[Met Performance] CID:200830
Aida {706} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/2/1965.

(Debut: William Steinberg
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 2, 1965


AIDA {706}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Leontyne Price
Radamès.................Richard Tucker
Amneris.................Irene Dalis
Amonasro................Mario Sereni
Ramfis..................Ezio Flagello
King....................Justino Díaz
Messenger...............Paul Franke
Priestess...............Mary Ellen Pracht
Dance...................Edith Jerell
Dance...................Naomi Marritt
Dance...................Katharyn Horne
Dance...................Howard Sayette
Dance...................Harry Jones
Dance...................Donald Mahler

Conductor...............William Steinberg [Debut]

Production..............Nathaniel Merrill
Designer................Robert O'Hearn
Choreographer...........Katherine Dunham

Aida received fifteen performances this season.


Review of Irving Kolodin in the January 16, 1965 issue of the Saturday Review

Three-and-a-Half Star "Aida"

As everybody knows, and the records are there to prove it, Verdi's "Aida" makes a fine opera for the open*ing night of a season. It also makes a fine opera for the open*ing of a third of a season, or a half of a season, or even for the first Saturday night of the New Year when it is performed as well as it was at its seasonal reappearance at the Metropolitan. It would have been so had it merely brought together Leontyne Price in her seasonal reappearance, with Richard Tucker's first Radames ever in this theater. Bringing them together with William Steinberg's debut as a Metropolitan Opera conductor completed the equation, which reads: able singers plus able conductor equals notable opera.

The incidence of Tucker's first Radames with Steinberg's first "Aida" may have had a deeper current than showed on the surface. It is anything but a new idea that he should be a Metropolitan Radames; Edward Johnson proposed it years ago, and it may be assumed that it has come up from time to time since, especially as Tucker took part in the famous Toscanini broadcast of 1949. But it is one thing for a lyric tenor (spinto though he be) to take a dramatic part with a microphone to assist him, another to sing it in a theater. It may finally be assumed that Tucker was waiting to do it on his own time and in his own way, with a conductor who saw it his way too.

That way was a lyrical, soaring non-stentorian way in which Steinberg was partner as well as collaborator. The conductor's inclination was to a carefully articulated, essentially musical statement of the score, rather than a restlessly surging dramatic one. Big effects were reserved for the big ensembles, with a mounting tide to the Nile Scene and beyond. The voices were assisted rather than pushed, the orchestral values insinuated into the totality rather than dominating it.

To be sure, he could not deny Tucker the luxury of a fortissimo B flat at the end of "Celeste Aida," a tenorism that betrayed the singer's mistrust of a composer who could write so beautiful an aria and then stupidly require that the tenor end it pianissimo. This vulgarism aside, Tucker satisfied the ear with a stream of well-modulated, beautifully phrased sound, produced with so much head resonance that it shone through the ensembles like a beam of light. As for the eye, it had to settle for what it was offered. In justice to Tucker, it should be said that he played the part of the Egyptian general with a minimum of lunging and arm-waving, resisting most temptations to gesture unnecessarily. It would have been better had he considered that the true object of his love music was Aida rather than the audience.

However, this "Aida" has had a full indoctrination in the narcissism that afflicts the average operatic tenor, and she, creditably, directed her love toward Verdi when Radames was otherwise occupied. Miss Price had a wide range of vocal resources at her disposal, and played upon them with a freedom and sophistication that were highly creditable to her ever-expanding artistry. Whereas her first absorbing Aidas here were the expression of an intensely subjective identification with the character and her plight, it appears that she has now learned to direct that intensity in an objective way, using it rather than letting it use her. Now it has variety as well as tension, in a shifting range of values relative to her momentary status - as the light-footed slave to Amneris, the anxious enamored of Radames, or the loyalty-torn daughter of his enemy, her father.

Unfortunately this cast did not provide either an Amneris or an Amonasro to meet this kind of impulse half way. Irene Dalis may, for voice, be rated at half a star, but in the magnitude of Tucker-Price-Steinberg she cast but a dim glow of illumination. Dramatically she is no more than diligent. Mario Sereni's Amonasro was more concerned with the problems of Mario Sereni than with those of his country or his daughter, the latter part of the Nile Scene being almost desert-dry in quality Ezio Flagello as Ramfis and Justino Diaz as the King supported the low end of the ensemble with broad-based vocal sound, and the Katherine Dunham choreography was vividly performed. In all, Steinberg's demanding direction marked him as a man whose back we would like to become more familiar with in the opera house.



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