[Met Performance] CID:161000
New production
La Forza del Destino {58} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/10/1952.

(Opening Night {68}
Rudolf Bing, General Manager
Debut: Laura Castellano
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 10, 1952
Opening Night {68}
New production

Rudolf Bing


LA FORZA DEL DESTINO {58}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Leonora.................Zinka Milanov
Don Alvaro..............Richard Tucker
Don Carlo...............Leonard Warren
Padre Guardiano.........Cesare Siepi
Preziosilla.............Mildred Miller
Fra Melitone............Gerhard Pechner
Marquis de Calatrava....Luben Vichey
Curra...................Laura Castellano [Debut]
Surgeon.................Algerd Brazis

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Eugene Berman
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

[Until the revision of 1/17/75, this production omitted the original inn scene, Act II, Scene 1. In some revivals, but not all, the overture served as a bridge between the opening scene, set in the Calatrava palace, and the second scene, set at the Church of the Madonna degli Angeli.]

Review of Louis Biancolli in the Telegraph and Sun

MET OPENS WITH A SONG IN ITS HEART

Overshadowing everything else at the Metropolitan last night-the social éclat, the excited hubbub, the ermine brigade, even Verdi's "Forza Del Destino"-was the beauty of the singing.

The Metropolitan Opera House might be said to have opened its 68th season and its third under the management of Rudolf Bing with a song in its heart. If last night was any test, there are magnificent things ahead for those who have long been mourning the passing of the great days of Italian singing.

Mr. Bing is to be applauded for launching the new season with 'La Forza." The fact that the opera was first produced exactly 90 years ago to the night made it an irresistible choice. More important is that it is still one of Verdi's most unjustly neglected children. How timely the revival was could be seen and heard in the behavior of the crowd.

I have rarely seen a Metropolitan audience so absorbed and concentrated at an opening. There were those who floated foggily along the corridors while the music was on and a few unfortunates who returned too late to their seats to catch the prize song of the evening--Leonora's famous "Pace, Pace."

By and large, however, the audience gulped down every note and Verdi, as I suppose everybody knows, is a pretty good provider that way. "La Forza" fairly drips with warm melody. There are arias and duets and trios worth their weight in molten gold, and if anybody ever wrote a greater aria than the "Pace, Pace," I'll eat the whole opera score it comes from.

That aria, incidentally, brought the loudest and most sustained ovation of the evening. And no wonder! It was sung by Zinka Milanov-the new Zinka Milanov who spins out tone as if it were a natural function and who caresses a phrase with the tender solicitude

I couldn't resist "bravoing" at that point myself, though I know a critic's enthusiasm is supposed to be confined to his typewriter. Mme. Milanov's rendering of the aria was the best since Muzio and Ponselle. Among other things, hers is the most moving pianissimo of our time.

If Mme. Milanov's singing was symbolic of Mr. Bing's new outlook, so was the singing of Richard Tucker as Don Alvaro and Leonard Warren as Don Carlos. These two Spaniards, sworn enemies, have the opera pretty much to themselves, that is when Leonora isn't around. When she isn't "La Forza" is one long angry male duet.

Mr. Tucker has been called the Brooklyn Caruso. Knowing the generosity of lamented Enrico, I am certain he would have been proud to be called the Italian Tucker, had fate made them contemporaries. That's how good Tucker sounded last night. In one scene where he was flat on his back, tone poured up from him like a sunlit geyser.

If Mr. Warren goes on singing the way he did last night, I shall have to restore him to first place in my own private book of baritones. And as for Cesare Siepi, his splendid basso never sounded so broad and spacious as it did in the stately lines of Padre Guardiano. Mildred Miller was pert and spirited in Preziosilla's harmless "Rataplan," and the chorus backed them all up with volumes of fresh and vibrant tone. Everybody's thanks go to Fritz Stiedry for a sound job of conducting.

I liked Herbert Graf's staging of the opera-the vivid battle scenes, the monastic solemnities, the brooding desolateness of the finale, and I didn't mind finding "La. Forza" in the 17th century instead of the 18th. It is the kind of sprawling, globe-trotting opera that could be put in the age of Charlemagne without offending anyone but the pedants. Spaniards go to Italy to fight Germans. The chances are history is even more foolish than an opera libretto.

Much has been written about Fritz Stiedry's cuts and restorations. I had no objection to any of them. He kept in the beautiful "Solenne in Quest'ora" and the even more beautiful "Pace, Pace." Had he left either of them out, I would be picketing the Metropolitan today.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).