[Met Performance] CID:135300
Faust {442} Chicago Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois: 03/23/1943.


Chicago, Illinois
March 23, 1943

FAUST {442}

Faust...................Raoul Jobin
Marguerite..............Eleanor Steber
Méphistophélès..........Norman Cordon
Valentin................Richard Bonelli
Siebel..................Lucielle Browning
Marthe..................Thelma Votipka
Wagner..................Wilfred Engelman

Conductor...............Thomas Beecham

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune

Beecham in Pit Lends Novelty to Pallid "Faust"

Illness struck twice at the Metropolitan's cast of "Faust" last night, replacing Licia Albanese with Eleanor Steber in the major role of Marguerite, and Mack Harrell with Wilfred Engelman as the hapless Wagner who struts his brief moment on the stage just to start a song for the arrogant Mephisto to interrupt. As the cast was none too strong to begin with, and Miss Steber turned out to be a disappointing Marguerite, "Faust" fell far below the shining standard set by "The Marriage of Figaro."

Its most persuasive points were Beecham's energetic pursuit of the beauty and brimstone of Gounod's imperishable score, the solid [in fact, the almost immovable] quality of the chorus, Richard Bonelli was Valentin, and the first Chicago performance of Norman Cordon, who would be a poor man's Pinza if he had less distinction to call his own.

As the "Faust" settings were our own, and the chorus had a familiar look from old Chicago and Ravinia days, the novelty lay in the pit. There the lively Briton conducted in a style which suggested he was doing his daily six dozen. Up and down, back and forth, with tennis strokes right and left, now beaming with encouragement, now shushing so loudly it seemed that someone was hissing, that was the British baronet enmeshed in the lovely score. Sometimes the result was so delightful, you wished the stars would stop singing.

That would not be, of course, because Gounod did not know how to write as enchantingly for the human voice as for the voices of the orchestra, but because so few human voices today can cope with the full implications of the score. Miss Steber, for instance, has a beautiful soprano, luxuriously warm and blessed with a rare legato line, but it lacks the sparkling, shining, blandishing qualities that can make the score outshine the jewels of the tempting casket. And Mr. Jobin, who has a good tenor, sings in two gearshifts, missing the fluid loveliness of the Cavatina and the general magic of the music so lavishly written for the part. Nor did he look like what a man is entitled to resemble, proving he is willing to trade his soul to the devil to recapture youth.

That devil, being Mr. Cordon, would have struck a hard bargain. There was steel beneath the tall distinction of his bearing, and reticence below a characterization generally patterned on Mr. Pinza's, tho of course, without the great voice to back it up. But it is a good voice, and the man has style.

Mr. Bonelli's Valentin was well sung, tho a bit on the glum side. Miss Browning will be a good Siebel when she learns to handle a fresh young voice of real size and caliber, and Miss Votipka was a routine Martha. The staging was standard, and the ballet was considerably less persuasive than the orchestra's way with the waltz. In fact, the Metropolitan will have to do better than "Faust" if it hopes to sell Chicago a bill of operatic goods.

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