[Met Tour] CID:119300

Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts, Sat, March 28, 1936 Matinee Broadcast

Review 1:

Review of Cyrus Durgin in the Boston Globe

Rosa Ponselle's Carmen for First Time in Boston

Rosa Ponselle was the star attraction of the Metropolitan matinee yesterday, as she exhibited her portrayal of Carmen here for the first time. The presentation was blessed with gratifying vitality, and dramatically it showed the Metropolitan at very best. The last three acts were amazingly realistic in that respect. This goes to show what can be done with a serviceable opera story when imagination is applied to the stage direction - and granting, of course, that the principal singers are competent actors and actresses.

Miss Ponselle first attempted Carmen in New York this season, and her portrayal was as hotly discussed as the character itself has been these many years. Apparently public and professional opinion has always been divided about Carmen. Some consider her to have been vulgar if seductive, others omit the first adjective. Fanatic opera-goers more than 60 maintain there has been no Carmen since the fabulous Calvé. And the younger generation politely but firmly believes not a word of it.

Rosa Ponselle's Carmen is both seductive and rowdy, but entirely believable. She sullenly hurls taunts at Don José, flings herself about with complete abandon, spits the orange peel in traditional fashion. But the biggest moments occur in the third act when she draws her stiletto and goes after the poor soldier like a fiend. If this scene, that of the hair-pulling in the first act and Carmen's pathetic attempts to escape Don José's dagger can be done more vividly, this reviewer must be convinced.

Whatever these dramatic qualities, Miss Ponselle's voice is really not suited to the part. It is too big, heavy and inflexible. The "Habanera" and the "Seguidilla" were indifferently sung, though Miss Ponselle improved vocally as the afternoon went on. Her upper notes are subject to a tremolo and not always is she on the pitch. But as a "singing actress" she excelled and deserved the ovations which were hers at every intermission.

Mr. Maison was the finest Don José, in every respect, within memory. Ezio Pinza's Escamillo was also superlative. Hilda Burke, in the proverbially impossible role of Micaela, sang competently. The rest of the cast were good.

No less in the vein, Mr. Hasselmans and the orchestra achieved a glowing account of Bizet's verdant score. To them, as much to the singers - and to him who supervised the stage direction - belongs equal credit for a performance that was thoroughly fine "theatre." And what more than that could be said? This matinee was far, far different from that of "Faust" a year ago. Truly, the Metropolitan is changing - and all for the best.

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