[Met Performance] CID:149420
Aida {508} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/8/1949.

(Debut: Gertrude Ribla
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 8, 1949


AIDA {508}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Gertrude Ribla [Debut]
Radamès.................Frederick Jagel
Amneris.................Margaret Harshaw
Amonasro................Frank Guarrera
Ramfis..................Nicola Moscona
King....................Philip Kinsman
Messenger...............Paul Franke
Priestess...............Thelma Votipka
Dance...................Marina Svetlova
Dance...................Lorraine Ammerman
Dance...................Elissa Minet
Dance...................Barbara Hausler
Dance...................Leon Varkas

Conductor...............Emil Cooper


Review of Cecil Smith in Musical America

In Gertrude Ribla, who made her debut in the season's second presentation of Verdi's "Aida," the Metropolitan has made a superb addition to the roster. She can hardly be called a discovery, since nearly everyone except the Metropolitan management has known of her dynamic powers for five years or more, inasmuch as her fairly frequent appearances in New York and Philadelphia have not taken place in secret.

But better late than never, for the company can certainly use an artist who flashes with the high-voltage electricity with which Miss Ribla galvanized the role of Aida. That she is not a letter-perfect vocalist was not particularly important, for she was alive every instant of the time, and genuinely thrilling on repeated occasions throughout the evening. In my experience, only a few singers-Claudia Muzio and Dusolina Giannini among them-have presented this role with so profound an understanding and so powerful a projection. Even though Frederick Jagel and Margaret Harshaw, neither of whom revealed any dramatic impulse as they stalked through their parts, gave her no theatrical reciprocity whatever, Miss Ribla never lost contact with Aida's emotional life, or with the continuous line of her function in the plot. The Nile scene took on refreshed meaning in passage after passage. Miss Ribla sang her share of the dialogue with extraordinary tonal coloration, and acted with an unbroken concentration upon central issues that held this jaded attendant at Aida performances altogether spellbound. Though some of its features may perhaps still be in a formative stage, this is already a notable characterization, and as the soprano develops it further, it is likely to go down in the annals of the Metropolitan as one of the most distinguished individual achievements of our time.

Miss Ribla's voice is not a dramatic soprano; it is a true spinto. It is not particularly large, but it could dominate the ensembles. In the conventional sense of the word it is seldom beautiful, for the singer shows as little concern for the production of a faultless tone, for its own sake, as Muzio did. But there is a vibrancy about its texture-quite apart from a tremolo which sometimes gets the upper hand, and should be corrected-that is instantaneously thrilling, and imparts emotional urgency to every phrase. A few spots in the score were apparently a bit hard for her to vocalize, but she was never impeded by them; like Jeritza in Tosca, she always found a believable way to sing around the difficulties of a phrase she did not care to meet head-on. And just as one began to suspect that her control was not as absolute as it ought to be, she would offer such refutations as the lovely, long-held A at the end of "O patria mia" and the equally choice pianissimo B flat in the subsequent duet with Radames.

Remarkable as this first performance was, it carried indications that later ones might be even better, when the nervousness of a debut is a thing of the past. It was impossible to guess from this one part, however, just how effective Miss Ribla might be in other operas. The preparation of a role, to her, requires command of a synthesis of musical, vocal, and dramatic elements. There may be great variability in her standard in different parts, just as there always was with such singing actresses as Muzio, Farrar, and Garden. But she is a tremendously gifted operatic artist, and one who seems destined to win wide public favor, if one may judge from the long and spontaneous applause at her first Metropolitan curtain calls.

Mr. Jagel and Miss Harshaw both sang well, but our satisfaction with them was decreased by Miss Ribla's demonstration that Aida is a believable drama, not a vocalists' puppet show. Frank Guarrera was an effective Amonasro, singing richly and presenting a reasonably successful impersonation. The rest of the cast consisted of Nicola Moscona, Philip Kinsman, Thelma Votipka, and Paul Franke. Emil Cooper conducted in a manner that was generally derogatory to a great score.



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