[Met Performance] CID:121660
Mârouf {14} Metropolitan Opera House: 05/21/1937.

(Debuts: Nancy McCord, Enrico Manghi, Amedeo Mazzanti
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
May 21, 1937
In English


MÂROUF {14}
Rabaud-Népoty

Mârouf..................Mario Chamlee
Saamcheddine............Nancy McCord [Debut]
Sultan..................Louis D'Angelo
Vizier..................Norman Cordon
Fattoumah...............Thelma Votipka
Ali.....................Daniel Harris
Fellah..................George Rasely
Ahmad...................John Gurney
Cadi....................Robert Nicholson
Policeman...............Enrico Manghi [Debut]
Policeman...............Amedeo Mazzanti [Debut]
Sailor..................Nicholas Massue
Muezzin.................Nicholas Massue
Muezzin.................Lodovico Oliviero
Merchant................George Rasely
Merchant................John Gurney
Muleteer................Lodovico Oliviero
Sheik-al-Islam..........Ludwig Burgstaller
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Rabana Hasburgh
Dance...................Eugene Loring

Conductor...............Wilfrid Pelletier

Director................Désiré Defrčre
Choreographer...........George Balanchine
Translation by M. Marshall, G. Mead

Mârouf received two performances this season.

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

"Marouf" Sung In English, with Chamlee in Role

American Tenor Portrays Cobbler in Rabaud Opera Revived After 17 Years

Nancy McCord in Debut

Long Island Soprano in Her First Metropolitan Part

Seventeen years and four months after his last appearance on this stage, Henri Rabaud's operatic cobbler of Cairo, Marouf, returned to the Metropolitan Opera House last night to bluff his way successfully to the possession of rank, fortune and a princess before a large and applausive audience. The Marouf who had accomplished these feats here in the eleven performances of Rabaud's opera between 1917 and 1920 was the well-remembered Giuseppe De Luca, who, with his colleagues, sang Lucian Nepoty's original French libretto, but Marouf's adventures were set forth this time in English by an American tenor, Mario Chamlee. As the princess, who was impersonated in the former production by Frances Alda, Nancy McCord, a young soprano from Long Island, who has sung several roles in musical comedy on Broadway, made her first Metropolitan appearance.

Chamlee's Singing Lauded

"Marouf," the composer of which was to become conductor of the Boston Symphony for a season four years later, was first performed in Paris at the Opera Comique in May 1914, and brought to the Metropolitan on December 19, 1917. The last performance, under Albert Wolff, was on January 2, 1920. The opera, according to a colleague who witnessed the Paris premiere was originally scored for a high barytone, and later revised for a tenor - and judging by the style of the music, the assignment of Marouf's lines to a tenor is probably more effective.

The opera seemed to be well relished on its reappearance, and has several elements which may give it renewed popularity on Broadway and Fortieth Street. The chief one of these is Mr. Chamlee, who, while he had not sung Marouf here before, is a specialist in the role which he has sung in the United States at Ravinia, and also in Paris where he was coached for it by the composer. His characterization can be regarded as one of the most individual and artistically well rounded portrayals which he has given here in his distinguished career. Marouf's varied emotions, his whimsical humor, and the jaunty confidence with which he carries through his pretense - a sort of early "blue sky" salesmanship whose claims are realized through an uncalculated stroke of good fortune - were vividly and infectiously expressed. The singer was also in notable voice, suiting its timbre to the quasi-Oriental flavor of much of the music and displaying a laudable vocal artistry in the more lyric moments of the score, such as the apostrophe to the princess in the third act.

Mr. Chamlee made a virtually perfect score in the clarity of his English, and clearness of enunciation also characterized Miss McCord's singing. A princess of pleasing appearance, which justified Marouf's floridly expressed rapture, she seemed entirely at home on the lyric stage, and displayed a voice of sufficient volume and fresh and likeable quality commendably produced. Some tones were not thoroughly focused or entirely firm of surface, but a Metropolitan debut traditionally calls for making some allowance in vocal appraisal.

Egyptian Music Used

"Marouf," after two decades, proved to be an easy-going, often amusing opera, aided by a production which, on the whole, proved one of the Metropolitan's best vernal achievements. Rabaud's music does not fail to give a strong impression of Oriental color to suit its story, and this is its most salient characteristic, both in the elaborate mastery orchestration, and in much of the song. This is to be classed as lyric speech, avoiding set numbers, although it occasionally takes on an arioso character and often becomes ornate in a duly exotic manner. Rabaud can be credited with first class craftsmanship, in the color and descriptiveness of his instrumental score and effective combination of instruments and voices; the orchestra does not displace or overwhelm the song.

Yet, striking musical ideas are relatively few, the lyric flights while tuneful and very agreeable, not soaring particularly high. According to H. E, Khrebiel, Rabaud employed two or three specimens of genuine Egyptian music, but often the Orientalism is of a type which has also served other European composers who have depicted Eastern scenes. Its constant employment makes for a certain lack of variety especially in the first two acts, where a little judicious cutting might be useful. The pace of the performance and the variety of the music increased during the later scenes.

The English translation, the authors of which have scored previous successes in this field, is idiomatic and well fitted to the music, and the general distinctness of its projection merited much praise. Mr. Harris, as Marouf's helpfully scheming friend, Ali; Mr. d'Angelo as the trustful Sultan; Mr. Cordon, as the nasal voiced, imprudently farsighted Vigier, and Miss Votipka gave convincing impersonations, and the other roles were, in general, well cast. The ballet added to the Oriental atmosphere with due sinuousness in the perhaps overextended dance music of the second act.

On the whole, the performance under Mr. Pelletier, who had conducted the score several times at Ravinia, was well coordinated and ably presented, although a little tightening up might be advisable to offset the occasional risks of languor which the work offers in addition to its capabilities for exceptional diversion. The non-vocal actor in the cast, the fifteen-year-old donkey, Tiny, showed a few signs of temperament, but as a rule proved a laudable member of the opera's personnel.



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