[Met Performance] CID:133510
Don Giovanni {110} Cleveland Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/6/1942.


Cleveland, Ohio
April 6, 1942


Don Giovanni............John Brownlee
Donna Anna..............Rose Bampton
Don Ottavio.............Richard Crooks
Donna Elvira............Jarmila Novotna
Leporello...............Salvatore Baccaloni
Zerlina.................Bidú Sayao
Masetto.................Mack Harrell
Commendatore............Norman Cordon

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

Review of Herbert Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer


Cast Shares Honors With Conductor Bruno Walter in Great Mozart Opera

If there is ever a more inspired opera than Mozart's "Don Giovanni," it will have to be written by Mozart himself in heaven. Portions of the work might well have been written there, for they breathe such incredible purity and bliss that they seem not of this earth. And anyone unacquainted with this work, though he knows the rest of Mozart by heart, cannot fully measure the man's stature.

It is possible that many Clevelanders had not heard this opera before last night's presentation of it by the Metropolitan at Public Hall for, although this is now the Metropolitan's 17th season here, the company had not before offered the Mozart masterpiece in Cleveland.

It is not possible, however, to have come away from last night's performance without the impression of having witnessed a great work superbly presented. It may be an opera primarily for musicians and connoisseurs. It may have been intended for intimate projection on a smaller scale, but there was no reason to feel that the size of the production in any way impaired its effectiveness. Nor was there any lack of enthusiastic response from the audience as a whole.

Vocal Success Guaranteed

Such artists as Rose Bampton, Bidu Sayao and Jarmila Novotna, together with John Brownlee in the name part, Richard Crooks, Salvatore Baccaloni, Mack Harrell and Norman Cordon, guaranteed success vocally, while the Metropolitan Orchestra under Bruno Walter, appearing here for the first time as guest conductor, supplied an instrumental counterpart that rounded out an admirably faithful interpretation of the Mozart work.

Walter conducted in the traditional manner, that is, standing at the keyboard of a piano (in early times it would be a harpsichord, and it would be still if the sound would carry). Filling in accompaniments for some of the faster moving recitatives is usually part of the conductor's job in operas of this style, and Walter performed this task with the same delicate reticence and precision that the characterized his work throughout the evening. One rarely encounters a more unobtrusive director of opera, or one who obtains such exactitude of ensemble with so little apparent effort.

There was plenty of evidence also that Walter has a profound understanding of the marvelous continuity of Mozart's line, the logic of his great symphonic development in some of the later scenes, the subtlety of his transitions and the innocent playfulness of the symmetry. Walter has the commanding personality wherewith all these essential factors can be effectively realized. His tempi were right to the last fraction of a second with a kind of rightness that made it easy for the singers to be free and spontaneous if they were on their toes, and all of them were. Barring a little rapid figuration in the overture, before the players could get adjusted to the unusual acoustical problem of the large hall, there was almost no detail that did not come through with the utmost clarity.

As for the singers, they left little to be desired. Brownlee played the title role in a spirit of effervescent joviality. In true Mozartean form, his deviltry had more finesse than bumptiousness, more elegance than swagger. Though his voice is not sensationally big, it was pleasing, and he never failed to deliver his lines with rhythmic spirit and charm, at all times vividly personifying the dashing libertine.

Rose Bampton stood out by virtue of the beautiful dignity and power which she gave to the part of Donna Anna. Booming Baccaloni as Leporello was often the most vivid character on the stage, and he kept his clowning well within the delicate framework of light humor typical of the opera, enunciating rapid-fire words with complete audibility. The opera, incidentally, was given in Italian.

Bidu Sayao was personable as well as vocally smooth. The good taste with which she executed her solos made them as attractive as she herself was in the part of Zerlina. There was much to be said also in favor of Novotna's Donna Elvira, for her voice was under good control and she acted with all the upright conviction that the good lady was supposed to have in resisting the advances of the amorous Don.

Crooks Quite at Home

Crooks was quite at home in the part of Don Ottavio. The fact that he is entrusted with two of the most heavenly solos in the whole opera makes it the more regrettable that he should not more often hit his notes on the head instead of sliding up to them. But it is not to be denied that the quality of his tenor is still very attractive despite his lazy attacks.

Harrell was good as Masetto, and I am told that Cordon came off with high honors in the role of the Commendatore, but as his big moment comes at the very end, long after his death in the first scene, I could not wait to hear his ghostly peroration.
If I remember, rightly, some of the scenes were cut in this performance, though their absence was not great regretted, since the sequence was logical and rapid, being speeded by continuing the action before the curtain while the scenery was being shifted. An idea of the dynamic range of the music is brought home by comparing Don's Serenade, with mandolin accompaniment, to the super scene in the palace with no less than three orchestras on the stage all playing the famous Minuet.

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