[Met Performance] CID:130270
Faust {427} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/25/1940.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 25, 1940


FAUST {427}
Gounod-Barbier/Carré

Faust...................Jussi Björling
Marguerite..............Helen Jepson
Méphistophélès..........Nicola Moscona
Valentin................Leonard Warren
Siebel..................Helen Olheim
Marthe..................Thelma Votipka
Wagner..................Wilfred Engelman
Dance...................Lillian Moore
Dance...................Josef Levinoff

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Designer................Joseph Urban
Choreographer...........Boris Romanoff

Faust received five performances this season.


Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times

'FAUST' PRESENTED AT METROPOLITAN

Holiday Audience Hears First Performance for Season of Opera by Gounod

VOTIPKA HEARD AS MARTHE

Jussi Björling sings Name Role and Nicola Moscona that of Mephistopheles

A demonstrative audience of good size was on hand for the season's first performance of Gounod's "Faust" last night at the Metropolitan Opera House. It would be a pleasure to be able to say truthfully that the presentation was all that it should have been. But singers are as human as the rest of us, and the enervating, unseasonably warm weather seemingly affected most of the members of the cast.

All of the participants worked with a will to overcome the atmosphere of inertia that enveloped the proceedings, but despite their efforts the opera refused to acquire any considerable sense of life and reality. Thelma Votipka, the Marthe of the evening, was the only one of the vocalists on stage who was capable of entering entirely into the spirit of the work. Her first-rate comedy in the garden-scene quartet provided a most refreshing episode in a lagging unfoldment of the score.

Near the start of this quartet some new business was introduced which proved exceedingly amusing. Mephistopheles plucked an immense sunflower from the garden and presented it to Marthe, who held it grotesquely before her. She finally began pulling out its petals and hurling them about in a hilarious manner that brought on a big laugh from the Christmas-night opera devotees.

All of the vocalists of the personnel had appeared here previously in their respective parts. It had been intended originally to give Norman Cordon his first chance to sing Mephistopheles with the company on this holiday. But he was indisposed and the role was assumed by Nicola Moscona. Mr. Moscona's voice wanted the variety of color needed for the Devil's music, and his interpretation possessed little of the bragadaccio, or the sardonic and sinister qualities required. His dark tones are far better suited to roles of quite another type from this, in which he proved out of his real element.

Jussi Björling, on the contrary, was vocally on congenial ground in the name part. His Faust may not have had all of the romantic glamour expected of Goethe's hero as regards bearing and appearance, but his singing lived up to expectations. His tones were pure, firm and suave throughout their range and, with the exception of the high C in "Salut, demeure," which suffered a hitch in the middle, all of his top notes were admirably true and of fine quality.

Helen Jepson was a comely and appealing Marguerite and did some very creditable work in the course of the evening, such as her effective rendition of the "Roi de Thule" ballad at the start of the second act. She was least at home in the coloratura passages of the "Jewel Song," where a more highly effective technique is demanded than was at her command on this occasion.

Leonard Warren's rich voice soared forth impressively in the music allotted Valentin, though at
times he was not entirely dependable in matters of pitch. As Siebel, Helen Oelheim forced her tones in a manner new to her, and this resulted in many a wavering sound.

The ballet corps danced in the in picturesque peasant style in Kermesse scene, but the chorus sounded rather dispirited, as did Wilfred Pelletier's orchestra, which was often at odds with the singers as to the whereabouts of the barline.



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