[Met Performance] CID:131140

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, March 5, 1941

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Sun


Castagna Has Title Role in Cast

It is one of the clichés of historical writing on music that Bizet's "Carmen" brought a new realism and plausibility to the operatic stage. Anyone who saw it for the first time last night would have been puzzled to discover the basis for such a belief in a work so staid, implausible and spiritless. The fault, dear listener (to paraphrase Shakespeare) was not in Bizet but in the treatment he received beginning with the lax conducting of Wilfred Pelletier and progressing through the drab staging and unconvincing individual performances.

The time has come, obviously, for something like justice to be accorded this unique score, or else have it removed quietly from the repertory. A principal justification for serious attention to this performance was the first appearance as Micaela of the gifted American soprano, Eleanor Steber. She acted the part appealingly, and sang it with unaffected simplicity and good musicianship. Doubtless she began nervously, for the second of her scenes (in the third act) was more secure vocally than the first, powered by genuine dramatic feeling and climaxed by a final B flat that was beautifully sustained. The undoubted quality in this voice will probably assert itself more consistently at future performances.

There was not much more than vocal accomplishment to consider among the other singers, for Bruna Castagna's Carmen has lost the pretense to dramatic validity it once possessed, and is not a little more than a succession of beautifully sung arias. It could be a good deal more. Leonard Warren's singing of Escamillo's music is close to first rate, for he has the voice for the part, if little sense of style or dramatic compulsion. Raoul Jobin's José was small in scale, and quite unsympathetic as to characterization. Alessio de Paolis, George Cehanovsky and Louis D'Angelo did good work in subordinate roles.

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