[Met Performance] CID:180690
Un Ballo in Maschera {69} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/2/1959.

(Debut: Mattlyn Gavers
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 2, 1959


UN BALLO IN MASCHERA {69}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Somma

Amelia..................Antonietta Stella
Riccardo................Richard Tucker
Renato..................Robert Merrill
Ulrica..................Jean Madeira
Oscar...................Laurel Hurley
Samuel..................Nicola Moscona
Tom.....................Norman Scott
Silvano.................Calvin Marsh
Judge...................William Olvis
Servant.................Robert Nagy

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

Director................Hans Busch
Set designer............Mstislav Dobujinsky
Costume designer........Ladislas Czettel
Choreographer...........Mattlyn Gavers [Debut]

Un Ballo in Maschera received six performances this season.


Review of Ronald Eyer in the January 15, 1959 issue of Musical America

Verdi's much-buffeted and once politically explosive "Un Ballo in Maschera" ("A Masked Ball") returned to the repertoire after an absence of two seasons. Except for a new Amelia and a new conductor, there were no major changes in the production.

There has been some effort lately to return the setting of "Ballo" to its original locale in Sweden where the events and the personages of the opera make sense rather than colonial Boston where they make no sense whatever. From the look of it, one might guess that the Metropolitan version
takes place in a mythical kingdom somewhere in the Balkans, or maybe on the moon. In any case
not 18th-century New England as the history books remember it for us.

No matter. The singing is the only thing that can possibly concern us any more in this venerable war-horse, and we were fortunate to have a cast of top performers. Antonietta Stella, who is a remarkably beautiful woman, cut a fine figure and employed her large, opulent voice magnificently as Amelia. Her pianissimo in the prayer was one of the triumphs of the evening. Her acting, though uneven, was generally persuasive, and she managed as well as she could the ridiculously long pantomime called for at the beginning of the second act when he is supposed to be searching for the henbane, or whatever it is that Ulrica has sent her for.

The Riccardo of Richard Tucker is a familiar but ever-impressive and elegant characterization as is the Renato of Robert Merrill, though Mr. Merrill concerns himself more with producing beautiful sounds than with examining the tortured soul of the behaved friend and husband, which may he of no great moment in this opera except as it affects the expression of the music. Jean Madeira encompassed the wide-ranging but melodically unrewarding lines of the witch Ulrica, with a skill and a rich. somber coloration in the low range.

The peculiar and mystifying role of the page, Oscar, was sung with admirable dexterity in the coloratura and the exacting rhythmic patterns by Laurel Hurley, though the voice seemed somewhat light for the part. One might guess that Verdi wrote this prominent, though completely irrelevant role, to display the prowess of some particular singer (although he was not given to doing this sort of thing), but such apparently was not the case because there was difficulty about casting the first Oscar. A certain Mme. Sbircia finally was awarded this plum, which has been more like prickly pear for producers of the opera ever since.

Nicola Moscona and Norman Scott were the sinister conspirators, Calvin Marsh was Silvano, and William Olvis and Robert Nagy were the Judge and Amelia's Servant, respectively. Mr. Schippers had learned his score thoroughly and his directions to both stage and orchestra were precise and detailed. He maintained a nice balance of all elements and his tempos were fast enough to keep things moving at a sprightly pace.



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