[Met Performance] CID:141830
Un Ballo in Maschera {45} aCivic Opera House,Chicago, Illinois: 05/11/1946.

(Review)


Chicago, Illinois
May 11, 1946


UN BALLO IN MASCHERA {45}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Somma

Amelia..................Zinka Milanov
Riccardo................Jan Peerce
Renato..................Leonard Warren
Ulrica..................Margaret Harshaw
Oscar...................Pierrette Alarie
Samuel..................Norman Cordon
Tom.....................Lorenzo Alvary
Silvano.................John Baker
Judge...................Richard Manning
Servant.................Lodovico Oliviero
Dance...................Peggy Smithers
Dance...................Anne Barlow [Last performance]
Dance...................Natasha Tzvetcova
Dance...................Elissa Minet
Dance...................William Sarazen
Dance...................Robert Armstrong
Dance...................James Nygren [Last performance]
Dance...................Josef Carmassi

Conductor...............Bruno Walter

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune

Walter and Warren Win Audience Acclaim at Met Ends Season with "The Masked Ball"

Chicago has given two artists the supreme accolade this season - Lotte Lehmann and Bruno Walter. This is the most natural thing in the world, for how could you admire the one and not the other? They stand for the same thing, which is the highest art in music. So it was that the very people who could not tear themselves away from Lehmann's recitals flatly refused to leave "The Masked Ball" Saturday night without giving Walter an unmistakable token of their regard.

They tossed "bravos!" to him in the pit, but that was not enough. They sat tight in the Civic Opera House after the Metropolitan Opera's season had ended and would not budge from their chairs until at long last Mr. Walter appeared with the leading singers and was properly saluted, even by Zinka Milanov; she bestowed a kiss.

Certainly all this was his due, for the high place he has earned in music as well as for his Verdian gesture in ending the season with a memory so pleasant. But he would be the first to tell you, should you ask him, that this was no rival to "The Masked Ball" he conducted here two years ago.

That was a glowing performance in which every detail was so exquisite a part of the pattern it seemed to fall effortlessly in place. This was a good performance in which little snags and snarls frustrated perfection.

Except for Leonard Warren, whose magnificent baritone made "Eri tu" a superb signal for a show stopping ovation, and for Jan Peerce, whose tenor almost made up in skill for what it lacked in size. The singing did not achieve the 1944 standard, and Mr. Walter's way with the orchestra was magical, that orchestra had sacrificed much of its freshness on the altar of the afternoon's "Rosenkavalier."

There were spurts of brilliance, of course: in the wonderful laughing song at the gallows was Verdi at his best, and the long lyrical line of the third act prelude was a sumptuous cloak of tone to wrap up singing. But those snags! In the last scene where Walter so brilliantly poses the ominous theme of impending death against the lacy background of masquers dancing at the ball, you could not hear the off-stage orchestra, and the whole effect was spoiled.

Even so, there was plenty to make many wonder audibly why we don't hear more of "The Masked Ball." It was Mr. Warren's vocal evening, but Zinka Milanov did some beautiful singing, though it is sad to hear her risk that lovely voice by forcing it out of its natural channel. Margaret Harshaw's big contralto warmed the ear, but her Ulrica has not yet the authority to command the eye, Norman Cordon and Lorenzo Alvary were imposing conspirators, but no match for 1944's Virgilio Lazzari and Nicola Moscona., who understood that the laughing song has a sinister undercurrent of sardonic contempt. And while little Pierette Alarie was a charming page, she gave no more than a sketchy approximation of Oscar's music.

After all, Tetrazzini herself used to sing that canzone, complete with the high B in the cadenza. And when Toscanini conducted "The Masked Ball" for the Met in 1913, Hempel was his Oscar, along with Destinn, Matzenauer, Caruso, Amato. Rothier and De Segurola. All things considered, Bruno Walter worked a miracle. He deserved every echo of that ovation.



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