[Met Performance] CID:158910
Cosė Fan Tutte {18} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/9/1952.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 9, 1952
In English


COSĖ FAN TUTTE {18}

Fiordiligi..............Eleanor Steber
Ferrando................Richard Tucker
Dorabella...............Blanche Thebom
Guglielmo...............Frank Guarrera
Despina.................Patrice Munsel
Don Alfonso.............Lorenzo Alvary
Servant.................Alfred Lunt

Conductor...............Alberto Erede

Eleanor Steber sang in the afternoon performance on the same date.


Review of Cecil Smith in Musical America

At the end of the season's sixth and last performance of Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte," nearly the entire audience remained in the theatre for several minutes after the fall of the curtain to share in a standing ovation for the cast, Alberto Erede, the conductor, Alfred Lunt, the stage director; and, after he had been dragged out, Rudolf Bing. Mr. Bing's pleasure at the ovation must have been mixed with rue, for the prearranged schedule for the season permitted only six performances of the "Cosi Fan Tutte" revival, whereas the unexpected public enthusiasm it evoked would have guaranteed ten or a dozen capacity audiences.

Eleanor Steber gave a particularly brilliant performance as Fiordiligi only a few hours after she had undertaken, at the matinee, the first Desdemona of her career. It was not unprecedented for a leading singer to appear in two roles in a single day at the Metropolitan-Jarmila Novotna and Kurt Baum, and probably others, have done it before. But it is doubtful whether any prima donna ever sang in one day two roles so taxing and so utterly different in their requirements of vocal technique and voice placement. Perhaps I was influenced by my admiration for Miss Steber's demonstration of her secure schooling, but I thought that she had never before sung Fiordiligi's fiendish part with a tone so consistently fresh, unstrained, and malleable.

Mr. Erede took over the baton, presumably because Fritz Stiedry, who conducted the afternoon "Otello," did not care to follow Miss Steber's example. The opera was by no means new to him, for he made his American debut in 1937 as conductor of the Salzburg Opera Guild production of it. Although there were occasional rough spots, as was perhaps inevitable in a performance he took over without rehearsal, his conception of the music was admirable, and tended to be more spirited than Mr. Stiedry's. A few times the singers appeared to be surprised by the brisk tempos he set for the ensembles, but they were generally able to keep up with him.

Lorenzo Alvary replaced John Brownlee for the first time as the justifiably cynical Don Alfonso. His English was less clear than that of the others, but his characterization was deft and economical, and he sang in excellent style. The other principals were those of the earlier performances - Blanche Thebom, Patrice Munsel, Richard Tucker, and Frank Guarrera.

The final scene was embellished by inadvertent slapstick humor. Something went wrong backstage with Mr. Tucker's quick change from his Albanian disguise back to his military uniform. For a minute that seemed an hour, Mr. Erede held the orchestra immobilized on a low B flat. When Mr. Tucker and the immaculately groomed Mr. Guarrera finally hurried onstage, the tenor was still buttoning his coat and securing his cummerbund. His hat fell off immediately, however, and volcanic laughter erupted in the audience as it became clear that he was wearing neither the ruffled stock at his neck nor the purple gaiter that should have concealed his bare right leg and twentieth-century black sock. After a moment of good-natured public acknowledgment of his contretemps, Mr. Tucker went through the finale with poise, although he kept making futile attempts to cover his half-naked leg with a cape that was not quite full enough.

A sentimental episode took place between afternoon and evening operas. Ludwig Burgstaller, a member of the chorus and bit player for 44 years, was given a surprise party on his seventieth birthday by his fellow-members of the chorus. Mr. Bing, Herbert Graf, stage director of "Otello," and Max Rudolf, artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera, also attended. Mr. Burgstaller said, "I have been in hundreds and hundreds of operas, but I have never missed a rehearsal and I have never missed a performance, and I've been in every opera at the Metropolitan season after season." A scroll presented by the chorus to its oldest member read : "Your artistic integrity and gentle kindness are a source of constant inspiration. It is with deep affection we say, `Hail fellow, well met.' "



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