[Met Performance] CID:158050
Aida {532} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11/20/1951.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 20, 1951


AIDA {532}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Zinka Milanov
Radamès.................Mario Del Monaco
Amneris.................Elena Nikolaidi
Amonasro................George London
Ramfis..................Jerome Hines
King....................Luben Vichey
Messenger...............Thomas Hayward
Priestess...............Lucine Amara
Dance...................Janet Collins

Conductor...............Fausto Cleva

Review of Linton Martin in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Splendor of 'Aida' Vies With Glitter of Audience
With Verdi's venerable but vital operatic warhorse, "Aida," as the stage show, and an enthusiastic, brilliant audience of capacity size on hand to greet the gala event, the [first night] of the Metropolitan Opera season in this city ran mostly true to tradition, on both sides of the footlights as the Academy last night.

What innovations and novelty could be claimed for the occasion were confined principally to the performance itself, consisting of the debuts here of several distinguished new singers in important parts, and the new staging designed for freshness of effect, scenically and dramatically.

AUDIENCE IN FINERY

These artistic features elicited lively discussions during the intermissions, from the audience that had put on something of a show itself, in the sartorial splendor that bedecked the debs and dowagers.

It was a matter of anybody's opinion whether this Metropolitan Opera [first night] audience was more or less "dreary" than the crowds that had turned out for such occasion in previous seasons. Plenty of jewels and fine furs adorned the distaff members of the audience; but there was not much more than a sprinkling of white ties and tails among the men.

GAPING AT MINIMUM

Perhaps even Metropolitan Opera inaugurals, at least in these external aspects, may be taken more casually these days than they once were. For in place of the crowds of the idly curious, who were wont to line the pavement in front of the Academy, to gape at the arriving notables, and gasp or giggle as news photographers "shot" the more famous fauna as their proper prey, only a few stragglers were seen last night.

"Aida," which is grad opera at the grandest - and not speaking at this moment of the Wagnerian works - is virtually ideal as an inaugural offering, because of the opulent opportunities it presents for vocal and visual splendor in appeal for the eye and ear, in its spectacle, it spacious pageantry, its dance divertissements, and its inspired succession of arias and rousing ensembles.

VERDI MASTEPIECE

Verdi never failed or fumbled for a moment in his superb musical score and neither did the Met management in preparing this production to [begin] its present season on both Broadway and Bond Street - the 66th year for the New York Company's annual series in this city, and the second under the direction of Rudolf Bing.

Last night's "Aida" emphasized the familiar fact that time brings its changes to singers and scenery in opera, like everything else. The only singer in the current cast surviving from the Met's last previous presentation of this opera here five years ago (on November 12, 1946 - when it also [began] the season) was Zinka Milanov in the title role, which she had also sung here three years before that.

So far as this season's widely discussed new staging and scenery are concerned, opera addicts who are sticklers for tradition need not be unduly upset. No vital violence has been done to Verdi by the dramatic direction of Margaret Webster, the Shakespearian gal of the legitimate theater, or to the familiar scenes in the new setting by Rolf Gerard.

'BROADWAY TOUCH'

The work of both Miss Webster and Mr. Gerard in connection with the present production continues the policy announced by manager Bing last season in bringing " a Broadway touch" to the Metropolitan for certain restudied and restaged operas of the repertoire. Certainly the results of the overhauling and revisions are more rewarding and felicitous for "Aida" than they were formerly for "Don Carlo" as their initial effort, though that earlier opus always was a lame duck.

The outstanding aspect of Miss Webster's dynamic direction is its increased fluidity and flexibility of movement, for principals and crowds, which is always an excellent idea in opera offerings, in case they become somewhat stuffy.

Gerard's settings were rather unconventional, especially in the triumphal scene, and by the banks of the Nile, but they were arresting and colorful, and if any Egyptologists or other archeologists happened to be hanging about, they were not heard complaining, and hurling cries of incongruity.

TRIUMPH FOR MILANOV

It is doubtful if the illustrious lineup of principals last night could have been surpassed or approached by any other opera company existing today. All of them were in fine form, and although Zinka Milanov in the title role was the one familiar figure, her superlative singing and artistry claim credit before considering the newcomers in the cast. That is said, too, despite the fact that she has been in fresher voice before, and her acting is rather routine at times because she is a singer above all else.

Elena Nikolaidi, the Greek contralto who made her bow here as Amneris, merited the plaudits that preceded her. She is a handsome woman (of her type) and was every inch the princess in appearance and vocally.

The conquering Radames on this occasion, Mario del Monaco, is a likely-looking lad with lusty lungs. He sings in the typical Italian tradition, with exuberance and assurance, and scant concern for subtlety.

George London, who comes from Canada, made a fine and forceful figure as Amonasro, and sang in fine and forceful fashion.

Fausto Cleva conducted the score for what it is: ripping good theater music, with no nonsense about symphonic fussiness. The minor roles and choruses were well sung, and the ballet was quite colorful.



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