[Met Performance] CID:133640
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {180} Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas: 04/18/1942.


Dallas, Texas
April 18, 1942


Figaro..................John Charles Thomas
Rosina..................Bidú Sayao
Count Almaviva..........Bruno Landi
Dr. Bartolo.............Salvatore Baccaloni
Don Basilio.............Norman Cordon
Berta...................Irra Petina
Fiorello................Wilfred Engelman
Sergeant................John Dudley

Conductor...............Frank St. Leger

Review of Graydon Heartsill in the Dallas Times-Herald

"Barber of Seville" And "Aida" End Season

AS the curtain fell on the Metropolitan's fourth opera season in Dallas Saturday night in Fair Park Auditorium, box office figures for the five productions were tabulated to total 15, 260 persons. The audiences came from fourteen states and Mexico, ringing up the Dallas Grand Opera Association's cash register to the amount of $65,697, President Arthur L. Kramer reported.

Lily Pons continued as leader in the popularity poll, breaking the season's record with "Lucia." Attendance at that opera, staged as the beginning event last Wednesday night was 3,533 with receipts amounting to $16,048. Runner-up was Saturday afternoon's "Aida" which 3,290 persons paid $14,092 to see. The "Barber" ran a close third with 3,055 and $13,021. Other figures give "Carmen" 3,009 attendance and $12,845 receipts, and "Don Giovanni" 2,374 and $9,691. The total attendance for the five operas was slightly under the 15,717 who paid $76,008 to see last season's four productions, the drop being accounted for by war conditions and the tire shortage which cut out-of-town attendance.

Texas opera fans and their neighbors who have been drinking deep from the founts of Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti and Bizet since midweek quaffed a Rossini nightcap Saturday evening as the curtain fell on Dallas' 1942 Metropolitan season.

It has been a brilliant and varied season of stellar performances and sterling music and to it the "Barber of Seville" gave the final flip. Whether the Metropolitan special will be rolling back to Dallas next year or not - dependant on the war conditions - the company made the farewell an "au revoir" and the audience sounded "Till We Meet Again" with their prolonged applause of the gayest bit of sturdy fluff the Metropolitan has in its sock.

The Sterbini libretto, based on Beaumarchais' comedy, harks back to last season's delightful "Marriage of Figaro," the Mozart opera which uses DaJonte's dramatization of an earlier episode of the same writer's series. "Barber" unfolds the romance of the Count of Almaviva and Rosina, who were having the domestic troubles of a married couple in 'Figaro" and Figaro himself appears as an aide to Cupid rather than a victim of his dart.

The Rossini score lacks the lustrous beauty of Mozart's work (beauty which found a counterpart in this season's "Don Giovanni") but it abounds with charming gaiety and sparkles with spirit and bubbles with comedy, and that's the way Frank St. Leger conducted it. That's the way the audience received it, too, and the infectious tone of the piece resounded in their laughter. Everybody laughed, even those who, unversed in Italian language, could translate the nifties being bandied around only through study of the libretto and the sure-fire pantomime of Salvatore Baccaloni and his cohorts.

Thomas as Figaro

The entire company was as one, timing comedy, recitatives, patter, arias with the finesse and integration of a ballet troupe.

Each cast member was a star, but after all John Charles Thomas was Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, and so - Mr. Thomas, takes the spotlight first. The baritone is a singer possessed of a voice whose rich resonance and musicianship took him to the top ranks in days, not so long ago, when it wasn't the vogue among artists to have American names. Somewhere along the line he picked up musical comedy experience and in the "Barber" he reached back into it for the necessary over-emphasis for the broadly drawn sketch of the merry factotum which he presented as quite a devil of a fellow.

Even more dependent was the fun on the shoulders of the buffo Baccaloni. From his 350 pounds emerged an excellent voice and, so far as handling the farce of the thing is concerned, if opera fans know by now that Mr. Baccaloni is a very funny man indeed it only took a glimpse of him in his bright red coat as the waddling Dr. Bartolo to establish the fact. What wasn't so generally known, however, from previous appearances in the serious roles of grander opera is that Norman Cordon is also a very funny man. In the "Barber" he appeared like an elongated crow with a long beak of a nose, a bump on his bald head and a crimson umbrella - and incidentally, a superb bass voice - and with his every appearance things began to pop including his gleeful audience.

A Lovesick Count

Right in the spirit was Bruno Landi, who, as the lovesick count, had to pause once in a while to apply his sweetly virile tenor to a romantic ditty but never let it interfere too long with an effervescent jollity, bounding back in short order to enact the drunk soldier and shy music master. Wilfred Engelman turned out, as Fiorello, to be as dependable in comedy as in serious lyric dramas and another small but valuable contribution was chalked up by John Dudley.

Nor did the two women in the cast get lost in the ribald humor and rough and tumble slapstick. Bidu Sayao, the pretty Brazllian songbird, was as bright as a new silver dime, and scattered vocal gold around like so much confetti. Rossini was considerate of her, proving some dazzling showpieces, which she tossed off in graceful gaiety, brisk tonal purity and the greatest of ease. To this, Pietro Cimara, conductor of Wednesday's "Lucia" added an aria, which he composed for her and which, interpolated into the music lesson scene was a lovely mounting for her sparkling coloratura.

The false-nosed Irra Petina, the "shaker" maid, might have had a tiny role as Berta. But not Miss Petina. She stopped the show temporally with her third-act aria. Only Rossini was to blame for stopping it permanently so soon as he did.

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