One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented as part of The Paley Center for Media's Inside Media events. Held at the Paley Center in New York, this evening celebrates the 1958 NBC Opera Company production of “Maria Golovin,” an English-language opera by Gian Carlo Menotti. Host Rebecca Paller (associate curator, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and background about the opera and the television production. She then introduces the production, which is screened in its entirety. (For synopsis and credits, see ACCNUM B:02588.)

After the screening, moderator Eric Myers (author and opera critic) takes the stage with the panelists: performers Richard Cross (Donato) and Craig Sechler (Trottolo).

The conversation touches on such topics as: Cross’ creation of the role of Donato at age 22 in the stage production; his audition for Menotti and role in Menotti’s chamber opera “The Scarf”; Menotti’s alterations to “Golovin” based on the cast’s vocal abilities; the removal from the television production of the prisoner’s aria and Cross’ preference for the “effective” piece; Sechler’s childhood experience singing commercial jingles for Pontiac and audition for the role of Trottolo at age eight; his initial fear of “maestro” Menotti; Cross’ high praise of Menotti’s directing and acting talents; rumors that Menotti and performer Patricia Neway (The Mother) “locked horns” during production; Sechler’s memories of his “awe” of Neway; the curious subsequent career of Franca Duval (Maria), including her work at a cabaret; Sechler’s lingering childhood crush on her and jealousy of Cross’ onscreen romance with her; the Broadway career of Ruth Kobart (Agata) and role in the film “Sister Act”; Cross’ decision not to pursue musical theatre, aided by the timing of his military service; Cross’ win of the Theatre World Award, delivered to him on his army base; the mixed critical reception to “Golovin” and its “manipulative” soap-opera style; Menotti’s unusual basis for the musical structure of a trio between the three female characters; the responsibilities of director Kirk Browning to translate the stage production to television; Menotti’s presence on set; controversy over an unauthorized production of one of Menotti’s works; and the City Opera performance of “Golovin” with a different female lead.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics: the RCA cast album of the opera, recorded in Rome; Cross’ memories of sharing the recording space with Mario Lanza; the “idiosyncratic” conductor Peter Herman Adler and his language barriers with the cast; Cross’ convincing performance as a blind man despite a lack of theatrical training; acting advice from Neway; memories of Ruth Pinkerton, Cross’ voice teacher; details of the sound production, including possible use of looping; the necessity for “relay conductors” and monitors, due to the orchestra’s distance from the performers; the deliberate delay in the live broadcast to allow for error; the usefulness of the on-screen text explaining the plot; the challenges of building and moving the set, located in a large Brooklyn studio; Menotti’s specific instructions to the actors’ physical performances; the lack of an “alternate ending” and decision to allow Maria to live and leave Donato “in ashes”; the opera’s misleading title and focus on Donato rather than Maria; the surprisingly sympathetic reaction to the “unattractive” characters; recent European performances of the opera; the originality of the libretto and “prejudice” towards Menotti’s late works; specific schools of opera criticism and the often repetitive popular opera repertoire; and praise for Cross’ vocal teacher and his “relaxed,” competent singing style.


  • DATE: May 21, 2011 2:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 2:36:51
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 104983
  • GENRE: Seminars


  • Rebecca Paller … Host
  • Eric Myers … Moderator
  • Richard Cross … Panelist
  • Craig Sechler … Panelist
  • Peter Herman Adler
  • Kirk Browning
  • Franca Duval
  • Ruth Kobart
  • Mario Lanza
  • Gian Carlo Menotti
  • Patricia Neway
  • Ruth Pinkerton
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