Verdi : Otello

New York, Met, 1952 (Audio)

Director: Fritz Stiedry



  • Eleanor Steber
  • Leonard Warren
  • Ramon Vinay
  • Martha Lipton
  • Thomas HaywardArchivos para descarga:


Metropolitan Opera House.February 9, 1952 Matinee Broadcast

Complete cast:
Otello………………Ramon Vinay
Desdemona……………Eleanor Steber
Iago………………..Leonard Warren
Emilia………………Martha Lipton
Cassio………………Thomas Hayward
Lodovico…………….Luben Vichey
Montàno……………..Osie Hawkins
Roderigo…………….Paul Franke
Herald………………Algerd Brazis

Director…………….Herbert Graf
Set designer…………Donald Oenslager

This performance of Verdi’s “Otello,” the first of the season and the
first since ’48-’49, was one of the most dramatically overwhelming
interpretations of the work I have ever witnessed. Musically, also, it
was of a high order. Verdi, Shakespeare, and Boito had inspired all of
the artists, vocal and instrumental, to one of those
spontaneous performances that are so vivid that they seem almost
unreal afterwards. To Fritz Stiedry, conducting the work for the first
time at the Metropolitan; to Herbert Graf, the stage director; to
Ramon Vinay, in the title role; to Eleanor Steber, in her first
Metropolitan appearance as Desdemona; to Leonard Warren as Iago, and
to the others in the cast one can offer warm congratulations. Besides
Miss Steber, five other artists made their first appearances at the
Metropolitan Opera in their respective roles: Thomas Hayward, as
Cassio; Lubomir Vichegonov, as Lodovico; Paul Franke, as Roderigo;
Osie Hawkins, as Montano; and Algerd Brazis, as a Herald.

Ramon Vinay has sung the role of Otello several times at the
Metropolitan, but never, to my knowledge, with such incandescent
passion, such heartbreaking intensity, as he did at this performance.
Vocally, he was far from perfect, and his voice was not in good
condition until the second act ; but it would be critically out of
focus to enlarge upon minor flaws of vocalism in the case of an
interpretation so magnificent in its grasp of the character and in so
much of its musical delivery. This Otello could be favorably compared
with some of the great performances of the role on the legitimate

At times Mr. Vinay overacted, but all reservations were swept away by
the burning sincerity and the psychological truth of his conception.
Nothing was finer than the last act, which left many of the audience
in tears; it would have been difficult to remain calm in the face of
so convincing a portrayal of the final tragedy.

In this act, also, Miss Steber’s acting had a finish she has seldom
equaled. Her Desdemona is perhaps the most original and convincing
characterization she has ever created at the Metropolitan. From
beginning to end, it was consistent, faithful to Verdi’s indications,
and sensitive to the unwritten nuances of the score. She looked young
and radiant, and her singing was often beautiful. She was able, in the
first act, to obey Verdi’s constant admonitions, “dolce,” “morendo,”
“Come una voce lantana,” without sacrificing the luminous texture of
her voice; and in the third
sang pathetically without sounding petulant or whimpering. In the
fourth act her sudden outburst of terror, “Chi batte a quella porta?”
was skillfully portrayed; and the last, impassioned farewell to Emilia
on that unexpected phrase descending from a high A sharp that is one
of the supreme moments in Verdi was poignantly sung. The plastique of
the struggle with Otello and the strangling was a model of what
operatic acting can be when it is clearly worked out in advance and
executed spontaneously in performance.

Like many of the artists in the cast, Mr. Warren improved noticeably
after the first act. Neither Mr. Vinay nor Miss Steber quite conveyed
the rapture of the love scene at the end of Act I; and Mr. Warren’s
performance of the drinking song, earlier, was rhythmically and
tonally uneven. He sang “Credo in tin Dio crudel,” in Act II,
thrillingly; and he has never performed “Era la notte” with lovelier
tone quality or more dramatic power. He seemed to be reliving a dream,
without a suspicion of the terrible revelations it contained. At the
end of Act III, Mr. Warren seated himself on the throne, instead of
planting his foot on Otello’s prostrate body at the words, “Ecco il
Leone.” It was an effective and justifiable bit of stage business, for
Iago is ambitious, and the throne is a potent symbol in his mind.

Mr. Hayward sang the role of Cassio with better tone and diction than
he has revealed in a long time in other parts. His acting was
intelligent, if still somewhat stiff. Mr. Franke, Mr. Vichegonov, and
Mr. Brazis also sang creditably; but Mr. Hawkins, as Montano, sounded
hollow-voiced and breathy in the relatively few exposed phrases he had
to sing. Miss Lipton was really sympathetic, not the routine
confidante that Emilia often becomes at the hands of a less
conscientious artist.

Fritz Stiedry’s “Otello” was a profound and deeply moving conception
of the score. It did not achieve at some points the boiling passion
and sonorous splendor of Arturo Toscanini’s, nor was it as infallible
as George Szell’s in its calculation of balances and textures in Act I
and Act III. But in the essentials, in color, psychological
penetration, command of expression in the orchestra and on the stage,
in reaching the core of the human tragedy, it was splendidly right.