[Met Performance] CID:127190

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, December 13, 1939

Manon received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

Grace Moore Returns

Manon Lescaut, as portrayed in the Meilhac's and Gille's operatic adaptation of the Abbé Provost story, died on the road to Havre for the first time this season at the Metropolitan Opera House last night. The Manon who came to this lyric and dolorous end was Grace Moore, whose presence in the cast was undoubtedly one of the factors which brought forth a large audience to occupy seats and standing room behind the orchestra circle.

Miss Moore, making her first appearance in the still youthful operatic year, was one of a quartet of American principals in the Metropolitan's thirteenth production in two and a half weeks. Richard Crooks was the Des Grieux who forsook his clerical vows for Manon's sake; Richard Bonelli was the hearty Cousin Lescaut, and Norman Cordon represented the Count des Grieux with dignity and sonorous and intelligible French enunciation. As Pousette, Annamary Dickey sang the second role of her recently inaugurated career in this theater, but Pousette's solo notes are too few to provide much evidence for an estimate of her interpreter's qualifications.

As Manon, Miss Moore's impersonation is appealing and credible to the eye and generally pleasing to the ear. Her singing, for the most part, gave an impression of clarity and ease and, apart from a few measures in which a slight hardening of tone could be noticed, preserved its clarity with commendable consistency. In the St. Sulpice scene, more economy of gesture might have enhanced the dramatic illusion toward its close. Manon's appeal to des Grieux was made in a mandatory rather than a persuasive manner, but elsewhere the Tennessean soprano's depiction of the culpable but ingratiating protagonist was histrionically convincing.

Mr. Crooks's stalwart des Grieux has been a relatively familiar Metropolitan figure for several seasons; the element of emotional warmth is not particularly marked at first, but increases as the lyric drama pursues its course. His song was pleasing in quality and usually swell styled, but his top notes did not gain their maximum volume until the aria "Ah, fuyez!" which had a communicative eloquence which had been less in evidence in a rather reserved, while otherwise meritorious, singing of the account of the dream in the preceding scene. Mr. Bonelli was a satisfactory Lescaut.

Massenet's best known opera, which has been continuously in the repertoire since its last revival in 1928, is not one of the world's great music dramas, but its musical and theatrical appeal have proved remarkably and not undeservedly durable. The score does not offer exceptionally cogent musical ideas or rise to unusually lofty expressive heights, but has a pervasive grace and polish and represents a consistently high level of craftsmanship. Its sentiment is kept within bounds, and its well wrought and copious melodies find a ready lodging in their hearer's memory.

The present production, if not one of the most distinguished in the Metropolitan's active list, represents a general level of competence. It might be interesting, if feasible, to restore at some future time, the Cours las Reine scene, to bridge the dramatic gap - although this is not particularly wide as opera plots go - between the scene of Manon's apartment and that in St. Sulpice. There were moments in a generally spirited interpretation when the orchestral sonorities slightly encroached upon the singing, but in the main unity and balance were well maintained under Mr. Pelletier's leadership. Miss Moore and her colleagues received several fervent applausive demonstrations.

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