[Met Performance] CID:138310
Le Nozze di Figaro {86} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/1944.

(Debut: Josef Carmassi
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 1944


LE NOZZE DI FIGARO {86}
Mozart-Da Ponte

Figaro..................Ezio Pinza
Susanna.................Bid Sayao
Count Almaviva..........John Brownlee
Countess Almaviva.......Eleanor Steber
Cherubino...............Ris Stevens
Dr. Bartolo.............Salvatore Baccaloni
Marcellina..............Hertha Glaz
Don Basilio.............Alessio De Paolis
Antonio.................Louis D'Angelo
Barbarina...............Marita Farell
Don Curzio..............John Garris
Peasant.................Mona Paulee
Peasant.................Lillian Raymondi
Dance...................Julia Barashkova
Dance...................Mary Smith
Dance...................Michael Arshansky
Dance...................Josef Carmassi [Debut]

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Jonel Jorgulesco
Costume designer........Ladislas Czettel
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Le Nozze di Figaro received six performances this season.

Review of B. H. Haggin in The Nation

If you wondered why the Metropolitan's productions of opera are discussed so little in this column the reason is that its press department has not been able to persuade Assistant Manager Earle Lewis that a review in "The Nation" is worth the money he can get for a pair of good seats. And if I am able to report on "The Marriage of Figaro" it is because the press department managed to wangle back from one of the newspapers a pair of the excellent seats that are permanently assigned to the daily press.

"Figaro" as performed the last two seasons has been the greatest experience one could have at the Metropolitan; and it is still that, even though this year's performance is not up to last year's. When Bruno Walter's treatment of the music was relaxed and spacious, Erich Leinsdorf's is tense and driving; he rushes hectically not only through particular pieces of music - through everything up to Cherubino's first aria, for example - but from one thing to the next. Thus, not only is his pace for "Dove sono" rather fast for the meditative character of both words and music, but he does not pause long enough for Eleanor Steber's "pianissimo" singing of the reprise to create the wonderful effect it did last year. So, throughout, and worst of all at the end, when he goes from the hushed exclamations at the Countess's unexpected entrance to the Count's "Contessa, perdone!" without a pause sufficient to prepare the audience for this concluding sublimity.

On the other hand I was newly impressed this time by Herbert Graf's imagination and skill in laying out the lines of the action on the stage and filling in detail. But I still feel that few of the details should be changed. In the second act Susanna tries one of her capes on Cherubino; but she has measured herself against him, and should try one of her dresses on him. During this scene, moreover, Steber may intend the Countess to appear distraught; but what she achieves is an appearance of lacking interest and not being involved in what is going on and the Countess should be an interested onlooker. Far worse is what Sayao does in the Countess's cloak and hat in the last act: it is the antics of a child in the clothes of an adult, not the exaggeratedly grand movements of a maid in the clothes of her mistress; it gets laughs, but so would the dramatically right thing. The mistake may be Graf's; or he may lack the power to correct Sayao, who is guilty of other excesses - mostly of pertness - throughout the opera.

That is the only defect in the work of a superb cast. The outstanding performance is Steber's Countess: as I wrote last year, nobody I have seen in the role conveyed as she does the neglected young wife's beauty, spirit, and wounded pride, her humiliation at having to involve herself with her servants in stratagems against her husband; and she sings the part beautifully, uses a small but lovely voice with fine musical taste and moving expressiveness. As it happens, Sayao also has a small voice of brighter timbre, which she uses with equal taste and expressiveness, and which blends perfectly with Steber's; so that their singing of the Letter Duet is one of the most enchanting moments in the opera. The Cherubino this year is Rise Stevens - amusingly gawky, and with her singing free of the tremolo and the explosiveness in phrasing that afflicted it two years ago. Brownlee's Count is good. And Pinza's Figaro - rather than his Don Giovanni -is, in my opinion, his best performance. (What is good in his Figaro is not good in his Don Giovanni; it makes him a Giovanni, not a Don.) As for the smaller parts in the ensemble they are excellently done by Baccaloni and De Paolis, and the rest.



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