[Met Performance] CID:159350
Don Carlo {30} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/21/1952.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 21, 1952
In Italian


DON CARLO {30}
Giuseppe Verdi--François Joseph Méry/Camille du Locle

Don Carlo...............Jussi Björling
Elizabeth of Valois.....Delia Rigal
Rodrigo.................Paolo Silveri
Princess Eboli..........Fedora Barbieri
Philip II...............Cesare Siepi
Grand Inquisitor........Hans Hotter
Celestial Voice.........Lucine Amara
Friar...................Luben Vichey
Tebaldo.................Anne Bollinger
Count of Lerma..........Paul Franke
Countess of Aremberg....Tilda Morse
Herald..................Emery Darcy

Conductor...............Fritz Stiedry

Director................Margaret Webster
Designer................Rolf Gérard

Translation by Lauzières, Zanardini

Don Carlo received four performances this season.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

'Don Carlo' and the Pickets

Just for pleasure, and also to impress a visitor from Europe, your announcer dropped in with a guest last Monday night at the Metropolitan Opera for a performance of Verdi's "Don Carlo." He had not seen or heard the production since it opened the house last season and inaugurated the managerial regime of Rudolf Bing; but he knew it for a distinguished one and thought it a good example of New York opera presentation at its best, all the more worth showing off since the work itself is not anywhere a common repertory item.

In this narrator's opinion, and in that of his musical guest, this opera is richly rewarding from a musical point of view; and the Metropolitan production of it is surely one of the finest opera productions available anywhere today. "Don Carlo" has never been popular; its story is too regal and its music too nobly sombre for that. But it is a very grand opera in every sense of the term, with abundant occasions for the display of vocal beauty and expressive intensities, as well as of colorful pageantries, The management has done itself proud in this production; and keeping it in the repertory was clearly justified by the strong audience appreciation shown last Monday night. (Monday audiences are the Met's least demonstrative.)

Fine Production Of a Great Work

Rolf Gerard's sets and costumes remain, on second view, harmonious and handsome. Margaret Webster's stage direction, which is all statuesque and full of a fine Spanish-court dignity, contains not one false note. And most important of all, the musical cast, excellent to start with, has remained substantially the same since [the first] night in November, 1950.

Fritz Stiedry conducts, and ever so powerfully, smoothly. Jussi Bjoerling sings Don Carlo, the tenor lead, and his work is perfection. Cesare Siepi sings King Philip II of Spain, a great voice in a great role. The part of the Grand Inquisitor was the only one not sung last Monday by its first holder. And this was in the powerful hands of Hans Hotter, an impressive bass barytone, and the Met's finest male actor. Paolo Silveri as Rodrigo was just a mite (two notes, to be exact) less fine than the others. The ladies were the same as at the [premiere], Delia Rigal as the Queen and Fedora Barbieri as the Princess of Eboli. Both do in this opera the best work they have done here, and both are perfectly cast. The small roles are all beautifully sung. Really, here are a cast and a production profoundly satisfactory. And "Don Carlo" is a great work.

Misinformed Picketing

It was something of a surprise to learn that the performance was being picketed. Investigation revealed the following facts. The Archdiocsan Union of the Holy Name Society of New York, the American Society for the Preservation of Sacred, Patriotic and Operatic Music, and the Children's Drama Guild have all made protests to the Metropolitan management. The latter group had already asked the Manhattan Supreme Court, back in 1950, for a declaratory judgment enjoining the Metropolitan Opera Association from disseminating subversive anti-religious propaganda. This suit is still awaiting action. A spokesman for the Holy Name Society has declared that he is informed that the script of the opera has been changed in such a way as "to have appear on the stage a character in the garb of a clergyman who points out Don Rodrigo to an assassin, directs the assassination and then shields the assassin by taking him away from the scene."

This spokesman has been misinformed, The script calls for a man "dressed in the uniform of the Holy Office," and he is so represented at the Metropolitan. The uniform, moreover, is not historically exact but of fanciful design. It bears no resemblance to the clothing of a priest. And the Holy Office, or Inquisition, did not consist wholly of priests. It was a large organization employing many laymen as administrators, office workers, guards and other functionaries, all of whom were distinguished by their uniform from members of the clergy. Verdi's stage direction has been scrupulously observed at the Metropolitan. And Franco Colombo, managing director of G. Ricordi and Co. has assured Mr. Bing by letter that he has "never heard that this opera has ever incurred any form of censorship on the part of the Catholic Church since the time of its first performance in Paris in 1867 or on occasion of any later performances, including those which have recently taken place in Italy, Austria, France and Spain."

Irresponsible Allegations

Further evidence of hasty judgment on the part of the picketers is provided by the fact that they first arrived at the Metropolitan on a night when "Fledermaus" was the opera. They had not even got their dates right. They seemed to be in some confusion, moreover, about their exact complaint. The signs carried by the picketers, who are about thirty in number, bore the following legends:

"The opera 'Don Carlo' is a mockery of religion."

"The opera 'Don Carlo' is anti-religious."

"Stop Sovietizing operas."

"Moscow termites invade the Met."

"Don't support 'Met' Opera as long as they hire subversives."

"Who gets the money that the Met loses?"

"Planned deficit financing is anti-American."

The main charges, therefore, are three. That the "Met" has changed Verdi's script (which is not true). That this change (still not true) is the work of Stalinists within the organization. That these subversive characters should be fired That they may well be tapping the till for the benefit or the Communist party, All these charges are grave. And until evidence supporting them is offered, we must consider all attempts at "proof by picketing" as utterly irresponsible; There may be some commies around the Met; they turn up everywhere, But there is no evidence that they have made propaganda for their faith through the distorting of any opera text or opera presentation. As for the hint that the Met's annual deficit is a kickback to Communism, the idea is really the funniest I have encountered this season; especially if you stop to remember how completely the Metropolitan is controlled by political conservatives. One would have to look far for an institution more thoroughly in the hands of capitalists, their sons and daughters, their wives, their widows and their lawyers.



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