[Met Performance] CID:136000
Boris Godunov {102} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/22/1943.

(Opening Night {59}
Edward Johnson, General Manager

Debut: Thelma Altman

Metropolitan Opera House
November 22, 1943
Opening Night {59}
In Italian

Edward Johnson, General Manager


Boris Godunov...........Ezio Pinza
Prince Shuisky..........Alessio De Paolis
Pimen...................Nicola Moscona
Grigory.................Armand Tokatyan
Marina..................Kerstin Thorborg
Rangoni.................Leonard Warren
Varlaam.................Salvatore Baccaloni
Simpleton...............John Garris
Nikitich................John Gurney
Shchelkalov.............Mack Harrell
Innkeeper...............Doris Doe
Missail.................John Dudley
Officer.................Osie Hawkins
Xenia...................Marita Farell
Feodor..................Thelma Altman [Debut]
Nurse...................Anna Kaskas
Lavitsky................Gerhard Pechner
Chernikovsky............Lorenzo Alvary
Boyar in Attendance.....Emery Darcy

Conductor...............George Szell

Director................Lothar Wallerstein
Set designer............Alexander Golovine
Set designer............Alexander Benois
Costume designer........Ivan Bilibine
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Translation by M.Delines, E. Palermi, G. Pardo

Boris Godunov received three performances this season.

[Benois designed only the Polish Scene.]

Review by Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune:


Moussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," which opened the fifty-ninth season (or "Diamond Jubilee" year) of opera at the Metropolitan Opera House last night, is an ideal work for such an occasion. Like "Aida," it is more a pageant than a play; also, like that other dependable opener of seasons, it is musically beautiful all over. One can come in late or leave early, or get stuck outside for a scene, without losing anything important to the continuity. One misses some good music, but there is always plenty more of that. Unlike "Aida," however, it is not at its best in Italian, in which language it was sung last night.

The musical elements of a good performance were all present. There was what amounted to an all-star cast, and everybody was singing well. There was animated and understating direction of the work by George Szell and good orchestral playing under him. Even the chorus, of late years somewhat muted, sang with vigor and resonance. (Konrad Neuger was listed as its trainer.) If the whole musical rendering, though competent and occasionally commanding, was anything but Russian in feeling, that fact is probably due to the absence from the cast of Russian blood and to the choice (locally traditional but really absurd) of Italian as the music's linguistic vehicle.

"Boris Godunov" can sound highly convincing in German and not too incredible in French. It goes into English, curiously enough, almost better than into either. Italian is as inappropriate to its massive brutality and mysticism as it would be to "Pélléas et Melisande." Opera singers moreover, especially those of Italian training, make Italian phrasing and Italian gestures, when singing in that language, that never occur to them when the problems of another stylistic tradition are brought to the forefront of their minds by the necessity of articulating correctly another tongue. They can sing well, as they did last night; and they can add bits of internationally acceptable comic business here and there. But they simply cannot act Russian, much less make us understand Russian history, while they are singing in the language of Dante and d'Annunzio.

That "Boris" should make an effect at all under such a convention and such a melting pot of interpretation (and, indeed, it made a not inconsiderable impression last night on the house, as well as on your reviewer) is creditable chiefly to the indestructible texture of its music. It is creditable, also, I think, to Mr. Szell's fine understanding of this music and his ability to give shape to it (a quality it just possibly lacks a little bit in itself).

The third element of soundness in the collaboration was a certain good will on the part of the cast. It was amazing how carefully they all worked and how beautifully they all sang. If the opera sounded throughout like almost anything but a Russian opera, that was nobody's fault that I could name. And if, in addition, it sounded surprisingly like "Boris Godunov" at times, that is just the miracle that takes place when good musicians from anywhere get together with a good score. They do not necessarily give you the real thing, but they give you a good thing.

From the review of Robert Bagar in the New York World-Telegram

The Metropolitan "first night" in the second year of the Second World War had more chi-chi than is usual in times of national - and international - stress. The place was packed. The audience was a most cordial and fancily got up one, and -- incidentally - the opera was "Boris Godunov." which has not always been given inaugural honors.

Dispensing with the business of the social pageant and getting down to the business of discussing the opera, the night was cold outside and the performance was cold inside. Last seasons's Borises were much more alive and warm and heartening. As the Metropolitan presents "Boris Godunov," it is an Italian opera. The language, as we know, is Italian, but the musical phrasing of the various singers goes Mediterranean in style. Consequently one hears arias and duets and concerted scenes much as they might be expected in "La Boheme." perhaps, not to omit "Aida." Yet this is not meant to be a fulminating accusation. In fact, the net result, as a rule, is a pretty good show.

Last evening, however, it was less than that and the reasons for it don't come leaping to mind. There was Ezio Pinza as the Czar, a portrait that can grow as the opera proceeds. Not completely so this time. Of course his final interview with Feodor is always an emotionally affecting sequence. And his death scene is very first-rate drama. Then there is the Pinza voice which just goes on and on in its poised effectiveness.

There were other good things about the performance - for instance, Armand Tokatyan's excellent version of the False Dimitri. Particularly in the duet with Marina did he sing with a beauty that amounted almost to lyrical fervor. He acted well, too, as when doesn't he? Kerstin Thorborg's Marina is also an agreeable characterization and, it is safe to say, it would be much more so if the lady would only refrain from overdoing things in climactic moments.

The most accomplished embodiment on the stage, last evening, was Alessio de Paolis' subtly sinister Prince Shuisky. One does not think at all about voice when Mr. de Paolis sings, because one's attention is riveted to his splendid acting and his compelling musical delivery of the lines. Leonard Warren was histrionically even better than he had been previously as the scheming Rangoni. He sang the part with a good deal of suggestion, in addition to pouring out tones that were often pure gold. And Salvatore Baccaloni performed his usual antics with the role of Vaarlam -- and most appreciated by the listeners were those antics.

A Met newcomer, Thelma Altman, appeared as Feodor, the Czarevitch. It would be unfair to judge Miss Altman on the strength - or weakness - of one role. Suffice it to say that she went through her assignment easily enough. Marita Farell was the personable Xenia. Anna Kaskas was the Nurse. A word of praise for Nicola Moscona's Pimen is not amiss. Incidentally the only Russian singing done was that by John Garris, who impersonated the Simpleton. It was good, too...

The orchestra, more often than not, played well. Its principal deficiencies lay in attacks that were sluggishly made despite conductor George Szell's valiant efforts all through. In the Kromy Forest scene the horse Mr. Tokatyan was riding, a beautiful white charger, did a bit of circling about that earned a few laughs from the audience. Mr. Tokaytan was laughing himself as he and his steed exited.

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