Robert Jacobson in Opera News:

To begin with, the Met had assembled the best cast in the world at the moment, a four-star quartet that could walk proudly in the footsteps of Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache. Bellini, of course, is singing first and foremost, and the four leads – Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris – did every minute of the score proud. Then conductor Richard Bonynge brought his expertise in this period, leading with more vitality than ever before but never afraid to indulge his singers or his orchestra in Bellini’s rich melodic outpouring. . . .

Over the years Joan Sutherland has specialized in these potty dames, and Elvira remains one of her most memorable characterizations. Her voice is a miracle in its combination of size and flexibility to which she has now added a greater hue of colors, inflections and expression. She can swoon and achieve flights of madness with the best of them and here Sequi had her seek no Actors Studio realism but a gentle feyness that is exactly right for this vague young lady, who comes in and out of madness with the greatest of ease.

As Arturo, Luciano Pavarotti too brought size and heft to his singing all the way up to his top notes in the hair-raising “Vieni fra queste braccia” duet. His superbly placed tenor voice has become more dramatic and has developed an interesting edge that colors his timbre excitingly. As an actor he bounded enthusiastically through the proceedings, making his huge physical size work to advantage. Sherrill Milnes proved a revelation as a bel canto baritone, singing Riccardo with a grand blend of virility, opulent tone that broadens the higher it goes and an agility to encompass some impressive fioriture in his pulsating Act I aria. As a presence he lent strength and drama to a basically one-dimensional figure. Making it a fourth was bass James Morris, whose distinctively dark timbre, forcefulness and a wide range of dynamics qualified him as an ideal Giorgio Walton. His singing was so natural and true as to suit him ideally to this pre-Verdi repertory, and with Milnes the rousing “Suoni la tromba” soared to the heights. Cynthia Munzer as Enrichetta and Jon Garrison as Bruno were also well cast.

On this day in 1948 tenor Giuseppe di Stefano made his Metropolitan Opera debut at the Duke of Mantua.

Birthday anniversaries of playwright and librettist Carlo Goldoni (1707), composer and author Anthony Burgess (1917), and conductor Jesús López-Cobos (1940).