[Met Performance] CID:131460
Don Giovanni {104} Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 03/31/1941.


Boston, Massachusetts
March 31, 1941


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

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

Review of Cyrus Durgin in the Boston Daily Globe

"Don Giovanni" With Bruno Walter and Jarmila Novotna

The superlative event of the Metropolitan's engagement thus far was last night's "Don Giovanni," and for one reason. Bruno Walter conducted. This was a performance such as Mozart's great work has not been given here in years, a performance of singular intensity and astonishing beauty and style.

Mr. Walter guided singers and orchestra like a benign but relentlessly exacting sorcerer, setting just the correct pace, establishing perfect ensemble between stage and pit, insisting upon the utmost polish of details. As a result, this "Don Giovanni" boasted classic grace and proportion, and in the movements which approach tragedy, took on grandeur.

To be sure, the materials out of which he wrought this recreative miracle were a group of very good singers, and an orchestra which, when the right man is in control, can play superbly. All argument to the contrary, the conductor is the prime requisite for great symphonic or operatic performance. With an inferior leader the best musicians will not sound like the best. But a great conductor, and Bruno Walter is that, can impose his will and his genius to produce recreative miracles.

Not only did Mr. Walter conduct, he also accompanied the "dry" recitatives at the piano. And how he accompanied them! Here were no thumping, indifferent chords. They were rhythmed and expressive. During the arias and concerted numbers the singers followed him every moment, and every phrase was shaped by his hands. The confidence which singers and players obviously felt in him swept out into the auditorium, and was recognized by the audience. When Mr. Walter returned to begin the second act continuing applause forced him to bow again and again. This was, by the way, his first appearance in Boston in 18 years, and the first time he had conducted an opera here.

Now that he has worked with the Metropolitan, one fervently hopes he will eventually be a regular leading conductor of the Association and not just a "guest." The Metropolitan has not enjoyed so distinguished a musician as he for many years.

Making her Boston debut as Donna Elvira, Jarmila Novotna scored an immediate success. Her voice is beautiful but not sumptuous. She commands a genuine Mozart style. One felt now and then a sense of effort with some of Mozart's long, trying phrases. Nevertheless, Miss Novotna came off triumphantly. There is something dramatic about her stage presence which cannot be said of all singers.

Although "Don Giovanni" was termed a "drama giocosa," Mozart actually wrote for Donna Anna pages of the most intense emotion and biggest dimensions before Wagner. The aria "Or sai, che l'onore," is one example, and for this only a huge voice would be ideal. Miss Milanov's voice is not that, but it is ample and agile enough to compass Donna Anna's role successfully. And she, too, sang with excellent style.

Mr. Pinza's grandly acted and irresistibly sung Don Giovanni is known to Bostonians. Once again, he was the rakehell Don Juan of legend to the last detail. Leporello is not usually so clownish as Salvatore Baccaloni conceives the character, nor is he always so musically worth of note. Mr. Baccaloni is a master of operatic comedy, and there was not too much buffoonery. As one observed of his Bartolo in "The Marriage of Figaro," Mr. Baccaloni has an astounding sense of rhythm.

Tito Schipa, rejoining the Metropolitan, after six years, imparted perfect style to Don Ottavio's two arias, though his voice is not so freely produced as it used to be. Mr. Farell's Zerlina was cute and musical. Arthur Kent, appearing here for the first time as Masetto, was competent and Norman Cordon was a sonorous Commendatore.

Problems of staging, especially the ballroom scene with its three orchestras, were capably solved, despite a long wait before that scene. The settings varied from a nicely stylized graveyard to Late Gatti-Casazza exteriors, and a supper room that Queen Victoria might have seen.

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