[Met Performance] CID:127590

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, January 13, 1940 Matinee Broadcast

Review 1:

Review of Samuel Chotzinoff in the Post

Grace Moore and Crooks Heard in Massenet's "Manon"

Frenchman's Classic Romance Offers Easy, Tuneful Pleasure

Massenet's "Manon" was the matinee opera as the Metropolitan on Saturday, and a full house and numerous standees found pleasure in the immortal story and its Gallic musical expression, as well as in the impersonations of the hero and heroine by Mr. Crooks and Miss Grace Moore. It is quite beside the point that Puccini found a more passionate expression for the tale, and it may well be that the some composer of the future will be inspired to retell the story in music more emotional than that of either the Frenchman and the Italian. The thing is that Massenet's "Manon" is altogether convincing, and that while hearing it one is quite content to take the classic romance at the Frenchman's musical evaluation. Furthermore it is "theatre" to which Massenet's formula, obvious though that formula now appears, adds an element of excitement. This is a formula of never-ending tunefulness, of lucid instrumentation, of skin-deep sentiment and of respect for the vocal chords of the participants. There is no subtlety, no plumbing of depths, and no psychological characterization. But the net result is easy, satisfying pleasure.

For several reasons Miss Moore is at present best fitted of all the Metropolitan glamour girls to be the embodiment of the fickle yet faithful Manon in the Massenet version. She is youthful, vital and handsome, but the velvet quality of her voice adds weight to the salon music which Manon is given most often to sing. True to the character of the vacillating girl she permits a note of calculation sometimes to color a scene. Thus in the St. Sulpice episode one felt as she waited for the Chevalier to appear, that she was casting about in her mind for some approach that would effectively demolish both the wounded pride and the religious scruples of her lover. And when a few moments later she had triumphed, she delayed her exit to indicate by look and gesture the extent of her hard-won victory. A knowing Manon, to be sure, yet one not outlawed by the music and the libretto.

But why did Miss Moore spoil the old world charm of her "Gavotte" by dramatizing legato, the two final notes? For that matter why, one many ask, did Mr. Crooks hold on to the penultimate note of his "Dream" aria like some old-fashioned Italian tenor testing his breath control and the patience of an audience? Mr. Crooks sang often beautifully when he wasn't being nasal.

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