[Met Performance] CID:121610

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, May 14, 1937

Review 1:

Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times


Bruna Castagna Interprets the Title Role in the Opera Created by Bizet


Joseph Royer Heard in 'Toreador Song' - Gennaro Papi Holds Baton at Performance

The haphazard, inconsequential proceedings at last night's performance of "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera House were redeemed by Bruna Castagna, whose singing of the title rôle imparted to the presentation what vocal glamour it possessed. Miss Castagna was in top form and threw herself into her impersonation with an abandon and zest all the more remarkable considering the amateurish support she received from most of her colleagues.

Carmen is a notoriously difficult part, requiring expert histrionic ability and vivid personality as well as sure command of voice in music requiring an exceptionally wide tonal compass. Few Carmens arrive at greatness, for the simple reason that, though an artist may be fortunate enough to possess one or two of these essentials, she is more likely than not incapable of meeting all of the demands made upon her in Bizet's exacting creation.

Tones Rich and Brilliant

Few Carmens nowadays are able to do such full justice to Carmen's music as Miss Castagna managed to accomplish with it last night. Her pure, free tones were employed with the utmost subtlety. They were rich, brilliant and soaring when employed at the full, and as luscious when thus stressed as when tempered to answer the needs of the more delicate and sensitive measures allotted her. Here was singing with all the warmth, color, nuance and expressiveness the rôle asks of its interpreters.

If Miss Castagna's acting of the part had been as superior as her singing of it she would have carried all before her and found herself without many serious rivals in this opera. She was enticing, and voluptuous; defiant, cruel or tender, but never the fate-haunted gypsy whose very entrance in the first act is accompanied by the motive of death and ultimate destruction. It was the want of this all-important element that kept her interpretation from arriving at great heights, but within its limitations it was a most laudable piece of work and one of the most finished in detail yet heard from her here.

Rayner and Royer Sing

As Don Jose, Sydney Rayner was deadly serious and also intense, but hardly the romantic officer of Bizet's imagination. His pinched top tones and the lack of elegance of style in his song did not help matters. Joseph Royer had more grace of stage deportment, but his voice had neither the resonance nor the vital ring and vivid timbre to make anything worthwhile of the "Toreador Song." Natalie Bodanya sang expressively, as Micaela, although her conception of the rôle was small in caliber.

Thelma Votipka was the Frasquite and Maria Matyas, the only member of the cast not heard here before in the opera, was the Mercedes. Louis D'Angelo, as Zuniga; Wilfred Engelman, as Morales; George Cehanovsky, as Dancaire and Ludovico Olieviero, as Remendado, completed the personnel.

The chorus has often sung better in this opera within recent memory. And the orchestra seldom has sounded as rough in it as it did on this occasion, under Gennaro Papi's direction.

Search by season: 1936-37

Search by title: Carmen,

Met careers