[Met Performance] CID:149770
Aida {510} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/9/1949.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 9, 1949

AIDA {510}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Ljuba Welitsch
Radamès.................Frederick Jagel
Amneris.................Blanche Thebom
Amonasro................Frank Guarrera
Ramfis..................Jerome Hines
King....................Philip Kinsman
Messenger...............Paul Franke
Priestess...............Thelma Votipka
Dance...................Lorraine Ammerman
Dance...................Barbara Hausler
Dance...................Audrey Keane
Dance...................Elissa Minet
Dance...................Leon Varkas

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

Review of Cecil Smith in Musical America

Ljuba Welitsch made her second appearance at the Metropolitan on February 9, 1948 in the title role of Verdi's "Aida." Attracted by the sensational reports of Miss Welitsch... the standees - always a barometer of the drawing power of a leading singer - began to gather several hours before curtain time.

The part of Aida provided opportunities for assessing some aspects of Miss Welitsch's craft that were not brought to light in Salome, which is, after all, a specialized undertaking, and for the singing actress who can cope with it at all, something of a sure-fire role. In Aida, the vocalist cannot rely on the collaboration of a sumptuous orchestra to make her tone sound well; and the actress is less amply supplied with useful materials by her librettist, but must discover for herself, in a rather stilted story, those elements which will permit her to create a consistent and believable character.

Without diminishing the initial enthusiasm for Miss Welitsch's arresting personality, her first appearance as Aida enabled her hearers to define the character and scope of her gifts, rather than merely to exult in their flamboyance. As a vocalist. she is somewhat less than perfect, though among the singers at the at the Metropolitan not even Helen Traubel has a more assured method of tone production.

But in Verdi's music many nuances of color and phrasing lay outside Miss Welitsch's technical powers, or else outside her interest. In the massed ensemble scenes she was magnificent; her voice cut sharply through chorus and orchestra, and furnished the brilliant top the music requires. Elsewhere, she was best in passages that were loud and agitated - with the single exception of some blandishing phrases in the Nile Scene duet with Radames. She sang both her arias much too fast, and gave the impression of being so much interested in the words that she tried to deliver them like an actress on the speaking stage - at a considerable sacrifice of musical values. In sum total, her singing , despite supremely effective moments, covered a far more constricted range of color, dynamics, and expression than we have come to expect from our best Aidas in years past.

Her acting was similarly one-sided. When the situation was excited, so that she could move or gesticulate, she was generally commanding. When she stood still, much of her magnetism vanished. It should be pointed out, however, that unlike her colleagues in the cast, she listened when other people sang.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

An Integrating Force

Ljuba Welitsch, whose debut last Friday night at the Metropolitan Opera House in the title rôle of Strauss's "Salome" had left hundreds of admirers eager for more, reappeared last night singing the lead in Verdi's "Aida." For singing, she is surely an artist and a musician, and she has a voice of first-rate quality. That quality is a little special, a little wiry; but it is beautiful all the same, and Miss Welitsch handles her bright and powerful instrument to perfection.

She is a woman of the stage, too. She gets into a rôle and stays there, acts all the time, communicates by gesture as well as by voice. If she were not by temperament so thoroughly frank and straightforward, she would be an even better actress than she is. As Salome, her elaborate exposition was striking and welcome. As "Aida," a far simpler character, she seemed lacking in expressive detail. In both parts her dramatic line was as impeccable as her vocal one but wholly without poetry. I think she needs busy rôles, roles that give her lots to do, for she has no facial or personal glow about her and no warmth. Standing still, she scarcely projects at all. She is an actress, nevertheless, and a fine one, as well as one of the few perfect singers to come to the Met in recent years.

Blanche Thebom, as Amneris, looked beautiful, sang handsomely and moved with both grace and elegance. Frank Guarrera did good singing, too, as Amonasro. Emil Cooper conducted with his usual animated precision, and Thelma Votipka, who sang the Priestess, was, as always, perfect. The others were excellent but less notable. The performance as a whole was careful, sensible, dignified and musically worthy. The ensemble pieces were particularly forceful, dominated, as they were, by Miss Welitsch's masterful accuracy as to pitch and rhythm.

I suspect that Ljuba Welitsch is an artist whose presence in any musico-dramatic ensemble tones up the whole cast, gives tension, excitement and brilliance. She is an integrating force. Last night's "Aida" without her would have been respectable but not far above mediocre. With her, it glowed, though she herself showed only vocal radiance.

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