[Met Performance] CID:82980
Rigoletto {127} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/26/1923.

(Debuts: Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Virginia Grassi

Metropolitan Opera House
January 26, 1923

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Rigoletto...............Giuseppe De Luca
Gilda...................Amelita Galli-Curci
Duke of Mantua..........Giacomo Lauri-Volpi [Debut]
Maddalena...............Flora Perini
Sparafucile.............Léon Rothier
Monterone...............Italo Picchi
Borsa...................Angelo Badà
Marullo.................Millo Picco
Count Ceprano...........Louis D'Angelo
Countess Ceprano........Muriel Tindal [Last performance]
Giovanna................Marie Mattfeld
Page....................Virginia Grassi [Debut]

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

Director................Armando Agnini
Set designer............Vittorio Rota
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Rigoletto received four performances this season.

Review of John H. Raftery in the New York Telegraph

Memory and expectation, the debut of a new tenor, the season's return of Galli-Curci to the role of Gilda, the imperishable charm of Verdi's loveliest and perhaps most distinguished opera, made last evening's performance at the Metropolitan an eventful one for the rising generation of opera lovers and another milestone in the gracious memories of old-timers. For it was as the Duke of Mantua that Caruso made his American debut on this same stage on the night of November 23, 1903, and in the same time-honored and universally cherished opera Amelita Galli-Curci at the Auditorium, singing for the first time with the Chicago Opera Company, made that sensational debut as Gilda which made her famous overnight and permanently emplaced her name among the great Gildas of all time.

There was a tacit feeling in the audience that the debut of Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, the new Italian tenor, in the very role that launched the idolized Caruso upon his incomparable career, might be the first definite gesture of the management toward finding a successor for the illustrious and lamented Enrico. Veterans again recalled the time when the role of Rigoletto dominated the opera and the great baritones vied with one another for the assignment-Ronconi, Galassi, Renaud and (not so long ago) Titta Ruffo, all great Rigolettos, and, alas, none of them murdering the pianissimo ending of the famous quartette in their stubborn determination to overshadow the Duke, Gilda, and Maddalena in the projection of that matchless ensemble.

The process by which "Rigoletto" became known to Americans as "a Caruso opera" began with his electrifying delivery of "Donna e Mobile," which instantly became the lyric gem of the Metropolitan productions of "Rigoletto," while Gilda's "Caro nome" and the far lovelier quartette of the last act ceased to be the occasion for repeated encores, and the great tenor's impassioned aria became the high spot of the opera. The same happened to "L'Elisir d'Amore," in which his singing of "Una furtiva lagrima" caused the otherwise obscure Donizetti buffa to become known, like Verdi's "Rigoletto" as a Caruso opera.

For this and other reasons last evening must have been a momentous occasion for the new tenor, Lauri-Volpi, who looked, acted, and sang most admirably under the circumstances. Comparisons were at least mentally unavoidable, as when he intoned the memorable "Donna e Mobile" and later in the quartette.

Lauri-Volpi, in his entrance song, "Questa o Quella," at once gave his audience the cue both to the character of the philandering Duke and to his own vocal qualities. Beardless of face and boyish of demeanor, he walked and acted with the easy port and urbanity that are supposed to pertain to noble Mantuans, although they are not always attributes of grand opera tenors. If he did not sing like an angel, yet he looked and acted like a gentleman and an artist of fine intelligence. The voice is not phenomenal in range or volume, but very beautiful in favorable locations. His fine training was evident in a remarkable breath control and release, with complete and usually dependable tone production. His countenance is rather saturnine in contour and gives no intimation of the jovial libertinism and laughing licentiousness usually attributed to this gay dog of a duke.

Of a gracious and never truculent presence, he made no apparent "bid" for momentary acclaim, neither posturing before the curtain when called there to share the applause with Galli-Curci and De Luca, nor singing to the gallery or the standees, wherein as everybody present soon discovered, there was an unusually large delegation of his compatriots--"Friends, Romans, and countrymen"-all eager for his success. Modestly and with admirable poise he accepted the merited approval of his audience, and, vocally and dramatically, kept within the picture throughout the evening.

Not in apology for any flaws in his performance, but in justice to the young newcomer, it should be said here that he has been in poor physical condition since his very recent arrival from Italy, and until Thursday there was some doubt as to whether he would appear last night. He was very nervous, but improved with the progress of the opera and won the admiration of all who realized the severity of the nervous strain he endured.

But the genuine and substantial success of the new tenor's Duke last evening will not to my way of thinking, make of "Rigoletto" again a stellar vehicle for one fine artist. With the presence of such a Gilda as Galli-Curci, the finely repressed and yet well etched Rigoletto of De Luca and the beautiful exposition which they gave to "Caro Nome," the duet "Non Morir," and the quartette, this loveliest of Verdi's operas is, I think, properly due to become once more cherished for its exalted beauty, its dramatic cohesiveness, and its musical greatness as a whole.

Galli-Curci sang Gilda with greater certainty and ease than she was able to give to her [first] performance as Lucia, and in the quartette with De Luca as the vocally considerate and tactful baritone, her voice loomed limpid, fresh, and distinct, blending beautifully with that of the Duke who begins the number, and in contained but unobtrusive sympathy with the lovely contralto of Flora Perini's Maddalena. It was memorably beautiful singing of what dear Gustav Kobbe always so sturdily described as "The finest piece of concerted music in Italian opera," with even the imperishable "Lucia" sextet only "a good second" in the long list of unforgettable lyric ensembles.

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the New York Globe

After all, the tenors have not waived their tyranny. There is nothing like a tenor to command an overflowing audience. An Italian tenor new to our public though several Italian cities and Buenos Aires of the Argentine have given him praise, appeared last night in the Metropolitan's first "Rigoletto" for this season, singing Caruso's original New York part of the wicked duke, and our city responded with an audience that taxed the big house to the bursting point.

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, the newcomer, is young and well favored. His voice is young, fresh, strong, of ample range, There were moments when his delivery of the duke's music was touched with the true divinity of Italian singing. At other times there was an unpleasant roughness in the voice and the use of the voice, due in part, no doubt, to the remnants of a cold. It would be impossible to judge Mr. Lauri-Volpi with anything like finality from his performance last evening, but if he will always sing as well as he sang in the duet with Gilda (ending on a top D flat) he will prove a valuable addition to Mr. Gatti-Casazza's forces.

The other leading members of the cast were more or less familiar here in their several parts. Mme. Galli-Curci as Gilda occasionally sang beautifully, but the voice still sounded tired and often sank below the true pitch. Of inestimable value to the performance was Mr. de Luca, whose finely wrought Rigoletto is always a subject for fresh praise. Mme. Perini made a handsome and effective Maddalena, Mr. Rothier a sonorous Sparafucile of debonair villainy. Mr. Papi conducted with spirit. Applause both general and localized, was the order of the evening.

Not a "second Caruso," but a first Lauri-Volpi.

Photograph of Giacomo Lauri-Volpi as the Duke of Mantua by Herman Mishkin.

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