[Met Performance] CID:139090
Carmen {406} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/7/1945.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 7, 1945


CARMEN {406}

Carmen..................Gladys Swarthout [Last performance]
Don José................Charles Kullman
Micaela.................Lillian Raymondi
Escamillo...............Hugh Thompson
Frasquita...............Frances Greer
Mercédès................Martha Lipton
Remendado...............Alessio De Paolis
Dancaïre................George Cehanovsky
Zuniga..................Louis D'Angelo
Moralès.................John Baker
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Marina Svetlova
Dance...................Leon Varkas
Dance...................Alexis Dolinoff
Dance...................Michael Arshansky

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

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Reasonably Potable

Gladys Swarthout made her first appearance in two years at the Metropolitan Opera House last night in a performance of Bizet's immortal "Carmen" that, except for the work of the two principal singers, herself and Charles Kullman, was thoroughly middle-of-the-road. And it was not the vocal mediocrity of the rest of the cast that made these two sound so well. By anybody's standards they sang handsomely.

Miss Swarthout appeared handsomely, too, of course. She always does. She is a beautiful woman, and she knows how to hold the eye. The trouble with her in opera (in this role, at least, which is the only one she ever sings nowadays) is that she simply cannot act convincingly. She cannot stay in character. As Gladys Swarthout going through the motions of Carmen she does unquestionably a high class number. Even as Carmen herself, there are moments of tension. Then she grins and starts swishing around the stage or arranging her clothes, and the illusion is gone. We are right back at the Country Club again.

In contrast to the fidgety frigidity of her person, the voice is all liquid fire and velvet. I do not know its peer today among mezzo-sopranos for warmth or for full, fresh brilliance. Last night she exploited her chest tones more than I have formerly heard her do, and the effect, though not always vocally orthodox, was deeply expressive. Only in the rapid scale passages did she fail of professional mastery.

It is astonishing how few contemporary singers practice their scales. But for dictation, for style in general and for lovely human sounds, her singing was a real delight. She has a real voice, and she is not afraid of it.

Mr. Kullman's Flower Song was first-class work, too. Indeed, throughout the opera he was pleasant to hear and I am sure, a Rock of Ages rhythmically to those working with him. Everybody's enunciation, curiously enough, was pretty clear. I have not ever, I think, previously understood so many whole sentences in that house, no matter what the language, as I did of last night's French. The conductor's far from fiery tempos and general orchestral modesty probably facilitated the projection of the text. In any case, everybody seemed aware that language was involved in the work he was trying to do. As a result a performance far from distinguished numerically, became reasonably potable theater.



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