[Met Tour] CID:128700

Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, Thu, April 11, 1940

Review 1:

Review of Herbert Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Dashing 'Carmen' Makes Throng Forget Storm

Bad weather did not deter an unusually large crowd from attending the Metropolitan's performance of "Carmen" at Public Hall last night, although the sudden snowstorm obviously kept a lot of people from getting to their seats on time, and exception therefore was made to the almost invariable rule of promptness in starting the curtain rising some 15 minutes late.

Once inside, one found that the charms of Bizet's music soon made one forget the annoyances of an unwelcome blizzard, and the evening passed in pleasurable admiration of the work of several first-rate artists in a cast headed by Gladys Swarthout, one of the chosen few among opera stars whose names have the luster of Hollywood background. ?

Her appearance as Carmen was new experience for the Cleveland opera public, and not a disagreeable one if confined to the optical effect of watching a very pretty girl move about the stage with grace and confidence in her ability to charm. She wore swarthy make-up which was intended to bring her closer in resemblance to a Spanish gypsy. but which might also have been identified as the synthetic Florida suntan of a debutante.

It was obvious that singing the part of Carmen was also a somewhat new experience for Miss Swarthout. At any rate, she still has considerable distance to travel before reaching the heights attained by some of her illustrious predecessors in this role. Of her decorative value on the stage there can be no doubt, and she has, of course, more than a mere speaking acquaintance with the classical routine involved in depicting Bizet's heroine. But she is as yet unable to touch the inner essence of the character, or fly with it to those extremes of elemental passion inherent in it and necessary to its complete enfoldment.???


She appeared duly coquettish and was a good pal to her gypsy friends, but when it came to voicing the unbridled intensity of a soul who knows joy and sees a tragic destiny ahead, the grandeur and fiery abandon of some Carmens we have known was absent. On the vocal side there was again nicety of expression. but there are dull spots in her voice that prevent anything like the full sweep and tremendous variety of color allotted to her. And her French diction was poor.


Certain others in the cast, however, were excellent. Pinza created real illusion with his Escamillo and delivered his Toreador Song in the most telling dramatic accents that had the virtue, as always with this artist, of remaining inside the musical framework. And Norman Cordon, with his great height, commanding figure and full rich bass, made a stunning Zuniga.


Albanese Praised????

Again one had the pleasure of hearing the fresh, even soprano of Lucia Albanese, this time in the role of Micaela, which she molded delicately. avoiding the sentimental sweetness generally associated with the part and voicing eloquently the tender concern of the country girl who comes to seek out her wayward soldier friend. Armand Tokatyan handled the part of Don José capably and with a vocal scope of adequate dimensions, if not always a notably vivid delineation of the part. Others in the cast responsible for good team work, as well as individual contributions of merit; were Helen Olheim, Thelma Votipka, George Cehanovsky, Alessio De Paolis and Wilfred Engelman????


Charming to a degree is the choral music in "Carmen," and it was well presented. One especially attractive feature was the children's chorus in the first act presented by the boy's choir from Patrick Henry Junior High School. These youngsters were exceptionally well drilled and rattled off their French words as if they had known them for years, instead of only a few days. The conductor was Wilfred Pelletier whose work was sound, if not entirely brilliant.

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