[Met Performance] CID:141860
Rigoletto {269} Municipal Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri: 05/15/1946.

(Review)


St. Louis, Missouri
May 15, 1946


RIGOLETTO {269}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Patrice Munsel
Duke of Mantua..........Jan Peerce
Maddalena...............Martha Lipton
Sparafucile.............Ezio Pinza
Monterone...............Osie Hawkins
Borsa...................Richard Manning
Marullo.................George Cehanovsky
Count Ceprano...........John Baker
Countess Ceprano........Maxine Stellman
Giovanna................Thelma Altman
Page....................Thelma Altman

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

Review of Henry R. Burke in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat

10,328 Thrilled by Sheer Beauty of Met's "Rigoletto"

Time-honored Italian opera - opera concerned with beautiful tone and showy song - returned to Kiel Auditorium last night with the Metropolitan's presentation of Verdi's "Rigoletto," It held an audience of 10,328 with sheer melodic beauty, "thrilling" realistic modern youth just as it had "enchanted" that youth's romantic grandfathers 96 years ago. From the day, indeed, that a petty Austrian official kept his job and preserved the opera by transforming into the Duke of Mantua the Bourbon King, who had been target of Victor Hugo's hatred of monarchy. "The show must - and did - go on."

Jan Peerce - was the ducal playboy with the light-hearted carol that "Women Are Fickle." In the tragic role of the pandering jester which gives the opera its title was Leonard Warren, while Patrice Munsel was the virginal Gilda. Ezio Pinza - always a magnificent artist - was the lethal Sparafucile, with Martha Lipton as his sister Maddelena. A notable cast - to create a great quartet. Possibly manager Edward Johnson of the Metropolitan doesn't agree with his predecessor, Gatti-Casazza, that the emotional impact of Verdi's opera is so inescapable it could "even be done with dogs."

NOT DRAMA AT ALL

Were opera the "drama per musica" its progenitors had purposed, "Rigoletto" would be neither heard nor seen. It is not a drama with - or by - music. It is not a drama at all; melodrama rather, and as sheerly fustian as "Spartacus" or "Metamora" or "Richelieu." Times change, and what our forebears thought was drama in the frenzy of romanticism's decline now grates with plot-hinge squeaks. But Verdi's music lives as music. A curious and delightful blend of baroque ornamentation and romantic rhapsody to which melody gives life. Only great singing could make one care what happens to Gilda. There was great singing last night.

For that, thank the opportunity Verdi has provided; the Duke's "Questo o quelle," Gilda's "Caro nome," Rigoletto's Monologue and the duet scene between him and Sparafucile, Gilda and her father, and Gilda and the Duke in Act I; In Act II the Duke's "Parmi veder le lagrime," Rigoletto's curse, and the duet scenes between father and daughter; and in the final act "Donna e mobile" and the no less famed and popular quartet. Either of the last would have won success for any opera of its type and generation. Fioratura - a flowering of melody indeed! A quaint old- fashioned nosegay which endures by the very artificiality of its setting.

CONVINCING PORTRAYAL

Great singing as well as great acting marked Leonard Warren's presentation of the title role last night as memorable - one to live in "Rigoletto" history. Voice and miming were one of convincing portrayal, his antic gesture more than kin if less than kind of madness; his voice of fluent, resonance inflected in mood portraits as in turn it expressed lecherous and animal cunning, ribald jeering, fawning superstition, tenderness baffled and broken despair, the authority of outraged anger, bitter vengeance and the beginning of madness itself.

As Gilda, Patrice Munsel, captured her audience at once. She sang the "Caro nome" with the ease of a bird, and indeed there seemed "a wood note wild" in the character of her voice - in those earlier scenes crystalline, but of crystal that it seemed might momentarily shatter. Yet it was a voice that appeared warmer, firmer after the abduction scene. Jan Peerce in the role of the Duke was vocally pleasing, but personally unconvincing. Scarcely the debonair playboy, more the purposeful grad grind. A singer who can, and loves to spin out his golden top tones, but with a voice which in its range has at times a suspicion of roughness.

SPLENDID QUARTET

With Miss Munsel, Jan Peerce and Mr. Warren, Martha Lipton as Maddelena completed the famous quartet - an exquisite blending of beautiful voices and a splendid example of ensemble singing.

Not less splendid even in the lesser role of Sparafucile - the sixteenth century version of Murder, Incorporated - was Ezio Pinza, a singer master not only of bel canto, but of those inflected tone-tints in which dramatic effectiveness resides. Osie Hawkins as Monterone uttered the malediction with authority, dignity and a passionate denunciatory eloquence.

Cesare Sodero's conducting was forthright, understanding and evoked from a responsive disciplined orchestra a fine support for singers and the excellent choral work. The performance was a triumph which won the season's warmest ovation at its close.

THREE MASTERPIECES

The Metropolitan has come - and gone, leaving the audiences of more than 30,000 for its three performances to share the hope that never again will a third of a century pass before it makes return. It gave us three typical masterpieces - of German, French and Italian opera. It gave St. Louis opera lovers a chance to check the accomplishments of their own St. Louis Grand Opera company against the world's standard - and on the home grounds as it were. And to check the Metropolitan standards by St. Louis achievements. As well as to measure Metropolitan broadcasts by Metropolitan standards of production. Each in truth a benefit. But the greatest benefit was that it disclosed by the acid test of box-office the great number of opera devotees who make St. Louis their cultural home.



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