[Met Tour] CID:133270

The Island God
La Bohème
Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, March 10, 1942

In English

The Island God (3)
Gian Carlo Menotti | Gian Carlo Menotti
Leonard Warren

Greek God
Norman Cordon

Astrid Varnay

Raoul Jobin

Fisherman's Voice
John Carter

Ettore Panizza

La Bohème (356)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa
Licia Albanese

Jan Kiepura [Last performance]

Annamary Dickey

Frank Valentino

George Cehanovsky

Ezio Pinza

Gerhard Pechner

Lodovico Oliviero

Wilfred Engelman

Paul Breisach


Review 1:

Review of Henry Pleasants in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

The Met Closes With Double Bill

"The Island God" and "La Bohème" Given at Academy

The Metropolitan Opera Association closed its local subscription season in the Academy of Music, last night, with a double-bill composed of "La Bohème" and Gian-Carlo Menotti's new opera, "The Island God."

It was, of course, a Philadelphia premiere for Mr. Menotti's one-act allegory. The evening was further notable for the strangely belated Philadelphia appearance of the Polish tenor, Jan Kiepura, who sang Rodolfo in "La Bohème" opposite the Mimi of Licia Albanese.

"The Island God" enjoyed a considerably greater popular success here than it did when it was introduced in New York a couple of weeks ago. There were repeated recalls for Leonard Warren, Raoul Jobin, Astrid Varnay and Norman Cordon, the principals, and for Ettore Panizza, the conductor, and of course, for young Mr. Menotti who was present to acknowledge the applause from the stage in company with the performers.

A second hearing of "The Island God" did not materially alter the impressions of the first. The opera has musical vitality, but not in sufficient measure to offset the disadvantages of a static libretto; still less so when the vitality stems largely from an orchestra which acts as a screen between the audience and the singers.

There was nothing controversial about the performance of "La Bohème," unless one might choose to quarrel with Mr. Kiepura's disarming extravagance of manner both as a singer and as an actor. There was a time in the third act when one had come to wonder whether the tenor was not rather more in need of medical attention than Mimi, and his collapse on Mimi's death bed at the end of the opera left him, to outward appearances at least, by far the more dead of the two; but it is hard to quarrel with Mr. Kiepura.

As those familiar with his work through the moving pictures and the radio know, he is simply not acquainted with restraint. He goes, as the war communiqués put it, "all out." He knows no other way. And there are elements of naïve sincerity and genuine abandonment in what he does that leaves the bad flavor that kind of performance would leave under other circumstances, and there is the not inconsiderable compensation of his voice, certainly one of the most brilliant tenors before the public. He sang the Narrative last night in the original key, and the high C at the close was the real thing. So was the high C he wished on himself at the end of the first act duet. Most tenors are content to leave this one to the soprano, as did the composer, but not Mr. Kiepura. Nor can one blame him too severely considering what he has to deliver.

No such personal allowances are necessary in appraising Miss Albanese. Her singing was a model of security, brilliance and good taste, and her singing an example of restraint worthy of the attention of all who would undertake the role. She managed to play down about as much as possible the element of self-dramatization which tempts so many sopranos to begin applying the pathos from the moment of the first act entrance. She played the part very simply - lightly and gaily in the first and second acts, intensly in the third and with effective understatement in the last.

Her performance would have been more affecting had it been set against a more animated group of Bohemians. The Messrs Valentino, Cehanovsky and Pinza and Miss Annamary Dickey, all played their parts with professional fluency, but the deadening atmosphere of routine surrounded all their activities except Mr. Pinza's farewell to his coat, which was the work of a fine artist. Nor was there much animation from the pit where Paul Breisach presided.

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