[Met Performance] CID:136520
Falstaff {60} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/14/1944.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 14, 1944
In English


FALSTAFF {60}
Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Lawrence Tibbett
Alice Ford..............Eleanor Steber
Ford....................John Brownlee
Dame Quickly............Margaret Harshaw
Nannetta................Frances Greer
Fenton..................Charles Kullman
Meg Page................Lucielle Browning
Dr. Cajus...............John Dudley
Bardolfo................George Rasely
Pistola.................Norman Cordon
Innkeeper...............Ludwig Burgstaller

Conductor...............Thomas Beecham

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban
Costume designer........Adolfo Hohenstein
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Translation by W. B. Kingston, revised by Beecham

Falstaff received four performances this season.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune

Elegantly Elephantine

Verdi's "Falstaff," which was heard last night at the Metropolitan Opera House after a five-year silence is, for all its outlandishness of proportion, one of the great pieces of musical theater. Comedy in a gigantic frame is not an easy genre to handle either dramatically or musically. The only other two really successful tries at it are Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" and Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier." Of them all Verdi's has the highest degree of dramatic animation and just possibly the purest musical style.

By a pure musical style I mean a contrapuntal, harmonic and rhythmic texture that attains a maximum of expressivity with a minimum of mannerism. The music writing in "Falstaff" is of a grace, wit and forceful elegance unparalleled since Mozart and, considering that Mozart never essayed at all the tumultuous orchestral canvas so dear to the composers of the last century, unparalleled anywhere among its kind. If that kind is by its nature a bit elephantine, nowhere is it less so than in this bouncing musical farce; and no subject was ever more happily found for it than the amours of Shakespeare's fat knight.

The present mounting of the opera is brilliantly paced under the leadership of Sir Thomas Beecham. The orchestral sounds, saving those of the Metropolitan's tinny trombones, are delicious. The English version, also largely the work of Sir Thomas, is neatly rhymed, musically apt and by moments soundly colloquial. (Falstaff's despairing cry, "Lousy world!" is, if I mistake not, perfectly good Elizabethan.) The Josef Urban sets are still excellent, and the stage direction of Herbert Graf is fluid and clear, If some of the actors, lacking experience of the comic stage, overdid their business into something not unlike a Christmas pantomime, that is not the fault of their director. At least they kept up the animation of the play and got some laughs.

The only singing that had real style was that of John Brownlee, and his enunciation was not of the best. Margaret Harshaw and Lucielle Browning sounded best among the ladies. Lawrence Tibbett's vocal deficiencies, though evident enough, were counterbalanced by good dramatic projection and first-class diction. It was an English-speaking cast; and I suppose as much of the text came over the orchestra as commonly does of the Italian text when Italian-speaking singers perform it. Certainly enough of it was clear for the audience to know what was going on all the time, even for us to catch a good deal of the comic orchestral detail that so indefatigably points up lines and situations. The concerted numbers were surprisingly well, though not perfectly, coordinated.

The work is difficult to give perfectly, and the present cast is by no means an ideal one. But there is a solid show there. I imagine future performances may see it settle into a firmer vocal routine.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).