[Met Performance] CID:140510
Les Contes d'Hoffmann {66} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/12/1946., Broadcast


Metropolitan Opera House
January 12, 1946 Matinee Broadcast

Jacques Offenbach-Jules Barbier

Hoffmann................Raoul Jobin
Olympia.................Pierrette Alarie
Giulietta...............Blanche Thebom
Antonia.................Jarmila Novotna
Lindorf.................Martial Singher
Coppélius...............Martial Singher
Dappertutto.............Martial Singher
Dr. Miracle.............Martial Singher
Nicklausse..............Lucielle Browning
Andrès..................Lodovico Oliviero
Cochenille..............Lodovico Oliviero
Pitichinaccio...........Lodovico Oliviero
Frantz..................Alessio De Paolis
Luther..................Gerhard Pechner
Nathanael...............Richard Manning
Hermann.................John Baker
Spalanzani..............Alessio De Paolis
Schlemil................Lorenzo Alvary
Crespel.................Nicola Moscona
Mother's Voice..........Margaret Harshaw

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

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mary Percy Schenck

Les Contes d'Hoffmann received four performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


Excellent Performance given of Offenbach's 'Hoffmann,' -- All Parts Finely Sung

"Les Contes d'Hoffmann," the incomparable masterpiece of Jacques Offenbach, was given a performance of unusual spirit and excellence yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House.

In carefully mounting this great opera the Metropolitan does a special service, for it is not only a score of exceptional popular appeal, but a work that should be most intimately and thoroughly known to any lover of the musico dramatic art.

For long years, when American musical culture was over-imimpressed, sometimes almost stupefied, as it appeared, with arbitrary German standards, an opera by Offenbach was considered unimportant and beneath the attention of serious musicians, if only because it was not pretentious in its contents and had not steam-roller orchestration and symphonic apparatus to make it sound important.

This is not said to under-value or decry the Wagnerian opera, which this writer intensely enjoys and admires, but it is unfortunate that fanatical admiration for one kind of music often blinds its adherents completely to appreciation of another. Long pages could be written about the genius that is contained in "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," book as well as verses, for the book is a wonder of imagination and originality, though its authors, Barbier and Carre, were not even mentioned on yesterday's Metropolitan program.

Full Import of Work

For the casual listener it may be enough that the music is so simple and melodic, albeit truly emotional and dramatic in a light style which belies its significance, that it will entertain without explanation, without even an understanding of the text of the libretto. But when the full import of the work is realized one listens to an opera, made from the stories of the romantic writer and musician, E. T. A. Hoffmann, which is the very quintessence of the nostalgia, the soul searchings, the Faustian ideology of the romantic era.

For Hoffmann is the dreamer to whom the unreal is the reality, and the reality tangled, incongruous stuff of a tragical dream. Life is for him a series of masks, under which lurk unattainable beauty and inexplicable evil. And so the soul of the poet traverses the earth, seeking for what it cannot find. Perhaps, as the muse of art tells Hoffmann in the original book, there is one refuge-the ideal, reflected in art, the only true and constant mistress.

No one need suspect this symbolism while watching a gay and fantastical show, But the dreams and the ache of the lonely quest are in much of the music and the strange adventure is mirrored in the stage settings now the beer cellar of Luther in Munich; now a house of a worldly and curious splendor; the palace of a Venetian courtesan on the Grand Canal; the humble home of Crespel and the doomed Antonia, last of Hoffmann's vain loves, in Munich.

Singher Equal to Tests

The characters are themselves symbols, and yesterday Martial Singher took, for the first time on the Metropolitan stage, the four successive impersonations of the evil that dog Hoffmann's footsteps. And fortunately this remarkably accomplished artist was fully equal to the varied tests of his powers. He was Lindorf, the counselor, watching like a spider in his corner while Hoffmann tried to forget his lot, liquoring with boon companions, but never to escape the memories of the irremediable past. He was the malicious, crackpot inventor of the mechanical doll, Olympia, whose form was everything that man might require-a matter purely, said her ostensible father, of "la physique." He was the bravo and soldier of fortune, Dappertutto; elegant and military, suave, threatening, his sword always available for the kill. And, finally, he was Doctor Miracle, a characterization, in Mr. Singher's hands, with no equal in our memory since the interpretation, years ago, of Maurice Renaud. Here at last was the real note of the sardonic and the macabre, conveyed with a power that no previous Metropolitan artist, at least for two decades, has shown.

All these roles, or parts of a quadruple role, so disparate, require extreme finish and versatility of style; also require perfect diction in French, which is preeminently Mr. Singher's; and the mastery of song whereby he shows what can be done with a voice of not a particularly ingratiating quality. This achievement alone would have made the performance worthwhile.

New Olympia Is Heard

In addition, there was a new Olympia for the first act---the Canadian soprano, Pierrette Alarie, who sang the role here for the first time, She has a brilliant coloratura and good stage business in the representation of the stiff gestures of the mechanistic doll. As is often the case with a voice of this type, its strength and clearness are in the upper octaves; the lower part is less well projected. There were passing blemishes which future performances could rub away.

The sumptuous voiced Blanche Thebom was the Giulietta. Mr. Jobin sang with romantic impetuosity and admirably characterized Hoffmann. Mr. Moscona's Crespel was one of the best we have seen. Then there were Mr. de Paolis' masterly portraits of the crafty Spalanzani and the deaf servant, Franz, who did so much with one little song in the third act that he stopped the show.

Mme. Novotna gave a rarely moving portrayal of Antonia, singing with true pathos, although at moments with wiry high tones. Miss Browning's Nicklausse was well done throughout. Mr. Manning's Nathanael in its vivid impersonation and excellent vocal quality stood out. One looked in vain for an inadequate minor role.

It was a pleasure to see the Prologue given its full importance and completeness-the empty stage with the flickering spirits of the casks and the unseen voices, the chorus of students, excellent in action and song, Mr. Pelletier gave life and significance to every part of the score, controlling his singers on the stage as well as the players in the orchestra pit. The long ovation at the end of the performance indicated that on this occasion "Les Contes D'Hoffmann" had come fully into its own,

Opera News

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).