[Met Performance] CID:101280
Pelléas et Mélisande {16} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/1/1929.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 1, 1929


PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE {16}
Debussy-Maeterlinck

Pelléas.................Edward Johnson
Mélisande...............Lucrezia Bori
Golaud..................Clarence Whitehill
Arkel...................Léon Rothier
Geneviève...............Ina Bourskaya
Yniold..................Ellen Dalossy
Physician...............Paolo Ananian

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

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban

[Bori's costumes were designed by Erté.]

Pelléas et Mélisande received two performances this season.

Review of Samuel Chotzinoff in the New York World

Those operatic wraiths, Pélleas and Mélisande, replaced, last night, the lusty protagonists of Verdi's "Aida," which held the Metropolitan boards in the afternoon. It was the season's first "Pélleas" and, as always, its appearance among Mr. Gatti's more fleshly repertoire set the town skeptics marveling at the general director's strange and persistent devotion to one of the least remunerative of lyric dramas.

The Debussy-Maeterlinck opera, judging by its numerically unsensational audiences, is an unequivocal gift horse, and as such it should enjoy, according to the proverb, our whole-hearted, uncritical acceptance. It may be true that we are denied "The Marriage of Figaro" because its production is not sanctioned by the Metropolitan maitre d'box office. The maitre - in his official capacity, not as individual - probably frowned also on "Pélleas" but, apparently without success. Anyway, it is not for us to probe into the reasons for the prevalence of Debussy's lonely music-drama at the Metropolitan. For all we know, it will take a dozen performances of "La Gioconda" to pay for last night's costly treat.

I have always thought that the full flavor of "Pélleas" can only be felt by those who have made a study of the score. The extraordinary affinity between Maeterlinck's text and Debussy's music is revealed in every bar of the piano score. In the big reaches of the Metropolitan the harmonic successions of "Pélleas" become, in time, monotonous. But that is because one's attention is focused on the music alone. Follow the notes with even an English text and the musical commentary seems as rich in subtle inflections, as diversified in emotion, as Maeterlinck's dramatic legend.

The Metropolitan's "Pélleas" is not the haunting aerie thing it used to be in the Manhattan Opera House during the Hammerstein regime. But the versatile Miss Bori's Mélisande is a beautiful creation, perhaps not so strangely poetic as Miss Garden's, but certainly better sung. I do believe, however, that the score is less attenuated than Mr. Hasselmans would have us believe.



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