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Puccini : La Fanciulla del WestNew York, Met, 1970 (Audio)
Director: Jan Behr
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Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times
Renata Tebaldi may have recorded the role of Minnie in Puccini's Fanciulla del West, but she had never sung it onstage. Wednesday night at the Metropolitan Opera she took care of that omission. At the end of the first act she received a good hand. At the end of the second, the audience would not let her go. New York had found a new Girl of the Golden West to love.
It was not so much the way she sang Minnie as the way she acted it that intrigued the buffs. Miss Tebaldi has been singing very much the same way the last few years - making a very big sound, saving herself for the climaxes. There is a good deal of steel in her voice these days - a hard, burnished sound that has a good deal of authority and relatively little color. At that, she found the role of Minnie vocally congenial once she settled down. She went through the demanding second
act with no hint of strain or unease. And she, quite literally in spots, threw herself into the role. She made the official Metropolitan entrance (not Puccini's), shooting the revolver from Sonora's hand, and then proceeded to deliver the primmest, sweetest, most innocent
portrait of Minnie that the Metropolitan Opera has ever had.
There was temperament to her work, too, but the prevailing impression was of a very feminine, ladylike Minnie of no great brains but infinite love and loyalty. Which is precisely what Puccini intended.
The striptease (down to bloomers and corset, anyway), pleased everybody. Miss Tebaldi did this in a breathless, fluttery sort of way. But that was as nothing against the famous poker game. How deftly
she stashed the aces-full hand in her garter! What a pretty leg! How fast her fingers flickered while dealing and sorting the cards! With what a gesture of triumph did she hurl the deck in the air as the baffled sheriff left.
In the last act Miss Tebaldi made her entrance mounted on a horse. She and the horse were carefully propped up by supers, but it was the spirit that counted. Yes, it was an adorable portrait, and it sent everybody home happy.