[Met Performance] CID:210150
La Gioconda {209} War Memorial Auditorium,, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/18/1967.

(Review)


Boston, Massachusetts
April 18, 1967


LA GIOCONDA {209}

La Gioconda.............Renata Tebaldi
Enzo....................Barry Morell
Laura...................Rosalind Elias
Barnaba.................Cornell MacNeil
Alvise..................Justino Díaz
La Cieca................Belén Amparan
Zuàne...................Russell Christopher
Isèpo...................Robert Schmorr
Monk....................Louis Sgarro
Steersman...............Nicola Barbusci
Singer..................Paul De Paola
Singer..................William Mellow
Dance...................Nira Paaz
Dance...................Howard Sayette

Conductor...............Fausto Cleva

Review of Kevin Kelly in the Boston Morning Globe

The Metropolitan's new production of "La Gioconda" is visually rather pretty, vocally rather pallid.

As presented Thursday night, at Boston Auditorium, nearly all its charm shone from the Venetian sets and costumes by Beni Montresor, who seems to have stamped a Canaletto trademark on most of his recent work. He takes to Venice as a gondola takes to water. He has imagined a superbly pictorial 17th Century city - pastel-pocked sky hovering above arches, stairways, piazzas and campaniles all cast in a soft golden glow - as a backdrop for Ponchielli's tangled tale of crime and passion.

Since the story which spirals though the rich, melodic score would try the patience of say, Ann Landers, or possibly even Dr. Eric Berne, let me simply stage that it centers on a group of misdirected individuals. In the opera all the wrong people love each other, and they number five. Librettist Boito (Tobia Garrio) adapted the plot from "Angelo, the Tyrant of Padua," A dreadful play by Victor Hugo. Ponchielli took the quintet of lovers and set them quivering their hearts through desperate passion. The result is a heavy, heady Italianate flourish full of sweeping arias, splendid duets and rousing choruses. And that after all, is what grand opera is all about.

STANDARD FINESSE

Tuesday night's cast handled the demands of the score with what I'd describe as standard finesse. There was nothing terribly amiss, but there was nothing memorable either.

The role of Gioconda, the ballad singer, was sung by Renata Tebaldi. When she was neither sharp nor flat, Tebaldi sang well, but the harsh truth is that the rose has turned to rust. The pianissimo is still there, a lovely purling sound, ravishing the breath out of air, but in the upper register the voice is hard, intractable, shrill. The lower tones were throaty, raspingly effective. Elsewhere, as I've said, a kind of forced strength.

Barry Morell, substituted for Franco Corelli as Enzo. Morell is a standard stand-in tenor, capable now, of nothing more than adequate ardor. While I agree adequate ardor is perhaps better than inadequate ardor, Morell never makes more than a fleeting impression. You are aware of his work, hardly ever of his art. "Cielo e mar," the atmospheric aria for all tenors, was well done. So was the duet with Barnaba ("Principe di Santa Fior"). What was lacking was genuine vocal excitement.

RESTRAINED VILLAINY

Belen Amparan succeeded in singing the role of La Cieca, the tormented blind mother of Gioconda, without stirring any emotions whatsoever. Rosalind Elias, as Laura, sang evenly and well and there were good performances by Cornell MacNeil as Barnaba and Justino Diaz as Alvise, with Diaz displaying a vicious sense of villainy with good restraint.

The choreography has been scaled down considerably from the original New York production. The "Dance of the Hours" interlude is a visual dream (pastel pinks colliding with steaming yellows, radiant blues and blaring lavenders) but the portion of it I saw was danced in klutz-time. The first act ballet was nothing less than a disgrace.

Fausto Cleva conducted superbly, always maintaining a strict line between singers and musicians. Nonetheless orchestral portions aside, "La Gioconda" is a disappointment to the ear, a sometimes delight to the eye. And of the purple intrigue of that libretto!



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).