[Met Performance] CID:134080
Lakmé {52} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/2/1942.

(Debut: Marie Wilkins, Jacques Gérard
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 2, 1942


LAKMÉ {52}
Delibes-Gondinet/Gille

Lakmé...................Marie Wilkins [Debut]
Gérald..................Jacques Gérard [Debut]
Mallika.................Irra Petina
Frédéric................George Cehanovsky
Nilakantha..............Ezio Pinza
Hadji...................John Garris
Ellen...................Marita Farell
Rose....................Maxine Stellman
Mrs. Bentson............Doris Doe
Fortuneteller...........Lodovico Oliviero
Merchant................John Dudley
Thief...................Wilfred Engelman
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Alexis Dolinoff
Dance...................Jack Gansert

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

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Joseph Novak
Choreographer...........Laurent Novikoff

Lakme received four performances this season.

Review signed "E" in the Musical America of December 10, 1942

Wilkins and Gerard Debuts

Making her Metropolitan debut as a pinch-hitter for a famed prima donna was the double-barreled fortuity which thrust Marie Wilkins, young Kansas soprano, into the Manhattan operatic spotlight on the evening of Dec. 2. The opera was 'Lakmé' and the prima donna was Lily Pons, who was unable to appear in the title role because of a cold. Miss Wilkins assumed the part on twenty-four hours' notice. Another debutant of the evening was Jacques Gerard, French-Canadian tenor, in the leading male role of Gerald.

The usual dicta of criticism must be suspended in this instance, so far as Miss Wilkins is concerned. She was on what is appropriately known as a spot, and she is deserving of all congratulations for having gone through with the performance at all. Naturally, she, was nervous, vocally stiff and somewhat uncertain, especially in the beginning. But she warmed to the stage and did some attractive singing, within a small frame, as the opera progressed. She also managed many effective bits of dramatic business. One looks forward to hearing her again under normal conditions.

Mr. Gerard is a well-routined singer of the authentic French school. His voice, with the characteristic nasal quality, is ample in size and more than adequate technically for the Delibes music. His style of acting would be much improved proved if certain operetta and ballet-like characteristics were suppressed. The performance was dominated, vocally and dramatically, by Ezio Pinza's Nilakantha. Irra Petina was an effective Mallika. Lesser roles were portrayed by Marita Farell, Lucielle Browning, Doris Doe, George Cehanovsky, John Garris, Lodovico Oliviero, John Dudley and Wilfred Engelman. Wilfred Pelletier conducted.



Review of Robert Lawrence in the Herald Tribune

Marie Wilkins In Debut Takes Lily Pons' Place

Metropolitan Hears Her in "Lakmé"; She Had Role Ready Just by Chance

A singularly dramatic debut took place in last night's performance of "Lakmé" at the Metropolitan Opera House. The title role of this work is synonymous for present-day audiences with Lily Pons, since it remains the French soprano's finest and most justly celebrated part. Miss Pons, ill with a cold, had been unable to appear in the general rehearsal of "Lakmé" on Monday. Last evening her place was taken, as it had been at the rehearsal, by Marie Wilkins, a coloratura born in Cortland, N. Y. and now living in Lawrence, Kansas.

Miss Wilkins, semi-finalist in last year's Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, had arrived in New York recently to try, once more in this year's contest. Preparing by chance the rather obscure role of Lakmé, she received an emergency call from management to make her debut last night.

Such an opportunity always carries with it a supreme test not only for the artistry but for the nervous endurance of the artist concerned. This reviewer, from first-hand experience knows what it means to stand up in a great opera house during one's first performance and be expected to deliver the goods. Miss Wilkins, although she had sung in a few European theaters, had not taken part in any American representations of opera before last night. Under the circumstances she did well.

The voice is potentially a good one, not always impeccably produced, but capable of sympathetic tone. Musically, Miss Wilkins proved dependable. Much more can be written about her vocal status after a second or third performance. A tentative high E at the end of the Bell Song last night was undoubtedly due to a case of debut jitters. This soprano should be heard again under less of a nervous strain; and meanwhile one can praise her pluck in going on last night in an emergency.

Her characterization carried a certain amount of dramatic appeal. She was unfortunate in make-up, looking too Nordic for a Hindu princess. But Miss Wilkins was at all times creditably within the picture.

Jacques Gerard, the French-Canadian tenor, also making his Metropolitan debut last night, sang intelligently and with good routine, if also with a somewhat variable quality of tone. Irra Petina was an excellent Mallika; George Cehanovsky an adequate Gerald; and Ezio Pinza, who has made unmistakable strides this season in the matter of sheer artistry, again dominated the proceedings though the magnificence of his voice.

The stage pictures, done in the Parisian pseudo-oriental style which is called for by the libretto and music, looked handsome last night and the direction of Desire Defrere was smoothly contrived. No little of the performance's effectiveness as a whole, arose from the conducting of Wilfred Pelletier, who brought tonal effectiveness and glow to the scoring of Delibes. The traditional ballet of the second act went nicely; and in general, except for the regrettable absence of Miss Pons, this was an above the average "Lakmé."



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