[Met Performance] CID:210700
La Gioconda {218} Metropolitan Opera House: 06/20/1967.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
June 20, 1967


LA GIOCONDA {218}

La Gioconda.............Renata Tebaldi
Enzo....................Richard Tucker
Laura...................Rosalind Elias
Barnaba.................Cornell MacNeil
Alvise..................Bonaldo Giaiotti
La Cieca................Belén Amparan
Zuŕne...................Russell Christopher
Isčpo...................Robert Schmorr
Monk....................Louis Sgarro
Steersman...............Nicola Barbusci
Singer..................Paul De Paola
Singer..................William Mellow
Dance...................Tania Karina
Dance...................Donald Mahler

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

Review of Robert Commanday in the San Francisco Chronicle

The Met Puts on A Cool "Gioconda"

Great fun at the Met these days, and what a jolly "La Gioconda" Tuesday night: At first glance it looked like summer vacation on stage, everyone strolling through his part during this post-season performance for the Lincoln Center's Festival '67. But it really couldn't have been that accidentally casual, not with a stellar cast of such troupers as Renata Tebaldi, Richard Tucker, Cornell MacNeil. Rosalind Elias and Belen Amparan, conducted by the old Met vet, Fausto Cleva.

By the second act, all became clear. This was a great put-on. Rudolf Bing had laid a careful trap for his critics and was going in for satire. His recipe: Take Ponchielli's masterpiece of Kitch, dress it in Beni Montressor's most sumptuous sets and real-life luxurious velvets and satins, then play it straight, very straight. Always face front, never relate to the other singers on the stage and above all, never blow your cool.

TUCKER

Only Richard Tucker was out of step and kept singing his heart out with stirring delivery, inspiring a respectable ovation in Act II's "Cielo e mar." Spoilsport. Maybe his colleagues were putting him on, had deliberately left him out of their sub-plot. Whichever the case, as Enzo Grimaldo, the hot-blooded Genovese prince, he kept "saving" the show.

Tucker's most heroic, "to-the-rescue" action occurred after "The Dance of the Hours," and had left the audience laughing (a Zachary Solov routine further botched by the Liberace-like Donald Mahler, a heavy corps de ballet, and a hapless Tania Marina.)

The Met audience, never a disappointment, rose to the occasion, when some eager news cameramen slipped into the house and began taking shots of someone seated in the orchestra section. Was it Kosygin? Abba Eban? Everybody up and gawking. The subject turned out to be the daughter of the Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin, Mrs. Ludmilla Gvishiani, The standing-staring tribute lasted through three intermissions.

ARIA

Renata Tebaldi, queen of the queens, was saving herself for her big last act and its famous "suicidio" aria. With reason, the great voice is not what it was. The high notes require effort, occasional lunging. She keeps her head angled down, apparently to help cover and control the tone. When she once lifted her face into the light, in normal position during Gioconda's soft farewell to Enzo and Laura, the voice was immediately in trouble. Head down, she rarely looked at or directly regarded anyone in the cast,

Cornell MacNeil as the Scarpia-like inquisition informer Barnaba, was dramatically unworthy of the great instrument he possesses. Rosalind Elias as Laura, the Doge Alvise's wife loved by Enzo, was at least in fine vocal form, while Belen Amparan as Gioconda's blind mother, was not. Alvise was played by Bonaldo Giaiatti, a feckless actor with a large bass voice, one singing level and two gestures.

CHORUS

Kurt Adler 's chorus, a model of instant blaseity, is beginning to sing in tune more of the time. This "La Gioconda" production, new last winter, was staged by Margherita Wallmann, but Tuesday, Patrick Tavernia was in charge of the stage traffic.

It's an extra-special production without doubt. Montresor's sets and costumes are incredibly extravagant in detail, a fact which draws attention to, rather than distracts from the quality of the stage action. The first act is like a reproduction of a Guardi canvas of Venice's Piazza San Marco viewed from the Doge's palace. Very spectacular but not without naiveté in idea and execution.



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