[Met Performance] CID:135430
La Forza del Destino {53} Cleveland Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/5/1943.


Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 1943

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Leonora.................Zinka Milanov
Don Alvaro..............Kurt Baum
Don Carlo...............Lawrence Tibbett
Padre Guardiano.........Ezio Pinza
Preziosilla.............Irra Petina
Fra Melitone............Salvatore Baccaloni
Marquis de Calatrava....Louis D'Angelo
Curra...................Thelma Votipka
Mayor...................Lorenzo Alvary
Trabuco.................Alessio De Paolis
Surgeon.................John Gurney
Dance...................Nina Youskevitch
Dance...................Alexis Dolinoff
Dance...................Michael Arshansky

Conductor...............Cesare Sodero

Review of Elmore Bacon in the Cleveland News

Milanov, Baum Are Taken to Heart of Opera-Goers In Their Cleveland Debuts

A near capacity crowd, dressed in its best bib and tucker, welcomed a revival of a not-so-popular Verdi opera, "Forza del Destino," at Public Hall last night and Cleveland's eighteenth Metropolitan Opera season was on.

From the [very first] chords of "fate" - three instead of the Beethoven Fifth four - to the final heart-appealing Miserere, "Forza" meanders along. Stopping by the wayside to pick a luscious aria, work in a brilliant bit of pageantry, rattle up a thunderous battle and glean delicious moments of comedy along with a story of frustrated romance and stark tragedy.

Soloists, chorus and orchestra, all under the skillful direction of Cesare Sodero, making his Cleveland operatic debut, worked this eighteenth century Hollywood thriller into a smooth performance that maintained the usual high Metropolitan standard.

And this rather heavy feast of tragedy and comedy gave Clevelanders their first view of another beautiful Met Opera star, Zinka Milanov, whom they promptly took right to their hearts. This Croatian diva has a voice and the artistry that put her in the front row of Met favorites.

Kurt Baum also made his Cleveland opera bow and won high favor with a dramatic tenor that , while throaty at times, was virile and well rounded when put to the test. Lawrence Tibbett who was unable to keep Cleveland engagements the past two seasons, started out somewhat uncertainly in the [first] scenes, but his voice improved in the later episodes and he received several curtain calls.

Perhaps, the most consistently good work of the evening was done by Salvatore Baccaloni, buffo-basso, whose clowning was backed by really fine singing. Ezio Pinza was consistently good as the Abbot, but we have heard him sing better. And like a globule of quick-silver, Irra Petina as the irrepressible Preziosilla, was all over the stage at once. And sang in top form. The Cleveland singer, Thelma Votipka, did full justice to the part of Curra.

It is understandable that "Forza" the past season won big success in New York with this same cast. That it would remain a popular favorite, however, is questionable. It is a marvelous example of the Verdi genius in attempting something of a more grandiose nature than the "Il Trovatore" and "Traviata" that preceded it. It has several beautiful arias, a duet that is immortal and choral features that are superb. But it scatters its fire too thinly in the way of songful appeal.

In this opera, Verdi stresses the orchestra particularly. The performance last evening carried out the Bruno Walter rearrangement of using the first act as a prologue and following it with the customary overture. This music, by the way is a fine example of the lyric Verdi at his best.

The story is another of those complicated Italian tales of murder and sudden death.

Milanov, attired in a Gainsborough costume, looked as though she might have stepped out of a museum picture. As the luckless Leonora she not only sang superbly, but gave a fine impersonation of the distracted young woman. She has a warm vibrant soprano that is opulent at both in its mezzo voce delights and in its dramatic moments. Her dramatic duet with Baum in the [first] scene was excellent. She was effective, too, in the scene at the Inn where - they do it only in opera - she sang with the chorus and her brother was supposedly was hunting her.

She was really most effective in her scene at the monastery where disguised as a man, she reveals she is a woman and asks to be directed to a place of refuge. In this scene Ezio Pinza as the Abbot did his best work, The chorus of monks too, added a sublime touch to this scene, accompanied by both orchestra and the deep tones of the organ.

Mme. Milanov's closing scene, too, was marvelously well sung, the music being particularly dramatic and emotional, as she meets her untimely end at the hand of her brother.

Tibbett was a dashing and vengeful Don Carlos. By the time the scene in which he and Baum sing the famous "Swear in This Hour," was reached, his voice had smoothed out and the duet was beautifully done. Tibbett's soliloquy, following this was not only superbly sung, but carried conviction. And won him several curtain calls.

Maestro Sodero held chorus and orchestra together in this with a master hand.

Baccaloni is a most skillful actor as well as a top basso. His scene at the encampment, where he mounted a table and wielding a vivid red umbrella exhorted the soldiery and peasants was as notably well sung as it was acted. And again he had a fat comedy part in the cloister courtyard with his dipper tactics. Even his makeup is funny although, of course, that excess of girth is real.

Louis D'Angelo was the Marquis who furnished the first homicide in this Italian opera. Lorenzo Alvary, as the Alcaide, Alessio de Paolis, as Trabucco and John Gurney, as the Surgeon were entirely satisfactory.

The ballet dancers, too, had their share in the [first] night success.

Now, just a word as to the scenic investiture. While the prologue interior of the Marquis home in Seville seemed to be a bit stained and ragged under the dim lighting allowed it, the other scenes in this opera were notable for their brilliance. Especially beautiful was the Monastery scene with its wayside cross and the view of the great valley with light twinkling from farm houses.

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