[Met Performance] CID:101790
Faust {371} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/8/1929.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 8, 1929 Matinee


FAUST {371}

Faust...................Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Marguerite..............Mary Lewis
Méphistophélès..........Fyodor Chaliapin
Valentin................Mario Basiola
Siebel..................Pearl Besuner
Marthe..................Henriette Wakefield
Wagner..................Paolo Ananian

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

Review of Noel Straus in the New York World

To pick a cast for "Faust' worthy of Feodor Chaliapin's Mephistopheles, the opera houses of the world probably would be combed in vain. At yesterday's special matinee performance of the Gounod favorite, given at the Metropolitan for the benefit of Sir Wilfred Grenfell's Medical mission in Labrador, the eminent basso towered above his associates so immeasurably in every respect that he strode the boards like a colossus in the land of Lilliput.

In artistic and physical stature, here was an interpreter of the god of negation who could incontrovertibly dominate the action of the tragedy. It did not tax the imagination to see in his portrayal a diabolical apparition capable of controlling the destinies of the frailer human beings among whom he moved. Through this overwhelming conception the entire scale of values suffered readjustment, so that Faust and Marguerite no longer were the central figures, but merely puppets of clay buffeted by adverse fate - which was hardly Chaliapin's intention.

Mr. Chaliapin's Mephisto was the embodiment of courtly grace. Outwardly there was nothing sinister in his comportment. And yet, so great was his skill, an aura of evil seemed to surround his person. Of the many adroit bits of business two, at least, were unforgettable. The first occurred in the Kermesse episode. During the "Chorale of the Swords," the singer chattered with rage at his inability to raise his weapon, under the spell of the cross-like hilts of his opponents. The power of this pantomime was equaled later in the scene of the duel by the gesture of triumphant scorn with which he picked up his scarlet mantle on the point of his blade and held it aloft like a huge clot of blood as he made his speedy exit. Mr. Chaliapin conserved his voice warily during the first act, and appeared to be saving it especially for the Serenade, which was superbly delivered. In the garden scene, every inflection was instinct with piercing humor.

Mary Lewis, who was making her initial appearance of the season, sang Marguerite's music with marked improvement in matters of intonation and with a more finished vocalism than had graced her efforts in the past. But there was little subtlety in her impersonation, which completely lacked distinction as a whole. Although Mr. Lauri-Volpi's Italianate Faust was a diminutive figure in height, by the side of his demon companion, he reached heroic proportions vocally, and the love duet became almost entirely his affair. Miss Besuner, the Siebel, and Mr. Basiola, the Valentine, were acceptable in their parts. Much of the success of the presentation was due to Mr. Hasselmans, who gave generous support, but never permitted the orchestra to raise its voice to the detriment of vocal clarity.



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