[Met Performance] CID:252070
New production
Tha´s {47} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/18/1978.

(Debuts: Louise Wohlafka, Kent Cottam, Tito Capobianco, Carl Toms, Dennis Seetoo, Gigi Denda

Metropolitan Opera House
January 18, 1978
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
New production

THA¤S {47}

Tha´s...................Beverly Sills
AthanaŰl................Sherrill Milnes
Nicias..................Raymond Gibbs
PalÚmon.................James Morris
Crobyle.................Betsy Norden
Myrtale.................Isola Jones
Charmeuse...............Louise Wohlafka [Debut]
Albine..................Batyah Godfrey Ben-David
Cenobite................Kent Cottam [Debut]

Violin solo: Raymond Gniewek

Conductor...............John Pritchard

Director................Tito Capobianco [Debut]
Designer................Carl Toms [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Dennis Seetoo [Debut]
Choreographer...........Gigi Denda [Debut]

Tha´s received seventeen performances this season.

[This production was borrowed from the San Francisco Opera.
Gigi Denda choreographed the MÚditation, which was performed by Beverly Sills.
Raymond Gniewek, Concertmaster, performed the violin solo.]

Production at the Metropolitan Opera a gift of Carillon Importers, Ltd. and The Metropolitan Opera Club

Review of Harriett Johnson in the New York Post


Massenet wrote "Thais" for a beautiful American soprano from Sacramento, soprano Sybil Sanderson, and last night history was remade with a different twist. A beautiful soprano-actress from Brooklyn, Beverly Sills, took on the part of the alluring courtesan-turned-nun and by her voice and her mesmerism we believed she was Thais. We loved her, we wept for her and we empathized with her implausible story. This fascinating, courtesan, (who is out of history) - in our story lived in Alexandria during the 4th century. She became influenced by the monk Athanael's stern plea that she renounce her ways. She did. She was certainly no 20th century rebel.


The author of this romance is no less than Anatole France but his novel, of course, was changed in many details by librettist Louis Gallet. The Metropolitan Opera presented "Thais" for the first time since 1939. It is passionate, expansive, powerful Massenet, more so than "Manon," (lovely as that opera is) and many of his 20-odd other musico-dramatic works. Geraldine Farrar and Maria Jeritza have been other famous Met Thais and Mary Garden sang the role at the Manhattan Opera House in 1907.

I can't believe, however, than any of these made the role anymore their own than Miss Sills did last night. She was wonderful and she had every help possible from a strong supporting cast. Sherrill Mimes was magnificent as Athanael, the monk who almost sadistically brow-beat her to renounce her frivolous life; then, at the end, realized too late how much he madly desired her as a woman.


What helps to make this "Thais' so seductive are the sets and costumes by Carl Toms in his debut. With their moody reflecting mirrors, luminous lights, vibrantly changing colors and odd objects like the hanging boat-bed with hunting horn for stern and a serpent for prow - they are right out of 19th century French symbolist painter, Gustave Moreau's odd, mysterious world. Conductor John Pritchard vividly communicated lyrical, voluptuous and agonizing aspects of the music and made it identify significantly with what transpired on stage.

As women were not string beans in Massenet's time (Thais' premiere was 1894) nor in 4th century Egypt, the curves of Miss Sills' very good figure made her even more believable. Director of the production Tito Capobianco, who has worked with Miss Sills many times before, knew how to set those curves off to perfection whether in bed or out. Meanwhile, Toms had her costumed with a chiffon-layered look in back, but with a bare midriff in front so she ended up dazzling both ways. One of the most compelling sections was during the playing of the famous "Meditation" when normally the curtain is closed. Thais is supposed to be making up her mind whether or not to renounce her ways.


Met concertmaster Raymond Gniewek played the piece superbly with luscious tone and relaxed bow arm. Meanwhile, Gigi Denda, special choreographer for Miss Sills, had her dancing through a hall of paneled mirrors moving from one panel to another and seeking her reflection in each. A couple of live reflections come along, one a grotesque caricature of herself. So she gave up her loose ways. The scene is exotic, meaningful and illusory, enhanced as it is by the lovely "Meditation" which is like a leit motif as we hear it several times again used significantly.
Massenet's music is lyrically and dramatically inspired from start to finish and Miss Sills sang the music as if written for her.


What a pleasure to have Miss Sills play a heroine who can sing with verismo passion instead of tootling away in the stratosphere as her several Queens must do in their belcanto style of an earlier time. Her voice had a wealth of color, was immensely expressive and big and brilliant when needed. James Morris, sang nobly as Palemon the elder Cenobite monk. Raymond Gibbs, who took over the tenor role of Nicias (Thais' lover for a week at a price) when Jean van Ree fell ill, did a commendable job. His vocal production has improved considerably.


Betsy Norden and Isola Jones were two very sexy little girls, Crobyle and Myrtale, part of the harem. Louise Wohlafka in her debut as La Charmeuse, disclosed a clear, sweet coloratura soprano and the action built around her linked to the ballet was effective. Batyah Godfrey as Albine sang with an even, well focused tone. She was very much the Abbess. Dennis Seetoo, choreographer for the ballet, achieved something in voluptuousness in a thankless assignment. Gil Wechsler's lighting was very evocative.

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