[Met Performance] CID:132730

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, January 24, 1942 Matinee Broadcast

Debut : Lily Djanel

Carmen (371)
Georges Bizet | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Lily Djanel [Debut]

Don José
Charles Kullman

Licia Albanese

Leonard Warren

Thelma Votipka

Helen Olheim

Alessio De Paolis

George Cehanovsky

Norman Cordon

Arthur Kent

Monna Montes

Ruthanna Boris

Alexis Dolinoff

Michael Arshansky

Alexis Kosloff

Leon Varkas

Thomas Beecham

Désiré Defrère

Set Designer
Joseph Urban

Costume Designer
Mary Percy Schenck

Laurent Novikoff

Carmen received twelve performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in the New York Times

Djanel played her part with a fine sense of values and a sincere and musicianly intention. By the side of many a prima donna who have taken the role at the Metropolitan in other seasons, we owe her much for her knowledge, her taste, and musical feeling. The voice is warm, not overly large, and best in its upper register. Vocally the part lies low for her, and this was not for the best good of her singing, particularly after the first act. In this first act she was an interesting figure, gypsy-like, swarthy of tint, slant-eyed.

But we have a quarrel with the Metropolitan Opera make-up, which in later scenes caused her to appear older than we know her to be. The part needs a bigger line for the Metropolitan stage and in places a more elemental sweep. But here is a Carmen, praise be, who refused to over-act and who knew what she was there for.

Review 2:

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

Expectations had run high concerning the performance. Some of them were realized, others not. There is no doubt that Sir Thomas brought the orchestra to a high point of finish and, technically, it played very well indeed. The British conductor's tempi were not invariably those to which we are accustomed, being frequently much faster. The entre-acts however, were beautifully played and the death motive in the Overture given real dramatic significance. When all's said and done, Sir Thomas was the star of the afternoon.

Miss Djanel's Carmen is different from any seen or heard before on the Metropolitan's stage. Gifted with an agreeable personality and a marked degree of vivacity, the new artist romped through the role but did not seem invariably to plumb either the romantic or the tragic depths with which it abounds. There was some clever, entertaining "business" in the first act, the singer's best. Vocally, Miss Djanel's voice is best in its medium register. The middle voice is rich in quality and well produced and has the true mezzo-soprano timbre.

Mr. Kullman, though not in his best voice, gave a straightforward and vocally fine rendition of the role of Don Jose. Mr. Warren's Escamillo was somewhat heavy but he sang well. Norman Cordon contributed one of his excellent genre bits as Zuniga, and Arthur Kent made much, both vocally and dramatically of Morales. Incidentally, Mr. Kent's diction was unusually clear. Licia Albanese's Micaela seemed to know her away around with the soldiers better than most Micaelas. She was given a long round of applause after her aria in the third act. The smaller roles were capably filled.

Some new stage business was effective, especially that of having the curtain in the last act go up in early morning darkness on a crowd waiting to get into the bullring. Mr. Defrère's fondness for having singers deliver their high notes downstage, center, interrupted the duet of Carmen and Jose in the Inn scene. New costumes for the ballet and principals added much, visually, to the performance.

Review 3:

Review of Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune

Grandeur and Poverty

Yesterday afternoon's "Carmen" at the Metropolitan dispensary of musical theater may correctly be said, I think, to have gone off with a bang. It didn't t used to be considered cricket to bomb infirmities. But Sir Thomas Beecham's well planned musical explosions in our city, though they do upset a good many of our lackadaisical habits, are as invigorating to the morale as those of the Germans have been to the spiritual temper of London. Miss Lily Djanel, the new Carmen from Belgium (by way of Paris and Rio), is upsetting one of our firmest traditions, too, by playing the rôle as if she believed in it. The show as a whole was vigorous and invigorating: Unfortunately, all the vocal work was not up to the level of musical distinction set by Sir Thomas in the pit.

Miss Djanel has not a great voice, and she is not pretty. Her features are, however, quite credibly Spanish; and her body is lithe. Also she is not afraid of the rôle. Neither does she overdress it, except in the last act. By sheer conviction and trouping talent, she manages to make one forget preconceptions and to convince one that she herself, right there on the stage, is the character the opera is all about. I have rarely seen on the operatic boards so powerful and withal so unpretentious a physical presence. And it has been a long time since I have seen and heard so convincing a Carmen.

The vocal honors of the day went chiefly to Miss Albanese, whose charming presence and superb vocal mastery united to produce a memorable Micaela. Mr. Warren sang well, too. In appearance he is much too fat. He would be credible enough as a picador; but as Escamillo. the matador, he is a little comic. It is better to sing well than merely to look appropriate, but I do think Mr. Warren might reduce a bit. Mr. Cordon sang handsomely, and so did the Misses Votipka and Olheim, whose fortune-telling duet was most agreeable, Mr. Kullman, as Don José, was not in his best voice and did a good deal of tearful pushing on the high notes. The ballet was quite brilliant in a modest way, largely due to the pretty color scheme of its clothing. The stage direction, for once, made perfectly clear the knifing incident at the end of Act III.

Beecham's work was a triumph of brilliant pacing, of delicate accompanying, of fine attention to detail and of general animation. He made the Bizet score sound like the superb score that it is, and he made the Metropolitan orchestra sound like a better orchestra than we have been used to thinking it is. The major fault in Beecham's operatic conducting is that it is so utterly first-class that it shows up most painfully the defects of his collaborators. He can always get more out of an orchestra than the men are used to giving, but nobody can make a singer sing better than he can sing, Of yesterday's cast, only Miss Albanese offered vocal resources wholly worthy of the platinum setting Sir Thomas had provided for all.

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