[Met Performance] CID:152110
Rigoletto {294} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/4/1949.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 4, 1949


RIGOLETTO {294}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Erna Berger
Duke of Mantua..........Richard Tucker
Maddalena...............Martha Lipton
Sparafucile.............Dezs÷ Ernster
Monterone...............Clifford Harvuot
Borsa...................Leslie Chabay
Marullo.................George Cehanovsky
Count Ceprano...........Denis Harbour
Countess Ceprano........Maxine Stellman
Giovanna................Thelma Altman
Page....................Thelma Altman

Conductor...............Jonel Perlea

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

Rigoletto received eleven performances this season.


Review of Cecil Smith in Musical America

Patrons of the season's first performance of Verdi's "Rigoletto," a benefit for the Yeshiva University Women's Organization, were rewarded with one of the most notable representations of this opera given at the Metropolitan in many years. The moving force in this stirring and eloquent evening-an epoch-making occasion, since it marked the Metropolitan's first gesture in the direction of refreshing its treatment of the standard Italian repertory-was its conductor, Jonel Perlea, the Romanian musician who made his debut on Dec. 1 in an equally remarkable performance of "Tristan and Isolde." But not all the credit belonged to Mr. Perlea; for Erna Berger, singing Gilda for the first time here, lifted the role to major stature, while both Richard Tucker, as the Duke of Mantua, and Leonard Warren, in the title role, far surpassed their previous admirable achievements in their parts.

Mr. Perlea's treatment of the score was so infinitely beautiful and so masterly in technique that a factual description of his virtues sounds like hyperbole. From the first austere brass chords in the prelude, it was apparent that, unlike too many of his predecessors in the pit, he took "Rigoletto" seriously. The orchestra played with symphonic expressiveness; the tone was warm yet controlled, and no single phrase was left casual or inexpressive. The rest of the opera was a succession of wonders. The pacing was sensitive and just at all times. The quick passages were bright, clean, and full of spirit, and the lyric ones sang throughout the whole orchestra. Continuity and climax were infallibly designed. The balance between singers and orchestra was close to perfection. Best of all, Mr. Perlea gave the singers latitude to sing freely and expressively (for he is a magnificent accompanist) at the same time that he also gave them a rhythmic pulse and an instrumental support that kept them confident and energetic. If his subsequent performances match his first two, Mr. Perlea must be regarded as one of the most distinguished conductors in the history of the Metropolitan.

Miss Berger sang Gilda's music exquisitely, and gave a touching and girlish characterization that was always believable. Her conception of the music, while conversant with the best traditions, was both personal and positive. As she had done with her Sophie in "Der Rosenkavalier," she approached the role of Gilda as much from the point of view of the text and action as from that of the music As a result, her singing was meaningful, for she combined exceptional beauty of phrasing and line with a constant play of shifting color and inflection. Since Mr. Perlea restored the score to its original state by eliminating the interpolated high notes we have become used to, there was no opportunity to discover whether Miss Berger sings above C sharp easily, but her artistry was so persuasive that nobody needed to feel the loss of the conventional Es and E flats.

Mr. Tucker, singing with the utmost ease and richness, was never in better voice, and Mr. Warren's depiction of the jester has deepened so greatly, both vocally and histrionically, that it now belongs [among the] Metropolitan's gallery of great operatic portraits. Martha Lipton was an animated and effective Maddalena, and Dezso Ernster, whose erstwhile tremolo seems to be coming under control, was a forceful Sparafucile. The capable lesser members of the cast were Thelma Altman, Clifford Harvuot, George Cehanovsky, Leslie Chabay, Denis Harbour, and Maxine Stellman.



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