[Met Performance] CID:188100
Aida {648} Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri: 05/10/1961.

(Review)


St. Louis, Missouri
Kiel Auditorium
May 10, 1961


AIDA {648}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Birgit Nilsson
Radamès.................Franco Corelli
Amneris.................Irene Dalis
Amonasro................Robert Merrill
Ramfis..................Bonaldo Giaiotti
King....................Ezio Flagello
Messenger...............Robert Nagy
Priestess...............Carlotta Ordassy
Dance...................Thomas Andrew
Dance...................Ingrid Blecker
Dance...................Hubert Farrington
Dance...................Ilona Hirschl
Dance...................Lolita San Miguel
Dance...................Joan Wilder

Conductor...............Nino Verchi

Production..............Margaret Webster
Stage Director..........Hans Busch
Designer................Rolf Gérard
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov
Choreographer...........Mattlyn Gavers

[Zachary Solov received credit for choreography throughout the season,
sharing it with Mattlyn Gavers beginning April 14.]

Review of Thomas B. Sherman in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Metropolitan's Great Singers Give Exciting Performance

The Metropolitan Opera Company gave the first of two performances here last night in Kiel Auditorium when it presented Verdi's "Aida" to an appreciative capacity audience. A top-ranking cast headed by the Scandinavian soprano Birgit Nilsson produced the music on a monumental scale and, at the same time, with a lyrical fluency and coloring appropriate to Mediterranean character.

It was Miss Nilsson's first appearance in St. Louis and what was evident in her presence as she first walked down stage was confirmed after she had sung no more than five or six bars. This was the magic of artistic illuminations, a quality that pervades everything about a singing actor - the stance, the gesture, the bearing as well as the way the voice is used; in addition, her voice has a silvery timbre, richness, projection and flexibility. Miss Nilsson's interpretation of the Ethiopian slave girl could have been undertaken with her voice alone since it was responsive to a wide range of emotion without suffering any loss of tonal depth. This enabled her to act out her role with great economy of means. She was never static, but she was not given to distracting movements either.

Robert Merrill as Amonasro proved himself again to be a performer of wide range. His baritone quality was mellow, but capable of reflecting the hardened resolution of a stern and heroic character. Merrill's entrance in the second act quickened the pace of the dramatic line, which had become a little slack.

The role of Radames was sung by Franco Corelli, a young Italian tenor who is playing his first season with the Metropolitan. In a few details of his performance he showed a lack of maturity. The voice itself was bright with ingratiating warmth and its upper register had the trumpet like clang that brings immediate response from the sophisticated as well as the uninitiated. His low voice was a little weak, but it hardly mattered. He is tall, supple and reasonably graceful. It was his voice however, that gave his interpretation of Radames its main appeal. Ezio Flagello sang the role of the King. Bonaldo Giaiotti was Ramfis the high priest. Both were singers with voices of quality and authority. Irene Dalis, a contralto who also sang with a rich and rounded tone while projecting strongly, did credit to the imperious Amneris.

The outstanding group of principals was what gave the performance its special luster. They were excellent in their single efforts but they were consistent in quality and power with one another so the trios and duets were as striking as the roles. If Miss Nilsson's "O Patria Mia" was a sensitive, deeply-felt performance of one of the opera's most beautiful arias, the closing duet between Aida and Radames, "O Terra Addio," had the ethereal qualities which are too often missed.

In the big ensembles such as the triumphal scene, the well-trained chorus was strong, precise and resonant in quality. The orchestra had an excellent texture and range of color and good soloists. The conductor, Nino Verchi, however, did not gauge the acoustic properties of the auditorium any too well. He frequently raised a tonal wall between the audience and the singers that partly obscured the vocal line. In the first two or three scenes the orchestra was ahead of or behind the singers. In brief the conducting was not up to the standard set by the singers, and one got the feeling that they looked to him for only a general indication of tempo. Certainly in the few stretches where the orchestra was playing alone no particular subtlety of inflection was in evidence.

The ballet, despite the talented dancing of Lolita San Miguel, was a grotesque conception and was a burden on the performance. "Aida," however, is a great opera, imaginative, lyrical, heroic and deep in feeling. When it has great singers in its main roles exciting results can be expected. This happened last night.



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