[Met Performance] CID:189130
Aida {654} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/6/1961.

(Debut: Galina Vishnevskaya

Metropolitan Opera House
November 6, 1961

AIDA {654}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Galina Vishnevskaya [Debut]
Radamès.................Jon Vickers
Amneris.................Mignon Dunn
Amonasro................Anselmo Colzani
Ramfis..................Jerome Hines
King....................Louis Sgarro
Messenger...............Robert Nagy
Priestess...............Carlotta Ordassy
Dance...................Suzanne Ames
Dance...................Audrey Keane
Dance...................Lolita San Miguel
Dance...................Thomas Andrew
Dance...................Hubert Farrington

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

Production..............Margaret Webster
Stage Director..........Patrick Tavernia
Designer................Rolf Gérard
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov
Choreographer...........Mattlyn Gavers

Aida received sixteen performances this season.

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical America

To the list of triumphant debuts which have been highlights of Metropolitan seasons in recent years-notably those of Nilsson, Price and Rysanek should be added that of the superb Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, who electrified the traditionally cold Monday night audience with a performance of the title role of Aida that was dramatically searching and vocally magnificent.
I cannot remember a more fiery characterization, or one more full of original touches, revealing a high intelligence and keen musical insight. And as for her singing, it was that of a master artist, although not of the impeccable order of her three illustrious colleagues.

Her piano and pianissimo tones were exquisite. The sinuous phrases of the "Numi, pieta" and the "O patria mia" were pure gold, and her high tones had that disembodied quality that marks flawless support and release. Curiously enough, in forte passages the voice frequently took on a metallic edge and a vibrato that were disturbing at first, until one realized that they were probably ingrained and not a symptom of instability.

Certainly, no soprano who could deliver that thunderbolt of a phrase which Aida sings unaccompanied on the word "colpir" in the Triumphal Scene as Miss Vishnevskaya did could be accused of insecurity. It soared down from fortissimo to pianissimo in glorious fashion, and, later, on her high B fiat and C, she cut through the whole gigantic ensemble without any sign of strain.

One of the many joys of the evening was the splendid rapport between her and Jon Vickers, who was the handsomest and most heroic-looking Radames since Martinelli, and who displayed the same intelligence and refinement as Miss Vishnevskaya. It was his first appearance in the role at the Metropolitan, and, despite some vocal difficulties, it was a deeply impressive performance.
How marvelously they built up the duet in the Nile scene! As Aida began her plea, "Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti," she literally wound her body around his, and one saw him gradually melt, until, with the outburst, "Ala no! fuggiamo," he yielded. Both artists were aware of text, and every word they sang meant something.

Also new to her role at the Metropolitan was Mignon Dunn, as Amneris. Badly costumed and made-up in Acts I and II, she was also vocally pallid, but she richly atoned in the Judgment Scene. Amneris' outbursts of remorse seemed to be literally torn from her vitals, and she spat out her fury to the priests with savage abandon. She deserved the ovation she received. It should be obvious to everyone by this time that Anselmo Colzani is one of the best singing actors at the Metropolitan today.

Jerome Hines's sumptuous voice and noble bearing as Ramfis reminded me of Pinza, and Mr. Sgarro and the others were all keyed up. Mr. Verchi and the orchestra caught fire, and people were on the edge of their seats throughout the evening, which was punctuated with stormy ovations. One forgot the terrible production and forgave the terrible ballet and let oneself be swept away by Verdi's gorgeous music. Viva Vishnevskaya!

Review of Robert J. Landry in Variety

Public Easy, Critics Harder Conquest for Soviet Prima Donna Vishnevskaya

Galina Vishnevskaya, a stylish figure of a well-trained soprano and the latest cultural export from Soviet Russia undoubtedly faced the most difficult conditions of any of her compatriots to appear in Manhattan for Sol Hurok. She had to fit herself into an existing American production of "Aida" with its own stage business notably different from what she is accustomed to in Moscow. She also had to work through an interpreter since Italian is a theatrical memory feat with her and she knows no English and, apparently,little French.

Not the least of her surprises, at a guess, was the discrepancy between the genuine ovation given her at the premiere performance in the Metropolitan's Opera House and the poor notices in the morning papers, though she fared notably better in the afternoon dailies. There is evidence, however, that she will be a ticket-selling attraction for the other "Aida" performances she gives and the 'Butterfly" she will add.

As a singing actress Miss Vishnevskaya impressed this reviewer as theatrically first rate, if perhaps more conservative in stage presence than has been typical of the role in late years at the Met. It comes, of course, as something of a "novelty" to have the Ethiopian slave sung by a white, woman instead of Leontyne Price, Gloria Davy, et al. At least one of her Russian touches, looking away back to audience during "O Patria Mia," was a nice dramatic change from U.S. convention. Whatever "nerves" may have been involved at the [beginning], her stage deportment was consistently professional. She was perhaps at her best, vocally, in the third act, but an audience-pleaser all the way and a strikingly romantic figure opposite Jon Vickers.

A tenor of enlarging status and deserved ovation as Radames, Vickers needs to check his growing tendency to break into out-of-character grins, which strongly suggest Liberace at his most boyishly appealing moments. That's okay for Liberace playing the piano in a rhinestone tuxedo under matching candelabra, but the spectator is dumbfounded when an opera singer in mid-performance breaks himself up, literally forgetting where he is and to whom he is supposed to be. The Met is not amateur night in Saskatchewan.

There was another almost stupefying lapse from professionalism in the first "Aida," as staged by Patrick Tavernia after the plan of Margaret Webster; namely, the appearance of a dozen Negro children from a local dancing school, who had no idea what they were doing and reduced the audience to semi-good humored, but essentially derisive laughter. Some portion of the audience felt real shame that such a cornball stunt should have been perpetrated in the sight of a visiting foreign diva. Cultural exchange, indeed!

The debut in the Amneris role of Mignon Dunn was, on the whole, very impressive, whatever the views of the slinky costume she wore. There were passages of great emotional beauty in her performance. Anselmo Colzani's Ethiopian king was well sung but his makeup suggested he had arrived too late at his dressing room.

Is something wrong with backstage discipline this season? The question must arise when tenors destroy an illusion and baritones won't take the trouble to prepare their persons and the kindergarten is raided for dance talent.

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