[Met Tour] CID:96320

Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland, Mon, April 18, 1927

Review 1:

Review of W. G. Owst in the Baltimore Sun


Florence Easton and Edward Johnson Sing Leading Roles in Production by Metropolitan Opera Company

After an absence of several years, the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York, having decided to place Baltimore once again on its visiting list, opened its local season last evening at the Lyric, choosing as its introductory work Puccini's posthumous opera, "Turandot." Of the entire selection of five works to be produced, this is the only one that can lay claim to be of modern origin. And quite modern it is as far as the date of its composition is concerned. It is the last of Puccini's operas, and he did not live to compete it, the later portion being composed by Franco Alfano, whose "Resurrection" was presented here not long ago by the Chicago Opera Company.

The subject matter is Chinese and the story, in brief, relates how Turandot, a Princess of China, will only accept a man as her husband conditionally upon his answering correctly three riddles. Calaf, Prince of the Tartars, wins her, not by the solution of the enigmas, but through love. Judging the opera as it was presented last night, it is a work that demands exponents of exceptional vocal and histrionic abilities. What a poor and disappointing show it would have made had it been given by third-rate artists, and with makeshift scenery. Fortunately, however, the singers, the scenery, and the costumes were of the best quality, and together these factors carried conviction to the audience. As to the scenery, it cannot be described as other than gorgeous, highly colorful and admirably adapted to convey the requirements of the action of the libretto. The costumes were also resplendent and of great variety of color and shades.

About the music there can be no mistake. It is absolutely Puccini throughout, but more modern and more individual and characteristic of the Chinese idiom. It seems to be largely built upon the old Chinese five-tone scale, which is not tuneless but not melodious, according to modern thought,. It portrays admirably the atmosphere of the story and is frequently reminiscent of "Madama Butterfly." The orchestration exhibits a wealth of tone color and many passages are strongly suggestive of Orientalism, especially in the use of pieces of wood struck together. Hints at melodic construction are frequent but not continuous, although there is decided thematic work, notable especially in the Pavilion scene in the trio sung by Ping, Pang and Pong, which was delightfully conceived and executed.

The title role was sung by Florence Easton, whose presentation of the part was exceedingly attractive. She has a clear, pure, high soprano voice of really excellent musical quality. Vocally speaking, the part is a trying one and calls for correct intonation, of which the singer furnished a good example. But what was a very essential need was endurance, and this the artist certainly possesses and gave ample proof, particularly in the lengthy vocal work in the second scene of the second act - the interior of the Palace. But, in addition to her vocal ability, the singer possesses grace and the dignity belonging to the role.

Liu, the young slave girl, was taken by Nannette Guilford. The role is of some importance, although not so outstanding as Turandot or Prince Calaf. But the artist has a voice of attractive and engaging quality and uses it with considerable effect. It was at a point beyond the slave girl's death that Franco Alfano commenced the completion of Puccini's music, using much that was already written and several ideas that had been merely written down and not developed.

Edward Johnson, who assumed the role of the prince and the successful lover, is remarkably well suited to fill the part. In appearance and in his histrionic work he is a dignified lover and one worthy to gain the love of the princess. From a vocal standpoint he is a remarkably finished artist. His voice is true and of splendid quality and under absolute control. He sings without effort and produces a tone that suits the part. It is musical, never forced and always sympathetic.

The remainder of the cast and the chorus were splendid, and the orchestra, under Tullio Serafin, full and exceedingly effective.

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