[Met Performance] CID:164250
Carmen {506} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/12/1953.

(Debut: Heidi Krall
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 12, 1953


CARMEN {506}
Bizet-Meilhac/L. Halévy

Carmen..................Risë Stevens
Don José................Richard Tucker
Micaela.................Lucine Amara
Escamillo...............Frank Guarrera
Frasquita...............Heidi Krall [Debut]
Mercédès................Margaret Roggero
Remendado...............Alessio De Paolis
Dancaïre................George Cehanovsky
Zuniga..................Osie Hawkins
Moralès.................Clifford Harvuot
Dance...................Janet Collins
Dance...................Roland Vazquez

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

Director................Tyrone Guthrie
Designer................Rolf Gérard
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov
Stage Director..........Dino Yannopoulos

Carmen received eleven performances this season.

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical Anerica

The season's first performance of "Carmen," under Pierre Monteux was a memorable experience,
Just as this eminent musician's interpretations of "Faust," and "Pelléas et Mélisande" have been, earlier in the season. It had a wonderful sanity and balance, a lucidity of musical detail and an emotional vitality that stemmed not so much from surface excitement as from a profound comprehension of the psychological truth and the musical beauty of the work.

Singers and instrumentalists alike felt the inspiration of a leader who made everything sound and gave everything its proper shape and accent without blotting out their individualities in a blaze of personal temperament. Consequently they all gave their best, and every bar of this exquisitely fashioned score came to life. Thirty-four years ago, on April 14, 1919, Mr. Monteux had conducted a performance of "Carmen" at Metropolitan, shortly before leaving the company after two seasons on its staff of conductors. He brought to this performance in 1953 a zest and freshness that could scarcely have been surpassed in the earlier one.

The excellent cast was largely familiar. Risë Stevens sang the title role; Richard Tucker was heard as don José; Frank Guarrera, as Escamillo; and Lucine Amara, as Micaëla. The only newcomer was Heidi Krall a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, who made her debut with the company in the role of Frasquita. Miss Krall has a fine voice, ample in volume, bright in quality and skillfully produced. She sang the role with dramatic assurance and was as effective in the quintet and in the duet with Mercedes as she was in the few passages where she had solo opportunities. She is obviously a valuable addition to the company's roster of sopranos.

Several of the artists benefited from Mr. Monteux's broad tempos. Miss Stevens' luscious voice has never sounded more beautiful than it did on this occasion when she had time to accentuate and color the intricate phrases of Carmen's arias. I have never heard the soliloquy with the cards in Act III taken at so slow a tempo and I have never been so deeply shaken by its tragic power. Nor do I remember a performance of the Toreador's song in which the scene in the bull ring was more clearly evoked in words, tones and gestures. By slowing the tempo, without killing the brilliance of the passage, Mr. Monteux enabled Mr. Guarrera to bring out a myriad of details that are lost in hurried performances of this aria.

Another highlight of the performance was Miss Amara's splendid singing of the aria, "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante," which brought her a prolonged and well-deserved ovation. It exhibited notable vocal artistry as well as a keen sense of operatic style. Mr. Tucker has been in better voice than he was on this evening, but he has not sung with greater emotional impact, to my knowledge.

The quintet was brilliantly performed by Miss Stevens; Miss Krall; Margaret Roggero, as Mercedes; George Cehanovsky, as Dancaire; and Alessio De Paolis, as Remendado. The others in the cast were Osie Hawkins, as Zuniga, and Clifford Harvuot, as Morales. A special word of praise should go to Janet Collins and Roland Vazquez, who danced in electrifying fashion at the beginning of Act IV.

Mr. Monteux devoted the same care to the choruses as he did to the other portions of the score, and those in Act I and in Act IV, Scene 1, were especially fine in balance and clarity of detail. The Metropolitan has had other distinguished conductors of "Carmen" in recent years, including Sir Thomas Beecham and Fritz Reiner, but Mr. Monteux succeeded in bringing something of his own to the score. His conception will bear comparison with any we have heard or are likely to hear in the future.





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