[Met Performance] CID:120120

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, December 30, 1936

Lakmé received three performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Noel Strauss in The New York Times

Rothier Outstanding in 'Lakmé'

Although Delibes's "Lakmé" concerns itself with an East Indian subject, its musical setting, for all of its quasi-Oriental atmosphere, is Gallic to the core. Only when given with the utmost refinement of style and full emphasis on the sensuousness and exoticism of the score, can the true character of the work make itself evident. Last night's performance of the opera at the Metropolitan was not one of the occasions on which it reveled in this sort of treatment.

The crashes of sound which issued from the orchestra pit at the start of the orchestral introduction might have ushered in the weightiest of music dramas, but could hardly of been further from the spirit of this particular operatic creation, where suavity and grace are so definitely to the fore. And this heavy-handed treatment prevailed throughout the evening. Under Maurice de Abravanel's baton, his evocations from the orchestra resulting in Meyerbeerian floods of tone strangely at variance with the effects Delibes obviously intended to produce. The conductor's beat was precise, definite and easily followed, but there was a woeful lack of poetry in his reading, in which all emphasis seemed bent on bringing out the purely dramatic moments of the opera at all costs.

Under this bombardment of tone, the work would have failed to prosper had the singing of the artists busied with the interpretation on the stage been far superior to what it actually was. Of the principals, Leon Rothier, as the Priest Nilikantha, was the sole member of the cast who completely comprehended the demands of this music. His faultless diction put that of the rest of the participants in complete shadow, and he brought out the varying moods of paternal tenderness or fanatical rage with just the proper amount of emphasis.

Vina Bovy in the title role gave an uneven performance, which bettered itself as the opera progressed. Probably through nervousness, the singing of her [first] number was thin and rough tonally, and often remote from the true pitch. But in the "Pourquoi" aria and the final duet of the first act she was in better form, giving many of the phrases in each with charm and expressiveness. The "Bell Song" began inauspiciously but, on the whole, was passably negotiated, although the upper register of the voice was consistently breathy, metallic and dry. The refrain was taken at an unusually high rate of speed. Miss Bovy was dramatic enough when necessary, but there was little of the perfume of the Orient in her interpretation on the histrionic side.

Irra Petina was a capable Mallika vocally. Both she and Miss Bovy were to be complimented for sticking to the pitch in the "Barcarolle," which might have been effectively delivered had not Mr. Abravanel taken it at a hurtling tempo which robbed it of its natural swaying gracefulness. As Gerald Mr. Bentonelli was entirely miscast. He had nothing of the quality of voice needed for the part, his outpourings being generally nasal, colorless and none too sensitively projected.

The chorus sang with spirit and the stage pictures were up to the usual standard which has obtained in this work in recent seasons. As for the ballet, it was lustily applauded for its dancing in the second act, where the leaping of the male participants seemed to have little, if anything, to do with the case.

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