[Met Performance] CID:244360
New Production
I Puritani {9} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/25/1976.

(Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 25, 1976
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
New Production


I PURITANI {9}
Bellini-Pepoli

Elvira..................Joan Sutherland
Arturo..................Luciano Pavarotti
Riccardo................Sherrill Milnes
Giorgio.................James Morris
Enrichetta..............Cynthia Munzer
Gualtiero...............Philip Booth
Bruno...................Jon Garrison

Conductor...............Richard Bonynge

Director................Sandro Sequi
Set designer............Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall

I Puritani received ten performances this season.

"This production of I Puritani is made possible by generous and deeply appreciated gifts from the entire Metropolitan Opera family, including Members of the Board of Directors, Members of the Metropolitan Opera Association and Patrons. Grateful acknowledgment is made of special support from the Subscribers, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Metropolitan Opera National Council, the Metropolitan Opera Club, and Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Crawford."


Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times:

`I Puritani' Electrifies Met House

Since the 1940's, "1 Puritani" has been revived in many of the world's opera houses. But not at the Metropolitan, where it has not been heard since 1918. Last night, the Metropolitan finally got around to a new production of the famous old bel canto opera, and it was an evening that electrified the house, thanks to Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti. It may be that Mr. Pavarotti's singing is a little more effortful than of yore. It may be that Miss Sutherland sang rather slowly, with surprising care. But it also is true that no pair of singers currently on the operatic stage could have come near matching them.
Miss Sutherland sang a beautifully controlled performance, trying to evoke music rather than pure technique. That big, colorful voice of hers had no trouble with the tessitura; her diction was much better than it used to be; there is far less portamento; and she phrased with extreme sensitivity. Long line followed long line; and then, when technique was needed, Miss Sutherland was mistress of liquid trills, smooth scales and carelessly tossed-off roulades,

Mr. Pavarotti's famous high notes were right on the button. But there was much more to his singing than those D's in the last-act "Vieni fra queste braccia" duet. He is a singer of taste, and was able to achieve much of the bel canto ideal thanks to his impeccable diction and his way with a long phrase. He did not, incidentally, take the notorious high F in falsetto, though it does appear in his "Puritani recording with Miss Sutherland.
Of the other principals, James Morris was a splendid Giorgio-full-voiced, colorful, smooth in delivery. Sherrill Milnes sang the role of Riccardo. He received his quota of cheers, but he really is more a Verdi than a Bellini baritone, and the coloratura in such arias as "Ah per sempre" was simplified and clumsy.
Sandro Sequi was in charge of the production, which had sets by Ming Cho Lee and costumes by Peter J. Hall. The sets were naturalistic. There was nothing elaborate about them; several basic units were rearranged or decorated as the opera went on. But all was tasteful and effective.

The direction was traditional. Mr. Sequi had the good sense to work around the two principal singers. They are Very Large Persons; and, like all V.L.P. have their own way of movement and their own style of acting. With voices like theirs, they can make their own rules. Fortunately, Miss Sutherland and Mr. Pavarotti hold action to a minimum.
There were a few cuts, especially in the duets of the last act, but nothing major. Richard Bonynge conducted in his usual manner. Knowledge is there, but not a very flexible wrist and not a very good rhythmic sense. In any case, things went smoothly enough. Mr. Bonynge was careful to let the singers come through, and they took full advantage of that agreeable fact. There is a great deal of full-throated brilliance in this "I Puritani," And if this is an opera with one of the worst plots in history, it also has more tunes and brilliant singing than almost anything of its kind.


Review of Robert Jacobson in Opera News

Vincenzo Bellini told his librettist Carlo Pepoli, "Opera must make people weep, shudder, die through the singing." Viewed through the early romantic sensibility that reigned in the 1830s when the composer realized his final opera, "I Puritani" has just this emotional force to transport. Yet it is rare today that the operas of this period ever reach the stage in the spirit in which they were intended: conductors, directors and designers are reluctant to trust the frail dramatic statements, the slender, elegiac musical line. How triumphant, then, the new Met production of "I Puritani," for it reached into the essence of this work, never for a moment doubting its effect, never underplaying out of embarrassment or overplaying out of doubt. Everything had rightness and the ecstatic, sold-out house sensed it was in the presence of just about the most perfect incarnation of a bel canto opera within memory.

To begin with, the Met had assembled the best cast in the world at the moment, a four-star quartet that could walk proudly in the footsteps of Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache. Bellini, of course, is singing first and foremost, and the four leads - Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris - did every minute of the score proud. Then conductor Richard Bonynge brought his expertise in this period, leading with more vitality than ever before but never afraid to indulge his singers or his orchestra in Bellini's rich melodic outpouring.

Ming Cho Lee captured the romantic landscape atmosphere in simple but evocative settings, misty in detail, inspired in pastel colorings, never heavy (even with an emphasis on stonework) but providing an ideal acting-singing arena. Lee is one of the few designers today with a sense of architecture, lending both a solidity and a magical use of space. Peter J. Hall designed costumes of imaginative elegance and taste, particularly the white satin wedding-party garb, the rich velvet capes for the cavaliers, the gracious gowns for Miss Sutherland and the severely apt dress for the Roundheads. Finally, to make this "Puritani" truly of a piece, there was director Sandro Sequi, who managed to make the early nineteenth century come gracefully but thrillingly alive onstage. Each scene emerged like an old-master painting or hand-colored lithograph of the era. His principals and chorus moved with a delicate grace and rightness for the music, each pose and gesture imbued with a fine softness. Colors, lighting, movement, attitude, everything went into a vibrant embodiment of the elusive romantic spirit.

Over the years Joan Sutherland has specialized in these potty dames, and Elvira remains one of her most memorable characterizations. Her voice is a miracle in its combination of size and flexibility to which she has now added a greater hue of colors, inflections and expression. She can swoon and achieve flights of madness with the best of them and here Sequi had her seek no Actors Studio realism but a gentle feyness that is exactly right for this vague young lady, who comes in and out of madness with the greatest of ease.

As Arturo, Luciano Pavarotti too brought size and heft to his singing all the way up to his top notes in the hair-raising "Vieni fra queste braccia" duet. His superbly placed tenor voice has become more dramatic and has developed an interesting edge that colors his timbre excitingly. As an actor he bounded enthusiastically through the proceedings, making his huge physical size work to advantage. Sherrill Milnes proved a revelation as a bel canto baritone, singing Riccardo with a grand blend of virility, opulent tone that broadens the higher it goes and an agility to encompass some impressive fioriture in his pulsating Act I aria. As a presence he lent strength and drama to a basically one-dimensional figure. Making it a fourth was bass James Morris, whose distinctively dark timbre, forcefulness and a wide range of dynamics qualified him as an ideal Giorgio Walton. His singing was so natural and true as to suit him ideally to this pre-Verdi repertory, and with Milnes the rousing "Suoni la tromba" soared to the heights. Cynthia Munzer as Enrichetta and Jon Garrison as Bruno were also well cast.



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