[Met Performance] CID:131770
Carmen {370} Eastman Theatre, Rochester, New York: 05/5/1941.

(Review)


Rochester, New York
May 5, 1941


CARMEN {370}

Carmen..................Gladys Swarthout
Don José................Giovanni Martinelli
Micaela.................Licia Albanese
Escamillo...............Richard Bonelli
Frasquita...............Thelma Votipka
Mercédès................Helen Olheim
Remendado...............Alessio De Paolis
Dancaïre................George Cehanovsky
Zuniga..................Louis D'Angelo
Moralès.................Arthur Kent
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Grant Mouradoff [Last performance]

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

Review of A. J. Warner in the Rochester Times-Union

"Carmen" Delights Audience

A raging blizzard accompanied last year's visit of the Metropolitan Opera Association to Rochester. Balmy May weather prevailed for this season's performance, but even so the Eastman Theater last night was by no means filled to capacity. There was a large audience, nevertheless, and one sensed its deep pleasure in the work chosen for presentation, which was Bizet's "Carmen," one of the three or four most perfect operas ever written - perfect in the utter harmony of the music and the libretto, with the score and the book forming a complete unit.

People are sometimes apt to take "Carmen" for granted as a tuneful, familiar score in which the resplendent "Toreador" solo receives the first tribute of public admiration and with the "Habanera" and the "Segudilla" of the first act, also sure of a warm reception, whereas the glorious qualities of the opera really place it with Mozart's "Don Giovanni," Wagner's "Die Meistersinger," and Puccini's "La Bohème" in the kind of matchless classification every note of the music reflecting the meaning of the mood and the words it accompanies. This seemed to be borne in upon last evening's assemblage, perhaps subconsciously, for there was the sort of absorption in the proceedings that only a masterwork brings forth.

The fact that, while the performance was dramatic and lyrically worthy of the illustrious Metropolitan, it was not a great one, served all the more powerfully to illustrate the superb quality of the opera itself - an opera which stands among the immortals. The stage of the Eastman seemed to be somewhat cramped and to "compress" the settings which would not, under the circumstances, give much of an illusion of space, and there was one moment, in the second act, when a door of the inn became a bit recalcitrant just as Mr. Martinelli was about to make his entrance. Yet these things were superficial, and in no way kept Bizet's magnificent and fascinating music from working its accustomed spell.

There may be no "great" Carmens today, great as was Calvé's and histrionically electric as was Mary Garden's, but Gladys Swarthout made the role charming and arresting. She was lovely to look at, and she has a beautiful voice. Her Carmen was a coquette, instead of a wanton. She was a woman unscrupulous, seductive, hard, who knew well the game of life and played it her way regardless of the consequences, although she was never a vulgarian. She sang alluringly, both in the role's famous arias and in the less well-known and equally enchanting melodies which Bizet has so richly provided.

Wins Ovation

To Micaela fall so comparatively few passages that they are hardly as definite as a "leit-motif." These same passages, however, are endowed with a magic beauty and reflect the composer's skill at characterization through the medium of music. Licia Albanese sang them so exquisitely that she won a personal ovation. So, too, the quintet of the smugglers, early in the third act, one of the most attractive numbers in the opera, and the duet of the fortune-tellers stood out as being especially beguiling, while the interweaving of the trumpet-recall with Carmen's dance, and the baleful phrase that expresses her evil influence over Don José illustrated Bizet's consummate taste and brilliancy.

Giovanni Martinelli, the veteran tenor, was the Don José and Richard Bonelli appeared as Escamillo. Thelma Votipka was Frasquita and Helen Olheim sang the part of Mercedes.

While the incidental dances at the beginning of act four were apparently to the liking of the audience, they seemed to break the dramatic spell of that always intense scene, which by the very nature of the plot has to move apace.

Wilfred Pelletier conducted in able fashion, and with unfailing musicianship.



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