[Met Performance] CID:132020

Orfeo ed Euridice
Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, November 26, 1941

Orfeo ed Euridice (49)
Christoph Willibald Gluck | Ranieri de' Calzabigi
Kerstin Thorborg

Jarmila Novotna

Marita Farell

Happy Shade
Annamary Dickey

Ruthanna Boris

Monna Montes

Bruno Walter

Herbert Graf

Set Designer
Harry Horner

Costume Designer
Frank Bevan

Laurent Novikoff

Orfeo ed Euridice received four performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

Pathos and Style

"Orfeo et Euridice" is Gluck's most appealing work. Bruno Walter is the most appealing conductor of Gluck's music that one has had occasion to hear in New York for many years. Last night's performance of this opera under the loving hand of this great musician was in every way sweet and memorable.

After Mr. Walter's rich and deeply tender leadership of the whole, the most remarkable single performance was that of Miss Thorborg, as Orpheus himself. Never has her voice sounded so round and so ringingly lovely. She sang with all beauty and with style. Also she looked handsome in a sort of Greek cocktail dress and acted her man's role so convincingly that frequently one forgot she was not a man. Her Orpheus seemed really to be moved by a man's sentiments and to be expressing these with all the mental dignity and muscular reticence that one associates with dramatic representations of male feeling.

Seconding Miss Thorborg's noble performance with a grace and a fragility infinitely touching was Miss Novotna, as Euridice. Her voice has freshened up over the summer, especially its upper part. Her high notes were clear and penetrating with all loveliness, though her lower voice remains not quite properly placed, as always. Her vibrant vocalization and her superb mastery of the grand line in phraseology produced a rendition that was both lovely in sound and commanding in style. In addition to all this the beauty of her person, the death-like pallor of her facial mask and the intense expressivity of her every move and attitude gave to her characterization a quality of youth, of illness, of pathos that was both elegant and deeply touching. The love scenes with Orpheus, which might have been conventionalized into something without pretense or conviction, were breath-taking.

Miss Annamary Dickey looked well and sang beautifully as the Happy Shade. Miss Marita Farell, as Cupid, looked far too cute for words. Unfortunately she is not a well-grounded singer technically, though her musical emission is not without style.

Style, indeed, was the keynote of the evening. The scenery and costumes were stylish; the ballet, for once, was pretty and graceful; the whole visual aspect of the performance was appropriate. I should not wish to compare this visualization with the spectacular rendition of the same opera that took place in this same house some five years back. It was done at the time as pure ballet, with decoration by Pavel Tchelitcheff and choreography by Balanchine. As a ballet the production was memorable. As opera it was virtually non-existent, all the chorus and soloists having been buried alive in the orchestra pit.

The present production is far more modest visually and not in any way so original as that one, but it is surprisingly agreeable to look at and surprisingly devoid of the shocking lapses of taste one has come to associate with Metropolitan Opera productions of late years. Also, it gets the singers back on the stage, which is the only place where a singer can function to musical or to dramatic advantage. The entire show, visual and auditory, was last night a real operatic performance. There was superb vocalism, first-class teamwork, expressive staging and framing of the whole.

Also the whole was a whole. It was not an accidental meeting on a stage of artists who happen to know certain roles. It was a collaboration job with some person of taste, presumably Mr. Walter, taking trouble to see that all the collaborators, musical and plastic, were producing the same show that he was. Such unity of style, all too rare in operatic productions, is far more important than opera producers think. Please, may we have more of it? Also more of Bruno Walter.

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