[Met Performance] CID:156460
La Forza del Destino: Convent Scene
Verdi Requiem Mass {30}
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/23/1951.

(First Appearance: Elena Nikolaidi

Metropolitan Opera House
March 23, 1951 Matinee


Leonora.................Zinka Milanov
Padre Guardino..........Cesare Siepi

Verdi: REQUIEM MASS {30}

Soloist.................Zinka Milanov
Soloist.................Elena Nikolaidi [First appearance]
Soloist.................Jan Peerce
Soloist.................Cesare Siepi

Conductor...............Bruno Walter

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times
Good Friday and the fiftieth anniversary, which this year represents the death of Giuseppe Verdi, were observed yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House by a performance of the "Manzoni Requiem," and an excerpt from "Forza del Destino" that cannot be forgotten by any who were fortunate enough to be present.

For the performance of the "Requiem" was one of those rare interpretative achievements that set themselves apart, by reason of the individuality and loftiness of the conceptions, from all other interpretations of the same work, even those on an equally distinguished plane. Bruno Walter, with the orchestra, chorus, and soloists of the Metropolitan Opera Association, led it with a self-effacement and spirituality which might have been possible to him, with all his gifts and experience, in previous decades of his career. One would say that the reading was the alembication of a lifetime's thought and experience. We have greatly admired, and often held reservations, concerning his art. It is our conviction that he never reached a greater height of spirituality and self-effacement, or communicated more impressionably his vision than he did yesterday.

That he conducted with masterly hand, that he had the good fortune of an exceptional solo quartet, headed by the great Milanov, a chorus and orchestra which rarely distinguished themselves, were most gratifying accessories of the occasion. What was transformative was the conductor's conception of the music, which affected all the singers, released what was best and finest in them, and in every member of the ensemble. The choral balances, the exquisite gradations and colorings of the tone of the voice, had a solemnity and an emotional intensity that are seldom indeed paralleled.

The soft passages were as thrilling as the crashing climaxes. One marveled anew at the wonderful results of Verdi's spacing of the voices, the hundred tone-colors that his scoring makes possible for them. Little in the choral music is more remarkable than the manner in which what we can call his vocal orchestration conveys the effects of awe and suspense, of terror and wild supplication, and mysterious transparencies, and "whispers of heavenly death." Yesterday these miracles of tone and creative genius were evoked anew.

The singers of the solo quartet were Zinka Milanov, Elena Nikolaidi, Jan Peerce and Cesare Siepi. The natural color of Mr. Siepi's voice seemed especially to be suited to his music. The simplicity, dignity and inherent power of his interprettion were companioned by his vocal skill. Mr. Peerce, with many a triumph to his credit, sang with exemplary beauty and clarity of tone, significance of meaning. Miss Nikolaidi was a voice of unusual beauty, and is a most intelligent artist, though her voice did not reveal her artistic purpose with as much variety and contrast of effect as it can do.

The summit of individual interpretation of the afternoon was Mme. Milanov's now consummate art. The adverb is used deliberately, since in the past there have been astonishing inconsistencies and uneveness in Mme. Milanov's delivery. Yesterday it was as near the perfect achievement of the solo soprano's music in the Verdi "Requiem" as can logically be expected or conceived.

The tones were perfectly placed and under exquisite control. Tones in pianissimo in alt had a quality which floated and vibrated as if released from earth. In certain climaxes the voice soared like an eagle. In the dramatic recitative of the "Libera me" it throbbed with emotion, pasionate entreaty, always the tone was rich and resonant, the style noble and in the grand manner.

The performance served in itself, once and for all, to dispense the old chiché, as superficial as it is misguiding, to the effect that "Although" the "Verdi Requiem" is operatic, even theatrical in style, it is nevertheless "Genuinely religious," though in the Italian manner. Interpreted with the depth of understanding shown yesterday, it is nothing of the kind. It is a most moving, solemn, mystical communion. Dramatic? In pages it is overwhelmingly so. But the drama is the passing of the spirit, and there is nothing more dramatic, awesome, majestic and prophetic of eternity than that.

It is these things of which Verdi speaks from the bottom of his great, human soul. When the more exterior elements of the score are disproportionately emphaszied and pushed far forward, the first part of the "Requiem" becomes more effective than the last. Yesterday every moment was equally contributory to the grandeur and vision of the whole.

On some occasions in the past we have greatly admired, and on other have taken the liberty to diasgree with various of Mr. Walter's performances. It is our conviction that he never showed himself a greater musician, a more sincere or profound artist, or attained a greater height of spirituality and self-effacement than yesterday in his revelation of Verdi.

The Verdi Requiem Mass received two performances this season.

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