[Met Tour] CID:128690

La Bohème
Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, Wed, April 10, 1940

La Bohème (345)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa
Licia Albanese

Charles Kullman

Annamary Dickey

Giuseppe De Luca

George Cehanovsky

Ezio Pinza

Louis D'Angelo

Giordano Paltrinieri

Arnold Gabor

Gennaro Papi

Review 1:

Review of Herbert Elwell in The Cleveland Plain Dealer


Licia Albanese Excellent in Met's Third Success

Before another large audience in Public Hall last night the Metropolitan scored its third success of the week, this time stepping down from the exalted heights of the grander style of opera to the humbler and more realistc sphere of Puccini's "La Bohème."

In bestowing its talents upon this masterpiece the company achieved something which may well go down as one of its finest contributions. And there can be no doubt that listeners came away with the feeling of having witnessed a performance of exceptional quality.

Anyone even half willing to meet the outstretched hand of this alluring music could not fail to have been carried along the whole way by the irresistible pace of the performance. And anyone with a real affection for the piece could easily have been subjugated by it to a point of unqualified admiration, for there was something in the presentation that clicked, definitely and seductively.

Expert Ensemble

The smoothness, the ease and amplitude of phrase and gesture, the deftness in the employment of every known artifice for conveying naturalness and freedom of expression amounted to something rarely encountered in operatic experience. And it was attributable to some of the most expert ensemble, both in acting and singing, that the Metropolitan has yet given us.

The expertly coordinated work of the evenly matched talent in the cast was the more surprising because of the fact that one of the members, Licia Albanese, stepped in on short notice to fill the place of Grace Moore, who was prevented by illness from appearing in this performance. And it was as though she had spent seasons in the company of the other participants, such was the ease and grace with which she fitted into the picture of student life in the Latin quarter as represented by a truly congenial quartet of artists in the persons of Charles Kullman, Giuseppe de Luca, Ezio Pinza and George Cehanovsky.

This youthful Italian soprano proved an ideal Mimi. She is the right height, attractive and extremely sensitive to all the delicate inflections of mood and temperament the part requires.

There was a nice restraint in her timid entrance to the artist's garret in the first act as there was in the pathetic death scene, which can so easily become maudlin. And with this was a voice of genuine freshness and vibrancy, as beautifully lyric as it was at times poignantly dramatic. No slight detail of word or inflection was lost, even in the softest, most intimate passages. It was a delight to hear a pure Italian and real legato from her, and in her whole demeanor there was something finely attuned to the heart and essence, as well as the atmospheric content of the drama.

What it contains of tenderness and pathos as well as jovial boisterous humor was marvelously exemplified for the matter in everyone who took part. Pinza was superb as the old philosopher, Colline, and his farewell in the last act was touching enough to leave one quite unstrung. He substituted for Norman Cordon, who though unable to appear last night because of a slight indisposition will be present in tonight's cast for "Carmen."

De Luca Excellent

Impersonating the painter Marcello, in a robust, sympathetic manner that was altogether winning, and his vocal artistry was a major contribution. Cehanovsky was first rate as Schaunard, the musician. The Rodolfo of Kullman can also be credited with spirited acting and singing of considerable verve, though in view of the major importance of this role, it is to be regretted that his tenor was not of a warmer quality. The occasional thickness of his high tones, and some deviation from pitch, especially in the first act, suggested that he was not at his best vocally.

Annamary Dickey was one of the gayest, best humored and altogether bewitching Musettas I have seen. And while her American-Italian accent would hardly pass muster in the best Tuscan circles, she carried off the part in a way that made her the life of the party in the café scene, which by the way, was extraordinary in its continuity of rapid, effervescent motion. Her voice, too, was attractive and gave a brilliant ring to some of the ensembles.

Humorous Characterization

Louis D'Angelo took the two comic roles - that of the frustrated landlord, Benoit, who didn't get his rent, and that of Alcindoro, the doddering old admirer of Musetta, who is left holding the bag when it comes to paying the bill at the café. He did them to perfection, and with a subtle kind of humorous characterization, rather than the forced gayety so often injected into the lighter moments of the opera.

But no report would be complete without an emphatic tribute to the masterful conducting of Gennaro Papi, who appears to be one of the least emotional of conductors. He is as business-like as a mechanical engineer. But the cooler he appears outwardly the more intense and gripping are the results he obtains. He releases energy in a way that is astonishing, and the infinite gradations in nuance of Puccini's music come through with a flexibility of rubato that makes it live with unusual vividness.

What this music communicates in personal, inconspicuous, every-day gestures, perfectly timed to stage action, is in itself something of a miracle. To find it translated with the meticulous care that Papi brings to it in his casual way made it nothing short of unalloyed pleasure; and this is not to suggest that it lacked depth or power, for the whole conception was magnificently rounded.

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