[Met Tour] CID:156900

City Auditorium, Houston, Texas, Tue, May 1, 1951

Review 1:

Review of Ann Holmes in the Houston Chronicle
Appealing Performance of “Faust” Ends Opera Season

The Metropolitan Opera concluded its second and last performance in Houston’s “little season” of opera in City Auditorium Tuesday night with an appealing performance of “Faust.”

The Gounod opera has long been a favorite of the standard grand opera repertoire, and was, as a matter of fact, the first opera presented at the Met when it opened its New York house in 1883.

“Faust” is a representative of that school of French opera where literary works have shown a great influence, and where the emotions of the characters are actually the feature of the story rather than a motivating force, as they were in the Italian operas including Monday night’s “Il Trovatore.”

“Faust” is a medieval legend which Goethe immortalized of the philosopher who, having sacrificed youth and pleasure in his search for knowledge, suddenly realizes he has missed out on half the fun. He curses all human pleasure, then invokes the aid of Satan. Much to his surprise a tall gent with a feather in his cap and all the savoir faire in the world blows in on the window. It is Mephistopheles.

The two make a historical bargain. Faust should again become young, and may court the lady Marguerite with the aid of Mephisto if in the hereafter Faust will agree to serve Satan.

Faust’s romance with Marguerite is perhaps less discreet than it might have been, and the consequences are the obvious ones. Marguerite slays her child, puts Faust away from her and at the close of the fourth act has saved her own soul, while Faust and Mephisto were left waiting for the down elevator as it were.

Faustus, Giuseppe di Stefano, moved about with the uncertainty of a man in a spell, which was actually his plight. There was little suppleness in the Di Stefano stage movements and not much power or personal projection. His tenor voice, however, was at all moments an able instrument. The celebrated aria, “Salut demeure” was sung with vocal authority if no marked passion.

Soprano Lady Love

Victoria de los Angeles, possessor of a soprano voice of resonance and beauty, portrayed the lady love, Marguerite. The de los Angeles voice was more representative of the usual vision of Marguerite than was Miss Angeles’s stocky build, but nevertheless she conjured sympathy and created some poignant moments. Her song at the spinning wheel, “Regained a King in Thule of Old,” was gentle and moving.

Among the musical high points in the evening were the several appearances of baritone Frank Guarrera, an artist whose voice will no doubt bring him into roles of greater significance than his supporting one in “Faust.” Richly textured, well rounded tones, and a marvelous fluid freeness make his voice a delight to hear.

The rousing “Soldier’s Chorus,” too, was to be a chorus-and-orchestra climax, while the Walpurgis Night ballet offered stage movement and color, if not the precision and artistry one expects from Ballet Theatre, dance components of the opera.

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