[Met Tour] CID:156840

Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee, Thu, April 26, 1951

Review 1:

Review of Louise Nolan Ahrens in the Memphis Press-Scimitar
Grand Was Word for Opera “Faust” at Auditorium

Nearly 5,000 Applaud Metropolitan Cast in Rich and Beautiful Performance

It was grand opera in the truest sense when the fabulous Metropolitan Opera Co. paused for a night in its tour of the nation to bring Gounod’s “Faust” to a Memphis audience of nearly 5,000.

Beautifully mounted and sung as you expect only a galaxy of Metropolitan stars to sing, the opera was a brilliant finale to the musical season of 1950-51 as presented last night in the north hall of the Auditorium.
A Perpetual Joy

The wonderfully rich, mellow bass of Cesare Siepi in the role of Mephistopheles was a perpetual joy. He uses his big, impressive voice with great artistry, but his acting is a little bit more restrained than some of the more flamboyant, swashbuckling Mephistopheles we have seen who dominated every scene and made their mocking laugh a thing to induce chills. Not once did he remove his hat with the low, sweeping gesture of mock gallantry in addressing a lady that his satanic majesty usually affects. Nevertheless, Mr. Siepi was resoundingly applauded time and again and the memory of his cello-like voice will linger with us.

In the title role we had Giuseppe Di Stefano and his exquisite voice with the quality that Providence seems to have reserved exclusively for Italian tenors. His apostrophe to the dwelling of Marguerite, the sweetheart whom the devil produces for him after he sings his soul away in exchange for youth and romance, was a beautiful show piece. High notes come as easily as low ones from his throat.

As Easy Prey

Lovely Eleanor Steber was an artless Marguerite, an easy prey for the machinations of the evil one. Her “Jewel Song” was artistic both vocally and dramatically and she was most convincing later, too, as the distracted victim of betrayed love, imprisoned for destroying her child. Her prayer to the angels in the last act, with Faust and Mephistopheles joining in as a trio was superb. Miss Steber’s voice, known and loved thru her frequent radio performances, as well as from past appearances here, was in splendid form.

Fourth ranking star was Frank Guarrera as Marguerite’s outraged brother, killed by the sword of Faust. His powerful baritone was heard to special advantage in the cavatina “A toi, Seigneur.” Margaret Roggero was a most attractive Siebel and her “Flower Song” was a delight. Thelma Votipka, one of the Met’s most versatile performers, was fine as Marthe and Lawrence Davidson, as Wagner, was a worthy associate of the rest of the cast. Fausto Cleva kept the four-hour opera moving at the proper clip by his expert, dynamic conducting.

Walpurgis Ballet

Adding to the length of the opera was the Walpurgis Night ballet, restored to the opera this season as one of Rudolf Bing’s many innovations. It was artistically interpreted by the highly trained ballet unit.

The chorus, as usual, played a major role in the success of the performance. Particularly effective was the Soldier’s Chorus and the scene in which the cocky Mephistopheles is made to cower as the men bare their cross-shaped sword hilts and stand their ground before him.

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