[Met Performance] CID:120300
Les Contes d'Hoffmann {54} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/14/1937.

(Debuts: Stella Andreva, Frances Walsingham
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 14, 1937 Matinee


LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN {54}
Jacques Offenbach-Jules Barbier


Hoffmann................Sydney Rayner
Olympia.................Stella Andreva [Debut]
Giulietta...............Margaret Halstead
Antonia.................Hilda Burke
Stella..................Frances Walsingham [Debut]
Lindorf.................Lawrence Tibbett
Coppélius...............Lawrence Tibbett
Dappertutto.............Lawrence Tibbett
Dr. Miracle.............Lawrence Tibbett
Nicklausse..............Irra Petina
Andrès..................Angelo Badà
Cochenille..............Angelo Badà
Pitichinaccio...........Angelo Badà
Frantz..................Angelo Badà
Luther..................Arnold Gabor
Nathanael...............George Rasely
Hermann.................Wilfred Engelman
Spalanzani..............Louis D'Angelo
Schlemil................Norman Cordon
Crespel.................Louis D'Angelo
Mother's Voice..........Anna Kaskas

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Joseph Urban

Les Contes d'Hoffmann received four performances this season.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the New York Herald Tribune

'Les Contes d'Hoffmann' Sung in Revival at the Metropolitan

Lawrence Tibbett takes 4 Roles; Stella Andreva Makes Debut as Olympia; Margaret Halstead Sings Giuilietta; Rayner as Hoffmann

The only contribution to serious opera by the composer of such frothy concoctions as "La Belle Helene" and "Orphee aux Enfers" was his final creative endeavor as well. The score was left in an unfinished state when he died and was put into shape for popular presentation by Ernest Guiraud. It was last heard here at the Metropolitan Opera House on April 13, 1932. The most distinguished singers who ever appeared in this opera on this stage were those concerned in the production accorded to it on January 11, 1913, when Frieda Hempel was heard as Olympia, Olive Fremstad as Giulietta, Lucrezia Bori as Antonia, Adamo Didur as Coppelius, Lawrence Tibbett as Dappertutto and Leon Rothier as Dr. Miracle.

Although Mr. Tibbett is the first baritone to be seen here in the four parts listed above, Giuseppe De Luca has impersonated all but the first of these and the earlier performances at the Manhattan Opera House, under Oscar Hammerstein's direction, were made memorable by Maurice Renaud's assumptions of Coppelius, Dappertutto and Miracle.

Offenbach's music in this score is considered in some quarters the product of undiluted genius. Those who admire it whole-heartedly find in its pages a perfect blend of esprit, fantasy and propulsive drama. But time has not dealt kindly with much of it. The melodic substance frequently approaches banality; what once may have sounding sparkling is now merely trite. Nonetheless, indisputable genius entered into the fashioning of the Antonia episode. Here the melodic invention is of a high order and there are genuine dramatic impact and pathos.

Tibbett's Performance

The performance was in most respects disappointing. High expectations had been aroused by the announcement that Mr. Tibbett would delineate the various aspects of evil incorporated in the characters of Coppelius, Dappertutto and Miracle. Unfortunately, it was only in the first of these that his conception carried conviction. His make-up with its red wig, jaundiced pallor and stiff leg were excellent and his understanding of the peddler's psychology was penetratingly conveyed.

But both his Dappertutto and Miracle were distorted portrayals. His costuming of the former in a flaming red military uniform and the assumption of a Napoleonic mask were in themselves disaffecting attributes, and in place of subtlety he gave us obvious theatricalism.

Still less appropriate was his garb as Miracle. The essential malevolence of this nefarious charlatan must be suggested, not as Mr. Tibbett sought, by wearing black tights upon which a skeleton had been painted in white and in making up his face and head to simulate a skull, but by skillful acting and nuance in song. There is no indication in the text that Miracle should be the incarnation of death. Mr. Tibbett's characterization not infrequently bordered on travesty and aroused one's risibilities, rather than one's horror.

Nor was the usually expert barytone at his best vocally The grateful aria of Dappertutto in the second act, "Scintille diamante" went for little. He achieved the two high G sharps with evident effort, sustaining them with difficulty and a pinched quality of tone, and his voice at no times had its customary vibrancy. Much of Miracle's music lies too low for him and at times could not be heard above the orchestra

Miss Andreva's Olympia

The most agreeable feature of the afternoon was Miss Andreva's Olympia. This young English soprano presented a wholly credible figure as the automaton which played havoc with Hoffmann's susceptibilities. She is small and slender and simulated the mechanical movements of the doll with amusing precision. Her voice is clear in texture, excepting for some breathiness in the lower register, and she negotiated the florid passages trills and staccati of her aria for the most part with true intonation and with the essential brilliancy. She made no attempt, however, to conclude with the final sustained F flat in altissimo. A further disclosure of her ability in more comprehensive parts will be welcomed

The least competent realization waa Miss Halstead's of the Venetian temptress, Giulietta. She was beguiling neither to the eye nor to the ear. Her large voice was unsteadily projected with unfocused and often strident results. Mr. Rayner voiced his part with authentic style but not often without constricted tonal production. Miss Burke, who had been heard the preceding evening as Santuzza gave indications of fatigue. The high tessitura of the part caused her some discomfort and there were lapses of intonation as well as acidulous moments. At its best, however, her conception was sung adequately and unaffectedly acted.

Miss Petina, more agreeable to gaze upon in male attire than most woman singers, gave a good account of her part both from the musical and dramatic aspects, and the remaining parts were competently handled.

Mr. Abravanel was responsible for the restoration of a portion of the music of the prologue and Mr. Graf made a dubious scenic addition in the form of an anachronistic contraption with blinking colored lights in the first scene of the first act. The direction revealed little that was startlingly new since the opera was heard here last. Mr. Abravanel conducted with no little elan, if not always with Gallic delicacy.

The audience was sizeable and demonstrative.



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