[Met Performance] CID:155080
Don Giovanni {149} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/17/1950.

(Debut: Roberta Peters

Metropolitan Opera House
November 17, 1950

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Paul Schöffler
Donna Anna..............Ljuba Welitsch
Don Ottavio.............Eugene Conley
Donna Elvira............Eleanor Steber
Leporello...............Salvatore Baccaloni
Zerlina.................Roberta Peters [Debut]
Masetto.................Hugh Thompson
Commendatore............Jerome Hines

Conductor...............Fritz Reiner

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Joseph Urban
Choreographer...........Antony Tudor

Don Giovanni received nine performances this season.

Review of Louis Biancolli in the World Telegram

Clear, Smooth Zerlina Enlivens "Don Giovanni"

The delightful surprise of last night's performance of "Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan was the emergency debut of little Roberta Peters in the part of Zerlina. Without having appeared anywhere in public before, and with just a short rehearsal a few hours before curtain time, the 20-yearold girl made a brilliant showing in a very tricky role.

Voice Is Clear.

The voice came through the big house as clear as a bell, the notes equally bright and focused and the phrasing that of a true musician. And the girl - she is all of five feet-two - turned in a very smooth job of acting, too. She will bear watching - and listening.

The performance also was marked by the return of Ljuba Welitch to the company. The role was again Donna Anna, and while there was much of last season's first-grade singing, there was also cause for discomfort among her admirers. One was reminded of Mme. Welitch's best when the line spun out clear and unwavering, with the notes hanging on it like pearls. Then the voice quavered strangely and this fine musician seemed, for once, to lose her way.

Curbed Shrewish Impulse.

Even her acting of the role was less impressive than last season. True, there was an angry nobility about the portrayal: and, unlike one or two other Donna Annas, Mme. Welitch curbed the impulse to be shrewish. But the likeness was one or two removes from Mozart's original-in finesse.

Returning to the title part last night was Paul Schoeffler. I had some reservations about his Don Giovanni last season, but none last night. The singing was well-colored, resonant, and in style, and the acting forceful. I felt rather unhappy about Eleanor Steber's Donna Elvira. There was every effort to make the rebuffed lady sound as beautiful as Mozart intended, but the tones wavered and tended toward shrillness. Some flashes of beauty showed in the second act.

As Don Ottavio Eugene Conley accounted for some of the evening's finest vocalism -small-scale, perhaps, but every phrase woven with fastidious care: I thought him a bit too fastidious in his stage maneuvers.

Masetto Capably Sung.

The bumpkin Masetto was capably sung and acted by that conscientious young artist, Hugh Thompson, and Jerome Hines (the Commendatore) reminded one again that if there is a better basso at the Met he hasn't been heard yet. Last night's Leporello was very funny, thanks to the bubbling palaver and waddling bulk of Salvatore Baccaloni, but I must say that the voice seems to be succumbing to the law of diminishing returns.

Review of Quaintance Eaton in Musical America

The surprise debut of twenty-year-old Roberta Peters, who was summoned to sing the role of Zerlina when Nadine Conner fell ill at three o'clock on the afternoon of the performance, gave the first "Don Giovanni" of the season an air of unusual excitement. The attractive girl won an immediate place for herself in her first appearance on any stage, and her fresh youth, pretty voice and stage wisdom provided the chief interest of the evening. From her first entrance at the head of a line of dancing country girls, Miss Peters never faltered in what seemed an ideal embodiment of the peasant bride and her gaiety and charm pervaded the scenes in which she appeared. Her voice was clear, accurate in pitch and focus and lovely in quality.

Aside from Miss Peters' contribution and the excellent singing of Eugene Conley as Don Ottavio, it was not a very good performance. When the only commendation that can be given "Don Giovanni" is to single out individual excellences here and there, the vital essences are already missing. Part of the general ineptitude of the performance emanated from the stage, part from the pit. Ljuba Welitsch as Donna Anna and Eleanor Steber as Donna Elvira were not at their best vocally, and the slick, Germanic impersonation of Don Giovanni by Paul Schoeffler did not generate much warmth. Mr. Reiner led the orchestra without notable vitality, but his beat was firm enough.

Miss Welitsch's recent illness, hasty flight to this country and strenuous last-minute rehearsals had evidently taken their toll of her usual vocal stability, at least for the moment. Beginning with certain lapses from pitch and shortness of breath in the first act, her production steadily deteriorated until the "Non mi dir" was a pale and uncertain shadow of her former vivid accomplishment. Her acting was subdued as well, but this was an improvement over her flamboyant portrayal last year.

At the beginning of the second act, Miss Steber sang the "Mi tradi," restored to this place in the score. Where "Mi tradi" belongs in the opera has been a moot point for years. It originally appeared at the end of a scene, usually omitted, in Act II. After the night's escapade, Zerlina ties Leporello to a chair and teases him, then Elvira sings this plaint, having been betrayed yet once more. Many years ago at the Metropolitan, the aria was placed in the first act, after Elvira discovers the Don's pursuit of Zerlina, and it still appears there in the official libretto. It has been in and out of one act or another for decades.

After the polished and meaningful acting in "Don Carlo," the entire performance was a disappointment. Mr. Graf's staging fell into familiar patterns. He may be praised for dealing with the emergency debut so well, but there was little control of other personalities, who seemed to work on the principle of every man for himself.

The best vocalism of the evening was provided by Mr. Conley, who sang with warmth, agility, power, and beauty of tone. His "Dalla sua pace" was a genuine musical triumph, and "Il mio tesoro" carried his achievement into the realm of virtuosity. Jerome Hines as the Commendatore, Hugh Thompson as Masetto and Salvatore Baccaloni as Leporello were in their accustomed veins, the first two singing beautifully, the last singing hardly at all, but keeping the stage busy and the audience happy.

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