[Met Performance] CID:184440
Simon Boccanegra {30} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/15/1960.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 15, 1960

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave/Arrigo Boito

Simon Boccanegra........Frank Guarrera
Amelia..................Renata Tebaldi
Gabriele Adorno.........Richard Tucker
Jacopo Fiesco...........Giorgio Tozzi
Paolo Albiani...........Ezio Flagello
Pietro..................Norman Scott
Maid....................Athena Vicos
Captain.................Robert Nagy

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

Review of Douglas Watt in the N. Y. Daily News


Last night's second performance of the Met's excellent new "Simon Boccanegra" production differed from the first in two important respects: Leonard Warren was missing from the title role and Renata Tebaldi was present in the role of Amelia.

It would be idle to pretend that Frank Guarrera, who has succeeded to the part of Simon, filled the late Warren's shoes. But then, who could have? Smaller physically and vocally than the great baritone, he was not the commanding figure that strode the big stage just two weeks back. Nevertheless Guarrera rose to the occasion impressively, singing with artistry and evenness of tone equal to that of any other member of the cast.

Miss Tebaldi's presence make a great deal of difference to the production, as you can well imagine. The Amelia was the weak spot [the first] night. Now in the part she was originally scheduled to create in this mounting of the Verdi opera but had to forego because of illness, she brings to it all her remarkable opulence and beauty of voice. The fine cast, otherwise the same as before, includes Richard Tucker's powerful Gabriele, Giorgio Tozzi's superbly sung Fiesco and Ezio Flagello's telling account of Paolo. And Dimitri Mitropoulos conducts the work splendidly.

The high spot is, of course, the council chamber scene and what a magnificent thing it is. One of the most striking passages in all opera, it is presented here with unfailing skill. Margaret Webster's staging, Mitropoulos's conducting, the singing of both the principals and chorus, the costume and the scenery all blend into an unforgettable image held in place by the tremendous thrust of Verdi's writing.

We must be grateful that Verdi, still troubled by "Simon" a quarter of a century after he had first composed it, went to work on it again, creating this council chamber scene as we know it. For its duration, "Simon" becomes an entirely different opera. The rest will do, but this is genius.

Review of Robert Sabin in the April 1, 1960 issue of Musical America

Revived in a splendid new production by Margaret Webster, "Simon Boccanegra" stood revealed for what it really is-one of the rare masterpieces of Italian operatic art and one of Verdi's finest and most nature works. The production turned out to be historic in more ways than one, for it was the last full performance to be sung by the great American baritone Leonard Warren, who died on stage in the midst of another Verdi opera a few nights later.

"Boccanegra" is clearly the product of two widely separated periods of Verdi's creativity. Evidence of the disaster of the first version still are to be seen in the clumsy, confused libretto which Boito was only partially successful in salvaging from Piave's original botch. But the music, almost completely reworked after 20 years by the seasonal Verdi, fully cognizant now of the burgeoning German music drama and looking toward his own real music drama, "Otello," has a freshness, an inventiveness and an emotional and dramatic impact not to be found in any of the works of his middle period, including "Rigoletto" and "Il Trovatore." Posterity can be doubly grateful in this instance.

Mr. Guarrera's voice was a bit light for the role. There was a constant sense of nuance, as in the touching recognition scene and in those magical final pages of the score. And always, Mr. Guarrera held the stage; his inner intensity and conviction were unfaltering. In the ensembles, he sought both vocal balance and dramatic integration. In short, an admirable achievement, which won him a deserved ovation. In recent years, this artist had sunk into a comfortable routine at the Metropolitan. Given a major challenge and a major opportunity, he surprised us with his creative energy and vocal resourcefulness.

Miss Tebaldi used her resplendent voice with increasing freedom and plasticity as the evening progressed. Her first aria, it is true, did not have the gossamer quality and soaring lightness that one had hoped for, but from then on, her singing was one marvel after another. Who could forget those impeccable trills, in the famous ensemble in Act I, Scene 2, or her hair-raising duets with Richard Tucker? Dowdily costumed by Motley in a style more evocative of the Court of Queen Victoria than of the Italian Renaissance, she also treated Margaret Webster's stage directions a bit casually. But who cared, as that golden voice bathed us all in its waves of irresistible splendor?

Mr. Tucker has been singing superbly all season, and a word of special praise should go also to Ezio Flagello, whose Paolo deserved more appreciation from the audience than it received. Also excellent were Giorgio Tozzi, as Fiesco; Norman Scott, as Pietro; and Robert Nagy, as a Captain.

Dimitri Mitropoulos obtained a consistently exciting performance from the orchestra, though he has not yet captured to the full Verdi's magical evocation of ebbing life and vitality in the closing pages of the score.

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