John Chapman in the News:

The first night of a Metropolitan Opera season is, and should be, a gay event – not screwball or stinko, but gay in the nicest and pleasantest sense. Last evening’s inauguration of the Met’s 65th season was, to this happy listener, all it should be, for the opera was the late Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier.” Here were wit and melody, and a good company, and Fritz Reiner in charge of the orchestra. The performance was a promise of many fine times to come during the next 18 weeks, for “Rosenkavalier” is one of the most enjoyable of all works in the musical theatre. It was chosen for the inaugural as a tribute to Strauss, whose passing removed the last of the giants of the old times. The crush and dither of an opening were more intense than usual because eight television cameras and crews were set up in likely spots and most of the Met’s 4,000 customers appeared to be lens hounds. They wanted their “pitchers token” by this new gadget, and mistakenly thought that if they got in front of one of these things they’d be visible in all the saloons of six big cities.

A Lovely Marschallin.

They were wrong on several counts, of course, one of them being that only one camera was on the air at a time – which gave them only one chance in eight of being waved at by a bartender’s towel. But a television setup in Sherry’s carnival room on the Grand Tier attracted such a throng of gawkers that many who had reserved tables for the first-act intermission and had ordered champagne buckets to be waiting failed to get through to their places before the Presentation of the Silver Rose scene began. I’d say the best part of a generally cheerful report should be a profound salute to Eleanor Steber, who for the first time in her career at the opera house was singing the role of the Marschallin. It seemed to me that she was exquisite in it – that she sang it, looked it and acted it beautifully.

An Interesting Debut.

The other principal roles were in the experienced custody of Risë Stevens, in the title role, and Emanuel List, as Baron Ochs. They know a great deal about this work, and their performances were satisfying to these ears and eyes. Mr. List is a tasteful comedian, and he drew huzzas, of course, for the waltz scene – with noble help from Mr. Rainer and his men. Making her Met debut was Erna Berger as Sophie – a role she had sung abroad with Herr Strauss conducting. She is small and attractive – a Dresden doll, no less, for that is where she is from – and her voice has a nice, fresh quality.

My chief spy, a Mata Hari with red hair, reported to me that she heard a couple of well-preserved, well-decorated patronesses talking it over in a powder room during the first intermission. One of them was saying that while she was in Switzerland an old man stayed at her hotel and used to enjoy the little orchestra of an evening. “We thought he was just a tourist,” she said, “but it was Richard Strauss himself.” Her companion thought this was exciting and asked, “And was he the Strauss who wrote “The Merry Widow, too ?” “Oh yes!” the first one assured her.

On this day in 1974 tenor José Carreras made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Cavardossi.

Birthday anniversaries of dramatist and librettist William Schwenck Gilbert (1836), composer Amadeo Vives (1871), soprano Maria Ivogün (1891) and baritone Jess Walters (1908).

Happy birthday to parterre box scribe Sylvia Korman!