[Met Performance] CID:170370
Metropolitan Opera Premiere (Soirée)

New production (Don Pasquale)
Soirée {1}
Don Pasquale {42}
Metropolitan Opera House: 12/23/1955.

(Debuts: Mary Ellen Moylan, Oleg Briansky, Margaret Black, Thomas Schippers, Cecil Beaton, Wolfgang Roth
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 23, 1955

Met Premiere

SOIRÉE {1}
Rossini/Britten

Girl....................Mary Ellen Moylan [Debut]
Boy.....................Oleg Briansky [Debut]
Hostess.................Margaret Black [Debut]
Spaniard................Adriano Vitale

March....................Black and corps de ballet
Canzonetta...............Moylan, Briansky and corps
Tirolese.................Corps de ballet
Bolero...................Vitale and corps
Tarantella...............Corps de ballet
Quadrille................Corps de ballet
Pas de deux..............Moylan, Briansky
Variations...............Briansky and female corps
Variations...............Moylan and male corps
Moto Perpetuo............Full company

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers [Debut]

Designer................Cecil Beaton [Debut]
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Soirée received eleven performances this season.

New production

DON PASQUALE {42}
Donizetti-Ruffini

Don Pasquale............Fernando Corena
Norina..................Roberta Peters
Ernesto.................Cesare Valletti
Dr. Malatesta...........Frank Guarrera
Notary..................Alessio De Paolis

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Director................Dino Yannopoulos
Designer................Wolfgang Roth [Debut]

Don Pasquale received eleven performances this season.

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical America of January 1, 1956

Don Pasquale Revived; Solov Ballet in Premiere

Metropolitan Offers Donizetti Work in Sparkling New Staging -- Soiree Pleases

With debuts occurring right and left, the Metropolitan Opera gave a brilliantly entertaining evening of dance and opera on Dec. 23, when Zachary Solov's new ballet "Soiree" shared the bill with the new production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale." To the young American conductor Thomas Schippers, who conducted both the Rossini-Britten score for the ballet and the Donizetti work in his debut at the Metropolitan, should go no small measure of credit for the evening's success. But Mr. Solov also deserves commendation for his ballet, which marks a great advance over last season's "Vittorio", and Mary Ellen Moylan, the Metropolitan's new prima ballerina, danced so serenely and beautifully that one would never have guessed that she was making her debut with the company. Oleg Briansky also made his debut as premier danseur.

Don Pasquale Cast

In the cast of "Don Pasquale," all of the singers took their roles for the first time at the Metropolitan except the veteran Alessio De Paolis, as the Notary. Fernando Corena was admirable in the title role; Cesare Valletti spun out the most delectable pianissimos as Ernesto; Roberta Peters sang more warmly and lyrically than ever before, as Norina; and Frank Guarrera was a mischievous and vocally agile Dr. Malatesta.

Cecil Beaton's handsome decor and costumes for "Soiree" were the first he had designed for the Metropolitan; and Wolfgang Roth's ingenious set and costumes for "Don Pasquale" also introduced a new personality to the company. For the first time in the Metropolitan's history, a revolving stage was used, and with such skill and success that it is bound to become a fixture in other productions. A contribution from the Metropolitan Opera's National Council made possible the scenery and costumes for both the ballet and opera.

Rossini-Britten Ballet Score

"Soiree" takes its name from the orchestral suite, "Soirees musicales", composed in 1936 by Benjamin Britten, after pieces and fragments by Rossini. Mr. Solov's ballet is divided into ten sections, a March, Canzonetta, Tirolese, Bolero, Tarantella, Quadrille, Pas de Deux, two Variations and finale, Moto Perpetuo. The style of the work is romantic, with humorous undertones, and Mr. Beaton has

given it a Victorian valentine setting and costumes in the style of the period, flawlessly executed by the indispensable Karinska. There is no story and the choreography is (or tries to be) self-sustaining.

To Mr. Solov's credit is the fact that the company, both soloists and corps, looks admirable in the work. The dancing is crisp, finished in style and vigorously executed. It is a far cry from some of the spectacles of the not-too-distant past. Serviceable as it is as a vehicle, the ballet has certain weaknesses. There is almost no real contrast. Never does Mr. Solov achieve a sustained passage of open, rhythmically scintillating, vigorous movement, although he almost does, in the Tarantella and Moto Perpetuo. He tends to clutter up his stage patterns with fussy detail and to devitalize his movement with decorative touches of pantomime. And he has not yet learned economy of placement and climax. Too many dancers are on the stage too much of the time to no individual purpose. Mr. Solov, with all his clever ideas (of which he has many) has still to master the art of movement counterpoint, of keeping each element of the floor and space pattern distinct and functionally active.

Mary Ellen Moylan's Debut

Most striking was the choreography for Miss Moylan, which exploited her wonderful balance, sustaining power on point, and delicacy in beats and extensions. Although her role may not seem difficult to non-dancers, it will awe or inspire students, who know what it means to perform it as regally as Miss Moylan does. Never has her movement been more ethereal in quality, lovely in line, and musical in phrasing. Mr. Briansky, with less rewarding choreography, was nervous and unsteady, but will doubtless regain his formidable technical brilliance in future performances. Adriano Vitale was superb in the Bolero; and Margaret Black danced capably in the March and elsewhere, although she could make herself look more glamorous and move more graciously. The corps was spirited throughout, and when Mr. Solov has cleared up and tightened some passages, it will look even better. "Soiree" has the makings of a charming showpiece. It is by far the best thing that Mr. Solov has done.

Thanks to Mr. Schippers' skillful and perceptive conducting, to Dino Yannopoulos' expert stage direction, and to the devotion of the singers and orchestra, "Don Pasquale" bubbled from first note to last. Although he is only 25, Mr. Schippers has completely mastered his craft. He leads the orchestra not with his shoulders, his hips, his pelvis, or his head, but with the baton and with his hands and arms. At times, he may be too physically active or too needlessly insistent, but he is one of the most efficient and explicit young artists on the podium today. He brought out the delicacy of scoring and wit of Britten's epigrams on Rossini; and he showed a profound understanding of the style of Donizetti's masterpiece. His singers followed him scrupulously,and the orchestra, after putting up a little resistance, soon fell completely under the spell of his sincerity and knowledge of what he wanted. Who said that America cannot produce first-rate conductors? Let him hide his head in shame.

The cast worked together in the most harmonious of styles. Mr. Corena was if anything more distinguished dramatically than vocally. He did not fail to make the most of the slap in the face which Don Pasquale receives from Norina, always a convenient test of the dramatic comprehension of
the artist in this role. And he had the physical and vocal agility to keep the fun alive throughout. Mr. Valletti sang like an angel (Italian tenor angel), and the audience left no doubt of its ecstatic feeling about his exquisitely suave and luminous phrases.

It was a pleasure to hear Miss Peters' voice without the dryness and edginess that it can have in high altitudes when she is not in best form. On this occasion, she sang with a luster and rich color of tone that greatly enhanced its appeal. Since Miss Peters can sing lyric roles beautifully, she need not worry her head about the agitated canary parts. They will take care of themselves. Of course, there is bravura aplenty for Norina, and in this the young soprano was absolutely secure, but it was in the cantilena that she shone most brightly.

The experience that Frank Guarrera has had in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" served him in good stead in the role of Dr. Malatesta, for he who can sing Mozart well can sing anything.

The revolving stage proved ideal for comedy, eliminating awkward waits and pauses and keeping the moods alive. Nor should Mr. Roth's amusing costumes and very Mediterranean sets go without praise. On this evening, no one could have felt that the Metropolitan was charging too much for what it provided; everyone had a delightful time.



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