Music: New & Excellent

The evening had the makings of disaster. The opera was Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda, an obscure chronicle of intrigue and infidelity in medieval Italy, which flopped at its Venice premiere in 1833 and had not been done in the U.S. for a century. The American Opera Society's orchestra, awkwardly led by Conductor Nicola Rescigno, sounded coarse. The supporting cast in the concert performance was uninspired. Soprano Joan Sutherland's mother — her first voice teacher —had died the day before in London. But in her New York debut, Joan Sutherland proved what past appearances (London, Venice, Dallas) had already shown: that even...

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