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ClassicsOnline Home » MENOTTI, G.C.: Maria Golovin [Opera] (Duval, Cross, Neway, Las, Handt, P.H. Adler)
Menotti’s powerful romantic opera Maria Golovin explores the issues of love and jealousy. It premièred in Brussels in 1958, transferring to Broadway toward the end of the year, but closed after only five performances. The composer himself described it as ‘his unlucky work’. Between these two dates RCA recorded the work in Rome with an outstanding cast of Menotti regulars, such as Patricia Neway, and brilliant newcomers like Richard Cross. The LP is rare and this is its first reissue in 50 years. Another rarity is Tossy Spivakovsky’s still-unequalled 1954 performance of the Violin Concerto, which is filled with memorable themes and is a superb vehicle for the solo violin.
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911–2007)
Opera in Three Acts • Libretto by the Composer
Maria Golovin - Franca Duval (soprano)
Donato - Richard Cross (bass-baritone)
The Mother - Patricia Neway (contralto)
Agata - Genia Las (mezzo-soprano)
The Prisoner - William Chapman (baritone)
Dr Zuckertanz - Herbert Handt (tenor)
Trottoló - Lorenzo Muti (boy soprano)
Orchestra and Chorus
(Nino Antonellini, chorus master)
(Pietro Carapellucci, tenor soloist)
Peter Herman Adler
Recorded in Rome, 1958
First issued on RCA Victor LM-6142
Reissue Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Special thanks to Maynard F. Bertolet and James Miller for providing source material
Maria Golovin remains the Cinderella among the operas of Gian-Carlo Menotti. It came at the end of a line of major successes for the composer, which it was anticipated it would emulate. This extraordinarily rare first recording, made before the opera’s unsuccessful New York production, has been unavailable for many years. When taken together with the re-release by Naxos of recordings of other major stage works by Menotti, such as The Consul (8.112023–24), The Medium (8.111370), and The Saint of Bleecker Street (8.111360–61), it is now possible to place this major work, described by the composer himself as ‘his unlucky work’, within the context of his overall operatic output.
Although Maria Golovin is one of Menotti’s least known operas, it did in fact enjoy three linked stagings and a complete studio recording before abruptly vanishing from sight. The driving force behind its commissioning was Samuel Chotzinoff, a close associate of David Sarnoff, the dictatorial but highly effective head of NBC and its affiliates. It was Sarnoff who, before the Second World War, had created the NBC Symphony Orchestra for Toscanini, following a suggestion from Chotzinoff. The first performance of Maria Golovin took place at the International Exposition Pavilion Theatre on 20 August 1958 in Brussels, as part of Expo ’58. This was the first World’s Fair to take place since the San Francisco World’s Fair of 1940, and was thus the centre of considerable attention. The opera received mixed notices, although the public reaction seemed to be quite favourable. Sitting in the audience on the opening night was the Broadway producer David Merrick, who at that time was enjoying great success with stagings of plays and musicals in New York. He offered to produce the opera on Broadway, and both Menotti’s publisher, Ricordi, and NBC were highly supportive, believing that Merrick would give the opera preferential treatment. Menotti himself seemed enthusiastic about working with a producer of Merrick’s stature and agreed to his proposal.
After Brussels the opera was taken into RCA’s recording studios in Rome, where the present recording was made. NBC, of which RCA was a part, presumably anticipated the commercial as well as artistic success enjoyed by the composer’s two most recent operas, the television opera Amahl and the Night Visitors of 1951, and The Saint of Bleecker Street of 1954, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1955 and the New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Musical. After Rome, the production was transported to New York, where it opened on Broadway on 5 November 1958, but ran for only five performances. One of the reasons for its mixed reception may have been David Merrick’s insistence that it be viewed as ‘a musical drama’ and therefore for it to be reviewed by drama, rather than music, critics, to the extent of even barring the latter from the theatre. Menotti’s case would not have been helped either by his parody of critics in the form of one of the opera’s supporting characters, Dr Zuckertanz. Menotti himself was stunned by the decision to abandon it. ‘I couldn’t believe it, Merrick told me that he loved the opera…that it had moved him to tears. Granted that the reviews were half-good and half-bad, I’m sure that if Merrick would have allowed it to run for at least a full week it would have survived.’ The reason for its abandonment seems to have been simply commercial. To quote the composer again: ‘I was told that he got an offer to produce a musical called La Plume de Ma Tante, he needed a theater, so he closed Golovin…Well, that, of course, gave the opera a black mark and everybody thought it was a failure. For a long time nobody would perform it.’ Finally the opera was broadcast by NBC Television on 8 March 1959, since when it has been rarely performed, although it was revived at the New York City Opera in 1959, in London in 1976 and at Menotti’s Spoleto Festival in 1991. Productions have also been mounted at La Scala, Milan, the Paris Opéra and Marseille, to generally enthusiastic audiences. Menotti was not to write another opera until the television opera Labyrinth of 1963, once again with the support of Samuel Chotzinoff.
The dramatic crux of Maria Golovin is jealousy, driven by the infatuation of the central character, Maria, a married woman whose husband is a prisoner of war, with Donato, a blind young architect whose mother owns the villa in which Maria spends the summer, with her young son Trottoló. Donato’s own emotional obsession develops into jealousy and then madness, before a shattering conclusion. Menotti has commented revealingly about the central theme of the opera: ‘…in Maria Golovin, I wanted to write purely about love. But it’s very funny, because instead of writing about love—I write about jealousy. Like Proust, I cannot separate love from jealousy…Like all jealous people, I followed the usual pattern. I hoped to be betrayed so that I could feed that horrible monster called jealousy, because jealousy is a hungry monster which, however, never dies of hunger…for a long time it was a great shadow in my life.’ The dramatic style of the opera is similar to that of the films which the Danish-German director Douglas Sirk made during the 1950s for the Hollywood studio, Universal-International. In these an older woman (Jane Wyman or Lana Turner), in need of romance, would fall for a sensitive younger man (Rock Hudson or John Gavin). Key examples of this genre include All that Heaven Allows of 1955 and Imitation of Life of 1959. Like Maria Golovin, these films were critically dismissed at the time of release. More recently they have been favourably reassessed.
The original cast of Maria Golovin included as the Mother the soprano Patricia Neway, who was one of the most outstanding of ‘first generation’ Menotti interpreters, having already created the rôle of Magda Sorel in The Consul in 1950. Between 1951 and 1966 she sang regularly at the New York City Opera, while also singing in Europe. In 1952 she sang and recorded the title heroine in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, with Carlo Maria Giulini conducting. Between 1952 and 1954 she sang regularly at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. In 1955 she sang in the world première of Raffaello de Banfield’s Una lettera d’amore di Lord Byron in New Orleans, with Astrid Varnay (available on Naxos 8.111326). Later she created the rôle of the Mother Superior in the original Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, for which she received a Tony Award.
The title rôle in the first performances of Maria Golovin was taken by Franca Duval, who was born in 1925 in New York of Italian parents. Following her début in San Francisco, she appeared at La Scala, Milan, in 1950 in Sutermeister’s Raskolnikoff. She continued to sing at La Scala for several years: her parts there included Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and she substituted for both Callas and Tebaldi as Violetta in La traviata. From 1957 her career was focused upon France, with appearances in Lille, Nice, Rouen, and Vichy, as well as in Algiers (1957–58), and at the Opéra-Comique in Paris (1959–60). She appeared as Tosca opposite Franco Corelli in an Italian Television film of the opera made in 1956. Her later years were devoted to Broadway appearances and to teaching.
The baritone Richard Cross, who sang the part of Donato, had a flourishing operatic career from the late 1950s to the 1990s. Born in 1935, he studied at Cornell College before making his début at the first Spoleto Festival of 1958 in the world première of Lee Hoiby’s The Scarf. Impressed, Menotti invited him to sing the rôle of Donato in Maria Golovin, for which he won a Theatre World Award after its Broadway première. Between 1960 and 1965 Cross sang with numerous opera companies throughout the United States, opposite artists of the calibre of Joan Sutherland, before joining the Frankfurt Opera, where he was active between 1966 and 1979. In 1974 he sang the title part in Verdi’s Falstaff at Glyndebourne, followed by Sir Morosus in Richard Strauss’s Die schweigsame Frau in 1977. He returned to the United States as a member of the New York City Opera from 1979 to 1984. Subsequently he undertook a number of challenging rôles such as Moses in the New York City Opera’s 1990 production of Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron. He continues to be active as a voice teacher in New York.
Menotti’s Violin Concerto was composed in 1952 to a commission for the violinist Efrem Zimbalist, who was then head of the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia. It was first performed in the same year by Zimbalist and the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. The RCA recording by Tossy Spivakovsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, made in late 1954, is considered by Menotti’s biographer, John Gruen, to be the definitive performance of the work. Based on classical forms, the concerto is unpretentious, and was composed straight from the heart, in the romantic tradition. It is filled with memorable themes, and is a superb vehicle for the solo violin, which throughout has primacy over the orchestra, allotted a positively supportive rôle. Menotti himself expressed considerable affection for the Violin Concerto, commenting ‘I’m rather fond of this work’.
The setting is a dilapidated room in Donato’s house, an old villa overlooking a lake. The room is filled with ill-matched Victorian furniture. At stage left, by the fireplace, there is a low coffee-table in front of a large sofa, a rocking-chair and an armchair. At stage right there is an antiquated piano. In a corner there is an architect’s drawing board, on which stand architectural models and reproductions of Greek statuary. Upstage left a dark corridor leads to the entrance hall and the rest of the house. Backstage centre, a small door opens onto a narrow winding staircase, which leads to the apartment upstairs. At the back of the room a large French window looks out onto the garden terrace. Between the door and the window stands a porcelain statue of a Chinese mandarin. On the walls are a few architectural drawings of modern buildings, next to nineteenth-century landscapes. Strewn about the room are empty bird cages of different sizes and shapes. The atmosphere is oddly oppressive, as if those in the room were imprisoned by its walls. It is mid-afternoon, a cold day in early spring. As the curtain rises, Donato is sitting on the sofa, holding a small bird cage which he has just finished making. Agata looks out intently onto the garden through the French window.
 Introduction (Orchestra).
 Agata comments humorously on the arrival procession of the Mother. The Mother enters, followed by Maria Golovin, her son Trottoló and his tutor, Dr Zuckertanz.
 The Mother introduces her son Donato to Dr Zuckertanz, who realises that he is blind. She then introduces Donato to Maria, who only realises that he is blind when Dr Zuckertanz makes an explanatory gesture. Maria then introduces Trottoló to Donato. The Mother offers to show Maria and Dr Zuckertanz round the house. They disappear up the stairway, leaving only Trottoló and Donato. Both are a little frightened. Trottoló runs upstairs as Agata appears with the tea-tray.
 Donato asks Agata if Maria is beautiful. Agata puts on Maria’s hat, fur coat and scarf and walks around like a grande dame. Donato tells her to stop, and orders her to get the cake she is baking from the oven.
 The Mother comes down the stairs with Trottoló. She tells him he must bow in front of the Chinese statue. She comments that Maria likes the house, and that they should have asked for a higher rent. Agata enters and announces that her cake is not rising. The Mother leads Trottoló into the kitchen, followed by Agata. Left alone, Donato fondles Maria’s scarf. Maria, re-entering, sees him and is both embarrassed and moved. Sensing her presence Donato throws the scarf onto the sofa.
 Donato asks who is there. Maria says how much she likes the house and garden. They hear shouting in the distance and Donato tells her that there is a prisoners’ camp close by. Maria opens the French window and the prisoners can be heard singing in the distance. Maria tells Donato that her husband has been a prisoner of war for four years. She fears he is ill.
 Donato asks Maria if she was looking at him as he kissed her scarf. She replies that she was, and Donato tells her that he is lonely. Maria offers to read to him and to play the piano. She also paints, but will not ask him to pose for her unless it is raining.
 Donato says that he would be delighted to pose for her. Maria asks him if the drawings on the wall are his and he replies that they are, but now all he does is build cages for birds. The Mother pretends to sell them, but he knows she is lying. Donato gives her a cage, but tells her to be careful, as the cage she takes already holds a prisoner. He asks her if he may touch her face. Very gently he touches her; at first intrigued and tense, she then pulls away, leaving Donato with his arms outstretched.
 The Mother re-enters with Trottoló. She tells him to go and get his tutor, Zuckertanz, and they both re-enter. Zuckertanz complains that one of his records has been broken. The Mother offers him a cup of tea by way of compensation. As they all sit at the tea-table, Donato stands by the piano and then approaches the tea-table, dragging a chair behind him. Zuckertanz asks Maria what she is holding and she replies that it is Donato’s gift to Trottoló. Hearing Maria’s lie Donato stops in the middle of the room, pained, and then throws the chair across the room. The Mother asks him what has come over him, and he replies that even innocent lies are impossible to bear and that somebody will lie to him.
The scene is the same as before. It is late afternoon one month later. Agata, dressed to go out, is standing near the main entrance. Donato, sitting by the French window, pretends to be working on one of the bird cages.
 Donato asks Agata if she is not ready to go out. She replies that she is waiting for his Mother. She tells him that she knows what is preoccupying him and it is not religion. In response to his question as to why he should not be happy, she replies that she [Maria] is not the woman for him. For her his interest is nothing more than another adventure—she has a past. Becoming violent Donato tells her to stop talking about Maria. The Mother enters, and noticing Donato’s agitation, asks him if he is all right. He replies that he is. The Mother and Agata depart. Sure that he is alone, Donato runs to the back wall and knocks against it with his cane, and a responding signal is heard from upstairs. He prepares himself to receive Maria. The door slowly opens and Maria runs into his arms. They kiss and then slowly move towards the sofa.
 Donato suggests that they sit by the fire. He asks Maria what colour she is wearing today, and she replies blue. Maria asks if her lesson is ready and he hands her a braille tablet. She then begins to read with her fingers. The message says ‘I love you’ and then that he is afraid. She asks him if this is true and he says that it is. She responds that the woman he loves cannot be her.
 Donato replies that it is indeed her. He describes her voice in poetic terms. She tells him that she loves him. He says she does not belong to him, but she replies that she is only his. He asks her if this is her first infidelity and she replies that it is, but then goes on to tell him that she fell for a boy called Aldo the previous summer. Donato asks about him, and then if Maria still loves him. Even though she says she never loved Aldo, Donato accuses her of hiding something. He hints that she loves him out of pity, but she replies that she loves him deeply. They embrace. It is growing darker and outside the prisoners can be heard singing.
 Trottoló is heard outside in the garden and then peers through the French window. Maria hurriedly throws herself against the back window to hide from Trottoló. Donato gropes his way to the window and opens it. He tells Trottoló that his mother is not there, and that she is upstairs. Although suspicious Trottoló runs off. Donato closes the window and comes back into the room. Maria asks him if he thinks Trottoló saw them. He replies that he is sure Trottoló did not, and tells her not to worry. By now hysterical, Maria insists on leaving, but only after Donato has extracted from her a promise to return tomorrow. She runs upstairs without looking at Donato, who stands helplessly in the middle of the room. Donato realises that loving her will bring him suffering, and asks God for help.
The setting is the terrace overlooking the garden. At stage right, a wall of the villa, with French windows leading into the house. On the terrace garden furniture is set. At the back of the terrace, amongst broken eighteenth-century statues, a stairway leads down into the garden. It is late afternoon in mid-summer, three months later. The terrace is empty. In the distance the shooting of rifles and sirens can be heard. Agata runs out of the house and peers towards the distant hills. She is followed by Donato.
 Donato asks Agata what is happening and she tells him that another prisoner must have escaped. The sounds of the siren and shooting die away. Donato sits on a wicker chair near the house, and Agata on a small bench on the other side of the terrace, where a small half-sewn Pulcinella costume has been left. She picks up the black mask and starts to repair it. Donato asks her what she is doing, and she replies that she is making a mask for Trottoló, for a children’s party to be held that night next door. Donato gets up and walks nervously to the end of the terrace. He comments that the others should have returned from their picnic by now. Agata asks him what he will do when the husband [of Maria] returns, and reports that a strange-looking letter arrived this morning. Donato asks her where the letter came from. She taunts him and offers to steam the letter open for him, saying that she could be his eyes. He tells her to leave him alone. She continues to taunt him and tells him that the name Aldo was written on the back of the envelope.
 As Donato asks Agata if this is the first time she has seen this name, a prisoner runs onto the terrace, a gun in his hand. He points the gun at Donato. Agata tells him that Donato is blind. She asks if he is the prisoner who has just escaped and he replies that he is. The Prisoner tells them that they must hide him. Donato says that this is not possible because he might frighten the child and the old woman in the house. Donato tells Agata to take him to his room, and agrees to find him a coat.
 Agata takes the Prisoner into the house. Maria is heard calling from the garden. Donato runs excitedly to the stairway. The Mother and Maria appear, Maria carrying a picnic basket. She says she is tired and that the sun was too much for Trottoló, who has fallen asleep. Zuckertanz enters, carrying Trottoló. The Mother, Maria and Zuckertanz all urge Trottoló to go to bed. The Mother tells Donato that Agata has found another broken vase, for which Maria will have to pay. Donato tells her to stop counting the pennies. The Mother reflects on how much Donato has changed since Maria arrived. He tells her that Maria is not bound to him, but he is to her—she has loved many people. He is never sure of anything with her. They sing together of Donato’s plight. The mother curses Maria as she enters. Maria says she must work on Trottoló’s costume. The Mother offers to help her and goes into the house.
 Donato is upset that Maria did not come to him the previous night. Maria responds that she tried but Trottoló is always watching her. Donato asks her if she knows what it is like to wait a whole night—he wishes he had never met her. The Mother re-enters and pretends to be unaware of what is going on. Changing his tone Donato tells Maria that there is a letter for her. Trying to keep himself under control, he asks if it might be from her husband. Maria says that it is from an old school friend. Donato believes that she is lying. The Mother invites Maria to sit with her, and calls Agata to join them.
 As the sun reddens on the horizon, the three women reminisce in a mood of gentle melancholy, while Donato compares them to the three fates unwinding the thread of life.
The same place at night. Trottoló, wearing the Pulcinella costume, stands on a stool in the middle of the terrace. Maria, the Mother and Zuckertanz stand around him in admiration. Donato sits alone in a far corner.
 As the women praise him, Trottoló runs towards Zuckertanz. Maria tells him to hurry up as the fireworks will start soon. The Mother, Zuckertanz and Trottoló go down and disappear into the garden. Maria walks over to Donato. She asks him if anything is wrong, and he denies that there is. He realises that he has loved a woman who does not exist. When she asks what he means, he replies that he loved someone whom he could trust. Now he knows that the world he saw was false. She asks him what he means and he accuses her of being a liar, and of never loving him.
 Wounded, Maria agrees that she must leave him, even though she does not know what she is accused of. Donato asks her about the letter she has received, from Aldo. She realises what has happened, and admits her guilt. She calls for Agata to join them. Donato pleads with her to leave him alone; she agrees that they must part but only after he learns how foolish and cruel he has been. Maria hands Agata the open letter and asks her to read it aloud. Agata reads the letter, from Aldo who complains of Maria not responding to his letters. Donato dismisses Agata. As she departs, Maria breaks down in tears.
 Donato runs to Maria pleadingly, kneels at her feet and embraces her. He asks for her forgiveness. As fireworks explode he tells her that she must never lie to him. He urges her to kiss him but she breaks away, and runs into the house. Alone on the terrace, lost and dejected, Donato gropes on his knees for his cane. The Prisoner appears and scornfully watches him. As he moves towards the steps to the garden, Donato starts and calls Maria’s name. The Prisoner identifies himself.
 The Prisoner sings contemptuously of Donato’s self-absorption while others suffer around him. Donato says that he is also in a prison. A searchlight rakes the terrace, and whenever it does so the Prisoner hides himself until it passes. He tells Donato that it is the searchlight from the prison camp. As he decides to flee, the Prisoner gives Donato his gun. He departs into the garden and Donato picks up the gun. Trottoló enters in his Pulcinella costume: he is illuminated by the searchlight as he stands motionless, watching Donato.
The setting is the same room in Donato’s house as in Act I. It is a month later, in September, the early afternoon. Maria and Donato are standing outside on the terrace. Within the room the Mother and Dr Zuckertanz are examining some sheets of music.
 Introduction (Orchestra)
 As the Mother shows the music to Zuckertanz he condemns it as romantic drivel. He tells her the names of the composers whom he likes most in music. The Mother asks him to sing a song and he walks to the piano reluctantly. He asks Maria to join them. He hands the music to the Mother to play, and sings with Maria.
 While they are doing this, Agata appears in the doorway, holding a telegram. They stop singing and the Mother asks Agata what she has: she replies that the telegram is for Maria. Maria opens the telegram and is obviously shaken by what she reads. She makes a great effort to hide her emotions. She tells them that her husband has been released. Donato gets up with a start. Unaware of the significance of what has happened, Zuckertanz goes upstairs to tell Trottoló. Realising that Donato wishes to be alone with Maria, the Mother leaves the room. Maria and Donato embrace. He asks her if she will tell him. She does not know.
The same, a week later. It is late afternoon. Donato is standing alone on the terrace. Inside the room the Mother and Maria are unfolding a large table-cloth. Behind them a manservant is placing napkins and glasses in a basket. From the open window the prisoners may be heard singing.
 The Mother suggests to Maria that now her husband is back, she will want to leave soon. Maria replies that she had not planned on leaving, as her husband needs a rest. The Mother then expresses her dislike of Maria and says she would like her to leave.
 Tearfully Maria tells the Mother that while she knows she should leave Donato, she finds it difficult to do so. The Mother apologises for her harshness, and confesses that she is very worried for Donato. She fears he is losing his reason. Donato is heard calling from the terrace. The Mother leads him into the room. He is pale and tense. As he enters, he stops abruptly, sensing the presence of Maria. The Mother leaves them alone.
 Donato asks Maria if she has told her husband about their relationship. She replies that she has not yet done so. Casually he mentions that she is having a party that night, with a jazz band. She responds that she will be dancing with her relatives. He asks her if she will come to him that night. She says she will try to, and pressed by Donato, says she will come for a few minutes. She cannot give a time as it will be her birthday. He insists that she comes at midnight so that he can be the first to kiss her on her birthday. She promises to see him at midnight. She goes to sit on the sofa and he places himself at her feet, burying his head in her lap.
 Donato presses Maria to speak to her husband, and then says he would like her to die, so no-one else might have her. She replies that there is no love unless one dares to lose the thing one loves.
It is past midnight on the same day. Donato is sitting in the rocking-chair. The Mother is on the sofa knitting. Occasionally she looks at Donato. On a table is a small birthday cake, a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
 Donato asks the Mother what time is it. She replies that it is not quite one o’clock. Donato kisses the rose which Maria has given to him. Agata comes in with a tray, as if to clear the table. She asks if she may go to bed, saying it is two o’clock, to which the Mother impatiently agrees. Donato, annoyed by his Mother’s deception and becoming impatient, gets up and begins to pace about the room. The Mother suggests that he should show some understanding—how could Maria leave her party with her husband there? Donato suggests that she go to bed, and she leaves the room. After pacing up and down, he opens the small door in the back wall, and the music of a small jazz band can be heard. He listens and then closes the door. After sitting at the piano he goes back to the door and opens it again. The music can be heard. He shuts the door and leans against it, overcome with frustration and despair. He asks God to help him. Rushing to the piano, he opens the lid and takes out the gun and hides it in one of his pockets.
 Maria rushes into the room, greeting Donato. He asks her if she knows what time it is. She apologises that she could not get away earlier. Donato, becoming angrier, accuses her of being ashamed of their love, and of wanting to hide it, in case others found out about it. Maria tries to quieten him, for Trottoló’s sake. He says that he too loves Trottoló. She accuses him of refusing to understand, to which he responds by saying that they cannot go on like this any longer. Maria confirms that they must say good-bye. She promises to leave the following day and that he will never see her again. Donato brandishes the gun and, running to the back wall, bars her from leaving. Terrified, Maria tries to avoid the aim of the gun. Realising that Donato is aiming the gun to the sound of her steps, she stands frozen, her back to the audience. Donato says that she will never leave him for another man. If he cannot have her, no-one else will. He calls to the Mother to help him to find Maria. The Mother rushes in, horrified. She motions Maria to step out of the gun’s range. She then takes hold of his hand and guides his aim in front of him. She encourages him to kill Maria. He fires the gun twice into the empty space. Exhausted he sinks to his knees, leaning his head against the Mother, who says that Maria is his for ever now, and hands him the rose lying on the floor near them. She tells him to cast the rose on her, which he does. She then leads him out of the room, saying that they must leave immediately and that he is free now. After they have left, Maria picks up the rose, holds it to her lips and bursts into uncontrolled weeping. The voice of Zuckertanz is heard from upstairs calling for her. Still weeping, Maria slowly moves towards the stairway.
Menotti’s Maria Golovin premièred at the Brussels World’s Fair in August, 1958 and opened on Broadway three months later. In the interim, RCA recorded it in Rome with the original cast, presumably to have it ready for an expected successful New York run. However, unlike the acclaim that greeted his earlier productions of The Medium and The Telephone, The Consul and The Saint of Bleecker Street, the work met with a cool reception and closed after only five performances.
Perhaps the New York music journalists were put off by producer David Merrick’s insistence that the première be reviewed only by drama critics, or by the composer’s lampooning of them in the person of Dr Zuckertanz; or perhaps Menotti’s romanticism had simply fallen out of fashion at that moment. Whatever the reason, with a half century of hindsight, modern listeners can now come to a better appreciation of the composer’s work here, as well as the accomplishments of his singers (not least the 22-year-old Richard Cross in the pivotal role of Donato, as well as Menotti veteran Patricia Neway as his mother).
Due to the work’s initial failure, RCA only released a monaural version of the set, even though it was likely recorded in stereo; and the few copies that were sold ensured that it would become a rare and sought-after collector’s item in the decades which followed. In preparing this first reissue of the recording in over fifty years, I was lucky enough to be able to work from two near-mint copies of the original American red “shaded dog” label LP pressings, its only form of release. It remains the only recording ever made of the opera. (Some brief pitch fluctuations in the third act are inherent in the original master tape.) The Violin Concerto “filler” came from its first release, American plum “shaded dog” label pressings.
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MENOTTI, G.C.: Maria Golovin [Opera] (Duval, Cross...