[Met Performance] CID:133630
Aida {455} Matinee ed. Dallas, Texas: 04/18/1942.

(Review)


Dallas, Texas
April 18, 1942 Matinee


AIDA {455}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Stella Roman
Radamès.................Arthur Carron
Amneris.................Bruna Castagna
Amonasro................Leonard Warren
Ramfis..................Nicola Moscona
King....................John Gurney
Messenger...............John Carter
Priestess...............Maxine Stellman
Dance...................Michael Arshansky
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Alexis Kosloff
Dance...................Leon Varkas

Conductor...............Fausto Cleva

Unsigned review in unidentified newspaper

Splendors of Verdi's "Aida" As Only Met Can Stage Them

Saturday afternoon's "Aida" by the Metropolitan was all it reasonably could be and almost all it should be.

The pageantry of the second act triumphal scene was realized in Joseph Novak's well-painted drops and wings and by no fewer than 234 persons - principals, chorus, ballet, supernumeraries and stage band. And all these resources were used cleverly by the regisseur, Desire Defrere, who composed not only a stunning stage picture, but also the most overwhelming theatrical spectacle you ever thought you would see. Billy Rose on the loose with West Texas money, Cecil B. De Mille in a pre-depression expansiveness could not have done better. Missing only were the milk-white steeds to draw Radames' chariot. But horses must be broken to pyramids, peristyle temples and stage bands and there wasn't room on the train for them or time to condition Dallas livestock.

More impressive, though, than the big-as-all-outdoors mise-en-scene were the size and quality of the chorus. With their regular director, Fausto Cleva, in the pit, the ensembles sang with a power and glory that really accounted for the heroic scale of Saturday afternoon's doings. The lusty choral work in the first act and the triumphal sequence was no more exciting than the more controlled and delicate chants of the temple scene - some of the most beautiful music any composer has written for the operatic stage.

Dallas has heard "Aida"s with Bassi, Claussen and Carolina White, with Marshall, Raisa and Rimini, with Lindi, Thomas and a girl now with the Metropolitan, Norina Greco. The principals often have satisfied us, but they could not have given us the true "Aida." The heart of Verdi's grandiose work is the largeness of everything, and only the Metropolitan has brought this size and quality to our stage and pit.

Miss Roman Splendid

Stella Roman, who was an adequate Leonora in last season's "Il Trovatore," dominated the afternoon as Aida. Miss Roman does strange and unconventional things with a voice of power and beauty. Shutting our eyes for a moment, as if we were listening over radio, we heard unaccountable lapses into uncovered fortissimos, into throaty attacks that might have been approached with less effort. When listened to with eyes open, Miss Roman's methods seemed quite right. It became conclusive that she is primarily a vocal colorist with a rich palette to work from. We have memory of no other Aida who so went to the soul of the "Ritorna Vincitor," the "Ah! Pieta," and the "O Patria Mia." As Miss Roman sang them they were more than lavish outpouring of tone. They were searching and probing for poetry, drama and meaning - and these can be found in a Verdi score by a little digging. Among her more thrilling vocal attributes is a silvery upper register made palpitant by a deliberate vibrato. And when her voice cut through the choruses we no longer mourned the shades of Destinn, Raisa and Ponselle. Her pitch was insecure once or twice during the Nile Scene but most of the strenuous vocal writing was mastered with thorough artistry.

Miss Roman revealed a prettiness of face and form that made Aida the legitimate object of Radames' affections. We suspect her of acting instincts that might carry off roles of greater subtlety - a Tosca perhaps. Poignancy not often felt at Aida was registered in the line, "Nella tomba spegnero" as the crypt pitifully under the shelter of Amneris' bench.

Castagna as Amneris

Bruna Castagna, the opulent mezzo-soprano, sang Amneris superbly and with imperious dramatic effect. Arthur Carron was the Radames and propelled his huge and intermittently euphonious voice against the rafters. He is still the stiffish, tentative actor that he was in "Il Trovatore" last season. For a voice so big, the "Celeste Aida" aria was suavely phrased and the ultimate B-flat was clean, clear and rang with the timbre of honest metal.

While Leonard Warren was a lame Amonasro histrionically, he sang the Ethiopian King's music with a certain fire and a plentitude of winning tone. The young American basso John Gurney, has made progress as witness his sonorous and musical handling of Pharaoh's speeches from the throne. Most Kings are so busy being regal that they ignore the ingratiating melodic line. Nicola Moscona was adequate as Ramfis, although the part asks for a basso of richer quality and better developed legato.

The off-stage ritual of the priestess was sung by a voice of stellar capacities, that of Maxine Stellman. The small role of the Messenger was entrusted to John Carter, the promising young tenor, who made us hear passages never heeded in other presentations of "Aida."

Ballet Integrated

The choreography of the "Aida" has integrated with the spirit of the opera under the direction of Laurent Novikoff. The Temple ritual and the capers of the Moorish slaves had deep relationship to the music. The Triumphal Scene dance flowed in and out of the mass movement.

"Aida," if it has a fault, is the broad and obvious theater of the last century. Of its type, though, it is a masterpiece. Verdi's genius for the theater has made the score seem all too facile. One might dismiss it superficially as effective background music to a major spectacle. More attention to this music, the sort of interpretative sincerity given by Miss Roman, uncovers several miracles of inspiration and consummation.

There is a temptation to upturn the true values of "Aida." One believes, for example, that the triumphal music grows out of the great scene that was devised. But the great scene really has evolved from the music. The March and chorus without the action still conjures Victory Day in ancient Memphis. The scene without the music would be - well, what?

The setting for the Nile Scene, which produced an incontinent salvo of applause from scenery-conscious Dallas, is simple theater. The rippling water of the backdrop and the silhouetted temples, palaces and vegetation are not impossible even in a tent show. Whence comes the pure Orientalism of the act, the eroticism and the mystery? From Verdi's strings and oboe?

Mr. Cleva's devotion to the music was the principal factor in the success of the afternoon, He played it as if he believed in it and he exercised one of the most authoritative batons of the season.



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