[Met Performance] CID:92910
La Gioconda {86} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 03/23/1926.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
March 23, 1926


La Gioconda.............Nanny Larsén-Todsen
Enzo....................Beniamino Gigli
Laura...................Karin Branzell
Barnaba.................Giuseppe Danise
Alvise..................José Mardones
La Cieca................Merle Alcock
Zuŕne...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Isčpo...................Giordano Paltrinieri
Monk....................Paolo Ananian
Steersman...............Paolo Ananian
Singer..................Vincenzo Reschiglian

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

Review (unsigned) in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin


'La Gioconda' with Gigli and Larsen-Todsen in Excellent Cast

With Beniamino Gigli again in the famous role of Enzo and Nanny Larsen-Todsen in the title character of the Venetian street singer, "La Gioconda" was given a spirited performance at the Academy of Music last evening, beginning the last four weeks of the Metropolitan Opera Company's season. Ponchielli's opera, it might be said, stands about midway between the older works of the Italian school and those which were developed into the modern music drama, with a decided leaning toward the former. At any rate, the setting of the story adapted from Victor Hugo's "Angelo" is frankly and freely melodious abounding in arias, duets, trios and concerted numbers, arranged to set off with splendid effect the tragic narrative. It may not be exactly the sort of music that the avowed "modernist" favors, but "Gioconda" is a work that the majority of opera-goers undisguised enjoy.

While Mr. Gigli and Mme. Larsen-Todsen had the most conspicuous roles and did them with telling effect, they by no means won all the honors of the excellent performance, as the members of the cast, which also included Giuseppe Danise, as Barnaba, José Mardones, as Alvise; Karin Branzell, as Laura, and Merle Alcock, as La Cieca, all of these won merited applause. To the tenor, of course, was given especial attention, since Gigli is a favorite whose every appearance is considered an event. He was in fine voice last night and seemed to sing with more freedom than usual, the beautiful lyric quality of his voice being heard to the best advantage in his sympathetic rendering of "Cielo e Mar," (Heaven and Ocean) one of the most famous of tenor arias. The dramatic side of his part also was admirably done, without the forcing of tone which, at times, mar his singing. Mme. Larsen-Todsen has been heard here principally in Wagnerian roles, but she found plenty of opportunity to be dramatic in depicting the sorrows, the generosity, noble sacrifice and the suicide of Gioconda. She is a tall and stately woman and, while the red wig she wore was not especially becoming, it made a striking effect in combination with her artistic costumes, and her acting, although at times rather profuse, nevertheless was sincere and appropriate. Vocally the Swedish soprano did some brilliant work, despite the rather uncertain attack of her tones at times and the tendency to shrillness in the upper ones. One of the most telling scenes in the opera was that between Gioconda and Laura, in the second act, Mme. Branzell, of imposing beauty in the latter role, here, as in all her work disclosing a mezzo voice of unusual range, power and richness. Miss Alcock also sang beautifully, as the much-besieged blind mother of Gioconda. The lovely first act aria, "Voce di Donna," (Angelic Voices) being a real gem of sympathetic vocal expression. Mr. Danise fairly dominated every scene in which he appeared, as the villainous spy of the Inquisition, his makeup and acting being notably good and singing acceptable without producing great effect, and Mr. Mardones as the Grand Duke and vengeful husband of the faithless Laura, used his sonorous bass with fine effect.

The large chorus has plenty to do in Ponchielli's mellifluous work and did most of it very well, with considerable spirit, though, even under Tullio Serafin's firm and helpful guidance, as conductor, there was some difficulty in getting into the rhythm of the barcarolle at the [beginning] of the second act and a temporary tendency to forsake "the key." The twenty-four members of the ballet corps won a triumph of continuous applause with their charming interpretation of "The Dance of the Hours" in the House of Gold scene, and more than usual was made of the "Furlania" in the first act, the chorus leaving the stage and giving the dancers full sweep, a freedom of which they took good advantage.

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