[Met Tour] CID:133190

American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, March 3, 1942

Review 1:

Review of Henry Pleasants in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Metropolitan Presents a New Carmen

Lily Djanel Makes Debut as Bizet Heroine

The Metropolitan's "Carmen" at the Academy of Music last night was one of the events of the season. Ever since the days of Minnie Hauck a performance of "Carmen" by a reputable company has been an event whenever there has been a new Carmen. There was a new one on this occasion in Miss Djanel, a Belgian soprano imported especially to be the Metropolitan's Carmen.

Miss Djanel's debut, added to the presence of Sir Thomas Beecham in the pit, was enough to keep intermission conversation lively and controversial. And as if this were not enough, the Metropolitan has restaged the production and built up a strong new supporting cast composed of Raoul Jobin as Don José, Licia Albanese as Micaela, Leonard Warren as Escamillo and Louis D'Angelo as Zuniga.

Miss Djanel's Carmen was well worth the attention it received. She is fitted for the role physically, vocally and temperamentally. Not a woman of classically beautiful features, she has nevertheless the animation and mobility of expression to make creditable the behavior of the men who come into her life.

The voice is of the same pattern. It is not an instrument of the best quality, nor is it well used according to conventional standards, but it sounds well in the throat of Bizet's gypsy and it fitted nicely into the general scheme of Miss Djanel's conception of the elusive part.

As to this conception, it was strangely uneven, or at least its presentation was uneven. The first two acts were most admirably developed with a consistent general characterization filled out with many felicitous and imaginative details of stage business. The third act was rather indifferent, and the last almost amateurish in its failure to sustain and increase the tension leading up to the murder.

Outstanding in the supporting cast was Miss Albanese, who acted her difficult part with much charm and simplicity and who sang the famous air with such artistry and plentitude of vocal resources as to win her the ovation of the evening. Wholly inexcusable and quite unworthy of her were the silk stockings with which she contrived to destroy the visual pleasure afforded by her otherwise tastefully chosen peasant costume.

Mr. Jobin sang the "Flower Song" with admirable feeling both for the musical phrase and for the French text. The rest of the role was similarly well sung. It was also well acted, but Mr. Jobin's fervor did not convey that desperate intensity of a not too bright peasant brigadier which has always made Armand Tokatyan's Don José so outstanding a piece of operatic characterization.

Mr. Warren's Toreador was more convincing in song than in appearance. Annamary Dickey, Helen Oelheim, George Cehanovsky and Alessio de Paolis made an exemplary quartet of smugglers and Mr. D'Angelo was a Zuniga born to the role.

But the really distinguished aspect of the production was Sir Thomas's musical direction. His conducting betrayed many high individual points of view which he proceeded to justify one by one in his lucid articulation of one of the most skillfully and imaginatively orchestrated scores of the opera literature. This performance was musically dynamic and alive, and the main source of its vitality and insight was the conductor.

The staging was effective save for the ballet. The idea of [beginning] the last act as a prelude to a bull fight with a kind of Danse Arabe set to the Andantino from Bizet's "Djanileh" and danced in the dim light of a remarkably tardy dawn was hardly worthy of the Metropolitan. But then neither was the general style of almost everything the ballet did.

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