[Met Performance] CID:183000
New production
Il Trovatore {302} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/26/1959.

(Opening Night {75}
Rudolf Bing, General Manager
Debuts: Giulietta Simionato, Roald Reitan
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
October 26, 1959
Opening Night {75}
New production

Rudolf Bing, General Manager


IL TROVATORE {302}
Giuseppe Verdi--Salvatore Cammarano

Manrico.................Carlo Bergonzi
Leonora.................Antonietta Stella
Count Di Luna...........Leonard Warren
Azucena.................Giulietta Simionato [Debut]
Ferrando................William Wilderman
Ines....................Helen Vanni
Ruiz....................Charles Anthony
Messenger...............Robert Nagy
Gypsy...................Roald Reitan [Debut]

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Motley

Il Trovatore received eighteen performances this season.


Review of Winthrop Sargeant in The New Yorker dated November 7, 1959:

The Metropolitan Opera opened its season last week with a brand-new production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore." The opening was a sedate one, with a minimum of the sort of social flurry that has in the past frequently accompanied this grandiose ceremony, and the listener was able to concentrate on what was happening to the work of art on the stage with little or no disturbance from what was happening on his own side of the footlights - an extremely gratifying indication of a growing maturity on the part of opening night audiences. Of the work of art itself, I can only state that, like many confirmed operagoers, I love "Il Trovatore" with an affection that has survived the slightly stilted character of the Spanish heroic drama on which it is based, the well-known confusions that here and there beset its plot, and the depredations that have long been inflicted on parts of it by everything from brass bands and hand organs to bad Neapolitan tenors. All these things have merely served to confirm the amazing indestructibility of Verdi's melodies and the uncanny sway they hold over every imaginable sort of public, from the most untutored to the most sophisticated. I shall, therefore, not attempt to say anything new about this venerated masterpiece, and confine myself to reporting what the Metropolitan did with it the other night.

The production was, as a whole, reasonably satisfying, and, in one respect, brilliant. Such real brilliance as it had was due to the singing of Giulietta Simionato, an Italian mezzo-soprano (the designation is scarcely adequate, for she combines a rich contralto range with the agility and scope of a dramatic soprano) who was new to the company and who sang the role of Azucena with a degree of authority, power, and musical taste that I have not heard approached in this part since the days of the great Bruna Castagna. Miss Simionato - a small, round-faced woman with an intense stage personality that matches her extraordinary vocal gifts - presented Azucena not as the dishevelled hag standardized by tradition but as a vital, individualized character, whose seething search for vengeance is tempered by human and feminine traits. And her vocal contribution was so flawless, so easy in production, and so mature in its skill as to make her role the center around which the evening revolved, creating frequently that element of electric excitement that is found only in the presence of the most formidable artists.

As for the rest of the cast, it was good, if not precisely overwhelming. Antionetta Stella as Leonora, and Carlo Bergonzi, as Manrico, were both familiar in their roles, and they again gave performances that were highly agreeable to the ear, though comparatively innocent where conscious artistry was concerned. Leonard Warren, as the Count di Luna, was, I am afraid, not at his best. He is ordinarily the finest of all our Verdi baritones, and I remember many of his di Lunas that held me breathless with their force and their elegance of style. But the other evening he seemed bent on overelaborating his arias, and one of them, at least - the magnificent "Il Balen," in Act II, Scene 2 - was so pulled out of shape by rubato liberties as to lose the rhythmic coherence that I have heard him give it in the past. Fausto Cleva, the conductor, followed these vagaries with slightly irritating meekness, and discharged his other duties in the pit without any particular inspiration, yet managed to hold the performance together with an experienced hand. The new scenery and costumes, created for the occasion by the designers known as Motley, were generally pleasing, though to my mind the sets, which placed the action in a never-never land of Byzantine mountains and Gothic and Romanesque arches, did not in any way compare with the old "Il Trovatore" sets by Harry Horner, which reflected the noble and simple tradition of Gordon Craig and Adolphe Appia, and were among the handsomest in the Metropolitan's repertory.


Photographs of Carlo Bergonzi as Manrico, Antoinetta Stella as Leonora, Leonard Warren as Count di Luna, and Giulietta Simionato as Azucena by Louis Mélançon/Metropolitan Opera.



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