[Met Performance] CID:167990
Tosca {321} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/16/1955.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 16, 1955

TOSCA {321}

Tosca...................Zinka Milanov
Cavaradossi.............Giuseppe Campora
Scarpia.................George London
Sacristan...............Fernando Corena
Spoletta................Alessio De Paolis
Angelotti...............Lorenzo Alvary
Sciarrone...............George Cehanovsky
Shepherd................Rosalind Elias
Jailer..................Louis Sgarro

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

Photograph of Zinka Milanov as the title role in Tosca.

Review and account of opera substitution by Jay S. Harrison in the Herald Tribune

'Aida" Star Ill, Met Sell-Out Crowd Gets 'Tosca' Instead

An emergency switch of one operatic "first" for another was made last night for a sell-out crowd at the Metropolitan Opera. The scheduled performance of Verdi's "Aida," with Renata Tebaldi singing the title role here for the first time, was canceled at noon yesterday when a throat infection made it impossible for the Italian soprano to appear.

Although there were a number of sopranos available, Rudolf Bing, general manager, substituted another opera, Puccini's "Tosca," with Zinka Milanov singing the title role for the first time at the Met, though she has sung it elsewhere. Mr. Bing explained that the house had been sold out weeks in advance due to the interest in Miss Tebaldi's first New York Aida, and he wanted to offer a comparable occasion to avoid disappointing the audience. It was considered unlikely Miss Tebaldi would appear this season as Aida because she is scheduled to return to Italy March 12. Miss Tebaldi, who made her Metropolitan debut two weeks ago as Desdemona in Verdi's "Otello," has also sung Mimi in Puccini's "La Bohème" at the Metropolitan.

Two changes in opera casts also were announced yesterday. Delia Rigal will replace Eleanor Steber as Elizabeth in tonight's performance of Verdi's "Don Carlo." Eugene Conley, instead. of Giuseppe Campora, will sing Des Grieux, in Massenet's "Manon" on Monday night.

Review of 'Tosca'

The Metropolitan Opera has no more sumptuous Tosca than Zinka Milanov, who last night, without benefit of rehearsal, sang the role of Puccini's unfortunate heroine for the first time at the house. The grand style is hers; she possesses it thoroughly and makes use of it without pause or hesitation. And Tosca is a grand spectacle of a woman. She is no kittenish Mimi, no doe-eyed Butterfly. Her instincts are brave and fiery, bold and clamorous. Miss Milanov's are also.

As a result, her Tosca had a vocal power and passion that have not been equaled at the Met for many an operatic year. To begin with, Miss Milanov is a dramatic soprano and the part calls for nothing less. Lyricists who attempt it are mostly inaudible or at best driven to singing at a level that turns their voices harsh and piercing. But Miss Milanov, even considering the miraculous substitution feat described above, sang with consummate ease and floated her tones like so many bubbles in the air. There was no forcing to her portrayal, no pushing - just good, solid vocal work that rang like a golden bell.

In addition, her melodic lines were wondrously phrased, with their curves and arches based wholly on the ebb and flow of the music. And to everybody's enormous surprise, Miss Milanov, rather than overplaying her big aria, "Vissi d'Arte," sang much of it with eloquent restraint, the while she produced soft tones that seemed to come from the flies of the stage rather than her throat. Her soprano, in fact, rebounded from every corner of the theater with remarkable amplitude and luminosity. Thus heard, Tosca is a role offering surely as many rewards to the listener as any other in the Italian repertory.

There remains still the question of Miss Milanov's acting. It is widely known that even under the most exemplary circumstances - and an eight-hour replacement is anything but that - she has a tendency to grow violent without reason. There was no cause, therefore, why she should have been less so on this occasion. It is, alas, Miss Milanov's habit to eye any man about to embrace her as though he had dined on garlic-bread before showtime, and to this rule there was last night no exception. But in the end it mattered little, for such a Tosca is a joy to encounter, a gift for the ear. When the announcement of Miss Tebaldi's indisposition was made, a handful in the audience returned tickets which were quickly bought up by others. Those who left will never know what they missed.

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