[Met Performance] CID:144630
Faust {465} Indiana University Auditorium, Bloomington, Indiana: 04/14/1947.


Bloomington, Indiana
April 14, 1947

FAUST {465}

Faust...................Charles Kullman
Marguerite..............Dorothy Kirsten
Méphistophélès..........Ezio Pinza
Valentin................Martial Singher
Siebel..................Maxine Stellman
Marthe..................Thelma Votipka
Wagner..................John Baker

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

Review of Henry Butler in the Indianapolis Times

Capacity Audience Greets Metropolitan's Presentation of "Faust" at Indiana University

Excellent Cast Gives Top Performance

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., April 15 - The Metropolitan Opera opened its two-day engagement at Indiana University auditorium last night with Gounod's "Faust"

The enormous prestige of that opera, together with an excellent cast, drew a capacity audience.

"Faust" is Gounod triumphant, Gounod outdoing himself in some of his finest writing, not only for voices but also for orchestra. There are stretches of splendid counterpoint and surprising anticipation of more recent music, which outweigh a few less interesting items like the obvious and hackneyed "Soldier's Chorus."

Goethe's drama surely suffered a sea-change in the Gallic adaptation. What Barbier and Carre took for this libretto was mostly "Skandal," not much "Philosophie," with the result that the story of innocence betrayed is a typical 19th Century tear-jerker. Translated and spoken, rather than sung, it would be funnier than your favorite radio comic hour.

Has Vague Plausibility

The music redeems it. And as the music was played and sung last night, the opera had a vague kind of plausibility, despite the fact that most of the French was unintelligible, The only phrase I could be entirely certain of was Valentin's dying "sois maudite" to Marguerite (even in the death-throes, he put the right gender on that participle, which is more than most of us have done very much alive, in college French).

"But thou accursed," he sings, when what the poor gal needs is a kind word. That chest-thumping striking of attitudes is the worst feature of traditional grand opera.

Everybody expected Ezio Pinza to be a wonderful Mephistopheles, which he was. Mr. Pinza introduced bits of stage business, like his working with Marguerite's spinning wheel while she and Faust were necking. I have the impression, as I had last year from his performance in "La Bohème, that Mr. Pinza is fed up with the conventional emotional calisthenics of operatic acting, and would like to see opera become more realistic.

Mr. Pinza'a voice sounded at its golden best in the church scene where, again to invoke the inevitable comparison, he was reminiscent of Chaliapin.

Better as Singer

Charles Kullman as Faust is a much better singer than actor. Encumbered with medieval attire (he even wore a cloak the size of a parlor curtain while he was dueling with Valentin, which would be like boxing in a coonskin coat), he relied mainly on conventional operatic gestures.

Dorothy Kirsten as Marguerite seemed to me an ideal performer. Her voice is, you might say, correct (good quality and intonation, flawless pitch). She has glamour and stage presence.

Other verbal flowers go to Martial Singher, a fine baritone, in the role of Valentin; Maxine Stellman as Siebel (grand operatic tradition decrees that any lad who couldn't be served in an Indiana tavern must be impersonated by a female soprano, as witness "William Tell"); Thelma Votipka as Marthe; and John Baker as Valentin.

Wilfred Pelletier was the extremely able conductor last night.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).