[Met Performance] CID:144820
La Bohème {404} Matinee ed. Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas: 05/4/1947.


Dallas, Texas
May 4, 1947 Matinee


Mimì....................Bidú Sayao
Rodolfo.................Ferruccio Tagliavini
Musetta.................Frances Greer
Marcello................John Brownlee
Schaunard...............George Cehanovsky
Colline.................Giacomo Vaghi
Benoit..................Salvatore Baccaloni
Alcindoro...............Salvatore Baccaloni
Parpignol...............Lodovico Oliviero
Sergeant................John Baker

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

Review of John Rosenfeld in the Dallas, Texas News

Opera in Review

Dallas, Too, "Bravos" Tagliavini; Sparkling "Bohème" Ends Season

On the strength of his hysterical reception this season, Ferruccio Tagliavini apparently had lodged in the Metropolitan Opera roster as the long-awaited successor to Caruso and Gigli.

Not that the young Italian lyric tenor is "another Caruso" or "another Gigli," Tagliavini has his own voice and his own style. It is just that he is able to sing the fervors and ardencies of Italian repertoire in a manner that stops shows and causes Metropolitan railbirds to "bravo" themselves hoarse.

Without assistance from that unofficial New York auxiliary, the paid claque, Tagliavini scored a momentous success in Dallas Sunday afternoon as Rodolfo in "La Bohème," the fourth and last opera of the Metropolitan visitation. This he did by virtue of an agreeable voice, a first-rate musical intelligence and a rare talent for communicating song. For, truth to tell, Tagliavini at this stage of life is not a bull-voiced or bell-voiced tenor. He is a sweet singing lyricist with light, silvery tones which he generally employs with exquisite taste.

As with Gigli in the 1920s, Tagliavini's most sensuous colors are achieved by mezza-voce, which he is inclined to overdo, or to use without particular logic. His greatness as a singer was found in the detail of his expressiveness, in the dynamic shadings, the unerring sense of phrase and line, in a rhythmic firmness that would do credit to an instrumentalist.

Tagliavini's fame preceded him here not only in reports from New York but also from Italy, where he was a favorite of American soldiers hearing their first operas, and also from record connoisseurs who buy up his two albums of arias as fast as they can be imported.

Unlike Caruso and Gigli, especially in their first Metropolitan seasons, Tagliavini has a spirit of ensemble. Although the cynosure of all ears at the Auditorium Sunday, he never ceased to be Rodolfo, one of the four happy and sad Bohemians of the Paris ateliers in 1840. There was no hogging of center stage, no backing of his colleagues to the audience, no steps to the apron to squander a high note.

So Tagliavini did his share to making this presentation of the most sparkling "La Bohème" one has had from the Metropolitan at home or afield in many a year. It was so filled with high spirits, romantic sentiments, good characterization and appropriate stage business, that the record crowd of 4,553 persons forgot the steaming climate of the hall and reveled in every minute of it.

Bidu Sayao as Mimi was a matched partnership for the tenor. The Brazilian soprano was in excellent voice and, as always, was one of the most stylish vocalists of our day. Some of Mimi's music was a bit heavy for her, especially in our capacious Auditorium. Most of it, however, was her dish and no one present could remember more affecting deliveries of "Mi chiamano Mimi" and "Addio senza rancor," We liked too the sharp delineatory features of her portrayal. Mimi is no golden-haired innocent, no Marguerite, no Juliet. She is a grisette, a sister under the skin of "Bohème's" other woman, Musetta, a courtesan of the proletariat, a poor man's Camille, down to the consumptive cough.

Miss Sayao realized this character clearly and for once the enkindled passion of the first act had seduction rather than flirtation and a realism of kiss and embrace.

Mr. Tagliavini did his share toward bringing both Puccini's music and the expert libretto to an emotional boil. His "Che gelida manina" was fervently sung and decorated with a little new pantomime, such as showing Mimi a page of poetry by way of illustrating what he does for a living.

The "O suave fanciulla" duet was a beauty with the soprano and tenor concluding on a perfectly blended B. The "B" in the "Racanto" was negotiated by Mr. Tagliavini after an unconventional but helpful approach.

John Brownlee, fine-grained and imaginative, was a sympathetic Marcello. George Cehanovsky was Schaunard and Giacomo Vaghi completed the quartet with a well-acted and sometimes well-sung Colline. The Farewell to his coat won a round of applause.

Frances Greer was a tornadic Musetta, a bit shrill in the waltz song, but generally as bright vocally as she was vivacious in action. The comic stupidities of Benoit and Alcindoro were disclosed with more talent than was needed by that prime buffo, Salvatore Baccaloni.

Puccini's opera, now 51 years old, is no souvenir of the past. As a theatrical story it plays today with conviction and the Puccini musical idiom is inescapably contemporary. It is an opera not of knights and demigods, but of little people and natures all too human. It was a short life and a merry one for the denizens of the Latin Quarter, an intense play at comedy and tragedy, love and hate. The felicity of the Puccini score continues to amaze.

The artists enjoyed the performance as much as the audience. The jolly quartet broke loose in the Café Momus scene with ad lib heckling of Marcello. Mr. Tagliavini left him (Brownlee) bound to a chair. Mr. Vaghi almost smothered the poor baritone with a napkin. All this was in keeping with the spirit of the scene.

The orchestra, playing in its shirt sleeves, responded to Cesare Sodero's correct if hardly pulsating beat. The Metropolitan's "Bohème" investiture has seen its best days. Still the stage pictures were sufficiently attractive as to win applause.

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