[Met Performance] CID:144570
Faust {464} Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/9/1947.


Cleveland, Ohio
April 9, 1947

FAUST {464}

Faust...................Charles Kullman
Marguerite..............Dorothy Kirsten
Méphistophélès..........Ezio Pinza
Valentin................Robert Merrill
Siebel..................Maxine Stellman
Marthe..................Claramae Turner
Wagner..................George Cehanovsky

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

Review of Herbert Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer


Basso Holds Audience of 9,000 Spellbound

Remember the "Soldier's Chorus" in your grade school songbooks? Well, that was from Gounod's "Faust," which about 9.000 persons witnessed last night at Public Hall, where the Metropolitan Opera Association presented the opera for the ninth time in its 22 years of opera giving in Cleveland.

But it was not the "Soldier's Chorus" which the 9,000 opera fans came particularly to hear, stirring as that chorus is in the second scene of the third act. It was more specifically Ezio Pinza, as Mephistopheles, and a cast of stars which guaranteed a brilliant performance of the familiar French masterpiece of the lyric stage. And it is safe to say that none were disappointed in the results, either vocal, dramatic or scenic, for the performance represented the Metropolitan at its best.

This was not the first time that Pinza has held a capacity audience spellbound with his realistic impersonation of the demon, who sets the characters of this drama at odds. So, whatever may be said about him may sound repetitious, but no such artistic creation as his can be passed by without reiteration of the most enthusiastic comment.

The Devil to Pay

Faust may have had the devil to pay for selling his soul, but the devil collected more dividends than he got from Faust by the fun he had in dangling human puppets on the end of a string. This is exactly the impression one has of Pinza's superb embodiment of the part. His has a devilish good time making everybody in the opera uncomfortable and one automatically becomes more interested in his wily intrigues than in the righteous forces which eventually outsmart him.

Yet Pinza is too much of an artist to hog the show. He knows where to stop, where to lend support to the others in the cast. And it is largely this discretion which gives momentum and roundness to the performance as whole. What he accomplishes in facial expression, the open mouth, the well-timed grimaces, is matched by his magnificent posturing and long-legged struttings, which seem to cover the entire stage in one leap. He is everywhere at once, pervading the scene even when he is absent from it. He mocks and dissembles, flirts and taunts, contains a dozen characters in one, and at the same time brings out the best in the others.

On the vocal side he exhibited undiminished splendors. Beautiful resonance and clarity marked every phrase, dramatized with the utmost power and finesse. Even his softest tones in the ensembles carried easily to the ends of the vast auditorium. And no important word was unheard in the complete command of every situation.

The vocal excellence of other principals was not eclipsed by Pinza's brilliance. The Faust, Charles Kullman, was first-rate, lacking nothing in power, passion and verbal emphasis, while at the same time smooth and lyric in his singing. The Margurite of Dorothy Kirsten was also worthy of high praise, particularly because of her purity of intonation, her flexibility and tender expressiveness. Freshness of vocal quality combined with a refined conception of the modesty and graciousness of her part to make it outstanding.

Robert Merrill provided some enjoyable moments with a baritone of high merit in his singing of the part of Valentin. Claramae Turner was an excellent Marthe, both as a comedian and as a singer possessing fine French diction. It is interesting to observe how the minor roles sometime draw the best enunciation in this company of stars. Maxine Stellman made a conventional Siebel, rhythmically slow in the uptake but attractive in timbre, and as much so personally as a woman can be taking a man's part. George Cehanovsky, substituting for John Baker, in his ever reliable way, did a highly commendable job as Wagner.

Perfectly routine as ever was the management of large ensembles, the Kermesse with its delightful peasant dancers being especially noteworthy. The massed choral effects were also impressive, and the entire performance was held in admirable focus by the able conducting of Wilfred Pelletier. Responsible for the stage direction was Desire Defrere. The chorus master was Kurt Adler, and the choreographer, Boris Romanoff.

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