[Met Performance] CID:131260

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, March 15, 1941 Matinee Broadcast
Broadcast Matinee Broadcast

Available for streaming at Met Opera on Demand
Rebroadcast on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

Review 1:

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Carmen a l'Amiable

Yesterday's matinee being a broadcast performance would seem to have been cast for vocal effect. Very successfully too. Such an abundance of beautiful singing is not to be heard every day. The acting was not much, though the climaxes were o. k., thanks to Mr. Kullman, and the spectacle in general was quite sumptuous.

Miss Swarthout's voice is warm and beautiful and friendly, and her usage of it is both masterful and far from unrefined musically. In the role of Carmen that friendliness seems to get in her way, excepting for the passages of pure anger, which she does well. Carmen is classically considered to be a sexy role, and it is not easy to be friendly and sexy at the same time. She is jolly; she is athletic; she grins constantly. She is pretty as a moving picture and in the "healthy" American sense, attractive; but she has about as much direct sex-appeal as a Chesterfield cigarette advertisement; she is all charm and innuendo, and she has far too much energy.

She has, however, a fine and full stage presence whenever she manages to keep still; and her dead pan is utterly beautiful and terrifying. She overdresses the part less than most stars, and some of her studied "business" is excellent. Her card scene is good. The death scene is good too, though a shade violent. She might have been quieter and left the violence to Don José. Her dancing in the second act is a knock-out, far more convincingly Spanish and more distinguished than anything the ballet troupe did yesterday. Her whole rendition, in addition to its auditive opulence, showed evidence of great pains and much sincere effort to get it right. Working thus against nature to achieve melodrama, the result could hardly be expected to rank among the world's great Carmens. It is due to Miss Swarthout's great vocal warmth that a characterization otherwise fairly frigid ends by being quite acceptable as the cause of so much amorous conflagration.

Mr. Kullman sang superbly and looked fine. Also, as I mentioned before, it was due to his own dramatic building up that the climaxes all came off adequately. Miss Albanese's French is of the sketchiest and her comprehension of French style equally so. So she did the only thing possible with the role of Micaela. She sang it in the Italian style. But being a singer of great refinement in the Italian style, nothing she did was offensive. She took every occasion to display her beautiful voice even adding a magnificent "mezza di voce" on high B-flat in the third act aria; but at no time did she destroy the cantilena or falsify the expression of Bizet's lovely music. Her singing was utterly distinguished and, as always, penetratingly beautiful.

Equally distinguished and beautiful was that of Mr. Leonard Warren as Escamillo. He neither looked nor even pretended to act the part; but O, how beautifully he sang. What vigor of musical line! What refreshing variety of "demi teints!" What constantly accurate resonance, at all times placed squarely in the upper part of the face! The Misses Votipka and Olheim, the Messrs. Cehanovsky, de Paolis, D'Angelo and Engelman did solo bits and the celebrated concerted numbers with style and all fine resonance.

The stage direction was mostly not very good, especially for the chorus. The Joseph Urban scenery is still excellent. The conductor gave us a real French Carmen, but a second-class one. That is to say that his conception was correct but that the adjustments of tempi one to another were often a bit crude. The delicate ones came out overemphasized, the sharper ones a little fuzzy. The tempi were mostly on the fast side, a fault which did little harm to the performance, except in a few places animated it rather. The orchestra itself sounded good. On the whole a vigorous performance of a rich, a vigorous work, a Carmen particularly memorable for beautiful singing in every role.

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