[Met Performance] CID:91000
La Gioconda {80} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/2/1925.

(Opening Night {41}
Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 2, 1925
Opening Night {41}

Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager


LA GIOCONDA {80}
Ponchielli-Boito

La Gioconda.............Rosa Ponselle
Enzo....................Beniamino Gigli
Laura...................Margarete Matzenauer
Barnaba.................Giuseppe Danise
Alvise..................José Mardones
La Cieca................Marion Telva
Zuàne...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Isèpo...................Giordano Paltrinieri
Monk....................Paolo Ananian
Steersman...............Arnold Gabor
Singer..................Vincenzo Reschiglian

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Antonio Rovescalli
Set designer............Joseph Novak
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........August Berger

La Gioconda received nine performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

'GIOCONDA' AIRS BEGIN NEW SPAN AT METROPOLITAN

Opening of Opera Season Has Customary Brilliance - Last Minute Changes Bring Margaret Matzenauer and Marion Telva into Cast - Gigli and Rosa Ponselle Score Personal Triumphs in Two Chief Roles of Ponchielli Work

Another Metropolitan Opera season is on. For the forty-third time since its now mellowed walls were new, and the eighteenth since Giulio Gatti-Casazza, impresario illustrisimo, began his long consulship there, a new span of lyric drama has brought the traditional flutter of an opening night to Broadway's historic pulpitum of song. Since it is customary to mention somewhere in the account of the commotion thus created what opera was sung, the natural prevenience of events may as well be set aside at the very start and the relatively unimportant fact recounted that the season's first entertainment was "La Gioconda."

Last used for a like purpose in the days of the then regnant Caruso, Ponchielli s aria-strung Italian score returned to the repertoire only a season ago to stellify further the mellifluous and crescive Gigli. The announced plan to honor three Americans in the chief feminine roles - Rosa Ponselle, Jeanne Gordon and Merle Alcock - was subjected to an eleventh hour revision Monday night, Margaret Matzenauer replacing Miss Gordon and Marion Telva singing instead of Mme. Alcock. That ruthless meddler, indisposition, began his sinister mischief-making this early.

Presumably the occasion had all the brilliance associated with the Metropolitan's opening nights. The humble music reviewer has never been quite able to discern wherein any more dazzling irradiance goes forth from the Golden Horseshoe and the orchestra chairs on this night than on many others, but he accepts without argument what the social chroniclers inform him. On their assurance, this was one of the most nitidous of post-war convocations in the opera house. At any rate, the lobbies and corridors could scarcely have been more crowded and still have retained some semblance of passibility.

Standees were there in numbers beyond count. That most respected and genial of ostiaries was in his place at the door to see that due dignity was observed all the way in. What would a Metropolitan season be without Thomas Bull guarding the gates? And the Opera Club, to be sure, was out in force, a solid block of black evening dress and white ties. In the parterre boxes silver and white seemed to be the color scheme of the moment, and there - presumably - the city's fairest jewels were being displayed. Now that these more important considerations have been touched upon, it is possible to say a little of the music of the evening.

Much Applause for Principals

The performance was one equal to any of the numerous representations of "Gioconda" last season, in spite of the last minute changes of cast. It will be recalled that owing to the illness of Miss Ponselle last November it was Florence Easton who sang the rather lugubrious title rôle when the Ponchielli work was first returned to the repertoire. This time, Miss Ponselle was very much in her element and shared with Mr. Gigli the first honors of the evening.

The picturesque settings, the altogether delightful ballet, and the stirring leadership of Mr. Serafin - leadership worthy of music of more dramatic substance and less pompous show were again emphatic factors in the success that the performance undoubtedly obtained. All of the principals were repeatedly before the curtain, and they were joined there after the third act by Conductor Serafin and Chorus Master Giulio Setti. The prompter might have been similarly honored. Even those at the back of the house had some inkling of how hard he worked. But no one expects the first representation of the season to have all the smoothness and exactitude of repetitions later on. And just how seriously "Gioconda" is to be taken, dramatically, was indicated by the freedom with which Mr. Gigli and Mr. Danise beamed and bowed, without reference to the stage action, whenever the plaudits became protracted.

It is difficult, indeed, to conceive of more beautiful singing of "Cielo e Mar" than Mr. Gigli's. And what a heavenly mezza-voce was his on the "buona notte" that just preceded this long-popular reverie! At its best, the tenor's voice was fuller and richer, it seemed, than ever before, but he was not uniformly at that best. There was more than a soupcon of hard driving of tone on the part of the principals, and no one of them can be totally exonerated on this score. However, Enzo must be accounted one of Gigli's happiest roles.

Miss Ponselle has a voice for which the music of the much-buffeted and self-sacrificing, heroine might well have been written. Many of her phrases were of glorious tonal opulence and the fact that it was opening night may have accounted for some unsteadiness and unsettlement both as to pitch and production. The part becomes her in other ways besides revealing the exceptional scope and beauty of her remarkable soprano organ.

Mme. Matzenauer's generously substituted Laura had that element of distinction that is seldom lacking from her operatic impersonations, if somewhat uneven vocally. Miss Telva was a competent La Cieca, though her voice has sounded richer in other rôles. To her fell the most appealing, if thoroughly Italianate, melody of the score, the "Voce La Donna." She sang it commendably. With Mr. Danise's Barnaba and Mr. Mardones's Alvise one was content to let the ears ring with the plenitude of warm, resonant tone, and not inquire too closely into the subtleties of their acting. Lesser figurants did their duty in the good Metropolitan way.

The Dance of the Hours was again a ravissant phantasy of coloristic movement. It remains one of the salient achievements in the dance that August Berger has brought about since he became master of the ballet. The chorus, too, was almost in mid-season form, singing robustly and well. And how the little lads (familiar chiefly for their work in first act of "Carmen") catapulted themselves into their part.



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