[Met Performance] CID:122200
Roméo et Juliette {174} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/16/1937.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 16, 1937


Roméo...................Richard Crooks
Juliette................Bidú Sayao
Frère Laurent...........Ezio Pinza
Stéphano................Lucielle Browning
Mercutio................John Brownlee
Benvolio................Max Altglass
Gertrude................Doris Doe
Capulet.................Norman Cordon
Tybalt..................Angelo Badà
Pâris...................Nicholas Massue
Grégorio................George Cehanovsky
Duke of Verona..........Louis D'Angelo

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban
Choreographer...........George Balanchine

Roméo et Juliette received four performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in the Sun

"Romeo et Juliette" Revived

Richard Crooks and Bidu Sayao Sing Title Roles With Brownlee and Pinza in Cast

The evening was Gounod's at the Metropolitan Opera House last night. No one called aloud for Shakespeare - as happened at one of Edmund Kean's performances of "Romeo and Juliet" in London in the last century - when the players came out for their bows. What they played they sang, and in the French of Jules Barbier and Michel Carre.

The return of the Gounod "Romeo et Juliette" to the Metropolitan's active list was achieved in one of those "revivals" that might as well be termed resumptions. An absence of two seasons had not greatly altered either the sound or the visual aspects of the opera, since the settings, like the melodies, were the old familiar ones.

The cast, however, was largely new. Richard Crooks sang Romeo for the first time and the Juliette of Bidu Sayao was a fresh disclosure for Metropolitan subscribers. Also introduced was the Mercutio of John Brownlee, an impersonation seasoned at the Paris Opera. As Stephano and Capulet, respectively, Lucielle Browning and Norman Cordon added other portrayals not heretofore appraised.

To link present and past there was, as always, Angelo Bada, a Tybalt since time out of mind. And of considerably more importance there was Ezio Pinza in the role of Frere Lauent, which he had undertaken at the Metropolitan as early as 1933, though those were the days when Leon Rothier was the friar most commonly confronted. To Mr. Pinza went the first honors for singing in last night's revival, primarily because his was the one really notable voice on the stage. Such was the clamor from behind the rail - augmented appreciably from the main body of the audience - that he had solo bows to take after the trio of the marriage scene.

Among a multitude of operatic settings of the tender, sorry tale of love and family feuds in old Verona, not all of which are founded on Shakespeare, may be noted several that are more politely titled "Giuletta e Romeo." If this would have been the right order of the names for Patti and some of her Romeos it would hardly have told the story for Jean de Reszke and certain of his Juliets. Miss Sayao and Mr. Crooks, if not yet the Bori and Johnson of a new dispensation, were of about equal importance to this revival.

As so often is the case in these times of indifferent preparation for coloratura, the waltz song of the first act was Miss Sayao's least satisfactory achievement. She encompassed the notes, but hers was not singing of a jeweled order. Thereafter she met her lyric obligations acceptably and at time very prettily. In appearance she was credibly youthful. But at no time was she simple. This Juliet was silky and even a bit slinky, a real renaissance glamour girl!

Mr. Crooks did some of the best singing, tonally, that he has put to his credit since he became a member of the opera company. He did this sometimes with liberal use of his soft voice, sometimes by full-throated and impassioned expenditure of all the tone he possessed, as in the final scene. But he was often tentative and cautious in the use of his top notes, even to the extent of making a springboard of a lower one.

In general, the acting of the evening was not of an order to be described as distinguished. By virtue of his flair for something more than approved routine, Mr. Brownlee supplied a mild exception. His "Queen Mab" air was attractively in not brilliantly sung. The baritone put personality into the usually heavy-footed duel scene and died as impressively as the stage business would permit.

In turning her individual page, so to speak, in the records of Stefanos, Miss Browning made thoroughly agreeable use of a voice that seemed to have gained in richness and luster since last season. She can improve the ornamental final phrases of the air, otherwise she may justly consider herself the best of recent embodiments of this character, which, though unknown to Shakespeare, is the cause of Mercutio's death and Romeo's exile, with all that ensues in the operatic version of the tragedy.

Mr. Cordon did not need all of his inches to shoulder competently the not very weighty burdens of Capulet. In lesser parts were Doris Doe as Gertrude, Max Altglass as Benvolio, Nicolas Nassaue as Paris, George Cehanovsky as Gregorio and Louis D'Angelo as the Duke of Verona. The musical direction of Maurice de Abravanel was spirited and the orchestra played well. But given a better account of the prologue than can be chronicled for this performance. The audience was one of normal proportions and commensurate applause.

At this late date there appears to be no imperative call to discuss the music, close kin as it is to Gounod's sturdier and more varied "Faust." But in simple justice, one thing may be said. It is not "rose water."

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