[Met Performance] CID:146470
Rigoletto {279} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/25/1947.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 25, 1947

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Lily Pons
Duke of Mantua..........Jussi Björling
Maddalena...............Irra Petina
Sparafucile.............Mihály Székely
Monterone...............Kenneth Schon
Borsa...................Leslie Chabay
Marullo.................George Cehanovsky
Count Ceprano...........John Baker
Countess Ceprano........Inge Manski
Giovanna................Evelyn Sachs
Page....................Irene Jordan

Conductor...............Pietro Cimara

Director................Dino Yannopoulos
Set designer............Vittorio Rota
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Boris Romanoff

Rigoletto received six performances this season.

[Pons' costumes were designed by Valentina.]

Review of Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune

Christmas Gift

"Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan Opera House last night turned out to be a Christmas gift. Not that the Met does not owe its faithful public a good show after so many inferior offerings as have been presented this season. All the same, that one should have turned up on Christmas, of all nights, is a bit of luck for all concerned, including the management, which may well have been as surprised as any of us out front that no unhappy accident of any kind marred the occasion.

The evening started off well, with Pietro Cimara, the conductor, in full command of orchestral animation and of choral vigor. Then Jussi Bjoerling, the tenor, came on in excellent voice, full of brilliance and bravura. Then Leonard Warren revealed himself as not only the beautiful singer he so dependably is, but as also cast to perfection in the title role. Indeed, Warren's Rigoletto is the finest bit of characterization your reviewer has yet witnessed from this artist. It is impressive, convincing and genuinely touching. Last night he dominated the whole performance by the power of his dramatic projection. And if his vocalism was occasionally a little mealy-mouthed, it was also, at the grander moments, open, frank and noble. Mihaly Szekely, as Sparafucile, was equally distinguished; and his handsome bass voice sounded to this listener like the finest deep organ he has had the pleasure of hearing this year. His make-up was a triumph of evil and leering representation of the ruffian.

The small bits were well sung and played, too. All round the performance was one of happy casting and of refreshingly mobile stage direction. Dino Yannopoulos, who is responsible for the latter, is to be thanked for livening up a work that so easily can go static and stiff. He has employed no unusual maneuvers. But he has used good sense, good taste and no ostentation at all.

Lily Pons as Gilda, was her standard self. This means that she looked well, if somewhat excessively blond, and moved prettily and that she sang her exhibition piece "Caro Nome," with all sweetness and care. Elsewhere she was vocally unpredictable, ofttimes charming, as often or not wobbly and flat. But even wobbly or flat, Miss Pons is an artist of no mean stage presence. And in her better moments she has a thin, but lovely, penetration of voice that is sweetness itself and utterly absorbing to listen to
All through, the performance had life in it and style. The star parts were sung and played like star parts; the small roles and ensemble passages were admirably executed; even the chorus did clean, professional work. Mr. Cimara, the conductor, is certainly responsible for the vigor and precision of the reading; but he could not have achieved so fine a result had he not had good material to work with. Your reporter regretted sincerely, for once, that he could not stay for the great last act, which included, along with the famous quartet, Irra Petina's appearance as Maddelena and more singing from Mr. Szekely.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun

Pons, Warren and Bjoerling in Robust "Rigoletto"

The star system in opera, which has been much berated, is not without its values. Last night's "Rigoletto" at the Metropolitan was a rousing performance of Verdi's melodious tragedy for three shining reasons: Jussi Bjoerling returned in brilliant voice, Leonard Warren sang the best Rigoletto of his career and Lily Pons affirmed her singular position among current sopranos.

Even a captious operagoer would conclude that talent of this order must be respected. The reports from Europe on the malady that has delayed Bjoerling's reappearance - sciatica is the general diagnosis - were fortunately not reflected in this performance. The pure vibrance of his voice is unimpaired, as he proved with every phrase he sang. He has, moreover, struck a balance between virtuosity and musicianship, so that he could thrust home a high D flat in his second act duet with Gilda without also striking a posture. "Parmi veder" was magnificently sung, as was his portion of the quartet.

The eloquence latent in Warren's heroic voice has rarely yielded so much of a great Rigoletto as it did in this performance. Some recent hard work (not unrelated to the presence here of Giuseppe de Luca) made of his characterization a far subtler, more trenchant thing than it ever was before. Rather than being concerned with voluptuous sound alone, he thought in terms of phrases and words - as indeed Verdi had planned the part. It was all of a piece, and beautifully done.

What Verdi planned for Gilda was also substantially realized by Mme. Pons, despite her current disposition to prove that operatic suitors, as well as gentlemen (they are not necessarily synonymous) prefer blondes. One could scarcely credit her Valentina gown in the second act as the kind of thing a Mantuan sub-deb would wear around the house, but she sang the music cleanly, surely and with the musicality that she alone - of current coloraturas - affects. The competition of the evening inclined her to spend a high E midway in "Caro Nome" as well as in the traditional place, but both were well managed.

The good work was by no means confined to the stars. Mihaly Szekely, who sang a Wagner part or two last year, had the low tones to be an authentic Sparafucile, Irra Petina was a decidedly superior Maddalena, and both Inge Manski (the Countess) and Evelyn Sachs (Giovanna) made much of their limited opportunities. There was also some valiant work by Pietro Cimara, especially when his conducting was not influenced by the whim of a "name" singer.

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