[Met Performance] CID:121070
Mignon {71} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/13/1937., Broadcast


Metropolitan Opera House
March 13, 1937 Matinee Broadcast

Am. Thomas-Carré/Barbier

Mignon..................Gladys Swarthout
Wilhelm Meister.........Charles Hackett
Philine.................Josephine Antoine
Lothario................Ezio Pinza
Frédéric................Helen Olheim
Laërte..................Angelo Badà
Jarno...................Norman Cordon
Antonio.................Norman Cordon
Dance...................Dollar Leitch

Conductor...............Wilfred Pelletier

Director................Désiré Defrère
Designer................Serge Soudeikine
Choreographer...........George Balanchine

Mignon received four performances this season.

Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times

Ambroise Thomas's "Mignon" was given for the first time this season at the Metropolitan yesterday afternoon with Gladys Swarthout essaying the title rôle so long identified as Lucrezia Bori's particular property on those boards. Miss Swarthout had never appeared in the part before, during her career, and her impersonation of Goethe's heroine was anticipated with considerable curiosity on the part of her many admirers. As Wilhelm Meister, Charles Hackett also made his initial bow of the winter at the Broadway house on this occasion.

Although so often entrusted to sopranos, Mignon originally was intended to be sung by a dramatic mezzo-soprano, and Celestine Galli Marié, who created the rôle at the Opera Comique in Paris, possessed a voice belonging in that category. Therefore, it was not necessary for Miss Swarthout to alter her natural mezzo-soprano tones in any way in order to cope with the music allotted her. From the purely vocal point of view, Mignon is not a very exacting role for the singer. But it demands a voice capable of expressing many conflicting and opposed moods with the utmost sense of conviction, in addition to histrionic ability of no mean order. Galli-Marié's great success in the opera was not due to her vocalism, for her voice was not considered an exceptional one in its day, but her ability as an actress was extraordinary and her Mignon was one that "provoked tears."

Her Work Draws Applause

It would have taken a very susceptible person, indeed, to be moved deeply by Miss Swarthout's interpretation, for of pathos it was completely innocent. Without this prime essential, the part loses its chief characteristic and falls to earth. That Miss Swarthout sang acceptably, or that she was able to negotiate a lyric in lighter vein, such as the "Styrienne," satisfactorily, could not make up for the absence of the pathetic note in her general treatment. Because of this lack, her work registered very little mood of any sort during the entire first act. The "Connais-tu le pays," and the "Swallow" duet found Miss Swarthout decidedly out of her element, her singing in them creating almost no atmosphere and leaving the hearer cold. But her efforts found strong favor, nevertheless, with many in the audience and brought her much applause.

Mr. Hackett was rather too mature a Wilhelm Meister to the eye. but his singing and acting were those of the thoroughly schooled artist, and his French diction was he most perfect heard during the afternoon. Sometimes there was more intensity than elegance in Mr. Hackett's phrases, but he was one of the few members of the cast who got far beneath the skin of the opera. The only others who measured up adequately to the demands made upon them were Ezio Pinza, the Lothario, and Angelo Bada, the Laertes of the personnel. Mr. Pinza has sung more impressively as the old harper in previous years, but Mr. Bada's comedy and song remained on the same commendable level as heretofore.

Josephine Antoine In Cast

Josephine Antoine, who once more assumed the onerous duties of Philine, the part in which she made her debut last season, sang the "Polacca" without mishap, but also without brilliance or anything like the amount of volume needed to give the number its true measure of effectiveness. Almost as lightweight was the Frederic of Helen Olheim, who accomplished little with the "Gavotte" when one remembers what can be done with it, but who acted with plenty of spirit. The cast was completed by Norman Cordon, a sufficiently cruel and domineering Jarno.

That the opera was wanting in animation was due in part to the sluggishness of much of the playing of the orchestra under Wilfred Pelletier's baton. But he could hardly be held responsible for the vapid character of the proceedings on stage during most of the opera. The chorus sang extremely well, with more spirit and gusto than most of the artists concerned, and the "Gypsy Dance" put on by the American Ballet group deserved the hand it received.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).