[Met Performance] CID:176790
World Premiere

In the presence of the composer
Vanessa {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/15/1958.
 (World Premiere)
(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 15, 1958

World Premiere
In the presence of the composer


VANESSA {1}
Barber-Menotti

Vanessa.................Eleanor Steber
Anatol..................Nicolai Gedda
Erika...................Rosalind Elias
Old Baroness............Regina Resnik
Doctor..................Giorgio Tozzi
Nicholas................George Cehanovsky
Footman.................Robert Nagy

Conductor...............Dimitri Mitropoulos

Production..............Gian Carlo Menotti
Designer................Cecil Beaton
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Production a gift of the Francis Goelet Foundation

Vanessa received seven performances this season and eighteen performances in three seasons.

Review of Max De Schauensee in the Philadelphia Bulletin datelined New York.
The world premiere of Samuel Barber's "Vanessa" at the Metropolitan Opera House last night, added up to a great triumph for the composer, the librettist, Gian Carlo Menotti, for conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos and for a fine cast.

A brilliant audience which crowded the vast spaces of the Metropolitan to capacity, singled out the principals for repeated applause and gave the composer and his associates 17 calls at the final curtain. This was the first American opera to be heard within these walls since Bernard Rogers' "The Warrior" was produced in 1947.

The new opera, by the West Chester, Pa. composer, was given a sumptuous and meticulously detailed setting by Cecil Beaton, which emphasized the Northern background of the story of love lost and love regained.

Mr. Barber has written a sophisticated score with plenty of vocal opportunities for the singers. The preludes which anticipated the scenes were particularly evocative. There were solos for soprano Eleanor Steber and duets between the heroine and tenor Nicolai Gedda, excellent in the role of the volatile Anatol. Strong personal successes were obtained by Rosalind Elias, as the forsaken Erika, and by Giorgio Tozzi as a kindly and bibulous family doctor.

Mr. Monotti's flair for the theater was apparent in his interesting and deeply psychological libretto; and as stage director, Mr. Menotti showed that he is indeed a child of the theater. Miss Steber, who consented to sing the role of Vanessa, when European diva Sena Jurinac was unable to fulfill her contract due to illness, sang with the sovereign musicianship for which she is noted.

Comments in the lobby during intermission would indicate that the opera struck its mark with many in the audience. General sentiments applauded the fine workmanship of the score and rejoiced in the fact that an American opera, long overdue, had made its appearance at our principal opera house.

The English text, oddly enough, was clearest heard from the lips of the Swedish Mr. Gedda. Because singers are Americans does not necessarily mean that they have the secret of projecting their own language clearly. However, with repeated performances, this blemish could be cleared up easily.

Philadelphians are in line for an evening of rare interest when Mr. Barber comes to their Academy with his opera on February 11.


From the review of Paul Hume in The Washington Post:
His opera is marvelously made, in the sense that much of the time it is contrived with great skill. Often a fine idea leaps forth. The weakness of the opera lies in the regular failure of these ideas to sustain flight.

The first act wanders aimlessly, a beautiful mirage of sound that never leaves the ground, even though it offers Vanessa a supreme moment for great song.

Not until a duet in the third act does the music seem to breath forth in anything like true vocal glory, This actually contains less than it seems to because of the oasis it creates. The fourth act takes on a warmer singing line than the others and herein lies a possible hope if the opera is to be at all revised.

The cast is at ease in their roles, even though Steber took the difficult title part only six weeks ago when the soprano originally engaged was reported ill in Europe. Nicolai Gedda, the Met's new Swedish tenor, distinguished himself in every way, especially for his superb English, the finest of the otherwise American cast.

Rosalind Elias proved a notable singing actress as Erika, Regina Resnik, in a part of ungrateful silences, was a powerful dramatic element. Giorgio Tozzi's doctor was in some ways the best part of the entire opera, sung and acted to great effect in the face of a tricky song and dance routine and drunk scene.

Menotti's staging shows the hand of the man who knows so well what makes opera go. His story is immensely persuasive. If Barber can find ways of enlarging upon what are at present only latent implications, he may yet produce a work of genuine power.

The evening's greatest single ovation went to Dimitri Mitropoulos for the authority of his impassioned reading of the score. It was a high triumph.

Photograph of Regina Resnik (rear), Eleanor Steber, and Rosalind Elias in Vanessa by Louis Mélançon.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).