[Met Performance] CID:137240
Pelléas et Mélisande {40} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 03/21/1944.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
March 21, 1944


Pelléas.................Raoul Jobin
Mélisande...............Bidú Sayao
Golaud..................John Brownlee
Arkel...................Alexander Kipnis
Geneviève...............Margaret Harshaw
Yniold..................Lillian Raymondi
Physician...............Louis D'Angelo

Conductor...............Emil Cooper

Review of Max de Schauensee in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

The magic of that unique and lonely score, Debussy's "Pélleas et Mélisande" finally held and subdued the large and rather restless audience which assembled to hear the Metropolitan perform the opera at the Academy of Music last night. It took two acts to accomplish this, and to be perfectly truthful, the fault was not altogether with the audience, for it was not until the Tower Scene, and the unfolding of the love of Pélleas and Mélisande, that the performance came to life.

The first two acts, which embrace six scenes, seemed of a muffled, uninspired quality and the emotions of the singers and, the intention and direction of the drama, vague and disturbingly nebulous. However, a thing which often unaccountably happens in a performance took place in the poetic Tower episode. It was as though the wind had suddenly shifted. The audience sat up and took notice and everybody seemed to come to life. The improvement coasted on a gradual crescendo until it reached a superb and deeply moving fifth act.

Rarely Given Work

Pélleas et Mélisande" is a real experience. The Metropolitan had not given it here for years, though in the interim the Philadelphia Opera Company has done the city distinguished service with two excellent performances in English. Last night there were certain obstacles to overcome, chief among them the sudden indisposition of Martial Singher announced to sing Pélleas. Brilliant things had been reported about this impersonation, and the substitution of Raoul Jobin undeniably weakened the performance.

Both Mr. Jobin and Mr. Brownlee are excellent and reliable artists, but neither of them are particularly designed by nature to appear with signal success in the roles of Pélleas and Golaud. Mr. Jobin has a resonant voice and sings with passion, but there is more to Pélleas than just that. The illusive and ephemeral quality of the character is beyond this artist's range through no fault of his own. Likewise, Mr. Brownlee is too lyric an artist to be an altogether successful Golaud. The role requires a heavier voice and a more solid physique. The iron-grey color of Mélisande's elderly husband is not quite Mr. Brownlee's affair.

Bidu Sayao in Cast

Bidu Sayao makes and appealing Mélisande, childlike and wistful, but the mystery and detachment of the character is missing, and certain significant phrases in this music should stand out more than they do. Best of the singers last night was Alexander Kipnis, a majestic and affecting Arkel, whose efforts brought an emotion to the closing scene that was profoundly moving. The basso's voice sounded wonderfully well in Debussy's music and not soon to be forgotten was his pronouncement of the great phrase, "Si j'etais Dieu, J'aurais pitie des coeurs des homes." Margaret Harshaw's lovely voice shone to great advantage in the role of Genevieve and Lillian Raymondi was an excellent Yniold.

Emil Cooper, making his first appearance here, directed the orchestra more heroically than one is accustomed to in this opera. Greater transparency seemed desirable and this would have helped to project Maeterlinck's text, which often seemed submerged in the orchestral flood. However, there was passion, vitality and authority in Mr. Cooper's mettlesome achievement.

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