[Met Performance] CID:159390
Carmen {473} Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland: 03/25/1952.

(Review)


Baltimore, Maryland
March 25, 1952


CARMEN {473}

Carmen..................Risë Stevens
Don José................Mario Del Monaco
Micaela.................Hilde Güden
Escamillo...............Frank Guarrera
Frasquita...............Paula Lenchner
Mercédès................Margaret Roggero
Remendado...............Alessio De Paolis
Dancaïre................George Cehanovsky
Zuniga..................Norman Scott
Moralès.................Clifford Harvuot
Dance...................Janet Collins
Dance...................Loren Hightower

Conductor...............Fritz Reiner


Review of Weldon Wallace in the Baltimore Sun

METROPOLITAN GIVES 'CARMEN'

3 Conspire To Make Performance Here Interesting

Three persons conspired to make the Metropolitan Opera's new production of "Carmen" an interesting production last night despite vocal shortcomings. The three were: Conductor Fritz Reiner, Director Tyrone Guthrie and Designer Rolf Gerard. It was a great pleasure to watch Mr. Reiner as to see the intelligently organized stage proceedings. Everything had been worked out beforehand (as it should be.) Players and singers knew what the conductor wanted, and he did not have to dramatize or dance it out for them on the podium.

A Lesson In Conducting

This was a lesson in the art of conducting. Practically all Reiner did was beat time. He went about his business with the economy of a master. As a result the orchestra responded alertly, giving the singers ample support and never crowding them out, as has happened frequently at former Met performances here, judging from the comments at intermission. Certainly there were no moments of vocal greatness, no soaring tones of a kind to charge the atmosphere with excitement. But there was some good singing.

As Carmen, Rise Stevens produced tones of pleasing quality. She phrased in a musicianly manner and with a feeling for the role. The voice does not open out, does not acquire the bronze glints that could make it a thrilling operatic instrument. And this is a particular disappointment in the case of Miss Stevens, for greatness once lay within her grasp. People who heard her for the first time, an unknown, in "Der Rosenkavalier" thirteen seasons ago still talk about the beauty of the voice at that time. It was full, resonant, vibrant. But Miss Stevens rested too much on her initial attainments, gave too much attention to light opera and other trifles at the expense of keeping up her artistic standards.

Del Monaco Sings Don José

The result is that she now has a good voice, a serviceable one, but hardly more than that. The evening's Don José, Mario del Monaco, is one of the new Met imports and is largely - just another import. His voice has some substance, and at the end of Act III his tones were emerging with effective forcefulness. His singing needs more warmth, more resilience, more flexibility. The Micaela, Hilde Gueden, was excellent. Her tones were consistently agreeable; her phrasing smooth, and her entire concept of the role reflected taste and discrimination.

Other Singers Listed

Other roles were adequately filled as follows: Frank Guarrera, Escamillo; Norman Scott, Zuniga; Clifford Harvout, Morales; Paula Lenchner, Frasquita; Margaret Roggero, Mercedes; George Cehanovsky, Dancaire, and Alessio de Paolis, Remendado.

Tyrone Guthrie's direction was artful. Miss Stevens' Carmen was the best dramatic version of the part we have ever seen. Carmens sometimes are too civilized. Or, in an attempt to appear wanton, singers enacting the role seek their effects by no more subtle means than throwing their hips out of joint every time they take a step.
Miss Stevens conveyed much by attitude and posture, her facial expression often had the dreamy, slothful sensuousness of a derelict. This Carmen might well use marijuana. We must say that in the first act she could have run a comb through her hair without the sacrifice of any of the asocial or antisocial aspects of the character. However, hers was a consistently effective visualization of the role.

The chorus moved with unvarying excellence of pattern and focus of design. Each person in the ensemble seemed to be a person, yet all worked together in the kind of harmony that is necessary for good theater. This was a pleasure to observe in contrast to the bewildered behavior of most operatic choruses who too often wander aimlessly about the stage - aimless through no fault of their own but because there has not been a theatrically wise director to give shape and force to the stage pictures.



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