[Met Performance] CID:141850
Carmen {421} Municipal Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri: 05/14/1946.

(Review)


St. Louis, Missouri
May 14, 1946


CARMEN {421}

Carmen..................Risë Stevens
Don José................Raoul Jobin
Micaela.................Licia Albanese
Escamillo...............Hugh Thompson
Frasquita...............Thelma Votipka
Mercédès................Lucielle Browning
Remendado...............Alessio De Paolis
Dancaïre................George Cehanovsky
Zuniga..................Lorenzo Alvary
Moralès.................John Baker
Dance...................Natasha Tzvetcova
Dance...................Leon Varkas

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

Review of Harry R. Burke in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat

10,067 Enthralled by Met Performance of "Carmen"
An audience of 10, 067 last night in the Convention Hall of Kiel Auditorium sat enthralled on the edge of its seats as it followed Bizet's gypsy cigarette maker through those flirtations which brought her fated death in the Metropolitan Opera Company's performance of "Carmen." It was a presentation dramatically brilliant in vocal aspects, and musically sensitive, one which made a traditional most of the pageantry and color of the Spanish setting.

There was a distinguished cast with Rise Stevens in the title role, Raoul Jobin as Don José, substituting for Robert Merrill, Hugh Thompson as the dashing Escamillo, Licia Albanese as Micaela, and Lorenzo Alvary as Zuniga. While that high average of vocal attainment was reinforced by beautifully blended voices of minor roles in concerted pieces and by a chorus finely responsive and admirably balanced.

An audience socially distinguished - and sartorially as well; although not so brilliant as that which welcomed the Metropolitan on that brief visit which closes with "Rigoletto" at 8:15 o'clock tonight.

EAGER AUDIENCE

An audience in which Colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady shouldered each other, as did their men-folk in eagerness to witness and to hear again that tragic drama so clearly told in action, so insinuantly projected by the music of what in the 70 years since its first night failure has become the most popular opera in the world. So shrewd was Georges Bizet in the colorful drama of the story that he chose, so subtle in his music's evocation of a dripping response from his audience to the mercurial moods of that tragedy.

Miss Stevens was, one may suggest, a schizophrenic Carmen. The vocal identity of her heroine compelled admiration for its deft and incisive portrayal of mood. But the other, the miming part of that split personality, was a brazen and lust wench with all the subtle appeal of a Hollywood pin-up girl who had learned about men from a grandma that just adored Miss Theda Bara.

TRUE MEZZO SOPRANO

A true mezzo soprano, her voice neither gaps nor roughness in the wide range. Top notes of crystalline beauty and lower of passionate warmth unfold, flowing subtly inflected in imaginative portrayal of mercurial moods. Vocally she had captured her audience before the "Habanera" was completed. Peril as well as invitation allure was in its invitation. A personable Carmen, and a personality. With the "Seguidilla" her witchery held Don José captive more surely than his bonds of rope could ever have held him. Full of spirit her guitar aria. And in the "Card Song" vocally she made one feel that Carmencita had seen death impend.

Raoul Jobin's Don José was that essential, a vocal peer of the heroine. His is a golden tenor of brilliant resonance yet capable of eloquent lyric tenderness, as in the letter scene and in the "Flower" song. But he, too, uses voice to postulate emotion through inflected tone. Completely, as when in the utterance of that final cry of "Carmen, my beloved," he left the audience shocked with the conviction of a tragedy it had seen. That was an effective final act, with two splendid singers, through tone itself, convincing the imagination of the boldness and animality which gave way to fear as Carmen faced the knife of one whose moral deterioration she had wrought before our eyes.

MUSICAL SCENERY

Though Escamillo with the bravura, the lusthood, and exhibitionism of youth is the lad to win the heart of Carmen, as he does the audience at first sight, and hearing in his "Toreador" song - with its subtle connotations of death and triumph in the bull ring - that is actually no more than music scenery for all its portrayal of type character. It is - as the audience takes it up silently - by the crowd at the bull ring to celebrate Escamillo's triumph at the moment Carmen is slain.

Last night, however, Hugh Thompson sang the role with a verve and brilliance, despite his sudden substitution, Sang it splendidly. While Licia Albanese was scarcely the image of an innocent country-bred Micaela, her voice made notable contribution to the evening in the letter scene and in her appeal on Don José. Lorenzo Alvary, always popular in St. Louis, gave a vocal distinction to his amusingly flirtatious and overbearing Zuniga.

Costumes, settings and lighting were, as one has said, of a conventional character. Wilfred Pelletier's grip on orchestra, singers and the splendid chorus Kurt Adler had prepared, resulted in a fine and sustaining accompaniment, brilliant yet sensitive.

In all, a splendid presentation which ended in a chorus of enthusiastic applause.



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