[Met Performance] CID:201120
Così Fan Tutte {55} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/30/1965.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 30, 1965
In English

Mozart-Da Ponte

Fiordiligi..............Leontyne Price
Ferrando................Richard Tucker
Dorabella...............Rosalind Elias
Guglielmo...............Theodor Uppman
Despina.................Roberta Peters
Don Alfonso.............Donald Gramm
Servant.................Alfred Lunt

Conductor...............Joseph Rosenstock

Production..............Alfred Lunt
Designer................Rolf Gérard

Translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin

Review of Irving Kolodin in the February 13, 1965 issue of the Saturday Review


On the theory, perhaps, that one good deed deserved another opportunity, Rudolf Bing has persuaded Alfred Lunt to restore the Metropolitan's "Così fan Tutte" to the conditions of elegant amusement that prevailed when the Rolf Gerard-Lunt production was new a dozen years ago. It had, in the meantime, first become less elegant and then less amusing as normal attrition led to a restaging by Carl Ebert. There were high hopes of good things to come when the eminent actor-director stepped before the Metropolitan curtain to repeat his bit of pre-performance pantomime (lighting fanciful "candles" and motioning a cougher to desist), but they were only intermittently fulfilled.

Such veterans of Lunt's original staging as Richard Tucker (Ferrando) and Roberta Peters (Despina) were not only as good as they were then, but better. Theodor Uppmann's talents as a farceur and Mozart baritone have blossomed into a most likable, well-sung Guglielmo, and Donald Gramm, as a replacement for the indisposed Frank Guarrera, showed himself to be quite the best Don Alfonso the company has had since John Brownlee's retirement. With the amount of pliable voice at his disposal, and a handsome presence to go with it, Gramm could have an outstanding career as a Mozart singer.

But the women . . . "Ah, what women!" as Guglielmo and Ferrando sigh in the first scene. Neither Leontyne Price as Fiordiligi nor Rosalind Elias as Dorabella matched the prior standards of Eleanor Steber and Blanche Thebom either as voices for Mozart's music or as bodies for Lunt's action. Neither has a suitable acting technique to convey the elegance or the amusement that are inherent in Lunt's procedures, resulting in much that was awkward and unfunny. Even worse, neither has the vocal character or technical discipline to meet Mozart's requirements acceptably, let alone with distinction. When they sang together, as they are required to do at considerable lengths in this work, the sound came out opposite to the way it should; in her middle range, Miss Price has the heavy, broad sound of the mezzo, Miss Elias the lighter, more compact quality of the soprano.

To her credit, Miss Price made a musicianly effort to lighten the broad strokes she uses to paint her Verdi characterizations, and some of the legato singing was quite beautiful. But she didn't command the flexibility to manipulate the turns or embellishments of "Come scoglio" in Act I, or the ease in florid singing to combine accuracy with intensity in "Per pieta" in Act II. Out of consideration for her limitations, conductor Joseph Rosenstock tranquilized the latter to near practice tempo and in so doing, deprived it of the fervor and dramatic purpose which Steber, for all its difficulties, managed to preserve. Miss Elias left the impact of her important aria similarly in abeyance, which meant that, in both parts, the weight of "sincerity" that Mozart conceived as counterbalance to the clowning of the men was absent. Probably some broad strokes of posture and action that Lunt provided for these sisters was prompted by their inability to master more subtle comedy, but they invaded areas of musical propriety that conductor Rosenstock should not have permitted. However, he had his share of blame for a treatment of the orchestral score that was more a monotone than an undertone, and that was, in either case, just dull.

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