[Met Performance] CID:132000
Le Nozze di Figaro {70} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/24/1941.

(Opening Night {57}
Edward Johnson, General Manager

Debuts: Allan Wayne, Lee Foley

Metropolitan Opera House
November 24, 1941
Opening Night {57}

Edward Johnson, General Manager

Mozart-Da Ponte

Figaro..................Ezio Pinza
Susanna.................Bidú Sayao
Count Almaviva..........John Brownlee
Countess Almaviva.......Elisabeth Rethberg
Cherubino...............Risë 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...................Lee Foley [Debut]
Dance...................Allan Wayne [Debut]

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Jonel Jorgulesco
Costume designer........Ladislas Czettel
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff [Debut]

Le Nozze di Figaro received four performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

"Figaro" Raises Curtain at the Metropolitan

First Time in the History of the House That a Mozart Opera Has Been Presented on the Opening Night

Conducted by Panizza

Pinza, Rethberg, Stevens, Sayao, Brownlee, Baccaloni, and Petina Familiar in Their Roles - New Ballet Touch Noted

For first time in the history of the famous old house that opened its doors with Gounod's "Faust" on Oct. 22, 1883, the Metropolitan turned to Mozart for its first-night opera, in launching its season of 1941-42 with "Le Nozze di Figaro" on the evening of Monday, Nov. 24. Not only was this the first Mozart opening, but it was the first in which comedy, rather than tragedy, pathos or spectacle, had sounded the keynote for the operatic year. Of sixteen weeks' duration, the season is the fifty-seventh in the history of the house.

An audience of approximately 4,000 stood while the musicians in the pit played "The Star-Spangled Banner," with Ettore Panizza conducting; then settled hack for the lively situations and the entrancing music of one of the most miraculous scores in all opera. The production and the cast were familiar. Most of the principals had been appearing in the same roles, save for the occasional substitution of some other artist, since the work was revived two years ago. Again collaborating back stage with Mr. Pinza was Herbert Graf, whose conceptions the staging represents.

The one new element, a slender and unimportant one, was to be noted in the fandango which makes a pictorial contribution to the festivities in the third act. Credited on the program to Laurent Novikoff, the dancing served its secondary purpose neatly, without affording any very positive clue to what may be expected of the new ballet master and choreographer.

Short of a complete new deal in the staging or the casting, the one step that might have altered materially and greatly freshened the performance would have been a change in the musical leadership. But for reasons of its own, the management saw fit not to entrust the opening opera to Bruno Walter or Sir Thomas Beecham, either of whom might have been expected to lift it out of the jogtrot into which it has lapsed in the course of its frequent repetitions. Mr. Panizza conducted a careful and neatly detailed performance. But it went its pedestrian ways with little hint of merriment or sparkle.

So far as the applause was indicative, the choice of a comedy for the opening bill was not a failure, however. There was no lack of laughter and some of the airs were greeted with protracted rounds of handclapping, particularly among the standees. There was reason to suspect that it was the farcical treatment of some of the episodes that appealed most to those who know their Mozart least.

Too Much Cutting Capers

If there could have been more animation in the pit and less fussiness on the stage, all concerned would have been appreciably closer to the true spirit of "The Marriage of Figaro." To make a burlesque of such a scene as that in which Figaro pays court to the disguised Susanna in the last act is no substitute for a light-footed and highly pointed achievement of music that is bubbling over with fun.

Ezio Pinza as Figaro dominated the stage, as he has done at all previous performances of the current production. His rich voice and his ability to make both the airs and the recitatives vital had their usual effect. His is a magnetic impersonation. But the voice would be no less rich, the vocal style no less adroit and the personality no less magnetic if this Figaro were to bound about less and if his visual behavior were more that of a reasonable human being instead of suggesting some stray figure from the commedia dell'arte. He is much too busy cutting capers.

Fussiness and excess of business are the prevailing fault of this "Marriage of Figaro," save for some fundamental mistakes in the mounting - more particularly the costuming. Elisabeth Rethberg, as the Countess, suffers most from unfortunate raiment. Rise Stevens, the Cherubino on this occasion, happily had discarded the white attire of her first appearance in the role for one of a deeper hue and a less unflattering cut. But there are still too many fiery red heads among the Spaniards of Seville.

Variable Stylistic Qualities

The relative dullness of the orchestra and a too obvious quest for laughs in the stage business aside, it is in the singing of the rather weighty Metropolitan cast that there is reason to look for some marks of distinction. In style the principals at the performance under review were quite generally praiseworthy, from Mr. Pinza down to the small parts of the two peasant girls. But style in the case of the Countess of Mme. Rethberg did not mean security in pitch, or in that of the Count of John Brownlee, the variety of tone and subtlety of inflection necessary to ward off monotony in that character's recurrent fulminations.

Some Charming Singing

Rise Stevens was charming to look upon and equally charming to hear as Cherubino, though she remains rather too feminine for the part. Her voice, of course, is not the light soprano for which the music was intended. Still, her singing of "Non so piu cosa son" was winning and that of "Voi che sapete" really beautiful. Bidu Sayao's slender tones and pert personality are less well suited to Susanna than they are to Norina in "Don Pasquale." A mere man may even question the suitableness of her hair-do. But she must be credited with a charming projection of the forever lovely "Deh vieni, non tardar."

If not in his best voice, Salvatore Baccaloni was an adroit and amusing Bartolo. Irra Petina again made a comedy portrait of Marcellina, if one that smacked of caricature, like the Basilio of Alessio de Paolis and the Antonio of Mr. D'Angelo. Lesser parts were capably sung and the ensemble was generally well integrated.

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