[Met Performance] CID:121540
Faust {413} Metropolitan Opera House: 05/3/1937.

(Debuts: Donald Dickson, Robert Nicholson
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
May 3, 1937


FAUST {413}

Faust...................Sydney Rayner
Marguerite..............Hilda Burke
Méphistophélès..........Léon Rothier
Valentin................Donald Dickson [Debut]
Siebel..................Lucielle Browning
Marthe..................Thelma Votipka
Wagner..................Robert Nicholson [Debut]

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

The Metropolitan Begins Its Spring Season of Popular-Priced Opera

The tail-coats and ermine, the famous Normas and Gildas and Siegfrieds and Isoldes of the Winter opera season, have passed from our immediate view. But opera is still with us, even Grand Opera for the Metropolitan began last night, under the management of its new director of vernal activities, Lee Pattison, the second of its annual Spring seasons with a performance of Gounod's "Faust." And if Gounod's "Faust" isn't Grand Opera, Al Smith isn't a New Yorker.

What the Metropolitan presents, according to its official proclamations, is a "season" of grand opera at popular prices, and that is an accurate description; for certainly the prices are as indisputable "popular" as the opera is indisputably "grand," For three dollars you can buy a seat in the Metropolitan's legendary parquet, commanding an excellent view of the stage, and with the golden horseshoe almost over your head, if you happen to want it there. Moreover, you can refresh yourself in the entr-actes by means of adequate potations without leaving the building - and in how many New York theaters is it possible to enjoy that privilege?

The house was occupied last night by a demonstrative audience that may have realized how much it was getting for its money. It was getting, first of all, an opera which, whatever reservations you may have concerning it, is still , at its best, a work of gracious loveliness and power - a lyric-drama that has held the stage for seventy-eight years, and has exerted an extraordinary hold upon operagoer in New York since it was first sung here at the Academy of Music in 1863 in Italian with Clara Louise Kellogg as Marguerite (or Margherita, if you prefer.)

Perhaps, there were a few veteran operagoers in last night's audience who were present when "Faust" opened the Metropolitan's first season on the evening of October 22, 1883. On that occasion the great Christine Nilsson, the Marguerite of the cast, who had enraptured the audience by her singing of the Jewel Song, received from the hands of her admirers a magnificent casket containing a wreath of golden bay leaves and berries, so ingeniously contrived that it could be extended into a girdle to be worn after the classic fashion - a thoughtful device considering the undeniable truth of the assertion that "the only thing which can sing and keep its shape is a bird."

There were no gold bays and berries for last evening's Marguerite, Miss Hilda Burke (of the Metropolitan's Winter troupe). But that need not have saddened her, for she is young enough to have long dreams and hopes; and Nilsson was middle-aged and very famous in 1883. Yet there was much to admire in the Marguerite of Miss Burke. She was artless and simple and ingratiating maidenly and tender, quietly intense. She did not make the mistake that was made by so famous a Marguerite as Melba, for example, who presented that guileless and unfortunate damsel as a "grand dame" who sang like an angel, but who evidently knew her way about, and probably wondered if the jewels were real or imitation.

I fancy that our suppositious veteran of the Metropolitan's "Faust" of 1883 would have considered Miss Burke with an indulgent eye and ear, but certainly he would have hailed with respect and relishing appreciation the Mephistopheles of that inimitable old master of the grand style and secrets of distinguished song and diction, the Metropolitan's eminent veteran Leon Rothier. This was an impersonation in the genuine tradition, delightful in its wit and grace and authority, wholly within the frame of Gounod's serio-comic Fiend; the creation of a rare and sensitive artist.

Mr. Sydney Rayner also a member of the Metropolitan's regular company, contributed his effective voice to a delivery of Faust's music which respected its lyric contours and its expressive requirements but it would be extravagant to say that Mr. Rayner is in action and in aspect the romantic, knightly figure of the opera.

Mr. Donald Dickson who made his debut at the Metropolitan as Valentine, had been promoted to Broadway and Thirty-ninth Street from the Julliard Opera School, where he made an excellent impression a few months ago in the title-role of "Garrick" the opera by Alfred Stoessel and Robert Simon. He seemed less telling last evening in his new environment, but that may well have been due to the stress of the occasion. The competent Wagner was Robert Nicholson, an Australian, was likewise a Broadway debut. It was refreshing to behold in the charming Miss Lucielle Browning of the regular company, a Siebel who did not look like some elderly female friend of Marguerite's masquerading deplorably in tights.

On the whole, this was a performance which opened auspiciously a season of opera that bids far to give pleasure to a large and eager public. Mr. Pattison, a fine musician, an alert executive, a man of taste and vision and audacity, has here an exceptional opportunity for cultural well-doing and bestowal of memorable satisfactions.



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