[Met Performance] CID:97020
La Gioconda {97} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11/1/1927.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 1, 1927


LA GIOCONDA {97}
Ponchielli-Boito

La Gioconda.............Rosa Ponselle
Enzo....................Beniamino Gigli
Laura...................Marion Telva
Barnaba.................Giuseppe Danise
Alvise..................Lon Rothier
La Cieca................Merle Alcock
Zune...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Ispo...................Alfio Tedesco
Monk....................Louis D'Angelo
Steersman...............Louis D'Angelo
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 five performances this season.

Review of H. T. Craven in the Philadelphia Record

"La Gioconda" Popular Opener of the Opera Season

Fine Cast of the Metropolitan Company Appeared at Its Best

Good Work of Serafin

The choice of "La Gioconda" for the [beginning] of the Metropolitan Opera season was justified last night at the Academy of Music in a performance that refined much of the dross of the score, revitalized its best features and touched up its tinsel until it almost passed for gold. With a constellation from the upper circle in his galaxy with probably the finest Italian operatic chorus extant and with stage direction that welcomed exaction and imaginably revels in demands for glittering spectacle, Mr. Gatti-Casazza is enabled to glorify works of secondary artistic import and invest them with the accent of authority. By all these resources "La Gioconda" resplendently profited last evening in a production that brought unmistakable pleasure to an audience socially and musically representative and one whose brilliance effectively matched with the iridescent stage picture.

The meaning of Ponchielli's "Gioconda" has long since ceased to trouble the mind of the average spectator and auditor. And perhaps this is fortunate since attention may hence be concentrated on the splicing of scenic environment, pageantry and elaborate devised sensations which include prayer and an agonized heroine in the midst of carnival, a magnificent ballet in close proximity to a supposed corpse, a ship in flames and a suicide, while strains of Venetian song are wafted over the lagoon. And it is fitting, too, that the convolution of the involved plot, derived from a Victor Hugo play, of crime-crossed loves, villainy rewarded and virtue spurned, are difficult to follow, for the hero commits the operatic crime of preferring the soprano to the contralto and it is best not to consider this flaunting of tradition too deeply.

A Splendid Cast

What the capacity audience came to rejoice in last night was the stirring lyricism of the splendid cast that included Rosa Ponselle in the name part, Marion Telva, as Laura, Leon Rothier, as Alvise, Beniamino Gigli, as Enzo, Merle Alcock, as La Cieca, and Giuseppe Danise, as Barnaba. The last named proved to be the weakest of the aggregation, for he is temperamentally a suave and rather mild-mannered artist, the timbre of whose voice is unsuited to the threatening and sinister measures assigned to the role of the ubiquitous Venetian spy. Even in attire he was a romantic gentleman suggesting a chivalric Valentin lost from the opera of "Faust."

Aside from this blemish, which has been the portion of the Metropolitan in "Gioconda" since the once-admired Amato passed his prime, all the principals gave color and shimmering artificial effectiveness to this very mellow melodrama. Miss Ponselle was in superb voice, while her new exiguity of frame - she is now positively slender - suggested that her disdain of vitamins is possibly extreme. Her performance of the really touching aria, "Suicidio," was a gem of lyric loveliness.

Gigli at His Best

As Enzo, the Genoese nobleman disguised as a Dalmatian sailor - a masquerade entailing some formidable and seldom-mastered problems in costuming - Mr. Gigli was at his best, which means that there were glorious hints of Caruso in the "Cielo e Mar," that the tones of the present-day leading tenor were lustrous and full and that he poured them forth without stint. It may be added that Dalmatian dress, though still bizarre, was less ridiculous than usual. Mr. Gigli strove gallantly to make his character real and often succeeded in imparting a genuine romantic flavor to his role.

Merle Alcock, with her true, rich contralto, scored deservedly in the Rosary Song, the strains of which form the dominant recurring motif of the score. Marion Telva, always a satisfactory artist, was heard to especial advantage in the melodious second act duet with the bald singer and Mr. Rothier made the most of the somber Alvise in his third act opportunity.

Did Wonders With Score

Ponchielli, were he living, would owe a debt of gratitude to Tullio Serafin, who, directing the orchestra, wrought wonders with the score, underplaying its meretricity and emphasizing and finely shading, wherever possible, its authentic contacts with beauty. These are rather more numerous than is sometimes admitted. It is the unevenness of "Gioconda" that constitutes one of its chief drawbacks - this and the insincerity of the drama, and its predilection for "effects" regardless of the canons of taste and good sense.

The score reaches unquestioned points of charm in the two kaleidoscopic ballets, the delightful "Furiana" by the columbines of hartequine of Act I and the admitted choreographic masterpiece, "The Dance of the Hours."



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