[Met Tour] CID:128750

Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, Mon, April 15, 1940

Review 1:

Review of Graydon Heartsill in the Dallas Times-Herald

Pons Sets House Record in Met Opera, "Lakmé"

Hollywood has coined a new word for glamour-plus; glex. The Metropolitan has no need for a word; it has Pons.

Monday night, Fair Park Auditorium, jammed to the rafters, made the most of it, embodied in the frail and lovely Indian Lakmé, heard it in caroling which would put to shame the high notes of a bird.

The Southwest and its guests, 4,549 strong, paid $21,838 on the box office counter to see and hear Lily Pons launch Dallas' second Metropolitan season with Delibes's "Lakmé," It was the tiny coloratura's night and both sides of the footlights sparked to create a setting worthy of the high priestess of the opera - the one side with the dazzling glory of India and the other with the bejeweled gowns and gleaming white ties of the fashionable first-nighters. In the boxes were such luminaries as Nino Martini, Richard Crooks and other of the great artists who will enhance the stage before the company takes to rails again after Wednesday night's "La Traviata."

In size, in gross receipts, in resplendence it was a [first night] which made history.

"Lakmé" is far from a heavy opera. Rather it stands - or, perhaps soars is the word - as delightful froth and showy vocalism in a repertory which during this short season has yet to bring its sturdier Wagner, Gounod and Verdi. At times, it verges in its tuneful duets, its lively quartets and choruses and its colorful ballet, on the light opera - but find the light opera company which could do it.

The ecstatic love scenes between Lakmé and Gerald carried the movie touch. The clinches were reminiscent of the Garbo-Gilbert period and the Pons costumes moved into exotic realms beyond the Lamour sarong. But it was more than that. It was a Metropolitan Opera Company production and it bore the dignity of selected musicianship; it was made great by Metropolitan's greatness.

And, as always, the company built on the strong base of its orchestra. Before the curtains were raised the poetic baton of Wilfred Pelletier wafted the audience into the mystic, Oriental atmosphere, ready for the haunting prayer aria from the wings, which heralded Lakmé's first entrance.

The Bell Song

It was, naturally, the brilliant Bell Song, filling every inch of the vast auditorium with beauty and every listener with amazed wonder that such a voice could be let loose from such a tiny body, which brought the house down. But the evening had its other moments, too, and of them a surprising number were provided by the diminutive soprano whose performance was one of sustained quality. In the third act's slumber song she plumbed the depths of tenderness, and in her death scene aria her voice still sure, was reaching for celestial heights.

Yes, the opera was "Lakmé" - and Lakmé was Pons. But those who went for a "concert" reckoned not with Ezio Pinza. The magnificent voice and the powerful figure of the Roman basso dominated the scene when he was a part of it. Even in his beggar's rags, eyes strayed to him as though he still wore the first act's splendid raiment of the Brahman priest, and his singing in the village meeting scene showed why he has been acclaimed as the greatest living basso. What a grand time Wednesday's matinee audience will have when the Mephistopheles role gives him still a richer bite than Monday's Nilakantha, into which to set his histrionic and vocal teeth.

Tokatyan's Gerald

Armand Tokatyan made a handsome enough Gerald in his red soldier's coat. And although, during the first two acts, he sounded like just another tenor, slightly on the fuzzy side - quite a disappointment during his first act's jewel-inspired aria - the final part was a different story. Whether it was a matter of warming up or a successful gargle doesn't matter, the important thing being that the third act carried a lush tenor part and Tokatyan came through with a clear voice and a memorable performance.

Still other memories are stored away of this delightful evening. In some of them the singer will shine more brightly than the cast listing would indicate. The first spontaneous applause followed the Lakmé-Maillika duet and to its melody-rhythm laden loveliness, the beautifully placed voice of Irra Petina was a contributing factor. Annamary Dickey, too, lent a fresh, clear voice to the thankless Ellen role. Some future season, it is to be hoped, will bring us more of John Carter. In the small part of Hadji, he had little opportunity to show what he has, but what he did was true and fine and his only solo of any consequence received the audience's salute of favor.

Ballet Entertaining

For some reason, George Cehanovsky failed to "click" as Frederic. He was neither good, nor was he bad - possibly because it was not a demanding role vocally nor a positive one dramatically.

It was the first time this section had a real opportunity to see the talents of the Corps de Ballet. In the second act's choreography by Boris Romanoff, "Lakmé" found much of its color - color of which Stage Director Desire Defrere took full advantage.

The curtain was fifteen minutes late in rising, so the threat that all late-comers would not be shown to their seats until the end of the first act was not carried out. It was, however, a short opera and was attended with the usual first-night delay. Tuesday night everything will be running on schedule for the longer 'Die Walküre," according to President Arthur L. Kramer of the Dallas Grand Opera Association. Promptly at 8 p.m. the Leinsdorf-conducted orchestra will whip up the overture storm, and the stand-through-the-first-act warning is reiterated for those who aren't in their seats to hear it.

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