[Met Performance] CID:120190
Samson et Dalila {60} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 01/5/1937.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 5, 1937


SAMSON ET DALILA {60}

Samson..................René Maison
Dalila..................Gertrud Wettergren
High Priest.............Ezio Pinza
Abimélech...............John Gurney
Old Hebrew..............Emanuel List
Philistine..............Max Altglass
Philistine..............Wilfred Engelman
Messenger...............Angelo Badà
Dance...................Daphne Vane

Conductor...............Maurice Abravanel

Review of Samuel L. Leciar in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger

MUSIC - Metropolitan Gives 'Samson'

The Metropolitan Opera Association of New York gave the second performance of its Philadelphia season in the Academy of Music last evening, the auditorium, as at the first presentation, being filled almost to capacity by an audience which received the opera with immense enthusiasm.

The opera was Saint-Saens' "Samson et Dalila," sung in French, and it gave Philadelphia its first opportunity to hear two of the more recent artists of the company and also a new conductor. The unfamiliar artists assumed the principal roles of the opera. The first of these was Rene Maison, French tenor, who made an impressive debut here. He has a voice of beautiful quality. High, clear and of youthful character, which he used to great advantage in the various solo and small ensemble numbers of the role. Added to this was an heroic stage presence, combined with grace of movement, both of which were ideal for the role. His dramatic work was satisfactory, although not measuring up either to his singing nor to his majestic stage picture. He scored a great a deserved success and is a valuable addition to the French wing of the Metropolitan.

The other unfamiliar artist was Gertrud Wettergren, Swedish contralto, who assumed the role of the treacherous Dalila. Mme. Wettergren was in some respects the exact opposite of Mr. Maison. Judged from last evening's performance alone, her voice cannot justly be reckoned among the super-great contraltos which the Metropolitan has had in the past. But it is a superb organ and was used with much skill except that in places she obviously had to force the tone to be heard against the orchestras. It was in other operatic phases that Mme. Wettergren showed her supreme artistry, especially in the temptation of Samson in the second act, which was the finest and most finished performance, both dramatically and musically, that has been given in this city within memory of this commentator. The action was magnificent and carried conviction in every movement. At the close of this act both she and Mr. Maison were repeatedly recalled and finally took solo appearances, both to immense applause.

The Metropolitan is fortunate in that it can cast in relatively secondary roles artists who would be the principal ones in any other country. This has never had a better demonstration than last evening. Chief among these were Ezio Pinza, the leading Italian basso of today, who gave a performance of the High Priest of Dagon which in voice and action left nothing to be desired, and Emanuel List, equally distinguished as a German basso, as an Old Hebrew, whose sonorous voice was heard to splendid advantage in the few sections accorded to the role in the first act. Others in the cast were the invaluable Angelo Bada as a Philistine Messenger, John Gurney as Abimilech and Max Altglass and Wilfred Engelman as the first and second Philistines, respectively.

The new conductor, Maurice de Abravanel, showed himself to be much better acquainted with the score of the opera and the handling of principals and stage than with the delicate acoustics of the Phialdelphia Academy of Music. All through the opera Mr. de Abravanel called for too much tone from the orchestra, and the members of that group responded so valiantly that there were times when the singers could be heard only with the utmost difficulty - and sometimes not at all. Mme. Wettergren seemed to feel this, and at times she manifestly forced her voice; if Mr. Maison sensed the same thing it was not apparent and he allowed himself more than once to be drowned out in the mass of orchestration.

There was a new staging, elaborate in character and convincing as to period, color scheme and costumes, the final scene being especially effective. The Metropolitan brought over the largest group which it has employed in this city since the "depression" began, and at the [start] of the final act there were more than 200 on the stage. The huge chorus sang well and the American Ballet, more up to date than anything Saint-Saens could have imagined when he wrote this ballet music, received applause out of proportion with its performance.



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