[Met Performance] CID:133410
Orfeo ed Euridice {52} Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 03/23/1942.

(Debut: Janet Murray

Boston, Massachusetts
March 23, 1942


Orfeo...................Kerstin Thorborg
Euridice................Jarmila Novotna
Amore...................Marita Farell
Happy Shade.............Annamary Dickey
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Janet Murray [Debut]

Conductor...............Bruno Walter

Review of Cyrus Durgin in the Boston Globe


"Orfeo" by Gluck, Sung Here for First Time in 50 Years

"Orfeo," Christoph Willbald Gluck's venerable great-grandsire of modern opera, has at last been heard in Boston after 50 years. The Metropolitan Opera Association, continuing their ninth annual engagement here, put it on at the Metropolitan Theater last evening. The general caliber of the performance may be gathered from mere statement that Kerstin Thorborg was Orfeo, and that Bruno Walter conducted.

Yes, in musical essentials, this "Orfeo" is a production in which the Metropolitan may take satisfaction. "Orfeo," by modern standards has no dramatic action at all, and can be no more spectacular than the pantomime of the Furries in Hell. While there are four solo roles, only that of Orfeo is consistently important. It is no doubt futile to think that the work could even be box office now, as numerous empty seats last night attested. "Orfeo" is therefore a treasured item for the musically knowing and a labor for the love of art. The Boston Opera Association is entitled to much credit for bringing it here.

For all its lack of theatrical effect, Gluck's masterpiece is not a museum piece; not musically, at least. For Orfeo, the 18th Century genius of the lyric stage wrote music of great melodic beauty and dignity and passion. His orchestra, too, is marvelously expressive within the limits of Gluck's resources, serving both to reflect the feelings of Orfeo and Euridice and to create atmosphere for the scenes Infernal and Elysian. And the whole score has endured with a freshness of color and emotion that is simply astonishing.

A contralto who is also a musician of versatility and style and a conductor of similar powers are absolutely indispensable for "Orfeo." In Mme. Thorborg, the Metropolitan has a superb Orfeo, who sings noble music with a noble simplicity and feeling and ravishing beauty of tone. Mr. Walter is an ideal conductor for the opera, choosing just the right tempo, maintaining an orchestra tone of just balance and crystal-clear quality. His performance is vital, as well, rhythmically spirited and often passionate, serving to remind us that classics in their own day are not monuments of stuffy austerity, but living art.

Mme. Novotna is a very beautiful Euridice. In general, she sings the part well, although last night some of her tones were pinched and in the fatal scene between Orfeo and Euridice her musical and dramatic style was too broad, as if she were singing Verdi rather than Gluck. Miss Dickey carried off her few moments nicely. Miss Farell's voice was inclined to be shrill and unsteady.

The Metropolitan staging is not all of a piece. The grouping and motion upon the stage are evidently intended to suggest figures upon vases, but the execution of the movement does not always realize that good intention. The ballet does better with the tumult of the Furries than with the blissful dances of the Elysian Fields. And why are the hair-dos of the Elysian dancers so conspicuously unlike the Grecian manner? The setting for Euridice's tomb, somberly designed and lighted, was all right even if it did not make one think of the front door to Gen. Agamemnon's disorderly house. The rest of the settings were unimaginative and disappointing.

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