[Met Performance] CID:130380

La Bohème
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 3, 1941 Matinee

La Bohème (347)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa
Jarmila Novotna

Armand Tokatyan

Annamary Dickey

John Brownlee

George Cehanovsky

Ezio Pinza

Salvatore Baccaloni

Lodovico Oliviero

Arnold Gabor

Gennaro Papi

Désiré Defrère

Costume Designer
Blaschke & Cie

J. Novak repainted the old sets for Acts I and IV, which dated from the turn of the century.
La Bohème received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Melody and Tears

Yesterday's performance was a ripsnorter for gayety, vigor and general run-around. Few effects in the theater are more thoroughly delightful than that of chorus ladies' maternal physiques in gamin's wigs and trousers. Everybody loves it, even the chorus ladies themselves, who cavort and tussle enthusiastically. Few theatrical devices are so completely ineffective as that of hiding youthful love behind a beard.

Yesterday's gamins were superb. Yesterday's youthful lovers seemed, on the whole, more boisterous than passionate. Mr. Tokatyan sang Rodolfo on short notice in an improvised costume that consisted of a modern tail-coat, such as gentlemen wear as customers to the opera, and a pair of equally modern, quite snappily cut, in fact, trousers of a light, checked material. He sported above these a neat black beard trimmed in a style resembling at once that commonly associated with graphic representations of Our Savior and that indubitably worn by Napoleon III. His singing was good, though the voice is a little harsh.

Miss Novotna was dressed in the least glamorous colors, excepting for a little red jacket in the first act. At the Café Momus festivities she wore an infant's hood of white lace with streamers that tied under the chin. Already tall, the get-up made her look like Charlotte Greenwood. She sang at all time handsomely, though her voice has a veil on it, a slight buzz that prevents it from being the movingly beautiful thing it would be is she could give it a clearer and more ringing sound. Her musical style yesterday and her acting were the afternoon's most distinguished. In a cast that over-acted and whooped up the show incessantly, she remained calm and convincing at all times. Her death was genuinely touching, though Mr. Tokatyan's behavior with the corpse was anything but.

Miss Dickey, as Musetta, sang and acted well, in spite of a wig that suggested 1900 blondined hair more than it did anything associated with the Latin Quarter of the 1890's, and in spite also of a rather silly pink dress that stood out too much in the ensemble. Her last act was admirable.

After having been to a number of comic works at the Metropolitan this season, it was good to hear an opera with a tragic ending. The deployment of all the singers and all the instrumentalists that opera in a big house requires, the setting up of so much scenery and the designing of so many costumes, all the paraphernalia of what my colleague, Mr. Richard Watts, referred to last week as "so tumultuous a dramatic medium," are likely to seem futile unless the subject matter of the work that uses them all is something more essentially serious than what can be arranged into a happy ending.

In the case of "La Bohème" the touching quality of the work is not due to the mere presence of death. It is due, as well, to the genius of Giacomo Puccini. I call his musico-dramatic gift genius because no one has even been able either to analyze its power away or to laugh it off. Say what you will, and present that opera how you like, it is a truly sad story that makes people cry. And, after all, is anything in the world more poignant than youth and love and tuberculosis.

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