[Met Tour] CID:133620

Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, Fri, April 17, 1942

Review 1:

Review of Graydon Heartsill in the Dallas Times Herald

Djanel's Local Debut Stages Unique Carmen

"Carmen" was tossed like a full-blown rose across the halfway mark of Dallas' Metropolitan season Friday night, and the audience which assembled in Fair Park Auditorium for Tunesmith Bizet's hit-parade was a far more willing captive than the luckless target of the gypsy's blossom.

For the colorfully mounted opera, the Metropolitan gave its Southwestern fans one of the season's debutantes, the vital Lily Djanel who fled France during the German invasion and gave her eightieth Carmen performance in Brazil. Her New York bow in the same role brought on a controversy which seems to be the earmark of a "positive" enactment of the role. It popped up again during intermissions in Fair Park Auditorium.

Djanel's Carmen had a dirty neck. She was cheaply seductive and wantonly wicked. She was, in short, a tramp. If you like the sensuous Spanish gypsy tinged with the guttersnipe and dipped in toughness, Djanel's impersonation filled the bill. Like it or not, it must go down as original and "alive," if not remarkably voiced.

Carmen's big vocal moment is, of course, the "Habanera," placed in the first act - unfortunately. It took a bit of singing on Djanel's part to find the opulence and color of tone which would have made it stand out. In fact, during the entire first act she lured Don José with a mezzo which was cold, a little strident and somewhat uncertain.

Far more effective was the intensity with which she glimpsed the future in the card scene, the feline savagery which boiled in her dramatic low register when Don José heard the call of duty, and the scorn which curled the edges of her voice when she gave him the brush-off.

Jobin's Don José

The luckless dragoon was interpreted by Raoul Jobin, a tenor of power and expression and musicianship. In his romantic lead assignment, he made love with the awkwardness of a gentle bear, but this technique (held over from last season's "Daughter of the Regiment") was an asset in his enactment of Don José. He was, after all, just a good boy and kind to his mother and he got in bad company and wasn't at all happy about giving up everything for love. As a matter of fact, if he had listened to the audience's applause for the way his tenor blended with the soprano of his childhood sweetheart in their first act duet he would have quit gaping and pawing at the gypsy moll and realized that mousy Micaela was the girl for him. They could have had such happy musical evenings at home.

Licia Albanese's Micaela, introducing the Italian lyric soprano to this section, produced a peak in the opera when, in her third act aria, she loosed a glorious voice with clarity and warmth and purity amid the Met's solid-looking rock masses.

No. 1 hit tune of a score which students of such things denounce affectionately as phony Spanish is the Toreador Song and the applause meter proclaimed Leonard Warren's singing of it as one of the evening's ace performances, although his baritone has been more congenially utilized. Just as John Brownlee's dashing cavalier made Thursday night's audience as fickle as Carmen about Pinza, Warren's strutting bull- fighter made it forget Brownlee who was replaced in the role when he was shifted to "Don Giovanni." As Escamillo, baritone Warren, big boxy Metropolitan auditions-of-the-air winner of 1939, displayed virility and devil-may-care confidence, noted with appreciation by those who remembered him as a solid actor with extraordinary vocal endowments.

Lesser roles were handled by Thelma Votipka, Helen Olheim, Wilfred Engelman, Alessio de Paolis, George Cehanovsky and Louis D'Angelo, all of whom know the roles thoroughly and the first four of whom did a delightful job with the gypsy quintet.

Bizet's Chance

"Carmen" provided the ballet with its first real opportunity this season. The alert boys and girls made the most of it, and their fourth act Novikoff choreography, reaching a whirling climax in "Farandole," provided some of the opera's most exciting minutes. Thrust into the spotlight were half a dozen of the ensemble including the graceful, fleet-footed Ruthanna Boris, who delighted Shubert light opera fans last summer.

Conductor Wilfred Pelletier, from the first drum crash, asserted his authority and demonstrated again that he knew what to do with it. He gave the Bizet score its full value of tuneful content and rhythmic snap and kept things moving along at lively clip.

"Carmen" notes: The white-haired woman who dressed the goose and nodded through the first act was Marie Savage, the Met's grand old woman who has been on the roster for something like half a century. Under her black wig, Djanel is a blond; under her gold braids, Albanese is a brunet? With the approach of the weekend, uniforms were more in evidence Friday night.. In fact, the khaki easily matched the ermine as first-night formality had all but vanished.

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