[Met Performance] CID:100720

New Production

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, December 22, 1928 Matinee

Debut : Gina Gola

Manon received eleven performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

Massenet's 'Manon' Revived

The revival of Massenet's "Manon" yesterday afternoon by the Metropolitan Opera Company was the best revival of a French opera that the writer has seen in late years in this lyric theatre. It rested primarily upon the spirit and eloquence of Mr. Hasselmann's reading of the score and the manner in which he controlled and stimulated the singers to their best efforts And there were admirable individual achievements, such as the charming and dramatic Manon of Miss Bori, the singing, often characterized by finesse as well as tonal beauty of Mr. Gigli, the Des Grieux, the authoritative impersonation of the old Count by Mr. Rothier, and other smaller rôles which contributed significantly to the ensemble. There was a good deal of bad French to be heard, and at times Italian rather than French, style on the stage, These defects, however, were overridden by the vitality of the performance and its response to the beauty and inspiration of Massenet's score.

This opera, the work of a certain school, a certain period, a certain temperament, does not grow old. It is furthermore the opera of Massenet which meets best the test of transplantation to other than French terrain. Certainly it is the best and most fitting musical evocation of the spirit of the adorable romance of the Abbé Prevost. The eighteenth century color, grace and gilt are there. The warm sentimentality, which mounts in the St. Sulpice scene to dramatic intensity, is precisely the voice of the passion of the youth for the fair, the incomprehensible Manon, who, in turn, is limned with a loveliness and a grace that will be slow to fade by the composer. Here Massenet's feeling and fancy are fresh, indeed unchangeably youthful, while his hand is unerring, his technic complete and unfailing for his purpose. It is a charming opera, complete, self-sufficient in its kind, and the proudest monument that a Massenet could ever rear to his fame.

Even the opera, finished in form and workmanship, and unfailing in its flow of ideas, is a dangerous undertaking for operatic organizations outside of France. It is also likely to lose effectiveness in a theatre. Yesterday the conviction, distinctness, and authority of the performances, despite minor defects, made the work engrossing from beginning to end. Incidentally, it began, for an exception, where Massenet begins - not with the arrival of the stagecoach, but with the [first] scene between Brétigny, Guillot, and the three accommodating ladies of the hostelry.

Miss Bori was a charming figure and wholly in key in the title part. Her voice, thanks to dramatic accent and emotional coloring, was very effective. Each stroke of characterization, gesture and by-play was effective, proportioned and in the picture. That her conception adhered strictly and slavishly to French tradition is not true, but it never violated the essence of book or score, and it had inescapable feeling and originality, She missed no dramatic effect and often gave places that singers are content to treat in the conventional manner a fresh meaning, The solo of the second act was followed by applause that interrupted and delayed the performance - a thing which happened also to Mr. Gigli and Mr. Rothicr - applause which showed how truly the audience had been touched by the pathos and simplicity of her art.

Mr. Gigli would have done well not to interrupt his own performance by bows to the audience, however it was disposed to reward him. The surprising things were his frequent continence of vocal effect, his regard for nuance and phrasing, even text (if not pronunciation), as he continued on his way, In the gambling scene he was able by his tone and his bearing to contribute importantly to the climax. Mr. de Luca was the swaggering bravo that the libretto intended him to be and, of course, rarely expert in the art of song. And here one must speak of the lively and amusing performance of the quartet of the second act, between Lescaut, De Brétigny, Manon and Des Grieux - the excellence of the ensemble, the humor and "go" of the whole passage, notwithstanding one or two accidents of intonation.

Mr. Rothier's Count was always authoritative, even when it brayed, and a dozen minor parts were well finished and adjusted to the ensemble. The Cours de la Reins scene, as is customary in this country, was omitted. The opera loses little by it. Yesterday it fairly came into its own with the audience, with a company, which have not always done justice to lyric dramas of the French school.

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