[Met Performance] CID:201550
Vanessa {14} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/13/1965.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 13, 1965


VANESSA {14}
Barber-Menotti

Vanessa.................Mary Costa
Anatol..................John Alexander
Erika...................Rosalind Elias
Old Baroness............Blanche Thebom
Doctor..................Giorgio Tozzi
Nicholas................Russell Christopher
Footman.................Arthur Graham
Maid....................Suzanne Ames
Maid....................Rhodie Jorgenson

Conductor...............William Steinberg

Production..............Gian Carlo Menotti
Designer................Cecil Beaton
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Vanessa received five performances this season.

Review of Miles Kastendieck in the Journal-American

'Vanessa' Returns in Triumph

Samuel Barber's "Vanessa" returned to the Metropolitan Saturday night. It was most welcome, for it made an even deeper impression than at the premiere seven years ago.

This is music drama with score and story about equally balanced. In the turn of events that finally places Erika in the same position from which Vanessa emerges at the beginning of the opera, the tragedy is poignant. It underlines how "love never bears the image that we dream of" and may even make history repeat itself, From that point of view this is Erika's story though it pivots on Vanessa.

What gives it substance is the deep emotional current sustained musically throughout the score. Its melancholy strain finds logical culmination in the heart-breaking quintet at the end, thereby unifying itself with the tragic irony of the situation. Barber has underscored the psychological distress with some hauntingly beautiful music.

That the orchestra is as important as the singers indicates how contemporary the opera is. Barber has written symphonically, but his ability to write substantial vocal music creates a proper balance. Occasionally the orchestral counterpoint obscures the singing; occasionally the rich scoring calls for softer dynamics from the conductor. How expressively he presents emotional values orchestrally gives the work its status.

No other American opera to date has quite achieved this kind of projection, "Vanessa" has earned the right to be heard again and again. It takes its place naturally in the tradition. Only the second act fell somewhat below the quality of the other two on this occasion.

Rosalind Elias and Giorgio Tozzi repeated their roles, among the principals. Miss Elias so identifies herself with Erika that she has made this the performance of her career. In voice and action she was singularly convincing, making Erika's tragedy almost personal.

Mr. Tozzi's genial impersonation of an old doctor contributes much to the family atmosphere. Appearing for the first time as the old Baroness, Blanche Thebom
sustained the role well.
As Vanessa, Mary Costa looked and acted better than she sang, A persistent tremolo and cloudy enunciation detracted from a fundamentally beautiful voice. At first, all this suggested nervousness, but matters of production and pitch raised questions that later performances may possibly answer.

John Alexander's first Anatol confirmed his growing excellence as a leading tenor-actor. He conveyed the duplicity of the role successfully and added a human touch that it has not previously had.

William Steinberg was chiefly responsible for having the opera so musically integrated. His insistence on clean-cut playing clarified the score in many places; in fact, he sustained the melancholy strain admirably, tightening the emotional impact noticeably.

Gian-Carlo Menotti has also tightened the stage action, but he has not quite solved the second act. Cecil Beaton's old-world setting remains pictorially effective.

Mr. Barber was present to take final curtain bows. The applause stepped up in volume and in warmth on his appearance. And well it should, for 'Vanessa" is a fine work.



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