[Met Performance] CID:164080
Pelléas et Mélisande {48} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/27/1953.

(Debut: Theodor Uppman, Vilma Georgiou

Metropolitan Opera House
November 27, 1953
Revised production


Pelléas.................Theodor Uppman [Debut]
Mélisande...............Nadine Conner
Golaud..................Martial Singher
Arkel...................Jerome Hines
Geneviève...............Martha Lipton
Yniold..................Vilma Georgiou [Debut]
Physician...............Luben Vichey

Conductor...............Pierre Monteux

Director................Dino Yannopoulos
Designer................Horace Armistead

Pelléas et Mélisande received six performances this season.

[In revising the sets for Debussy's opera, Armistead utilized elements from the previous production designed by Joseph Urban.]

Review of Virgil Thomson in The New York Herald Tribune
So fine a performance of Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" as that conducted last night by Pierre Monteux at the Metropolitan Opera House has not been heard in this city since the Chicago company used to visit us some twenty-five years back. The present cast is not the equal of the greatest ever heard, but it is a good cast throughout and in several spots extraordinary. And the musical direction of the work is "Pelleas" at its most sensitive and most passionate.

Martial Singher, as Golaud, was handsome of person and of voice and ever the satisfying mime. Jerome Hines, as Arkel, was noble to see and hear. Martha Lipton, as Geneviéve, was perfect for distinction of bearing and warmth of voice. Lubomir Vichegonov, as the Doctor, was ideal for rich depths. Vilma Georgiou, as the little Yniold, acted the most convincing child I have ever seen of the operatic stage, and her musicianship was impeccable.

Theodor Uppman, a high barytone, sang Pelléas with a warmth of feeling and a spontaneity of expression all unusual these days; and his appearance was so charming, his grace so unaffected that one believed him at every moment. He was singing Pelléas and being Pelléas. If Nadine Conner, as Mélisande could have played to him half so naturally, the pair would have had us all in tears. But she was a little stiff in action, and her voice lacked both expressivity and projection. She worked carefully, but she was without appeal. Poetry and passion animated Singher's Golaud, nobility and warmth the Arkel of Mr. Hines and Miss Lipton. Real emotion brought Mr. Uppman's Pélleas to life in complete and wonderful way. Only Miss Conner, among all the cast, was earth-bound, wary, not quite a part of this ever so touching play.

The physical production, signed by Horace Armistead, is partly new and partly out of the attic. It has no style, but it is not ugly. It will do surely for the six performances planned. And the staging of Dino Yannopoulos is not without grace. Moving the whole opera downstage, moreover, has given it audience contact and also helped the singers to project their lines.

Vocal and verbal projection are ever a problem in this largely orchestral opera, for though Debussy's scoring is not heavy, it is hard to sing through. The almost constant presence of wind instruments, especially of oboe and bassoon, is competitive to the human voice. And the orchestral composition is so elaborately equilibrated that alteration of its delicate balances at any point for the purpose of catering to a given artists would risk destruction of its whole equilibration. Monteux made no such error. He gave Debussy's music, and the artists on the stage sang it. For the most part one heard everything. But one did occasionally (one always does) wish that the composer had calculated this wonderful expressivity a little more in terms of the stringed instruments, which are vocally transparent, and less in the woodwind colorations, which do tend, even at their most discreet, toward opacity.

The performance as a whole is a finer one than one likely to hear again in some years, and I recommend it warmly to all lovers of this uniquely subtle and moving work. Monteux gives it to you as Debussy must have conceived it, warm and spontaneous and delicate, and heart-renderingly passionate. The story goes that last week at a rehearsal some one said to him "Do you suppose "Pélleas" will ever be a real success?" He replied, "It was never intended to be."

Photograph of Theodor Uppman as Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande by Louis Mélançon.

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