[Met Performance] CID:133650
La Traviata {247} Municipal Auditorium, Birmingham, Alabama: 04/20/1942.

(Review)


Birmingham, Alabama
April 20, 1942


LA TRAVIATA {247}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Violetta................Helen Jepson
Alfredo.................Jan Peerce
Germont.................Richard Bonelli
Flora...................Thelma Votipka
Gastone.................Alessio De Paolis
Baron Douphol...........Wilfred Engelman
Marquis D'Obigny........George Cehanovsky
Dr. Grenvil.............Louis D'Angelo
Annina..................Helen Olheim
Dance...................Michael Arshansky
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Leon Varkas

Conductor...............Pietro Cimara


Review of Lily May Caldwell in the Birmingham News

Opera-Hungry Audience Gives "La Traviata" Warm Welcome

Crowd of 6,000 In Auditorium Held Spellbound By Jepson And Cast In Brilliant Performance

On the wings of Verdi's golden music and the glorious voice of glamorous Helen Jepson, grand opera came back to Birmingham Monday night as 6,000 music lovers in toppers and tails from five states flocked to the Municipal Auditorium to extend an ovation to the Metropolitan Opera on its first visit here in 37 years that left no doubt of how opera-hungry and appreciative of great music are the people of this section.

The evening was memorable. It was like getting back something wonderful that had seemed lost forever.

"La Traviata" proved a wise selection for the Verdi music is the most melodious of the Metropolitan's repertoire, and the most familiar, and the production combines spectacle and restraint. Marguerite Gautier, whom the librettist called "Violetta," whom the younger Alexandre Dumas called "La Dame aux camellias," and whom Americans call "Camille." Is a perennially popular heroine, and Verdi has contributed largely to her immortality.

Certainly, Miss Jepson made a similar contribution in the role Monday night. The cast was a brilliant one - but the opera belonged to Miss Jepson. She dominated every scene, and even shared equally with the great Bonelli the second act, which the composer gives to the baritone. Surely, not in the last 20 years has a voice as glorious or a woman as beautiful been known to a Birmingham audience, And Miss Jepson might well make a name for herself as a great dramatic actress, if she could not sing a note. But she can sing. She has a soprano voice of exceptional power that soared above the strains of the 90-piece orchestra in the arias Monday night, and ranged from the coloratura to the dramatic and lyric sopranos, with high notes that were so indescribably sweet that they seemed felt rather than heard.

Bonelli's appearance on the stage brought an ovation, for he has sung here many times in concert and opera in days gone by, and the audience knew what was in store. Bonelli possesses one of the truly fine baritones of our time, a voice that is rich and resonant, and he sang with understanding and musicianship, bringing to the stage of the Municipal Auditorium a wealth of opera traditions as well as a great voice, and in the famous "Di Provenza" in the second act, surpassed himself.

Jan Peerce, new tenor of the Metropolitan Opera, who is known to millions through his radio programs and recordings, sang the role of Alfredo, lover of Violetta, in which he made his Metropolitan debut this season. He possesses a voice of lyric beauty and sang with understanding and feeling.

The supporting cast included Thelma Votipka as Floria Bervoix, Helen Olheim, as Annina, Alessio de Paolis as Gastone, Wilfred Engelman, as Baron Douphol, George Cehanovsky as Marquis D'Obigny, and Louis D;Angelo as Dr. Grevnil.

Making her debut with the Met Monday night was Mrs. John De Witt Peltz, editor of the "Opera News," and publications director of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, who is touring with the company "covering" the Southeastern trip and the renaissance of opera in Birmingham. As a member of the chorus, Mrs. Peltz was lovely to look upon and conducted herself like an old-timer.

The 90-piece symphony orchestra under the baton of Pietro Cimara, from the ethereal {beginning] strains in the overture through all the love themes and the dramatic moments of the score, was enjoyed by the audience as much as the singing.

The ballet of Act III, with Monna Montes and the corps de ballet was a colorful gypsy dance of charm and gaiety.

The chorus, too, is a splendidly trained unit and its ensemble work was excellent.

The costumes were beautiful, especially those of Miss Jepson, which set off her blonde loveliness.

Birmingham's night at the opera was a memorable one. And some of the applause belongs to the resident music club for its contribution to great music in this city for 35 years, and for its promise, in cooperation with Marvin McDonald, business manager, to bring the "Met" back in town next April.



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