[Met Performance] CID:164010
Le Nozze di Figaro {130} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/20/1953.

(Debuts: Irmgard Seefried, Lisa Della Casa, Maria Leone, Sandra Warfield

Metropolitan Opera House
November 20, 1953
Revised production

Mozart-Da Ponte

Figaro..................Erich Kunz
Susanna.................Irmgard Seefried [Debut]
Count Almaviva..........Frank Guarrera
Countess Almaviva.......Lisa Della Casa [Debut]
Cherubino...............Mildred Miller
Dr. Bartolo.............Salvatore Baccaloni
Marcellina..............Hertha Glaz
Don Basilio.............Alessio De Paolis
Antonio.................Lawrence Davidson
Barbarina...............Genevieve Warner
Don Curzio..............Gabor Carelli
Peasant.................Maria Leone [Debut]
Peasant.................Sandra Warfield [Debut]

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Horace Armistead
Costume designer........Ladislas Czettel
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Le Nozze di Figaro received ten performances this season.

[In revising the sets for Mozart's opera, Armistead utilized elements
from the previous production.]

Review by Robert Bagar in the N. Y. World-Telegram
Four debuts, all by women singers, some reconditioning of decor and lots of shenanigans along the edges of the auditorium's new side aprons were all wrapped up together in the second opera of the present season, Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro." which was given last night under the direction of Fritz Stiedry.

Of the four debuts at the Metropolitan two were in small roles, notable those of Sandra Warfield and Maria Leone, who appeared as the peasant girls. The other two were of prime interest, involving principals of considerable vocal beauty and musical skill-Lisa Della Casa and Irmgard Seefried, both sopranos.

Miss Della Casa, 35, a beautiful young woman with a beautiful voice which she spins with ease and charm. Its only flaw is breathiness along the top, but that may have been due to debut jitters. The singer embodied the countess.

A Swiss of Bavarian-Italian parentage, Miss Della Casa comes here with a fine European background. She more than affirmed that by the quality of her singing, although if it lacked anything, it was greater conviction. Certainly her delivery of "Porgi amor" and "Dove sono" were perfect gems of phrasing and flowing sound, except that it was all a bit too placid.

Miss Seefried, who has been highly praised here for her recital singing, is also very pretty and very gifted vocally. Her Susanna last night was a live wire soubrette who scampered, mugged, gestured all over the place, while doing vocal work that was thoroughly first class. By the narrowest of margins did she avoid making Susanna a brassy little barmaid. In spite of all that, she became quite the darling of the audience.

Much more polish, a broader line, yet slackening of histrionic pace are needed to make the Almaviva of Frank Guarrera the ideal aristocrat-philanderer. Mr. Guarrera, however, sang the Count's lines with musicianly finish and always expressively.

The Figaro of Erich Kunz, not the most ravishing ever heard at the Met, in point of voice quality, would be a vivid, compelling impersonation without all the bouncing, persnickety claptrap that somebody or other has piled onto it. Mr. Kunz has style. He can do without excesses.

Paragons of the Mozartean virtues were Salvatore Baccaloni, as Don Bartolo, and Alessio De Paolis, as Basilio. Here are a couple of artists who can steal a scene from anybody, and sometimes they do without even trying. But last night they stuck to essentials, each made excellent results all through.

Conceivably, Mildred Miller might eventually turn in the perfect Cherubino, although the way she is doing it now would not guarantee that. For again we have a character burdened with extravagant action, some of quite ridiculous. Miss Miller sang well, however, as did the entire cast, for that matter.

The decor, reconditioned or not, looked mighty ancient. Moreover, convenient as the panel thrown across the stage in the Countess' boudoir may have been for exits and entrances, it was a meaningless thing to the eye. Indeed, it was surprising how little feasting the eye could do, whether on matters kinetic or scenic.

Mr. Stiedry conducted effectively; there no extravagance there. A goodly part of the first act went by in an aimless sort of way, though. Then the show picked up direction, as well as momentum.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Well Sung

Lisa della Casa, a Swiss soprano of good European repute, made her first appearance last night With the Metropolitan Opera Company as the Countess, in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." Her voice, velvety and vibrant, is one of great natural beauty. She seems to be well schooled too, for she sang on pitch and she made no ugly sounds. All the same, both her arias, the "Porgi amor" and the "Dove sono," were a touch disappointing for lack of a grand line. Note by note they were lovely, but the notes did not assemble. There was plenty of breath (and the "Dove sono" takes it), but one was aware of breathing problems. Miss della Casa seems to be a great find. One does hope that she will get her confidence quickly, for if she does not she will lose her audience. And that would be a pity for an artist with qualities so superior.

Irmgard Seefried, a German soprano well known in this country, made her Metropolitan debut at the same time, as Susanna. Vocal security and stage assurance were hers in abundance. The voice is pretty too, though less fresh than Miss della Casa's. Competence marked her every move and utterance. I wished all evening that I could find her work more interesting than I did. Mildred Miller, as Cherubino, I found constantly interesting both to the eye and to the musical mind, though her voice sounded, beside the other ladies, wooden and hollow.

Frank Guarrera, as the Count, and Erich Kunz, as Figaro, sang handsomely. And if their movements lacked elegance, so did everybody else's. Really a more matter of fact, visual performance of Mozart's great, operatic comedy could scarcely be imagined. The scenery aided this undistinguished effect. Though signed by Horace Armistead as designer, it contained a great many drapes and props familiar from other productions. Two aprons projecting at the sides into the orchestra pit obliged the use of meager instrumental forces and a raising of the pit floor (which is on an elevator in this house) to a level not wholly, becoming acoustically.

The orchestra under Fritz Stiedry, in other words, sounded small and loud. The greatest musical delight of the evening, after the excellent solo singing in all parts, was the harmonious blending of voices in the concerted numbers. All the vocal music, whether sung alone or together, was first-class for vocal execution. The instrumental side was by comparison lacking in suavity, though not, I must add, in musical animation. In general, the cast and production seemed to me musically quite fine, though, orchestrally a bit unrefined. In every other way I found it undistinguished.

Photograph of Lisa Della Casa as the Countess Almaviva by Sedge LeBlang.
Photograph of Irmgard Seefried as Susanna by Sedge LeBlang.

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