[Met Performance] CID:141230
Don Giovanni {130} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/20/1946.

(Ezio Pinza's 20th Anniversary

Metropolitan Opera House
March 20, 1946
In celebration of Ezio Pinza's twentieth anniversary with the company.


Don Giovanni............Ezio Pinza
Donna Anna..............Zinka Milanov
Don Ottavio.............John Garris
Donna Elvira............Eleanor Steber
Leporello...............Virgilio Lazzari
Zerlina.................Nadine Conner
Masetto.................Arthur Kent
Commendatore............Norman Cordon

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

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


Honored for 20 Year Service With Metropolitan as He Sings Don Giovanni

Ezio Pinza's appearance as Don Giovanni in Mozart's opera last night at the Metropolitan Opera House was the official celebration, of his twentieth anniversary as a leading artist of the institution with which he first appeared as the Priest in "Vestale" on Nov. 1, 1926.

Mr. Pinza was honored on this occasion by various ceremonies--- by the artists of the company, who assembled on the stage after the final scene to congratulate him, and by the presentation of a silver bowl back of the stage, with the thanks and appreciation of the Board of Directors and the management inscribed upon it. But these gracious observances were less significant than Mr. Pinza's performance itself and its rapturous reception by the audience.

Perhaps Don Giovanni is the greatest role in the baritone's repertory. It asks everything of a great interpretive artist. Its dramatic demands are so striking and so various that the part has more than once been taken with memorable effect by some great "singing actor," whose vocal resources were less conspicuous than his histrionism, with which such a part for a vehicle, carried the day. An actor of the spoken drama could hardly ask a "fatter" role. But Mr. Pinza sings magnificently; he acts, not only with gesture and facial play, but with his voice. And it is only by being a master of both mediums that an artist may hope to do full justice to this sovereign part. Mozart so conceived it and so it is exemplified by Dr. Pinza.

Role Has Grown With Him

And if the eyes were closed, his dramatic meaning, expressed in a foreign tongue, would be manifest every instant. The quality of tone in the beginning of "La ci darem la mano" is one thing, and sensuousness itself - likewise the caress of the serenade to Zerlina. The brightness of the tone and the sheer virtuosity with which the champagne aria was sung last night, by contrast, were electrifying. These are instances it is not necessary here to multiply. But it is to be remembered that Mr. Pinza's recitative is fully as important as his sustained singing.

It is not belittling him in any way to remark that the role has grown very much in his hands since he first appeared in it on this stage. The dramatic line of it is more distinguished; the detail be- comes constantly more significant. Over it all is the sovereign dramatic conception which fulfills not only the picture drawn by Da Ponte's admirable libretto, but something of the adventurous, defiant, picaresque figure of the old legends which long preceded the opera.

A Worthy Performance

The performance as a whole was worthy of the occasion. John Garris appeared for the first time or this stage as Don Ottavio. His phrasing and breath control were admirable throughout. His voice is not of the type traditionally associated with this role, nor was his over-all style. This was refreshing; it made the part more virile and more masculine and the audience welcomed this accomplishment with special applause.

Miss Conner was a delightful and highly artistic Zerlina and Arthur Kent one of the best Masetto's we have encountered. Leporello was in the experienced and excellent hands of Mr. Lazzari. Miss Milanov was unsteady at times, but she has grandeur of voice and bearing, at climactic moments, which would pardon a less remarkable artist. Eleanor Steber was the Elvira and Norman Cordon the Commendatore. The house was packed for an historic evening.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune

Honor and Gratitude

Ezio Pinza's twentieth season at the Metropolitan Opera was honored last night by a performance of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" that did credit to the establishment, as well as homage to our top-ranking operatic bass. George Szell's direction of this greatest and grandest of all operatic scores could not have been more animated, more dramatic, more intelligent. Zinka Milanov, who sang Donna Anna, has never shown off her lovely voice to greater advantage, Virgilio Lazzari, the perfect Leporello of our time, gave us the "commedia dell'arte" intact. And Mr. Pinza himself dominated the whole with his unique vocal and histrionic powers, making of it not only a "dramma giocoso," as Mozart described the work, but a terrifying tale of "Il Dissoluto Punito," as it is also subtitled.

Eleanor Steber's Donna Elvira was distinguished and sensible, though the role is a little heavy for her voice. Nadine Conner's Zerlina and Norman Cordon's Commendatore were admirable, as always; and Arthur Kent's Masetto, if vocally a little mouthy, was, as usual, good acting. John Garris, who sang Don Ottavio for the first time, has a sweet, lyric tenor voice and most ingratiating presence. If he sang a bit white in his two arias and lacked a certain Spanish (or operatic, even) reserve in his characterization, it is not certain that further acquaintance with the role may not correct the slightly excessive flexibility of his whole presentation. There is a winning quality in both his voice and his person that is advantageous to the part.

This opera, as given currently at the Metropolitan, is comparable in every way to the best performances of it one has heard in times past both here and in Europe. Mr. Szell is in part responsible for the excellence, but the Joseph Urban scenery helps, too. And the serious effort everybody in the cast makes to give us of both his and Mozart's best, produces, with the high skills available, a serious and a noble rendering of a major opera. But the critical element in the performance is certainly Pinza. It is doubtful whether without him the opera would be in repertory at all. Casts have changed around him completely during his twenty years at the Metropolitan. But he always sings Don Giovanni, and the others always outdo themselves to match his workmanship, He is one of the great singing actors of our century, and Don Giovanni is his greatest role. The Metropolitan gives with him, has given with him for twenty years, one of our century's great performances of the very greatest opera in the world. The silver bowl bestowed upon him backstage after last night's final curtain was a small token indeed of the gratitude that musicians and music lovers owe him for his matchless gift to them.

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