[Met Performance] CID:110430

New Production

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, February 19, 1932

Lakmé received six performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun

Lily Pons in 'Lakmé' Revival

French Soprano Wins Plaudits in Title Role in Delibes's Opera at the Metropolitan

A little more than four years ago France suddenly became aware of Lily Pons singing Lakmé in a remote theater. It was therefore inevitable that as soon as public curiosity had been appeased with her Lucia, Gilda, Rosina and Titania she would assume here the Oriental robes and exotic song of Leo Delibes's Hindu maiden.?

The old opera was produced last night at the Metropolitan Opera House with appropriate decorations and commendable musical intentions. The work had last been heard in this city when Mme. Galii-Curci sang it at the Manhattan Opera House on February 15, 1921, but had not been given at the Metropolitan since Maria Barrientos rippled with care through the "bell song" on March 14, 1917.

The opera is one of fragile substance and delicate musical style. Delibes always composed elegantly, gracefully and with charm, but not with emotional depth. For most operagoers who rarely have opportunity to hear the work, "Lakmé" consists of a famous bell song with accessories. But there is something more than the one brilliant florid air which causes the title role to be turned over to the coloratura soprano of a company. Most of the pages of the score breathe a superficial sensuousness of melody and Eastern color which tend to become monotonous before the final curtain. But the duet of the women in the first scene, "Sous le dome epais," Lakmé's "Pourquoi dam the grands bois," Gerald's air, "Fantasie aux divine mensonoges," Nikalantha's air, the duets for Lakmé and Gerald in the second and third acts, and some of the choral music are salient pages quite in the vein of the most amiable French exploratory opera.

The story of the opera is hardly worth recounting. The materials are old. An English officer In India, a clandestine love affair with a Brahmin's daughter, a knife thrust from the irate father, devoted nursing by the maiden, a reminder from a brother officer that duty calls and a toss of self-administered poison for the despairing heroine are the main ingredients of the concoction. There is some incidental music but most of it is - indeed, the whole tale is - just a convenient figure on which the composer hangs his festoons of Oriental drapery. In the end, however, the impression is one of minutely etched beauty, with plenty of pictorial detail. The production of last evening was one of much merit. The pictures were opulent and varied. Scenery and costumes were conceived in the spirit of the Far East and the groupings were excellent. The ballet in the second act was one of the best ever seen on the Metropolitan stage. It had less of the stencil plate than Metropolitan ballets customarily have and more movement with a simulation of spontaneity. It also furnished generous views of human form. It was received with vociferous approval.

Miss Pons made a charming Lakmé. The role is a trying one because the florid music is well suited to a light and high voice, but the declamation and some of the cantilena call for a deeper tone and a more dramatic accent. Miss Pons, of course, reached her high point with the bell song, which she sang brilliantly. In some of the other music she also commanded praise. There were moments when she forced her light voice in trying to equal the requirements of the score. But on the whole, her impersonation was theatrically interesting, if mannered, and had communicative sentiment. The young soprano put a success to her credit and will doubtless be heard often as the Indian maid.

The other principals were Mr. Rothier as Nikalantha, generally praiseworthy, though labored in song, Mr. Thill as Gerald, better than he has been lately in other parts, Miss Swarthout Mallika and Mr. de Luca as Frederick. The other artists must be considered more in detail after subsequent performances. Mr. Hasselmans conducted with knowledge, but occasionally allowed the orchestra to sink the singers. The audience beyond question enjoyed the revival. There was much genuine applause. "Lakmé" may be set down as a happy choice for restoration to the local stage,

Photograph of Gladys Swarthout as Mallika and Lily Pons in the title role in Lakmé.

Photograph of Lily Pons in the title role by Carlo Edwards.

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