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June 21, 1972 - Image 2

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Michigan Daily, 1972-06-21

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-Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, June 21, 1972

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, June 21, 1972
r I

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music
The Met visits Motown

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By JOHN HARVITH
The last two evening perform-
ances of the Metropolitan Opera's
current spring tour respite in
Detroit's vast Masonic Temple
Auditorium reflected the various
strengths and weaknesses of the
outgoing Bing regime's leader-
ship. Cecil Beaton's lavish
staging of Verdi's La Traviata
served as a gilded shell for large-
ly wooden acting, flawed vocal-
ism, tasteless choregraphy, mur-
ky lighting and ill-conceived con-
ducting on Friday night.
Saturday's Daughter of t h e
Regiment by Donizetti, however,
offered some of the finest en-
semble teamwork witnessed at
the Met in recent years: the solo-
ists' top-notch virtuoso singing
was complemented by alert,
convincing comic acting, well-,
integrated choruses and ensem-
bles, imaginative stage direction,
and flawless pacing and support
from the orchestra pit.
The Verdi opera, a lyric drama
based on Camille, featured so-
prano Anna Moffo in the role
of the ill-starred consumptive
u courtesan, Violetta Valery. Mof-
fo has always been noted for her
7 dramatic vocal characterization
of Violetta, but this has result.
ed in a no-holds-barred strain or
her voice which has taken its.
toll. Throughout the Act 1 color-
atura roulades, Moffo's v a c alI
mechanism was a tremolous
shadow of its former self, af-
fected by a shril edge and wide
uncontroiled virbrato. Happily,
lower tessiture lyric arias did
not tax the diva nearly as much,
and the Act IV "Addia del pas-
sato" was affecting and warm.
Unfortunately, Moffo's many tel-
ling moments of character por-
Y/f trayal were spoiled by a death
scene in which the soprano fell
lifeless in a cautious and uncon-
vincing manner.
Franca Bonisolli, as Violetta's
lover Alfredo, displayed a pleas-
ant, lightweight tenor voice de-
ployed without much musical

personality except in the final
duet "Parigi o Cara," where his
affected crooning and incipient
gasps marred the vocal line.
While his good looks may have
thrilled spinsters in the aud-
ience, his niere stage presence,
uncomplicated by acting skills,
provided Moffo with minimal
emotional support, and it be-
came quite humorous watching
him run off the stage like an
Olympic sprinter after each
major aria and duet in Act
II.
Robert Merrill was wooden
both in singing and acting, his
stiff physicalization of Alfredo's
father most resembling one of
those infamous water-fetching
broomsticks in Walt Disney's
cartoon adaptation of The Sor-
ceror's Apprentice. Violette could
have received more empathy
from a Maypole.
But the crowning miscalcula-
tion of the evening was Rich-
ard Bonynge's conducting,
which maximized the inherent
weakneees of Verdi's score by
underlining the Italian band-
master oom-pah-pah orchestral
accompaniments, by blanketing
the singers with exaggeratedly
loud woodwinds and brass, and
by negating musico-dramatic
continuity with sagging rubatos
and unnecessary ritardandos.
The entire presentation betray-
ed the Met's dearth of the com-
petent stage directors and con-
ductors which it needs to infuse
life into its basic repertoire.
Saturday night's presentation
on Donizetti's Daughter of the
Regiment, on the other hand,
proved that long-standing co-p-
ertin between soloists, conduc-
tr and stage director can yield
miraculous feats of ensemble
cohesion, both musically a n d
dramatically. Three of the star
soloists (Joan Sutherland as
Marie, Luciano Pavarotti as Ton-
io, Monica Sinclair as te Mar-
quise) and conductr fBonynge
have participated in this produc-
tion previously at Covent Gard-
en and on a full-length recording
for London records. 'This team-
work was evident in perfectly
modulated ensembles, thoroughly
rehearsed choral work, and live-
ly conducting which maintained
musical cohesion while support-
ing the singers, never overpow-
ering them. More importantly,
most of the on-stage acting was
kept believable 'and genuinely
humorous, with the principals re-
sisting hammy impulses to over-
act.
The Daughter is a light-heart-
ed tale of a tom-boy drum maj-
orette (Marie) reared since in-
fancy by a Napoleonic regi-
the Michigan Daily, edited and man-
aged by students at the University of
Michigan. News phone: 764-0562. Second
Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
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adforein,

ment, discovered at maturity by
her out-of-wedlock mother (the
Marquise) who tries to sophis-
ticate her unsuccessfully, Marie
eventually marrying the soldier
Tonio. Donizetti's tuneful, foot-
tapping score takes its insipra-
tion from military marches and
yodeling songs, and effectively
anticipates the musical infec-
tiousness and iconoclastic p1 o t
summaries 'of French operetta
and Gilbert & Sullivan operatic
spoofs.
Sutherland appeared to be ab-
solutely relaxed and happy as
she nonchalantly kept soldiers at
bay with swords and dazzling
coloratura fireworks. Her o n 1 y
vocal problems crept up in her
bottom register, which began to
evidence signs of vocal strain
in a noticeable wobble. Overall,
however, this role was perfect-
ly suited to Sutherlands musical
and theatrical personality, a n d
she took her place comfortable
among the great Mares of oper-
atic history, which include Jen-
ny Lind, Sembrich, Tetrazzini
and Hempel.
Pavarotti proved to be that
rarity on the operatic scene, a
tenor who can both sing and
act intelligently. Capitalizing on
his corpulence, this Tonio raced
about the stage as nimbly as
Charlie Chaplin, realizing great
comic moments from the incon-
gruity of the situation. He took
himself seriously even as he par-
ticipated in one of the g r e a t
operatic collisions of the cen-
tury - an unexpected bodily en-
counter with amply cushioned
Joan Sutherland. He possessed
a lyric tenor voice with carry-
ing power, stentorian high C's
and superb control, which allow-
ed an awesome, evenly modulat-
ed decrescendo from fortissimo
to pianissimo in a single breath.
Donald Gram plied his flexi-
ble bass vocalsm in the serv-
ice of first-rate character acting
as the Sergeant of the regiment,
enunciating his French lines with-
out the gumminess of Suther-
land or the Italianate vowels of
Pavaratti. Sinclair shared in
Gramm's exemplary diction, and
though her acting tended to be a
bit too broad at times, t h e s e
moments of overacting were rela-
tively rare.
This production of the Daugh-
ter should serve new Met man-
ager Goeran Gentele as a model
of dramma per musica which
can be attained by his company
if ensemble cooperation is made
the sought-after ideal instead of
Bing's usual constantly changing
grab-bag of stars and mediocri-
ties who are left on their own
to "act" and follow the proapt-
er.
----- ------------
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