[Met Performance] CID:114840
Pelléas et Mélisande {28} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/23/1934.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 23, 1934


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

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

Director.......... .....Wilhelm Von Wymetal Jr.
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban

Pelléas et Mélisande received three performances this season.

[Bori's costumes were designed by Erté.]

Review of G. S. in the Wall Street Journal

To one who understands French, the opera "Pelléas et Mélisande" is such an outstanding pleasure that it is to wonder how those who only "get the drift" can be so enthusiastic about it. Yet the prayerful silence of a "Pélleas" audience at the Metropolitan Opera House is proof enough that they are. There is no other opera audience like it here. Even your Wagner devotee is noisy by comparison, if only in shushing his neighbor.

Maurice Maeterlinck's prose is poetry of unexcelled beauty; and Debussy's "whole-tone scale" adds something to it which a classical musical form could probably never have provided. Unlike opera generally, this one makes the music a helpmate of the words. Every sentence is modulated exactly as it would be in speech, except that the modulations are widened. But they are not exaggerated. That Debussy succeeded despite this self-imposed limitation in producing music which people will listen to for its own sake is a truly great achievement. There is no higher expression of operatic art than "Pélleas et Mélisande."

The Metropolitan respects this fact. In all the years it has shown the opera it has made changes in the cast only when forced by circumstances. Among the major parts only that of Golaud, now played by Ezio Pinza, has changed hands. Clarence Whitehill having died some years ago. The result of this policy is a performance which, in the words of Stirling Bowen, is "the best thing the Metropolitan does." The singers have caught the quiet, ineffably sad spirit of Maeterlinck's play: they are finished actors.

Lucrezia Bori is the outstanding player. Mélisande must be as real to her as the stage she treads. She makes the mysterious girl, still more child than woman, who wants sunshine and love and gets shade and jealousy instead, so appealing that the last scene when Mélisande dies, becomes as moving as any in the theatre: one repeats fervently old Arkel's words: "Were I God, I'd have pity on the hearts of man."

Edward Johnson and Leon Rothier, respectively, play Pelleas and the grandfather, Arkel, impeccably. Mr. Pinza seems to fall a bit short of the others' standard, though it is hard to tell why. His French is not as good, but that is a minor fault, certainly not one to spoil the performance for most hearers. Golaud is probably the most difficult part, for his spirit is violent, and violence in the subdued atmosphere of the play is almost a desecration. Mr. Pinza seems to overact just a little, but, after all, neither he nor any one else can be violent quietly; it is impossible to pull a woman about by the hair with restraint.

The others in this prize cast are Ina Bourskaya as Genevieve; Ellen Dalossy, as Little Yniold, and Paolo Ananian, as the Physician. One could not ask for better. Vocally, of course, the whole performance is a joy; all are among the Metropolitan's best singers. Louis Hasselmans conducts his orchestra as one inspired. By all means, go to hear "Pélleas et Mélisnade" next Wednesday night, the second and final performance of the season. And if you can't, get the libretto and read the English version by Charles Alfred Byrne. It is very good.

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