[Met Performance] CID:130470

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 10, 1941 Matinee

Debut : May Savage

Manon (145)
Jules Massenet | Henri Meilhac/Philippe Gille
Jarmila Novotna

Des Grieux
Richard Crooks

Richard Bonelli

Count des Grieux
Ezio Pinza

Alessio De Paolis

George Cehanovsky

Annamary Dickey

Maxine Stellman

Helen Olheim

Louis D'Angelo

John Dudley

Arthur Kent

May Savage [Debut]

Wilfred Pelletier

Désiré Defrère

Joseph Urban

Manon received three performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times

Jarmila Novotna scored an emphatic triumph in the title role of Massenet's "Manon" at the season's first presentation yesterday afternoon of that work at the Metropolitan Opera House. The performance, a special one, was given for the benefit of Barnard College. Part of the proceeds will go toward British war relief, and the rest will be used to establish scholarships for students in need of funds to continue their academic education.

Miss Novotna's Manon was a brilliant portrayal, most carefully considered in every detail throughout the opera's five acts. She was the embodiment of youth and comeliness, looking the part to perfection in her series of gorgeous costumes. Histrionically her accomplishment was of the first rank, and her singing invariably had the merits of vivid expressiveness and intelligent musicianship.

Simplicity in Her Acting

In the first act Miss Novotna impressed by the simplicity of her approach. She wisely avoided stressing Manon's ignorance of the ways of the world, so commonly considered necessary at this point by impersonators of the role. After all, Manon was being sent to a convent because of her lapses in regard to the proprieties, even though she came from the provinces. But hers was a naively curious nature, as well as one dominated by the emotions, a fact Miss Novotna skillfully brought out at the start by her affectionate interest in a little caged bird outside the inn-door, an original bit of stage business with more than the usual amount of significance.

The artist also had an individual manner of treating the famous "Adieu, notre petite table" in the second act. In order to reserve deep pathos for the remarkably delineated final episode of the opera, she did not work for too much of that sort of effect in this number. Rather it was keen regret at parting with Des Grieux, not unmixed with remorse, that she sought to bring out in this music, which she sang seated at the table instead of standing, an intimate touch, evoking memories of past happiness at its side, as did her tender stroking of the cloth upon it.

The steady development of Manon's inner self from the carefree girl to the completely disillusioned and broken woman of the close was deftly handled, and in the great duet of the St. Sulpice scene Miss Novotna brought her interpretation to an irresistibly impassioned and seductive climax of rare power.

Duet in Last Act Praised

If her vocalism was not entirely on a par with her acting, it always made up in subtlety and human feeling for any lack it may have shown in coloring of the tones. And in the duet mentioned and during the final act Miss Novotna's singing was of a superior order. She also could be highly commended for her clean-cut, finely phrased encompassment of the Gavotte in the gambling scene and for the effectiveness of all of her vocalism from the dramatic standpoint. A Manon of this caliber has not been visible on the Metropolitan stage for a number of seasons.

The entire performance moved smoothly and with plenty of atmosphere and animation. Richard Crooks, the Des Grieux, sang with warmth and fervor, doing his best vocal work in "Le Rêve" and the last act. The part calls for many full-voiced top notes, most of which were blemished, and badly so in several instances, such as the high A in the second act quartet and the climactic tone in "Ah, fuyez."

Richard Bonelli, whose gestures were rather fussy, made a manly and rich-voiced Lescaut, and George Cehanovsky did well as De Bretigny. As the elder Des Grieux, Ezio Pinza, who had not been heard here in the role heretofore, was not in his element. He was not as imposing as expected, and in his main opportunity in the St. Sulpice episode, often was flat. He sang to better advantage in the big ensemble at the end of the gambling scene, where his weighty tones did much to heighten the effect.

Wilfred Pelletier held his forces together with a firm hand, but sometimes permitted the orchestra to provide too much sound.

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