[Met Performance] CID:121010
La Bohème {317} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 03/9/1937.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
March 9, 1937


LA BOHÈME {317}
Puccini-Illica/Giacosa

Mimì....................Bidú Sayao
Rodolfo.................Charles Kullman
Musetta.................Stella Andreva
Marcello................John Brownlee
Schaunard...............George Cehanovsky
Colline.................Virgilio Lazzari
Benoit..................Louis D'Angelo
Alcindoro...............Louis D'Angelo
Parpignol...............Max Altglass
Sergeant................Carlo Coscia

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

Director................Désiré Defrère
Costume designer........Blaschke & Cie

La Bohème received six performances this season.

Review of Linton Martin in the Philadelphia Inquirer

'BOHÉME' AT OPERA WITH NEW SINGERS

Sayao in Debut with Mimi, With Kullman, Others, in Metropolitan Cast

A quartet of newcomers gave novelty of interest and freshness of effect to the cast of "La Bohème," which the Metropolitan Opera Association presented in the Academy last night as the penultimate performance of its series for the season here. A close-to-capacity audience applauded with enthusiasm Bidu Sayao, young Brazilian soprano, the Mimi of the evening; Charles Kullman, American tenor, as Rodolfo; John Brownlee, Australian baritone, as Marcello, and Stella Andreva from London's Covent Garden, as the Musetta, all of them making their operatic debuts in this city in Puccini's most ingratiating and melodious opera.

Some celebrated past performances of "Bohème" have centered about certain stars and outstanding artists, since we have had Caruso and Bonci as Rodolfo, the beloved Bori and Melba as Mimi, and the utterly inimitable Scotti as Marcello. Prevailing excellence of ensemble, unity of effort, were the keynote qualities characteristic of the performance last night, with no apparent individual ambitions to "steal the show" in spectacular style of singing or emphasis on acting. But youth was genuinely and sincerely served in the interpretive talent enlisted in Puccini's first full-fledged youthful operatic success, which captures so felicitously emotional ecstasy and anguish in its swiftly moving musical version or the pages from Murger's "La vie de Boheme."

Miss Sayao's Mimi Charms

Neither conspicuously slim or stout, and with her primly parted black hair, symmetrically framing her face, Miss Sayao sang the lovely music Puccini wrote for Mimi with captivating purity and clarity of tone, and acted with piquant appeal. In certain aspects her singing yesterday recalled Lucrezia Bori, who last sang the role here a little more than three years ago for Miss Sayao has something of Bori's faculty of expressing emotion in tone, communicating piquancy and pathos. Her voice is not strikingly vigorous or robust, yet it seemed always sure and certain, after what appeared a suspicion of nervousness at the very outset, in the [beginning] of the "Mi chiamano Mimi." The "Addio" of the third act was the high point of her singing, though her appearance was less beguiling than in the first two acts.

Mr. Kullman, who appeared her last season as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, when he gave us a concert sample of "Rodolfo's Narrative," really carried off the stellar honors of the evening, even though the prima donna interest went to Miss Sayao. His singing was fresh and unaffected, and, though it lacked the "fruitiness" of the typical Italian tenor, it was warm and winning. He also brought visual persuasiveness to the role of Rodolfo, making him a believable poet in appearance, which is certainly something.

Excellence of Ensemble

Another newcomer, Stella Andreva as the vixenish Musetta, was actually more brilliant vocally than was Miss Sayao. She made the most of her limited appearances, and her singing of the "Waltz Song" in the Café Momus scene was capital. The fourth newcomer, Mr. Brownlee as Marcello, sang more effectively, though it can hardly be said that his acting was outstanding, and in the business with Musetta in the third act it seemed rather conventional after the vividness injected into it in times past by the late Antonio Scotti.

Virgilio Lazzari and George Cehanovsky were respectively the Colline and Schaunard. The veteran Louis D'Angelo doubled deftly in the two senile comic relief roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. The stage business throughout was brisk and spontaneous, with some new details, and Gennaro Papi conducted with fine feeling for the score. Considering the soaring sensuous style of some of the musical episodes, there will be no complaint in this quarter because he let the orchestra sing with exuberance on occasion.



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