lacking in vitality and zest. It is a production of which the Metropolitan may well be proud, and one which we will hope to hear often in its future visits to this city.

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