[Met Performance] CID:97990

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 13, 1928

Debut : Lillian Fried, Estelle Liblick, Irene Saffran

Carmen (299)
Georges Bizet | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Maria Jeritza

Don José
Edward Johnson

Editha Fleischer

Lawrence Tibbett

Charlotte Ryan

Merle Alcock

Angelo Badà

Millo Picco

Louis D'Angelo

George Cehanovsky

Rosina Galli

Rita De Leporte

Muriel Halliday

Lillian Fried [Debut]

Estelle Liblick [Debut]

Lilyan Ogden

Jessie Rogge

Florence Glover

Irene Saffran [Debut]

Giuseppe Bonfiglio

Louis Hasselmans

Wilhelm Von Wymetal

Joseph Urban

Costume Designer
Gretel Urban [Ballet only]

Review 1:

Review of Eugene Bonner in February 1928 issue of The Outlook

Not since the departure of Geraldine Farrar from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, nearly six years ago, has the mantilla of Carmen rested with any great degree of permanency on the shoulders of any of her would-be successors in that brilliant, but curiously difficult role. Difficult it must be and extremely so, judging by the large number of casualties among artists of brilliance and distinction who have essayed the part of the Spanish gypsy and therein have met their Waterloo.

Now the revival last Friday night at the Thirty-ninth Street house of the Bizet opera was looked forward to with unusual interest, bringing forward as it did an entirely new cast of principals which included Maria Jeritza as Carmen, Editha Fleischer as Micaela, Edward Johnson as Don Jose and Lawrence Tibbett as the Toreador. New scenery by Joseph Urban, new costumes and a new ballet added to the gayety of the occasion.

Conflicting reports as to Mme. Jeritza's interpretation of the role, added to her own pronouncements on the subject, only served to whet considerably the curiosity of that portion of the public addicted to opera-going, a large contingent of which managed to squeeze its way into the Metropolitan the other evening.

For a few minutes after her entrance it looked as if the Viennese singer was going to give us a real characterization of a role, instead of her usual vaudevilles-even when she draped herself over a wheelbarrow to sing the "Habañera," she was not altogether out of the picture, but habit, alas, soon got the upper hand and by the time the "Seguidilla" was reached she was lying flat on her back upon a table, in which position she delivered herself of the [first] phrases, while the remainder of the aria was sung anywhere, everywhere, all round the stage. Hair tousling and bumpings were the order of the day, while a genuine Coney Island hoochi-koochi was thrown in that our cup of joy might be filled to overflowing.

Her second act was undistinguished, while the card scene in the third, which should not be difficult for a great artist, went for nothing; her Carmen was cross and irritable and the note of impending tragedy was missing in her impersonation from start to finish. It was in the last act, however, that the last shreds of a characterization disappeared and it was into a screaming, scrapping fishwife that Don Jose finally got his knife, one awkward flop, another and then another and the curtain descended on this particular interpretation of a great rôle, a performance of sound and fury signifying-exactly nothing.

Edward Johnson was not altogether at his best in the earlier part of the opera, but came into his own in the last act in which he sang and acted with his usual artistry. Lawrence Tibbett made a fine-looking Escamillo and sang well, though a little more repose here and there might have helped matters but, under the circumstances, such a thing would have been well nigh impossible.

The most genuine applause of the evening went to Editha Fleischer, whose singing of Micaela's air in the third act was the best vocal achievement of the evening and for which she received an ovation that stopped the performance for quite a few minutes. Her Micaela was a somewhat more vivacious one than we are accustomed to seeing, but must the poor thing always be represented as a moron?

The ballet in the last act was unusually well done and the dancing of Rosina Galli (who, incidentally, is looking very handsome these days) and Giuseppe Bonfiglio deserved the applause it received. Mr. Hasselmans conducted this performance as if the accidental omission of his name from the program had relieved him of all responsibility in the proceedings.

Review 2:

Review of Irving Weil in the Evening Journal


Probably every soprano or contralto on the operatic stage, from ladies in the front row of chorus (provided they are not yet gandmothers) to the stars themselves believes she has a Carmen in her system that will astound the multitude if she can ever get it out. The beauty of the role is that anyone can try to sing it and pretty generally get away with it, for it is actor-proof, singer-proof and foolproof. Nonetheless, the great Carmens, somehow have always been singularly few.

Last night, at the Metropolitan Opera, it was one of the stars who bounced it out of her system for the first time hereabouts. This was Maria Jeritza, who presented her robust notion, or notions, of the Spanish gypsy at a revival of the Bizet work after it had been out of the repertoire for about three years. Also very much among those present were Edward Johnson as Don Jose, and the young American baritone, Lawrence Tibbett, as Escamillo.

It was a lively performance - much livelier than when last it had slipped into the deadening routine that afflicts so many things at an opera house - and its exciting aspect was very largely due to Mine. Jeritza's restless and unflagging vivacity. There wasn't a moment when she was still; if she was doing nothing else, she was trying all the grimaces she knew or could invent on a patient chorus.

Hers was, therefore, an immensely effective Carmen, for the Cigarette Girl is, indeed, a fearfully active person. But the Jeritza Carmen was little else than a great, big, incorrigible hoyden having a helluva time teasing the boys. There wasn't any harm in a carload of her fireless passion. It sparkled like fireworks - but the kind one gives children to play with, since they can't burn their fingers over it.

Of the darkly seductive impulses that move the real Carmen, of the essential evil, the callous and wholly introvert passion that lie coiled within her, Mine. Jeritza gave not so much as a hint. It was all external, superficial; so much so that both Don José and Escamillo seemed foolishly to be wasting their time over her.

Mme. Jeritza, of course, brought a number of her stunts to the role, as she was bound to. She did some of her singing with a cigarette expertly dangling from her lips. She contrived a frowsy, brown-haired wig that could be tousled without casual ties. She managed to sing on her back on the top of a table. She whipped a dagger from her garter with lightning speed - and the garter was where garters used to be. And so on and so on. Probably you get the idea of this Carmen.

Of really far more interest, in their way, were the lion José of Mr. Johnson and the Escamillo of Mr. Tibbett. This Canadian tenor gave one the picture of a peculiarly youthful José, the sort who would readily succumb to the passionate allure Carmen is supposed to bring to bear on him, and his French was impeccable and delightfully enunciated. He is an actor who gives you the impression of not always acting, for there are restraint and suggestion in his method.

His singing, as well as that of Mr. Tibbett, was excellent. The latter was a highly dramatic Toreador, for dramatic feeling moves him and therefore his audience, as it did in the familiar second-act air last night. Sometimes, indeed, his sense of the dramatic overpowered the music.

The Micaela of the evening was Edith Fleischer, whose French was about of the same teutonic quality as that of Mme. Jeritza. Moreover, she had difficulty keeping to the pitch. But her Micaela was at any rate not the completely idiotic innocent that she is so often made to appear. The Mercedes was admirably done by Merle Alcock. Louis Hasselmans conducted, but rather flabbily.

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