[Met Performance] CID:98050
Faust {362} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 01/17/1928.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 17, 1928

FAUST {362}

Faust...................Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Marguerite..............Frances Alda
Méphistophélès..........Fyodor Chaliapin
Valentin................Giuseppe Danise
Siebel..................Ellen Dalossy
Marthe..................Philine Falco
Wagner..................James Wolfe

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

Review (unsigned) in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin


Gounod's Opera with Famous Russian Basso in Metropolitan Cast

Feodor Chaliapin made his first appearance of the season at the Academy of Music last evening, as Mephistopheles in a presentation of "Faust" by the Metropolitan Opera Company. With him in the cast was Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in the title role, Giuseppe Danise as Valentin, and Frances Alda as Margurite. The presence of the great Russian basso naturally gave special interest to the occasion, but apart from the demonstration of his well-known dramatic and vocal powers and some fine moments on the part of one or two others in the cast, the performance was not a particularly notable one. Much finer have been heard, in the way of ensemble and general results, even if Louis Hasselmans, who conducted, brought out some excellent effects. The Kermess scene went well, with an adequate ballet, but the entrance of the soldiers in the third act often has been more imposing and spectacular, with more numerous marchers and a more enthusing delivery of the popular chorus.

The presence of Chaliapin would atone for a good deal far less satisfaction than last night's audience received, however, and, while his role in Gounod's opera does not give him the opportunity so realistically and thrillingly to display his genius as does that of Mephistofele in Boito's setting of another version of the same story, it enables him to do some original and striking things. For the laboratory scene and the Kermess and garden scenes, Chaliapin wears the traditional red costume, with a few individual touches as to head-dress, etc. While in the square, when he encounters the broken and penitent Marguerite in front of the church, he is garbed in black, with voluminous draperies, in the folds of which he hides his face as he hears the music from the choir. This scene vividly marked the basso's originality of conception and development of idea in interpretation, but it was only one of several such. He made much of the episode with Marthe, in the garden, as Mephistopheles lures her with his flattering wiles and Philine Falco, more than ordinarily clever and capable in the part of Marguerite's attendant, helped him to give it a rare touch of deftness and humor. Throughout the opera Chaliapin displayed many subtle touches in characterization and was impressive in stature, poise, carriage and delineation. Vocally, too, he was highly effective, his tones having the enhancement of rich quality used with fine artistry, even if his voice at times seemed to be rather less sonorous and resonant than formerly; neither the "Calf of Gold" song, nor the "Serenade," fine as they were, had all their accustomed thrill.

The Faust of Mr. Lauri-Volpi had much to commend it, being acceptably romantic and fairly convincing as to appearance and manner, while he sang with a clear, resonant tenor, modulated when required to sympathetic appeal, and handled with ease. The famous tenor aria, "Salut Demeure," ("All Hail Thou Dwelling") was admirably sung with no resort to the falsetto for the top note, even if it was addressed directly to the audience instead of to Marguerite's abode. Miss Alda looked somewhat matronly, although attractive in her flowing gowns as Marguerite, and was rather gorgeously attired in deep purple for the girl's moments of penitence in front of the church. But she gave the part grace and sympathy, with a touch of pathos and a semblance of tragedy at the end. Her voice for the most part was clear and sweet, with some good high tones and a few bad ones, and, while the "Jewel Song" often has been more brilliantly sung, its effect was not entirely lost. Mr. Danise sang appealingly as Valentin; the "Dio Posente" ("Even Bravest Heart") shows him to good advantage. James Wolfe was a very good Wagner, and Ellen Dalossy's rich mezzo was pleasing in the "Flower Song," even if her Siebel was so slight and girlish and feminine that the new idea of having the part of Marguerite's timid admirer taken by a tenor would appear to be a good one, since there seems no longer to be a Scalchi, a Jacobi, or any statuesque real contralto to sing it.

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