[Met Performance] CID:140040
Rigoletto {262} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/29/1945.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 29, 1945

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Bidú Sayao
Duke of Mantua..........Jussi Björling
Maddalena...............Martha Lipton
Sparafucile.............Nicola Moscona
Monterone...............William Hargrave
Borsa...................Alessio De Paolis
Marullo.................George Cehanovsky
Count Ceprano...........John Baker
Countess Ceprano........Maxine Stellman
Giovanna................Thelma Altman
Page....................Thelma Altman

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Vittorio Rota
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Boris Romanoff

Rigoletto received ten performances this season.

Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times


Björling Returns After 4-Year Absence - Warren Sings Title Role, Bidu Sayao is Gilda

Verdi's "Rigoletto," the first Italian work presented this season at the. Metropolitan Opera House, received a performance that aroused fervent enthusiasm from the large audience gathered to hear this ever-popular masterpiece. Jussi Björling, the Swedish tenor, who returned recently to this country after a four-year absence, made his reappearance with the company at this presentation, and special interest centered in his portrayal of the Duke.

This role was not one in which Mr. Björling was particularly well cast and failed to set forth his gifts in the brightest light. It demands a graceful, suave type of approach less congenial to his temperament than parts asking a more robust and vigorous style. He could bring warmth and vibrancy to his delivery of the music, but not a sufficient degree of the elegance and finesse that are its prime requisites.

The deficiency was at once noticed in the tenor's treatment of his [first] aria, "Questa o quella," and again in the "Parmi veder le lagrime." Both were too heavily projected to convey the essential characteristics of the nobleman's nature as Verdi has depicted them in these solos.

Voice Retains Volume

Mr. Björling's tones had lost none of their volume since last heard here, but last night there was less velvetness to the voice than of old, and the top had a wiry quality not formerly in evidence. But he must be heard in a role more suited to him before his present vocal state can be fully judged, one in which he can more legitimately employ the upper register in the full-throated manner he used too often in this opera.

In the title role Mr. Warren showed a definite step forward in his interpretation. This was markedly the case in the first two acts, which had gained in dramatic intensity and vividness of detail. The duet with Gilda in the second act evinced a far deeper feeling of tenderness and paternal affection than in the past and the fluctuating moods of the "Pari siamo" outburst were handled with a new skill.

At its best Mr. Warren's singing was remarkable in its tonal richness and solidity. But there were times when it became breathy, as in the second half of the "Cortigiani" aria, which did not match the first half either tonally or in effectiveness of interpretation. The first half had great power and appeal and in it, as in most of the rest of his work, there was definite strength and conviction.

Miss Sayao the Heroine

Miss Sayao sang with her usual skill and expressiveness as Gilda. But the role makes too great demands on her light voice. The "Caro nome" was admirably clean and secure in its every phrase, but could not achieve real brilliance, nor was it possible for the artist to lend her tones the weightiness wanted for such an outburst as the final duet of the third act.

The Monterone of William Hargrave was vocally acceptable, although his voice, too, was not big enough to lend his malediction of the jester in the first act its full need of impressiveness. All the other roles were in capable hands. Notably the Sparafucile, Nicola Moscona, who made much of his first and most important contribution. The performance moved along smoothly under Mr. Sodero's direction.

Review of Robert Bagar in the World-Telegram

Jussi Bjoerling Returns with "Rigoletto" at Met

The return of Jussi Bjoerling, Swedish tenor, after an absence of four years was a provocative aspect of last night's "Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan. Mr. Bjoerling, it was quite plain, has lost none of his freedom in singing. His voice is a mite less luscious than formerly, though he let out beautiful tones many times during the evening. But the effortless quality of his work was again a major attribute of it.

It may be that the Duke of Mantua is not entirely in his grasp at the moment. For some of the subtler sides of the part escaped him - and, naturally, the listener. However, his delivery of "Parmi veder le lagrime" in Act III and some of the music in the previous scene added up to as fine a bel canto style as you'll hear at the Metropolitan this season. And maybe better.

At any rate, Mr. Bjoerling's Duke is a boyish, prankish philanderer, and who finds the chaos more absorbing than consummation, or thereabouts. And the unwonted energy of his singing, the spontaneous quality, the warmth, provided compensation enough for any lacks.

Miss Sayao as Gilda

A familiar Gilda appeared in the person of Bidu Sayao. And like before, Miss Sayao artfully built up the character of the young girl as the opera wore on, until suddenly one realized she had been a true Gilda all the while. Her coloratura was precise and believable as something symbolizing very young youth. Her voice , not always at its best, she firmly controlled. Of course, she sang "Caro nome" very musically, and it was all pleasing and enjoyable to hear, even if she chose to forgo the high E at the end, as well as the traditional passage leading up to it.

In the way "La Traviata" is Violetta's opera, "Rigoletto" virtually belongs to the tragic jester. So Leonard Warren, disclosing an improved, dramatically mature characterization, took the proceedings away from his colleagues. In the first place, he was generous, but not extravagant with the gold that lies in his tones. He used the voice mostly as an interpretive medium, and in so doing got right down to fundamentals.

There were some exciting contrasts in "Pari siamo" that he had never made before, and with time he'll be sure to make them all. If Mr. Warren had not been tempted to hold the [first] note of "Ah, si vendetta!" too long, the song would have had more effect.

One of the special pleasures of the evening was Nicola Moscona's Sparafucile, an impersonation whose villainy eluded no one, nor whose musical side could be questioned. Also worthy, operatically speaking, were the efforts of William Hargrave, the Monterone; Alessio de Paolis, the Borsa; and George Cehanovsky, the Maurillo.

It would have added a lot in the Quartet to hear Martha Lipton sing out the "Ha ha's," which, by the way, comprise the anchorage of the piece. As she did them, weakly and casually, that number lost a good deal of the four-square solidity it is supposed to possess. Otherwise she was an acceptable Maddalena. The cast also held Thelma Altman, Giovanna; John Baker, Ceprano; Maxine Stellman, the Countess; and Miss Altman, again, the Page.

As a whole the performance was commendable for its drive, constant fluency and frequent scintillating moments, all of which were owing to the masterly conducting of Cesare Sodero. With him in the pit Verdi's melodies always avoid the barrel-organ conventionality that they seem to get in some other hands. And furthermore, he conducts the work as a complete thing and not as a series of ear-wooing episodes.

There was a huge audience and, you've guessed it, a highly enthusiastic one.

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