[Met Performance] CID:87150
Faust {338} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 04/11/1924.


Metropolitan Opera House
April 11, 1924 Matinee

FAUST {338}

Faust...................Armand Tokatyan
Marguerite..............Frances Alda
Méphistophélès..........Fyodor Chaliapin
Valentin................Giuseppe De Luca
Siebel..................Grace Anthony
Marthe..................Kathleen Howard
Wagner..................Paolo Ananian

Conductor...............Louis Hasselmans

Review of Deems Taylor in the World


The crowd that greeted Fyodor Chaliapin in "Faust" yesterday afternoon filled every seat in the Metropolitan and stood as many deep upstairs and down as the laws of the impenetrability of matter and the Fire Department would allow. The performance was a benefit for the Free Milk Fund of the Mayor's Committee of Women, and must have netted the enterprise a huge sum. Whoever planned the affair was wise in choosing as the opera of the day a vehicle for the great Russian basso.

His singing was as incomparable as ever, and his acting performance of the role of Mephistopheles had all of its familiar merits and defects. He still elects to play Mephisto as the rowdy devil of Boito's version of the Faust legend, rather than the polished gentleman adventurer that Gounod probably had in mind. Yet one could not help wondering, watching him yesterday, whether he would appear any more convincing even if he did model his Mephisto more along the generally accepted "right" lines. It is probable that Chaliapin's shortcomings in "Faust" are hardly his fault at all.

The blunt truth is that Chaliapin really doesn't belong in Gounod's "Faust" at all. He has too much reality for it. It is rank heresy to suggest such a thing, but does "Faust" matter much, one way or the other? I mean, as a great work of art. Melody it has, to be sure, oceans of it. Some of the most delightful, ear-tickling and inescapable tunes in the world are in Gounod's music. But that is just the trouble. The libretto of "Faust" is hardly delightful, hardly the sort of story that one would conceive as a vehicle for song hits.

Gounod put the best he had into the "Faust" score, but the best he had happened to be something about as far from Goethe's cosmic grandiosity as it is possible to imagine. If one is to get the real joy out of the "Faust" music that there is in it, one must leave Goethe out of things entirely. The moment you begin to take the story seriously, the score begins to sound supremely silly.

And Chaliapin does make you do just that. He has such a terrific gift of reality, of turning every role he assumes into flesh and blood, that the Mephistopheles becomes real, and one begins to feel with Goethe rather than with Gounod. And there lies trouble. On the one hand, the charming, inconsequential music; on the other the pity and terror of the "Faust" legend, such a story as only a Wagner or Moussorgsky could set adequately. One is disappointed, and dissatisfied; and, since it is Chaliapin who has upset matters with his confounded actuality, one blames Chaliapin.

But fear not, "One" here, means literally only one. The audience wasted no time in philosophico-musico-dramaturgic speculations, but listened and applauded and shouted with single earnestness upon every possible occasion - and Gounod had provided many. There was plenty of applause left, by the way, for the rest of the cast, which included Mr. Tokatyan, Mr. De Luca, Mr. Wolf, Mme. Alda, Miss Howard and Miss Anthony. Mr. Hasselmans conducted.

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