[Met Performance] CID:132900
Samson et Dalila {71} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/6/1942.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 6, 1942


SAMSON ET DALILA {71}

Samson..................René Maison
Dalila..................Kerstin Thorborg
High Priest.............Leonard Warren
Abimélech...............Lansing Hatfield
Old Hebrew..............Nicola Moscona
Philistine..............John Dudley
Philistine..............Wilfred Engelman
Messenger...............Emery Darcy
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Michael Arshansky
Dance...................Alexis Dolinoff
Dance...................Alexis Kosloff
Dance...................Leon Varkas

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

Review of Robert Lawrence in the New York Herald Tribune

Mme. Thorborg Heard as Dalila at Metropolitan

Sings With Rene Maison in Season's Third Offering of Opera by Saint-Saens

A new and emphatically redheaded heroine made her appearance at the Metropolitan Opera House last night in Saint-Saens "Samson et Dalila." The lady of the flaming wig was Kerstin Thorborg who, aside from her routine work in Wagner, had already gone as far afield as Orfeo, Klytemnestra, Ulrica, Marina and Amneris. Her latest departure owned its good points and, if not completely satisfying, at least raised the opera several notches above its two earlier showings this season.

Perhaps the presence of an unaccustomed Dalila inspired the cast; perhaps something intangible hovered over the opera house. Whatever the reason, this was in many respects a brilliant performance, causing one to revise certain opinions about the effectiveness of Saint-Saens' score. When it is extremely well given, the music can evoke a langorous charm; but "Samson" is not an opera to stand mistreatment.

René Matson, as the hero, sang; with notable power and clarity. He is always, in whatever he undertakes, a noble artist. But his work last night, considered technically as song, ranked far above his own best previous efforts. Leonard Warren, as the High Priest, equaled him in vocal excellence. This young baritone is gaining in finesse on the stage. All of his singing was subordinated to the carrying power of the role; and it was superb.

Lansing Hatfield, taking over his first Abimelech at the Metropolitan, tried hard to make something of a disagreeable role. He succeeded in part. Nicola Moscona was very fine as the Old Hebrew; and the three Philistines were sung by Emery Darcy, John Dudley and Wilfred Engelman. Wilfred Pelletier's conducting was so evocative and so fundamentally sound that I wish he might have achieved a finer-grained orchestral climax at the end of the seduction scene.

There was one mishap in the production last night. As the orchestra was playing the interlude between both scenes of the third act, a dull crash from backstage was clearly heard in the auditorium - the steps put in place for the Temple of Dagon episode had collapsed. Mary Donovan, a member of the chorus, lost her footing and was carried into Mme. Thorborg's dressing room. Dr, Vincenzo Fanoni, attended her, pronouncing the case to be merely one of shock and bruises. After she had been treated by the physician Miss Donovan returned to the stage. The entire incident took place behind a lowered curtain.

I have always wondered why operatic heroines who are supposed to be naturally seductive have to work so hard to gain their ends. Mme. Thorborg did not spare herself, and the general impression of the second act - where a utilitarian couch equipped with cushions lay on the grass in front of her house - was one of a dress rehearsal for the role of Kundry, which she is soon to sing in the forthcoming "Parsifal." This Dalila was fundamentally more frightening than alluring. The over-slim body, decadent make-up and violent wig suggested more of prophylactic warning than of attraction. Yet, within the frame of her own ideas, Mme. Thorborg acted convincingly.

Her voice is somewhat too high for the part, although this worked as an advantage at the climax of the garden episode, where her topmost B-flat rang out with real splendor. But the "Amour viens aider" came off not securely; and the "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix," although more steadily projected, lacked the voluptuous quality of tone one associates with a Dalila. The great canon of the third act, sung together with the High Priest in the temple scene, sounded poorly. And still, I must record that in most of her duet with Samson and in the "Printemps qui commence" of the first act, Mme. Thorborg accomplished some very superior and eloquent singing.

Her costumes, especially the electric green of the night scene, were effective and in good taste. But the too angular quality of her movements and the weirdness of her general appearance did not altogether suggest the temptress. This is an interesting Dalila. Maybe, with less of the demoniacal and more of the fleshly lyrical, it could become outstanding.



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