[Met Performance] CID:286520
I Puritani {19} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/14/1986.

(Debuts: Salvatore Fisichella, Christopher Cameron
Joan Sutherland's 25th Anniversary

Metropolitan Opera House
November 14, 1986

Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
In celebration of Joan Sutherland's twenty-fifth anniversary with the company


Elvira..................Joan Sutherland
Arturo..................Salvatore Fisichella [Debut]
Riccardo................Sherrill Milnes
Giorgio.................Samuel Ramey
Enrichetta..............Wendy Hillhouse
Gualtiero...............Julien Robbins
Bruno...................Christopher Cameron [Debut]

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

Production..............Sandro Sequi
Set designer............Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

I Puritani received ten performances this season.

Revival gift of Emily Fisher Landau

Review of Peter Goodman in Newsday


JOAN SUTHERLAND rushed on onstage - and then stopped as the ovation began. She clasped her hands. The roar rose. She let her hands fall. The bravos continued. She nodded her head and mouthed "Thank you." She curtsied. She nodded.

Then she turned and walked offstage, to try again with Act I, Scene 2 of "I Puritani," as conductor Richard Bonynge quickly motioned to the orchestra to turn the pages back.

The ovation lasted barely three minutes, nothing like the quarter-hour of tribute that stopped the show at her Met debut 25 years ago. But it was more than just "thanks for the memories" for this wonderful singer whose clarion sound has meant so much to opera. A week past her 60th birthday and more than 30 years since she began, Joan Sutherland still has a voice that wins the heart.

Sutherland was singing, as she has 10 times since 1976 at the Metropolitan Opera, the role of Elvira in Bellini's melodrama of the English Civil War. This production was originally mounted for her, as so many others have been in New York and around the world. The cast included baritone Sherrill Milnes, who had also sung in the 1976 premiere; bass Samuel Ramey and tenor Salvatore Fisichella, making his Met debut, while Bonynge, who has conducted all of his wife's performances since the early '60s, was in the pit.

Joan Sutherland is now like a monument, in the Egyptian desert, weathered and pitted but still bearing the unmistakable magnificence of her freshest days. She sings with more care today, picking her moments and launching herself upward cautiously. The wobble in her voice has grown, but it was never out of control Friday. She hit every note she aimed for, did not swoop, did not crack, and sang with plenty of strength and still-remarkable precision.

Most singers today, from stars in their prime to novices just-starting out, would be proud to sing as well in their youth as Sutherland sings in her maturity. Even as one gentleman in the audience grew hoarse shouting "La Stupenda," she never faltered.

And the surrounding cast was one of the finest. "I Puritani" is full of Bellini's typical soaring melodies, long, flowing tunes that seem so comfortable for the voice. Ramey, at the height of his powers today, has a rich, fruity sound used with remarkable intelligence. Milnes' voice is larger and more resonant; he wraps his sound around the notes, while Ramey hits them straight. Together, they made a mellifluous pair singing that martial air, "Suoni la tromba," full of the joy of song if not of battle.

Fisichella had to work for whatever he got. The signs of struggle were evident in the tight-throated sound and the uneven texture of his singing. He did get up high, and his top notes punched through the orchestra, but without ease or fluidity. And he suffers from the usual problem faced by Italian tenors singing next to Sutherland: Even wearing elevator shoes, he had to stand one step higher than she did merely to seem the same height.

Mezzo-soprano Wendy Hillhouse, full-voiced and appealingly distressed, did well in the small role of Queen Enrichetta, and Julien Robbins was a sturdy Gualtiero. Sutherland will be singing eight more performances of Elvira and in a gala benefit in June with Luciano Pavarotti.

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