[Met Performance] CID:225580
Rigoletto {485} Northrup Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minnesota: 05/22/1971.

(Debut: Joyce Olson

Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 22, 1971

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Robert Merrill
Gilda...................Gabriella Tucci
Duke of Mantua..........Richard Tucker
Maddalena...............Frederica von Stade
Sparafucile.............John Macurdy
Monterone...............James Morris
Borsa...................Leo Goeke
Marullo.................Raymond Gibbs
Count Ceprano...........Andrij Dobriansky
Countess Ceprano........Ivanka Myhal
Giovanna................Carlotta Ordassy
Page....................Joyce Olson [Debut]
Guard...................Paul De Paola

Conductor...............Carlo Franci

Review of Mike Steele in the Minneapolis Tribune

Opera 'Rigoletto' presented

The Metropolitan Opera ended its 27th season in Minneapolis Saturday night with a good yeoman production of Verdi's great tragic opera "Rigoletto."

The success of this final production, I would guess, can be attributed in large part to conductor Carlo Franci, who threw a lot of excitement into the tempi, got as clean and brisk a sound from the orchestra as anyone has this year, held even the Met chorus together, and carefully shaded and illuminated the voices on stage. But whether it was Franci or Herbert Graf's intelligent presentation of the work, this production took off and even the most cynical minds had to melt during the final act death scene. All this was accomplished with most of the Met's problems still in evidence. Choreography was insipid and, worse, poorly danced. The sets were by Eugene Berman. The singing was respectable in most cases, but hardly exciting.

The most pleasant surprise to me was Robert Merrill's rendition of the title role. Merrill has obvious sympathy for this part and unlike most of his characterizations, managed to get inside it and make it live. Fortunately, the part calls mostly for great extremes of emotion, Merrill's strength, a hideous humor, passionate love for his daughter Gilda and frenzied fear turning into anguish as he sees his daughter kidnapped and finally killed.

Richard Tucker is a singer with a workmanlike approach to opera, but his voice has never turned me on and his stage presence has always been bovine. Yet even he was in better than usual form Saturday, at least he was after a sub-par rendition of "Questa o Quella" in act one. His work in the second act was quite lovely.

Gabriella Tucci was, to say the least, uneven as Gilda. Her voice was terribly forced and inaccurate Saturday, at times embarrassingly so as she searched for notes that didn't come easily. When she found them, as in the second half of "Caro nome," she produced a lovely tone, but those moments were few and she never had the strength to unify the childlike simpleness and lyric coloratura qualities of this difficult role.

Both Frederica Von Stade - who again, stepped in for an ill Nedda Casei - as Maddalena and John Macurdy as Sparafucile gave sound performances.

The greatest weaknesses in the production coincide with the greatest weakness of the singer's inability to reach poignancy in tender moments. Neither Merrill nor Tucker are very sensitive singers and always look uncomfortable when they can't sing all out.

As for the Met itself, it appears obvious that they'll be in trouble if things don't improve. The sets in all the operas I saw were tacky - and for the first time in my memory not applauded by the audience. If the company is going to use dance, they need desperately to hire first-rate choreographers. They need good conductors -- Franci notwithstanding - and someone to light a fire under the monolithic beast that is the Met chorus. And they're also suffering from a dearth of great singing, at least on tour. With the exception of Franco Corelli, somewhat miscast, Jon Vickers and the usually reliable Cesare Siepi, singing was below par. Martina Arroyo was the classiest of the ladies with Ruza Baldani appearing to be a promising newcomer.

It's obvious that the Met is entering a new era with a new general manager and several new young attractive singers. Hopefully, in a year or two we can look forward to new life in this vital and important American institution.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).