[Met Performance] CID:99500
Norma {17} Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio: 05/2/1928.

(Review)


Cleveland, Ohio
May 2, 1928


NORMA {17}

Norma...................Rosa Ponselle
Pollione................Frederick Jagel
Adalgisa................Marion Telva
Oroveso.................Ezio Pinza
Flavio..................Giordano Paltrinieri
Clotilde................Minnie Egener

Conductor...............Vincenzo Bellezza

Review of James H. Rodgers on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer

PONSELLE AND CAST TRIUMPH IN 'NORMA'

7,928 Pay $23,145 on Third Opera Night; Attendance Over Last Year's for Three Performances

Rosa la Superb triumphed gloriously last night in Public Hail. It was a field night for the well known but not always well practiced bel canto. But yesterday evening the "beautiful singing" of the famous old Italian maestro came into its own. The opera was Bellini's "Norma," with Miss Ponselle in the title role.

Her singing was a supreme exhibition of the vocal art. It was the very apotheosis of song. Beyond this, one may well say, the human voice cannot go, either in the glow of lovely tone, or in the pliant adaptation to deftly turned, enticingly modulated phrase. And then there were the impassioned measures, declaimed with a fire and eloquence that carried all before them. The soprano sounded the whole gamut of the emotions in thrilling, compelling fervor. Well, it was magnificent. And Miss Ponselle's hearers stormed at her. They called her back to the stage, in open scene, time and again. As well they might. For this prodigious success was hers by right.

Miss Ponselle was fortunate in her associates. Marion Telva, who was the Adalgisa, is a contralto of outstanding gifts. Her voice is full, warm, resonant, and she uses it with fine skill. Also, she sings with spirit and with appealing expressiveness. Her solos were effectively done, and she was excellent in the duet "Ah, si fa core" which she sang with Miss Ponselle. Miss Telva, it struck me, has gained notably in artistic finish since the last time I heard her.

Ezio Pinza is the possessor of a bass voice of great volume, and rich, organ-like timbre. And he knows how to employ it to the best advantage. He was the Druid priest. In Monday night's "Aida" he was the Egyptian high priest. Last season,
I remember he was a priest in "La Forza del Destino."

I wonder why it is that all the priests are deep basses and all the lovers are high tenors. "Norma," in this respect, is true to form. And in this case the tenor impersonating the fickle Pollione was one of Metropolitan's new acquisitions, Frederick Jagel, who comes, if I mistake not, from California. He has a voice with the true tenor ring in it, and he has high tones that respond to his bidding with clarity and power. One misses in this voice something of ingratiating quality. But all the same, Mr. Jagel is a singer of merit; and in the exalted company in which he found himself last night he played a worthy part. Minnie Egener was good in the minor role of Clotilde, and Giordano Paltrinieri, who was the Flavio, filled every requirement.

One of the major stars of the performance was the conductor Vincenzo Bellezza. He was in every particular admirable. He plainly knew his score to the last sixteenth note, and he controlled his vocal and instrumental forces with absolute security. His reading was thoroughly sympathetic. By which I mean that he conducted the music as though he loved it.

Has imperishable Songs.

For my part, I can hardly follow him in this. The chief, if not the only virtue of the score is, to my notion, the wealth of opportunities it offers for the exploitation of vocal charm and vocal virtuosity. It is just one tune after another, and it cannot be denied that the family resemblance between them is very marked. And yet, and even regardless of a marvelous production, the work has, indubitably, its moments.
There are melodies in it that may, perhaps, be called imperishable. Such are the "Hear Me, Norma" and "Casta Diva." It was worth the reviving of the opera if only to hear Miss Ponselle sing the latter air. It was a good deal more than an episode. It was an event. For here we heard singing in its most transcendent guise.

But the desert places abound. Some of the choruses are incredibly piffling. But one, in the first act, a sort of greeting to the entering Norma, a pretty well sustained number, was so capitally sung that it really was quite impressive. I am not discouraged over the reviving of past operatic glories. I hope we shall see more of it. There are some of the Meyerbeer operas, especially "The Huguenots," that might still find no slight favor. Tonight Amelita Galli-Curci sings in "Rigoletto,"



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