[Met Performance] CID:252410
New production
La Favorita {11} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/21/1978.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 21, 1978
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
In Italian
New production

Donizetti-Scribe/A. Royer/Vaëz

Leonora.................Shirley Verrett
Fernando................Luciano Pavarotti
Alfonso.................Sherrill Milnes
Baldassarre.............Bonaldo Giaiotti
Inčs....................Alma Jean Smith
Don Gasparo.............John Carpenter
Dance...................Diana Levy
Dance...................Lucia Sciorsci
Dance...................Marcus Bugler

Conductor...............Jesús López-Cobos

Director................Patrick Tavernia
Set designer............Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer........Jane Greenwood
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Thomas Pazik

Translation by unknown

La Favorita received fifteen performances this season.

[This production of La Favorita was owned by the San Francisco Opera. It was especially designed to be shared by the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the San Francisco Opera.]

Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Review of Bill Zakariasen in the Daily News

A Trifle Triumphs

Donizetti's 1840 opera, "La Favorita," is one of those pieces that makes you sorry. for all the nasty things you ever said about "Lucia di Lammermoor." Outside the enforced familiarity of two arias ("O mio Fernando" and "Spirto gentil," coincidentally both added as afterthoughts), the formula score is innocuously pleasant but thoroughly unmemorable. The libretto, moreover, is a series of pompous confrontations that would be funny if they weren't so sleep-provoking. Toscanani once dubbed "Favorita" as "a masterpiece - every note of it." Well, nobody's perfect.

Why then did the Met Opera revive "Favorita" Tuesday when it hadn't been heard there in 72 years? For one thing, the Ming Cho Lee sets were borrowed, not bought (courtesy of the San Francisco Opera), but more importantly, four singers who can cope with Donizetti's virtuoso writing - Shirley Verrett, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and Bonaldo Giaiotti are under the Met's roof. These great performers not only sing superbly, their collective artistry often makes the trivial triumphant.

As Leonora, the wronged mistress of Spanish King Alfonso XI, Verrett was stupendous in vocalism and amazingly believable in action, and her performance was notably better than the "Favorita" in concert form she gave in Carnegie Hall three years ago.

Although he took some time warming up, Pavarotti was his familiarly brilliant, committed self as Fernando - his exquisite "Spirto gentil" almost retitled the opera "Il Favorito." Milnes (Alfonso) and Giaiotti (Baldassare) presented their roles with utmost dignity of song and action. Alma Jean Smith and John Carpenter were able in smaller parts. Jesus Lopez-Cobos was the superior conductor, giving the score the animation it seriously needed, though the chorus and orchestra have had better nights precision-wise.

Thomas Pazik's stylish choreography (to some of the opera's more attractive music) was well-executed by the dancers, but the garish new costumes, coupled with the flimsy little sets, (which often frustrated Patrick Tavernia's sensible direction), made the production look like a touring version of "Princess Ida."

Review of Harriett Johnson in the New York Post

Met's 'Favorita' lacks necessary conviction

'La Favorita" is a superior Donizetti opera. Though the Metropolitan Opera's revival after 72 years fell lustily on the ear, it didn't deliver complete conviction. Last night was the premiere of a production borrowed by the Met from the San Francisco Opera. It featured a construction unit set by Ming Cho Lee that in Act II used a chair for a throne in Alfonso's palace in Seville, and had several life-size statues on high poles. That structure in this act reminded me of Louise Nevelson's suggested crucifixion: heavy, cubicled creations.

The time is14th Century Spain; the story based on history but turning out wildly different from it. The record states that Leonora, mistress of the King, bore him nine sons and a daughter, but you can imagine that this did not occur in the Royer-Vaez libretto.

Donizetti's Leonora was not only billed as the King's favorite, but she turned out to be an ambivalent creature who loved Fernando before she knew anything about him, but didn't give up the King willingly either. Actually the silly, mixed up plot suffered from changes forced into it by the censor. There were two Italian versions which differ from the French, neither of which makes much sense. The Italian, which the Met uses is more nonsensical than the original French. "La Favorita's" opera's world premiere was December 2, 1840, in Paris and this places it as a wholly mature work. The composer died in 1848.

'La Favorita" has much music including choruses and concerted music with a consistent style that could be absorbing from start to finish. This was not the case at the Metropolitan Opera Guild's benefit. Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducted with a knowledgeable, dynamic hand but he hardly showed the strong personality we thought he might have after observing him in Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur."

It was a night when singers dominated. They all had gorgeous voices but didn't demonstrate, among them, much unity of style. The production was by Patrick Travernia. Shirley Verrett, who apparently still can't decide whether she is a mezzo-soprano, or soprano, sang the title role with brilliant, scintillating quality in the high voice, but ended up with a growl in the lower register. Whether mezzo, which Leonora is, or high soprano, Miss Verrett would sound much better if she had an even scale from top to bottom and a style which became it. Sometimes she sang elegantly as in Act IV; in others, she sounded like a gypsy.

The men who sang and acted their parts to the full were Sherrill Milnes as a most aristocratic Alfonso XI, King of Castile, and Bonaldo Giaiotti as Baldassare, superior of the monastery. He is listed in the Italian version as Fernando's father! Sexual mores were pretty flexible in those days too.

As Fernando, Luciano Pavarotti had the clearest, most expressive diction on stage sang in true bel canto style, but he shouted more than he [should]. He forced out his high C sharp in his first aria. But no matter what, he is secure and he was often exciting, no doubt about that. He abuses his voice more than he caresses it and what a pity with such great natural material. As an actor he had loads of energy, but he was hardly believable, especially when he angrily broke his sword in front of the king. Alma Jean Smith as Inez showed a clear, sweet soprano in the higher register but as she descended she didn't project.

Jane Greenwood was costume designer. Her prize creation was a stunning headdress for Leonora in Act III. Miss Verrett was beautiful in wearing it. Gil Wechsler's lighting was bright and evocative only ironically it heightened the artificiality and exaggerations of the stage business. The sold-out house applauded in good health after each singer's aria or at other key points but there was one loud "boo" in Act III.

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