[Met Performance] CID:170730
Le Nozze di Figaro {147} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/27/1956.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 27, 1956

Mozart-Da Ponte

Figaro..................Martial Singher
Susanna.................Nadine Conner
Count Almaviva..........George London
Countess Almaviva.......Victoria de los Angeles
Cherubino...............Mildred Miller
Dr. Bartolo.............Fernando Corena
Marcellina..............Sandra Warfield
Don Basilio.............Alessio De Paolis
Antonio.................Lawrence Davidson
Barbarina...............Vilma Georgiou
Don Curzio..............Gabor Carelli
Peasant.................Maria Leone
Peasant.................Rosalind Elias

Conductor...............Max Rudolf

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Jonel Jorgulesco
Costume designer........Ladislas Czettel
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Le Nozze di Figaro received nine performances this season.

[This performance marked the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth.]

Review of Paul Henry Lang in the Herald Tribune

Friday night's performance of "Figaro" took place exactly on the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Nice timing and an altogether gracious idea. While our modern habit of praising great men according to the calendar is often fatuous, something like Father's Day minus the cigars and slippers, it does accomplish approximately the same end and we rediscover our operatic fathers. "Figaro" is the proper work to be performed on the occasion of this memorable date because it is the "perfect opera." It is not demonic like "Don Giovanni," ultra-sophisticated like "Cosi fan Tutte," fantastic and dreamy like "Magic Flute," but a comedy of love and of mores that maintains the most delectable equilibrium between mirth and sadness.

The work was heard last year in a very good production. Last night's performance differed in many important respects, chief among them the presence in the conductor's seat of Mr. Rudolf, replacing Mr. Stiedry. Mr. Rudolf is a first class musician, a conductor of vast experience and know-how, but above all he has taste. He knows the score down to the last sixteenth note, enforces discipline, attends to every detail, and plays his own accompaniments. The seccos were dry, and so crisp that the harpsichord was not missed. None of those soulful cadences with this fastidious man. It was a pleasure to watch him deal with the orchestra. The woodwinds and two horns were in their glory, everything could be heard and followed, and the strings were bright and incisive. But . . .This sort of vivid orchestral playing - and it is the only correct kind with Mozart - can only be done with a well matched cast of resonant voices. This was not the case last night, although there was not one person in the cast who was not a fine artist.

Miss Conner is musically admirable, but her nice voice is small. Hers is a soubrette role, but it calls for the carrying power of a coloratura - she has the commanding position in the ensembles. Mr. de Paolis has no peer in character acting and he is an uncommonly intelligent musician, but his voice is minuscule. Mr. Singher is a superb artist but his voice is not resonant enough for this type of singing, and Miss Warfield, who is not yet seasoned in her role, does not have the type of voice that mixes well with others. On the other hand, the cast included Miss de los Angeles, who has a fine, accurate, and ample soprano. Mr. London, a robust basso, and Mr. Corena, another able and well equipped basso. Put them all together and you have an unbalanced ensemble. This is just what happened. In individual scenes the singers did well and there were many wonderful moments, but in the ensembles - and they are the glory of the Mozartean opera - there was a heartbreaking want of unity and clarity.

Then, Mr. Rudolf has one failing. In his passion for neat and clear sound and pace he insists on an unrelentingly brisk pace. That too is essential in Mozart but must be tempered with flexibility. Last night there was a certain breathless quality in the performance, especially noticeable in the recitatives, which were too fast to be well articulated, and in certain arias. Miss Miller, another fine singer with a good voice, sang well, but both of her celebrated arias suffered from lack of freedom - she was not allowed to deliver them in her own way; a very good way, judging from last year's performance.

Thus the anniversary performance - a chance in a lifetime - was only a fairly good routine presentation with some agreeable highlights. It should have been a gala affair. I don't like to carp, but cannot understand what the Met is saving the great voices for - the centennial of "Samson and Delilah"? Is there any composer in the operatic world who rates more respect and care than Mozart? Let us forget about the anniversary, that has been muffed, but if Mr. Rudolf gets a great cast he will come through with a fine performance. The season is still young and Mozart can be honored, like father, on every day. The public, too, may contribute to this reverence by not hurting the overture and the introductions and postludes to arias. The magnificent introduction to the countess' great aria -and Mr. Rudolf prepared it beautifully - was ruined, simply ruined by the wretched Malaprops in the audience.

Review of R. A. E. in Musical America

On this day throughout the world opera houses and musical organizations of all kinds marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Metropolitan chose to celebrate the event with the first performance of the season of "The Marriage of Figaro," which, with the possible exception of "Don Giovanni," is the most popular of his operas.

The Metropolitan did nothing new with the production in honor of the occasion. The sets and costumes were those of Jorgulesco and Czettel made for the new staging in 1940. Max Rudolf was the conductor, and the cast was headed by George London (Count Almaviva), Victoria de los Angeles (Countess), Nadine Conner (Susanna), Martial Singher (Figaro), and Mildred Miller (Cherubino). These singers, and several others to be noted later, are among the finest artists in the company and if performance did not ignite with extra bit of festive fire that the event seemed to call for, the failure hardly could be charged to their account.

As Susanna, Nadine Conner is the classic soubrette. Petite and vivacious, she looks the part exactly and her voice is of sufficient size to take the commanding position frequently demanded of it in the duets and the ensemble numbers. She also sang appealingly her lovely "Deh vieni" in the last act. Martial Singher, always the polished artist in whatever he undertakes, played Figaro, not as a guffawing clown, but as a mature, clever, sometimes malicious fellow who intends to take no nonsense from his blustering, but not very bright employer. This is precisely as it should be, for the whole point of the character and, indeed, of Beaumarchais's satirical play, is Figaro's bitterness over the class distinction that makes him and Susanna subservient in the most humiliating way to the whim of the Count, and his determination to expose the Count for the sordid lecher that he is. This aspect of the role Mr. Singher disclosed knowingly, and when he did not force his high notes he sang most agreeably.

Miss de los Angeles was a beautiful, warmly human, yet regal Countess and it goes without saying that her two soliloquies were among the musical pinnacles of the evening. Mr. London is well known for his handsome but forbidding Almaviva. It is one of his best roles and he sang it with his usual authority. Miss Miller was an attractive Cherubino, in excellent voice and with a minimum of the strutting antics that commonly pass for "boyishness" on the opera stage. Don Bartolo was ably portrayed and excellently sung by Fernando Corena, as was Don Basilio by Alessio De Paolis. Sandra Warfield brought quite some humor and an attractive voice to the role of Marcellina. Others in the cast were Gabor Carelli, Lawrence Davidson, Vilma Georgiou, Marie Leone, and Rosalind Elias.

Mr. Rudolf clearly was on intimate terms with the score, which he conducted from the piano used by him for the recitatives (the sound of the piano is still a jarring note to me in opera of this period, although a piano may well have been used instead of the usual harpsichord in the original performances of the work). Being immersed in the score and having an obviously tender affection for it, Mr. Rudolf tended to savor every detail a bit too deliberately. This retarded the momentum (the tempos never were on the rapid side in any case) and contributed significantly, it seemed to me, to the general lackluster of the performance. The overture began at 8 o'clock, but despite cuts of both Marcellina's and Don Basilio's arias in the fourth act, the last note was not sung until nearly midnight. A little faster pace would have brightened things up considerably.

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