[Met Concert/Gala] CID:266820
Bergonzi Gala. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/4/1981.

(Carlo Bergonzi's 25th Anniversary
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 4, 1981

Celebrating the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Carlo Bergonzi
with the Metropolitan Opera

GALA PERFORMANCE

LA TRAVIATA: Act II


Violetta................Catherine Malfitano
Alfredo.................Carlo Bergonzi
Germont.................Mario Sereni
Flora...................Ariel Bybee
Gastone.................Dana Talley
Baron Douphol...........John Darrenkamp
Marquis D'Obigny........Julien Robbins
Doctor Grenvil..........William Fleck
Annina..................Batyah Godfrey Ben-David
Giuseppe................Dennis Steff
Gardener................James Brewer
Dance...................Antoinette Peloso, Jack Hertzog

Production..............Colin Graham
Designer................Tanya Moiseiwitsch
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov


UN BALLO IN MASCHERA: Act II

Amelia..................Teresa Zylis-Gara
Riccardo................Luciano Pavarotti
Renato..................Louis Quilico
Samuel..................Julien Robbins
Tom.....................William Fleck

Un Ballo in Maschera: Act III: Ma se m' forza perderti
Luciano Pavarotti

Production..............Paul Mills
Set designer............Peter Wexler
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler


Onstage Presentation honoring Carlo Bergonzi by
Frank E. Taplin, President, Metropolitan Opera Association


TOSCA: Act III

Tosca...................Galina Savova
Cavaradossi.............Carlo Bergonzi
Spoletta................Nico Castel
Sciarrone...............Russell Christopher
Shepherd................Owen Renfroe
Jailer..................Richard Vernon

Production..............Tito Gobbi
Stage Director..........David Kneuss
Designer................Rudolf Heinrich
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler


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


Review of John Rockwell in The New York Times:

At the end of his engagement last season, Carlo Bergonzi had sung at the Metropolitan Opera for 24 years -246 performances in 21 operas plus the Verdi Requiem. This season would be his 25th, yet the Met had nothing planned for him, and he was miffed. But then the company rallied. It announced a gala performance for him this fall, and that he would return in 82-83 to sing both "La Forza del Destino" and "Un Ballo in Maschera."

That is as it should be. Mr. Bergonzi has his insecure and toneless moments at the top end of his range. His rotund, stentorian presence hardly corresponds to modern notions of the responsive singer-actor. But in many ways, he still defines what at least one kind of Italian tenorizing is all about.

His virtues, as well as his limitations, were on ample display at the 25th anniversary gala the Met mounted for him Friday night. The Verdi-Puccini program offered both scenes of Act II of "La Traviata," with Mr. Bergonzi as Alfredo, Catherine Malfitano as Violetta and Mario Sereni as Germont pre. Then came the second act of "Ballo," to which was appended the third-act tenor aria, "Ma at m' forza perderti." Here the tenor part of Riccardo was taken by Luciano Pavarotti, with Teresa Zylis-Gara as Amelia and Louis Quilico as Renato. And finally there was the third act of "Tosca," with Mr. Bergonzi back again as Cavaradossi and Galina Savova in the title part.

All scenes were fully staged, except that a slightly stripped-down version of the "Ballo" second-act set was used, and a stripped-clown version of that served for the appended aria. James Levine conducted; he has not previously done "Ballo" at the Met. And at the very end, there was a touching ceremony, with all the artists lined up in a row and an engraved silver plate presented to Mr. Bergonzi by Frank E. Taplin, the Met president.

As overall musical experiences, these acts produced varied results. Miss Malfitano, for all her skills, constitutes the modern singer-actor alternative to Mr. Bergzoni's style, and as such did not mesh well with him. Mr. Sereni sang doggedly under pitch throughout. Miss Zylis-Gara and Mr. Quilico were in decent but hardly exceptional voice, while Miss Savova pealed out brightly as Tosca. Mr. Levine was at his considerable best in the "Ballo" and "Tosca" scenes.

But the evening cohered as a demonstration of Mr. Bergonzi's style, illuminated by the contrast with Mr. Pavarotti. The younger tenor was in fine voice. He lacks the suppleness of a decade and more ago, but in truth he never was a very subtle or sensitive bel canto tenor. Blunt, exciting, trumpeting music suits him well, and when he is on his mettle, as he was Friday, the results can be thrilling in their extroverted, supercharged way.

Mr. Bergonzi has never had Mr. Pavarotti's brightness and forthrightness of top. Nor is he a soulful introvert like Alfredo Kraus. What he has instead is a near-unequaled ability to shape 19th-century tenor arias with idiomatic flair, and a skill in vocal acting that neatly compensates for his mimetic stolidity.

Those gifts could be heard in part in the "Traviata" scenes, particularly in his expressions of remorse in the finale. But he is no longer a young man and the first scene suffered from the too-obvious discrepancy of age and youth. As Cavaradossi, however, Mr. Bergonzi was masterly. "E lucevan le stelle" was dreamy, inward-looking and intense, and his expressions of touching optimism. It was singing of a very high order indeed, and one looks forward to him returning in complete operas next season.



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