[Met Performance] CID:139730
Le Coq d'Or {68} Chicago Opera House, Chicago, Illinois: 05/3/1945.

(Review)


Chicago, Illinois
May 3, 1945
In English


LE COQ D'OR {68}

Cockerel................Thelma Votipka
Queen...................Patrice Munsel
Dodon...................Mack Harrell
Amelfa..................Margaret Harshaw
Astrologer..............Anthony Marlowe
Polkan..................John Gurney
Gvidon..................Richard Manning
Afron...................Hugh Thompson
Dance...................Michael Arshansky [Last performance]
Dance...................Kari Karnatoski [Last performance]
Dance...................Mary Smith [Last performance]
Dance...................Ilona Murai
Dance...................Louis Rosen [Last performance]

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

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune

Munsel's Bewitching Queen and Harrell's Lovable Dodon Add Charm to Satirical Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a singing troupe known as the Metropolitan Opera and - wonder of wonders - it had two beautiful coloratura sopranos with unprecedented waistlines. A little damned by such wealth, but determined to do it justice, and fully aware of the brief list of operas willing to cooperate in the matter of uninhibited costumes, the management admitted that one of the gifted girls had priority rights on "Lakmé" and came up proudly with a revival of "The Golden Cockerel" for the other. And as far as I was concerned, it was a fine idea.

As a whole, this production of Rimsky-Korsakoff's satirical fairy tale is no rival for Fokine's superb ballet, simply because dancers have all the edge on exotic appearance, sumptuous surroundings and eloquent mime. But it had in Patrice Munsel a bewitching Queen of Shamakhan, in Mack Harrell a loveable buffoon who understood that Dodon, like Falstaff, is really a tragic figure, and in Emil Cooper a Russian conductor who felt in his fingertips the lovely oriental cures and curlicues of the delectable score.

Times certainly have changed for the Russians. When Rimsky wrote the opera it was too near the loss of the Russo-Japanese war for the government to countenance the wry jibes at a doddering tsar who went sadly and creakily away to war, cowering behind a rusty shield and doing his best to handle a broad sword that threatened momentarily to disprove Ko-Ko's assertion that self-deprecation isn't easy. In May of 1945 when you see Russian legions quacking on the eve of battle you know it's a fairy tale, with more burlesque than satire.

So I'm not disposed to quarrel with the broad burlesque of the new English adaptation for that and at least two other reasons. One, that I can't read Russian and have no idea how far this version is from the original, and two, that I couldn't understand more than one word in ten, anyway. Opera in English is a wonderful theory, but in practice it's gibberish in the unknown tongue.

No matter - the story of the fatuous old tsar's enslavement by the oriental queen, and his death when he refuses her to the astrologer who wants her in payment for the golden cockerel may be subtle in implication, but is miles wide in fact. The satirical confusion in war making is lost in the first act, but there is no confusion at all about the love making in the second. Miss Munsel, a ravishing siren with just the faint touch of the repellent that keeps the role in character, sang the delicate arabesques that make her whole role one "Hymn to the Sun" with a lovely mixture of the remote, the calculating, the spontaneous, and the mischievous. It was Baranova's dancing Queen she mimed, with sound. Mr. Harrell succumbed with a touching exhibition of a fat old man who really knew better making a fool of himself.

Mr. Gurney was something more than a man in costume as Polkan, and Mr. Thompson suggested an idea of what it was all about. Miss Votipka sang the voice of the cockerel well, tho the trumpet made the song its unforgettable own, and the ballet was mildly decorative without being in any danger of obscuring Miss Munsel's place in the operatic sun. With any luck at all, she shouldn't go into eclipse for many a melodious season.



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