[Met Performance] CID:170010
Rigoletto {355} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/17/1955.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 17, 1955


RIGOLETTO {355}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Roberta Peters
Duke of Mantua..........Eugene Conley
Maddalena...............Rosalind Elias
Sparafucile.............Giorgio Tozzi
Monterone...............Norman Scott
Borsa...................Gabor Carelli
Marullo.................Clifford Harvuot
Count Ceprano...........Calvin Marsh
Countess Ceprano........Heidi Krall
Giovanna................Thelma Votipka
Page....................Vilma Georgiou
Guard...................Louis Sgarro

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

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

Rigoletto received twenty performances this season.

Review of Jay S. Harrison in the Herald Tribune

'Rigoletto' at the Met Opens Subscription Series

Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto," with which the Metropolitan Opera last night opened its regular subscription series, is perhaps the company's handsomest production. Its appointments are so luxurious, its sets so vivid and regal and its costumes so stylish that only a perfect performance can do them full justice. And on the present occasion, though there was much to commend, those final grandeurs that characterize the decor were only at moments discernible.

The presentation, in fact, consisted of a row of glittering peaks separated by plateaus whose vocal landscape was somewhat plain and barren. Given an aria or an ensemble and the cast went off like so many Roman candles, but elsewhere, in the periods between, the singers merely marked time and provided their lines with adequate but wholly uninspired readings. While it is true that "Rigoletto" virtually pivots on its large-scale "set" pieces, these none the less need a solid framework if they are to emerge with all their virtues unimpaired. An aria, like a diamond, seems lusterless without a glamorous setting.

The individual numbers, however, quite often burst into flame. Mr. Warren's Rigoletto continues to deepen in expressivity and, barring a certain gestural broadness in its acting out, his portrait of the sorrowful hunchback is fully drawn, fully felt. No one can doubt, I imagine, as Mr. Warren rips into "Pari siamo" that he is more man than buffoon, and his lament, "Cortigiani vii razza dannata," is at once a cruel condemnation of society and a vast plea for mercy. Moreover, and quite apart from the dramatic instincts brought to the role, the baritone sang with huge resonance and a tonal vehemence that all but burst the seams of the house. Indeed, all matters considered, we have no finer Rigoletto than his. Though Mr. Warren sings like a hero, his impersonation is veiled in all the woe and misery that is native to the role.

It need not be remarked at this late date that Miss Peters is a ravishing Gilda and one for whom the difficulties of the part are tossed off as child's play. Despite a perceptible break between her middle and high ranges, she delivered her airs with floating ease and the kind of technical assurance that made every note seem as though it was designed for her and her alone. Even allowing that she does not make Gilda a believably warm-blooded creature, Miss Peters' performance was lavishly lovely.

As for Mr. Conley, who replaced the ailing Jan Peerce on short notice, he sang acceptably though with no personal eloquence or thrust. His Duke is rather a casual affair, neither lecherous nor aristocratic and, as a result, the opera tended to lose focus when the libretto demanded that it center on him. The remaining cast members, excluding the thunder-voiced Mr. Tozzi, did not exert themselves in carving memorable stage figures.

Mr. Cleva, who conducted the work for the first time with the company, rode the opera like a charger and had the orchestra erupting with recurrent bolts of Verdian sonority. I found his tempos rigid and inflexible, but they made "Rigoletto" move at an inexorable pace. In the final analysis, possibly, one should not look for more.



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