[Met Performance] CID:173090
Rigoletto {375} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/9/1956.

(Debuts: Mattiwilda Dobbs, Helen Vanni
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 9, 1956


RIGOLETTO {375}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Leonard Warren
Gilda...................Mattiwilda Dobbs [Debut]
Duke of Mantua..........Jan Peerce
Maddalena...............Rosalind Elias
Sparafucile.............Giorgio Tozzi
Monterone...............Louis Sgarro
Borsa...................Gabor Carelli
Marullo.................Clifford Harvuot
Count Ceprano...........George Cehanovsky
Countess Ceprano........Maria Leone
Giovanna................Thelma Votipka
Page....................Helen Vanni [Debut]
Guard...................Calvin Marsh

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Eugene Berman
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov
Stage Director..........Robert Herman

Rigoletto received nine performances this season.

Review of Ronald Eyer in the December 1. 1956 issue of Musical America


The first Negro soprano and the third singer of her race to be engaged as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, Mattiwilda Dobbs was heard in her New York operatic debut as Gilda in a performance that made musical history in this country. She had sung the role before, but in English, at Covent Garden. She has sung with the San Francisco Opera, and she has been appearing successfully in opera in Europe for several years.

The great assets that Miss Dobbs brought to this celebrated romantic role were a fine, beautifully schooled voice of considerable size and innate musicianship of the highest order. The voice is pure and true; there is nothing labored nor contrived about its production and it soars effortlessly into the coloratura range. Correct pitch was unfailing and there was a respect for and understanding of the sheer musical values of the score which are not commonly found among singers of opera. Debut nervousness may have accounted for a certain reticence in projecting the dramatic qualities of the role, but further performances no doubt will bring greater ease and freedom in emotional expression. The young singer received an ovation from a capacity audience which included many notables from her native city, Atlanta, Ga.

Leonard Warren has made the role of the wicked jester so completely his own over the years that there is now little more to say about it except that it continues to grow in psychological depth, in vocal subtlety and in emotional impact. The poignancy of Rigoletto tends to emerge more and more over the malignancy and the voice now piteously cries out the misery of the tragically divided personality. It is a masterpiece of characterization.

Jan Peerce was in top form as the Duke, a role to which he brings touches of dignity and restraint which somehow underscore rather than inhibit the malevolence of the part. Giorgio Tozzi, constantly adding to his stature as a leading young American bass, was a chilling and impressive Sparafucile. As Maddalena, Rosalind Elias was a voluptuous counterpart to him. Lesser roles were ably filled by Thelma Votipka, Louis Sgarro, Clifford Harvuot, Gabor Carelli, George Cehanovsky, Maria Leone, Calvin Marsh and, making her Metropolitan debut as the Page, Helen Vanni.

Fausto Cleva, at the conductor's desk, was sympathetic and helpful to Miss Dobbs but nevertheless held the details of the performance firmly in his own hands.



Photograph of Mattiwilda Dobbs as Gilda by Louis Mélançon/Metropolitan Opera



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