[Met Performance] CID:100770
Faust {370} Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, Brooklyn: 12/25/1928.


New York, Brooklyn
December 25, 1928

FAUST {370}

Faust...................Giovanni Martinelli
Marguerite..............Elisabeth Rethberg
Méphistophélès..........Léon Rothier
Valentin................Giuseppe Danise
Siebel..................Pearl Besuner
Marthe..................Henriette Wakefield
Wagner..................James Wolfe

Conductor...............Louis Hasselmans

Review of Harold A. Strickland in the Brooklyn Times


Martinelli Dominates Fifth Boro Opera by Metropolitan - 'Traviata' Comes Next

A Metropolitan Opera Company debut occurred last night and Brooklyn was selected as the scene for the occasion. The debutant was Elizabeth Rethberg, for several years a prima donna of the company, but up until last night totally unknown in the role of the heroine of Gounod's "Faust." Miss Rethberg has sung Marguerite with other companies, but up until last night had never appeared in it with the Metropolitan. Therefore the debutant reference.

As a matter of fact there was another debut, that of Pearl Besuner, young soprano who joined the Gatti entourage this season and who already had appeared in Manhattan, but had never participated in a Brooklyn performance. Miss Besuner sang the role of Siebel in which she appeared for her initial assignment with the company.

And Giovanni Martinelli made another trip across the East River in order to sing the role of the rejuvenated philosopher. As one heard this overworked tenor last night, the wonder grew as to what method of exercises or calisthenics he uses in order to keep in form. A veteran of veterans and with the nemesis of all singers on his trail, Martinelli continues to carry on regardless.

Last night the tenor worked hard, yet there was no strain apparent in his singing. Nor did he have to resort to falsetto; the tones came clear and smooth, powerful and resonant and although the end of each act saw him temporarily tired out, the rise of the succeeding curtain revealed almost a new individual. He easily dominated the entire performance.

Miss Rethberg usually controls every opera in which she appears. And yet this dominance is unostentatious and entirely different from the manner in which other soprano members of the prima donna rank usually show their complete mastery of all things, principals, conductor, et al. Her artistry is such that it must of itself completely dominate the work and without any effort on her part.

Last night, however, Miss Rethberg took her cues from Mr. Hasselmans. She frequently had to think concerning song and acting while hitherto her work has appeared to be, and has been done, without even the fraction of a second's consideration being necessary. The voice was of its usual golden texture, though her diction was not of the best. She literally watched her step lest something disastrous occur. It was not the usual Rethberg standard, but then one expects only the best of this sterling artist.

Leon Rothier was again the Mephisto, a role that is second nature to him and, except for numerous churchly assignments, one of his best. But where did he get that costume? Echo answers where? Mr. Danise was once more the Valentine and Mr. Wolfe, the Wagner. The latter is a magician. He can drain the same cup a dozen times or more without having it refilled.

Miss Besuner did nobly with her "Flower Song" after starting with the tones buried in her shoe-tops. Miss Wakefield completed the cast. Mr. Setti ought to give French lessons as well as singing lessons to his chorus. I suppose French was the language they sang, but it sounded like a hodge-podge.

And now to Mr. Hasselmans who broke his usual baton during the progress of the second act. With each succeeding performance the stature of this effacing conductor grows. He knows his French operas and he reads them with authority and with a keen appreciation of the ability of his principals. Moreover he knows the value of a supporting orchestra and just what its function is.

His reading of "Faust" last night was magnificent, no other adjective will suffice.

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