[Met Performance] CID:138020
Don Giovanni {117} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/29/1944.

(Debut: Florence Kirk

Metropolitan Opera House
November 29, 1944

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Ezio Pinza
Donna Anna..............Florence Kirk [Debut]
Don Ottavio.............Charles Kullman
Donna Elvira............Eleanor Steber
Leporello...............Salvatore Baccaloni
Zerlina.................Nadine Conner
Masetto.................Mack Harrell
Commendatore............Nicola Moscona

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Joseph Urban
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Don Giovanni received nine performances this season.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune


George Szell conducted last night at the Metropolitan Opera House the liveliest performance of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" that this city has witnessed in quite some years. It moved swiftly; it had a line; it made musical sense. Its animation enabled the singers to make dramatic sense, too, because they did not have to wander around while the musical numbers dragged to a weary end. They were kept busy and hopping by Mozart's active music, which outlines a thousand expressive gestures when played fast.

The present cast is a good one; one hopes it will be kept relatively intact throughout the season, so that the corrected numbers can get blended and set. The most grateful changes from recent years are Nadine Conner, as Zerlina, whose lovely voice and warm personality are in every way touching. Charles Kullman, whose Don Ottavio is excellent vocally and dramatically full of dignity. Eleanor Steber, although a little light in voice for Donna Elvira, sings the role with breadth and with no misunderstanding of its vigorous character. Mack Harrell's Masetto is a true characterization also, not a caricature, and is agreeably sung.

Florence Kirk made her first appearance with the company as Donna Anna. Gifted by nature with a handsome soprano voice of dramatic amplitude and with considerable powers as an actress for holding the stage. Miss Kirk would be a striking operatic artist if she could keep to the pitch in bravura passages. When she sings softly or slowly she is admirable. When she tries to sing fast and loud at the same time she executes a line so far from that of the written notes that a listener can derive little enlightenment from what he hears. Her singing last night of the final aria, "Non mi dir,"was good work, however, and received sound plaudits.

Ezio Pinza and Salvatore Baccaloni, as Don Giovanni and Leporello, make a most satisfactory team. The latter has got his role under control now, and the comedy pantomime of the two is as neatly dovetailed as is their crackling, machinegun-like recitative singing; Don Giovanni is probably Mr. Pinza's best part; certainly he is our best Don Giovanni. His characterization has developed in recent years very much as if it were Mr. Pinza himself one was observing. He no longer plays it for youthful charm, for instance. He gives it now the fury implied in the score. He portrays a fascinating and still handsome middle-aged lecher. And by making no charm play at all, he not only enhances the part, makes it serious and grand and terrifying, but gives to the other characters, by contrast, a sympathetic interest which they do not always have.

And so, with Mr. Szell's lively pacing, with everybody's serious musical workmanship and with Mr. Pinza's ruthless acceptance of his role's full meaning, the grandest and most difficult of Mozart's operas seems to have found the tone set for it by the composer in his own subtle description of "dramma giocosa." It is vigorous and rude and side-splitting and tender and terrifying and humane and beautiful.

Photograph of Nadine Conner as Zerlina in Don Giovanni by De Bellis.

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