[Met Performance] CID:130690

Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, January 28, 1941

Louise (38)
Gustave Charpentier | Gustave Charpentier
Grace Moore

René Maison

Doris Doe

John Brownlee

Helen Olheim

Edith Herlick

Suzanne/Young Ragpicker
Lucielle Browning

Irra Petina

Maxine Stellman

Camille/Artichoke Vendor
Thelma Votipka

Annamary Dickey

Anna Kaskas

Errand Girl/Street Arab
Natalie Bodanya

Maria Savage

John Gurney

Louis D'Angelo

Emery Darcy

Arthur Kent

Wilfred Engelman

George Cehanovsky

Nicholas Massue

John Dudley

George Rasely

Norman Cordon

Birdfood Vendor
Reno Mabilli

Birdfood Vendor
Joseph Santoro

Pope of Fools/Carrot Vendor/Noctambulist
Alessio De Paolis

Monna Montes

Ettore Panizza

Review 1:

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Paris in Slow Motion

For anyone particularly sensitive to the charm of Montmartre, the opera "Louise" exerts an irresistible attraction. One goes back to it year after year, if only to see its dawn and its dusk, its chimney pots and its view of Paris at night with fireworks and the illuminated Eiffel Tower. Its music fades a bit each year; its melodies grow dim and disjointed; and the lack of any solid harmonic substructure in the whole work becomes more and more evident. Its orchestral texture stands up pretty well. And the charm of the whole remains like the charm on Montmartre itself, which is ragged, decrepit, stinking, dank and forever falling to pieces. One would not have it otherwise. Montmartre has no grandeur in decay, like the Louvre and the Marais and the Ile Saint Louis. Its only grandeur is its decay, its decay and its tradition that human beings are human beings, no matter what happens to them.

And so, returning to "Louise" last night, I was not really caring very much what happened to it since my least hearing of it a year ago in Paris, or what was going to be done to it by an Italian conductor and a largely American cast. "Louise" was "Louise." Not a masterpiece of music in itself, but a reminder, an evoker of Paris and springtime and youthful lives devoted to art and love.

Not caring if it were done badly, I was perhaps equally insensitive to the excellences of last night's performance. Miss Grace Moore has a strong voice and a good figure, and she sings well enough. She seems to have worked hard and to be animated by a sincere desire to please. She leaves me cold, all the same. René Maison leaves me cold, too, though his singing is often quite fine, and his way of walking through the role without attempting to act more than the strict minimum of it is a thoroughly distinguished operatic job. Miss Doe did a somber Mother. She was good, but she lacked energy. Mr. Brownlee's Father was vocally and physically unimpressive. The role needs more dogmatism, more weight than his elegant singing and acting style can give it.

The lackadaisical air of the whole evening was probably due as much to the conductor as to the singers. Mr. Panizza took everything too slow. The scenes fell to pieces. Even the intermezzo on Paris street cries and the scene between night and day that follows it, which are hard to muff, fell as flat as I have ever heard them fall. The dressing shop did better, and the love-and-socialism third act, with ballet and coronation of the Muse, was almost up to normal tempo.

Another reason for the performance's inability to click, in spite of its many excellences, is to be found no doubt in the Metropolitan Opera Company's nervousness about casting. It is rarely indeed that any two performances of any opera at that house are sung by the same singers. The Flagstad-Melchior "Tristan und Isolde" is about the only permanent bit of casting in the repertory, and even then they have their Brangäne and King Mark switched on them from time to time. But their duo remains, and it gives great power to the opera. Miss Moore is not a bad Louise at all. But one singer cannot give unity to an ensemble. I fancy that if she were allowed to sing the role with the same tenor for a season or two, whether that were Mr. Kullman or Mr. Maison, the whole performance would eventually take on shape and become an audience favorite. But if every performance is be a reading, a rehearsal with a new supporting cast, it is not surprising that even such a pushover for Paris as myself should find her rendition of Louise tentative and lacking in conviction.

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