[Met Performance] CID:237130
I Vespri Siciliani {11} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/11/1974.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
April 11, 1974
In Italian


I VESPRI SICILIANI {11}

Elena...................Cristina Deutekom
Arrigo..................Franco Tagliavini
Guido di Monforte.......Cornell MacNeil
Giovanni da Procida.....Paul Plishka
Ninetta.................Cynthia Munzer
Danieli.................Douglas Ahlstedt
Manfredo................Paul Franke
Tebaldo.................Nico Castel
Sire di Bethune.........Robert Goodloe
Roberto.................Andrij Dobriansky
Conte Vaudemont.........Edmond Karlsrud

Conductor...............James Levine

[Le Quattro Stagioni ballet not performed]

Review of Speight Jenkins in the Post

Levine Sparks New Cast in the Met's 'Vespri'

Since the birth of opera, fire in an opera house has been the ultimate horror, and house after house in this country and in Europe has gone up in flames. In this century such catastrophes have been rare, but last night at the Metropolitan Opera when a smoky smell came into the auditorium near the middle of Act III of "I Vespri Siciliani," fear came with it. A few people left but most everyone remained, and quickly the smell vanished. Apparently the smoke had been picked up from a nearby incinerator and fed into the house by the Met's air-conditioning unit.

Happily, the only fire around came from the pit where James Levine presided over a gripping and ever deepening reading of Verdi's exciting score. Remarkably any repertory house (particularly when the opera hasn't been performed for about a month), the orchestral and choral performances were more exciting and united than in the premiere.

Another flabbergasting surprise last night was the improvement in John Dexter's original staging. For years the N. Y. City Opera has been the only opera company in this town to correct staging ideas that did not work in performance; at the Met if something did not make sense, you could bet it would keep on that way for the run of the show. Maybe things are changing, because three specific points have been improved. When Procida enters and hails his homeland, now he only kisses the stylized earth and does not try to pick it up and drink the nonexistent water; no longer does the governor in his aria sit down on the steps as though he is looking for a chair; and, most important of all, Arrigo is allowed physically to stop Procida's attempted assassination of Montforte, his father, thus making the plot much clearer to those not familiar with all its intricacies.

Of the four principals Cornell MacNeil as Montforte made the biggest impression. His voice in infinitely better shape than on the [first] night of this season, the baritone sang with grandeur of Verdian line and supple tone. His is a reborn instrument. That distinguished young American bass, Paul Plishka, raised the role of Procida to the major member of the cast he should be. His voice sounded enormous and rich; perhaps because he was giving so much, the pitch got out of control several times in his big aria, "O tu Palermo."

Christine Deutekom, the Dutch soprano heard five years ago at the Met as the Queen of the Night, had the difficult jab of following Montserrat Caballé in a role perfectly suited to the Spanish soprano's vocal endowments. Few vocal colors enriched Miss Deutekom's performance, but when the music reached its height of beauty in Act III, she grew more involved. In her final trio, there was real passion; if only she can move this backward into the rest of the opera, her Elena will be first class.

Proving that Arrigo is one of Verdi's most difficult roles, Franco Tagliavini still had his moments which came from his Italianate style, his basically pleasant voice and good looks and bearing. But the tessitura of the role lies slightly above his ideal range and he sounded strained for much of the evening.



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