[Met Performance] CID:143630
La Bohème {397} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/10/1947.

(Debut: Ferruccio Tagliavini

Metropolitan Opera House
January 10, 1947


Mimì....................Licia Albanese
Rodolfo.................Ferruccio Tagliavini [Debut]
Musetta.................Mimi Benzell
Marcello................Frank Valentino
Schaunard...............George Cehanovsky
Colline.................Giacomo Vaghi
Benoit..................Gerhard Pechner
Alcindoro...............Gerhard Pechner
Parpignol...............Lodovico Oliviero
Sergeant................John Baker

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

Review by Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun (?):


Italy's trade balance took a favorable turn last night, with the return of its principal export commodity - operatic tenors - to the pre-war standard at the Metropolitan Opera House. Ferruccio Tagliavini was the exhibit, making his debut in a performance of Puccini's "Bohème," which was the best the old house has had in a decade at least. A quantity of listeners limited only by the fire laws, took Tagliavini to their hearts almost immediately, and he responded by charming their hearts away with the beauty of his voice and the artistry of his singing. None of this was fortuitous, for the performance was outside the subscription series and everybody paid specially to be present.

The suggestions in his recordings were supported by the airy brightness of his vocal quality, the style and verve with which he used it to make Rodolfo a tangible figure on the stage. Not by any means the largest tenor voice the work has had (even this season) it floats superbly, and reaches the ear with ring and vibrance at all levels of force.

Tagliavini is essentially a lyric tenor, with a top of more brilliance and impact than is customary in this genre. Following a fine top B in the "Racconto," he sang a beautiful pianissimo, which was echoed by similar details in the third and fourth acts.


As if being an Italian tenor who is also a musician were not enough, Tagliavini added a lively sense of stage action, a willingness to submerge himself in the ensemble - at least between curtain rise and fall. When applause was in the air - as it often was last night, and with not a little stimulation by paid hands - he responded as a fire horse to smoke, stepping aside graciously for the other members of the cast to pass him (thus stealing a small time space alone) and bounding on with the liveliest gusto since Martinelli, when he had solo curtains after the third and fourth acts. The absurd noises from the claquers were an utter annoyance, since the values of the performance earned the handsome dividends to which they were entitled anyway.

These were by no means confined to Tagliavini. Licia Albanese sang her customarily fine-grained Mimì, with some guarded vocal tone, but also with great warmth and sensitivity. Francesco Valentino was a first class Marcello, Giacomo Vaghi a very able Colline, and George Cehanovsky the steady Schaunard. A Musetta new to me was Mimi Benzell, who acted more like a human being than most of the ingenues who inherit this part, and sang in a manner befitting the occasion. Not at all least was the direction of Cesare Sodero, who made himself felt with a quiet authority he has not always chosen to exercise at the conductor's desk, to the end of a performance with much individual brilliance but also a composite glow.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Glamorous Evening

FERRUCCIO TAGLIAVINI'S debut at the Metropolitan Opera House last night brought out an unusually large and enthusiastic audience.

Such unrestrained applause has not been heard in that house for some years. It was heartwarming. It was merited, too, for Mr. Tagliavini has a handsome voice and sings better than merely well, With Licia Albanese, as Mimi, and Francesco Valentino, as Marcello, supporting him in first-class style, Puccini's "La Boheme" took on an animation that was in every way enjoyable. Cesare Sodero and his principal artists gave the work, moreover, a genuinely Italianate reading. It was warm, and it did not drag. I suspect the artists responded to the audience's wide-awakeness and gave a better show for the sound appreciation shown at the outset.

Mr. Tagliavini has a lyric tenor voice, fresh in timbre and not without power. It is a typical Italian voice, frank and not very subtle, but smooth of scale. His singing style is typically Italian, too, though without the ostentation one is accustomed to associate with Italian tenors of an older generation. Mr. Tagliavini sings high and loud with perfect adequacy and no inconsiderable brilliance, but he does not gulp or gasp or gargle salt tears. He is a competent artist, thoroughly straightforward, quite without airs of genius and a little lacking in variety of coloristic vocal effect. To the eye he is plump but manly and a perfectly good actor. He has a pleasing personality, a temperament of no unusual projection.

The dominating quality of his work, besides its genuine competence, both vocal and dramatic, is its youthfulness. He sings like a young man who enjoys singing and who is neither afraid of high notes nor especially proud of them. He has reserves of energy and a great naturalness. Not in a very long time have we heard tenor singing at once so easy and so adequate….a genuine open-throated pianissimo, the first I have heard in Thirty - ninth Street since I started reviewing opera six years ago. So sound an artist could go far. Without going any farther than he has done so far he can give great pleasure to anybody who likes singing.

Mimi Benzell's Musetta was good to look at, if a little buzzy to the tar. Mr. Valentino sang well, looked well, acted well. His beautiful barytone voice was nicely matched for size with Mr. Taglavini's and with that of the ever-lovely Miss Albanese. And last night the wonderful thing took place that happens all too rarely these days. Italian singing actors, working under an Italian conductor before an audience that was pretty largely Mediterranean, gave us real Italian opera. Not ham Italian opera, but the real thing, the kind in which the play and music come alive because the cast knows what the show is all about and is singing, every one of them, the same piece. Genuine enjoyment all round was the note of the evening, the glamorous, incandescent kind of enjoyment that makes audiences listen better and artists work better. The performance, for once, seemed unusually short, in consequence.

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