[Met Concert/Gala] CID:303810
Gala Performance. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/24/1991.

(Mirella Freni, Alfredo Kraus and Nicolai Ghiaurov 25th Anniversary
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 24, 1991

Benefit for the Metropolitan Opera Pension Fund
sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild

In celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversaries of
Mirella Freni, Alfredo Kraus and Nicolai Ghiaurov


GALA PERFORMANCE

Faust: Act III


Faust...................Alfredo Kraus
Marguerite..............Mirella Freni
Méphistophélès..........Nicolai Ghiaurov
Siebel..................Frederica von Stade
Marthe..................Loretta Di Franco

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

Production.............Harold Prince
Stage Director..........Max Charruyer
Designer................Rolf Langenfass
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler


Don Carlo: Act IV, Scene 1

Elizabeth of Valois.....Mirella Freni
Rodrigo.................Vladimir Chernov [First appearance]
Princess Eboli..........Giovanna Casolla
Philip II...............Nicolai Ghiaurov
Grand Inquisitor........Samuel Ramey
Count of Lerma..........Charles Anthony

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

Production..............John Dexter
Stage Director..........Paul Mills
Set designer............David Reppa
Costume designer........Ray Diffen
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler


Madama Butterfly: Act III

Cio-Cio-San.............Mirella Freni
Pinkerton...............Plácido Domingo
Suzuki..................Wendy White
Sharpless...............Vladimir Chernov
Dolore..................Christopher Laciura [Only appearance]
Kate....................Sondra Kelly

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

Production..............Yoshio Aoyama
Stage Director..........Fabrizio Melano
Designer................Motohiro Nagasaka

Presentation
Joseph Volpe

Performance gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

Review of Tim Page in Newsday

The Metropolitan Opera at its Finest

Mirella Freni tried to obey the house rules - stay in character at all times and never acknowledge applause in mid-act - but when a fan shouted "twenty-five more years!" immediately after a stunning "Jewel Song" from Gounod's "Faust,"
the soprano burst into laughter, and we all joined in. It was the first, but certainly not the only, time those three words were heard Sunday, and my guess is that most of us were thinking the same thing throughout much of the evening. For it was not only the official celebration of Freni's quarter-century with the Met but also an anniversary party for her husband, the bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, and for one of her most dapper colleagues, tenor Alfredo Kraus, both of whom made their house debuts the same season.

The result was one of those evenings that will likely be cherished in hallowed memory by anybody who was there - the Met at its finest, offering the sort of show that it alone, among American opera houses, could present. Act III of "Faust" - the complete "Garden Scene," chock-a-block with hits (Siebel's aria, "Saint, demeure." "Le roi de Thule," the "Jewel Song," a quartet, a ravishing love duet and finale) - began the festivities with Kraus as Faust, Ghiaurov as Mephistopheles and Freni as Marguerite. Act IV, Scene I from Verdi's "Don Carlo" followed a long intermission, with Ghiaurov as King Philip II and Freni as Elizabeth of Valois. And, to crown the evening, Freni sang the last act of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" -the first time she has ever essayed the role on stage. And then there was pandemonium, flowers all over the stage and the spectacle of very proper New York ladies and gentlemen in a state of near-hysteria.

The back-up casts were no less extraordinary - Frederica von Stade as Siebel in "Faust," Samuel Ramey as the Grand Inquisitor and Giovanna Casolla as Eboli in "Don Carlo" (the latter delivered a thrillingly dramatic "O don fatale") and Placido Domingo as Pinkerton and Wendy White as Suzuki in "Madama Butterfly" - conducted by Met artistic director James Levine at his most sensitive and idiomatic. Expectations were high for such an evening and, to put it mildly, Freni, Kraus and Ghiaurov did not disappoint. Their only team appearance came in the "Faust" Act I, only the second time, incredibly, that Kraus has sung the role at the Met. Freni retains the splendid tone and uniquely affecting vulnerability that has been her stock in trade from the beginning, while Kraus has few, if any, rivals among tenors for elegance and lyricism, and Ghiaurov seems incapable of uttering a syllable without a magisterial dignity.

One wishes many more years of artistic fulfillment to Freni, Kraus and Ghiaurov. Another quarter century? Well, the French bass Lucien Fugere made some fine records in his early 80s and, on the same day that, I attended this gala I heard the 98-year-old pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski play beautifully at Town Hall. So who knows?



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