[Met Tour] CID:165610

Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio, Wed, April 21, 1954

Review 1:

Review of Herbert Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Public Hall Throngs Hail Met’s “Faust”

Victoria de los Angeles and Cesare Siepi furnished the brighter tones in what was otherwise a somewhat grayish “Faust” by the Metropolitan Opera in Public Hall last night. Both were generously applauded as were also Eugene Conley as Faust, Robert Merrill as Valentin, Mildred Miller as Siebel, Thelma Votipka as Marthe and Lawrence Davidson as Wagner.

The placid simplicity of de los Angeles’ singing stood in marked contrast to the stormy blustering heard from the lips of many other Metropolitan stars this week, Her Marguerite was conceived in a bland, sweet and sentimental style, which allowed one to savor fully the glories of her evenly controlled legato, her pure, chase tone quality and her wonderful ability to sing a real pianissimo and still project the sound in the vast hall. It was a surprise to find her in a costume and coiffure that gave her the appearance of a matron of about 65.

Siepi, one of the best Mephistopheles since Pinza, was attired in full dress, top hat and a vermillion-lined cape, all of which did not prevent him from looking and acting like his satanic majesty. He was in exceptional voice and carried out the part with notable refinement and animation.

What gave a special and ill-defined character to the production as a whole was, first of all, transplanting it from medieval times to the early 19th century. It seemed to me that Rolf Gerard has not been as successful with his décor and costumes here as he was in the new “Tannhäuser.” A mixture of styles has resulted in no style at all.

Certainly there should no merriment at the village fair, and the addition of merry-go-round, clown, weight lifter and so on, with continuous dance movement, was all to the good. But Marguerite’s garden, on the other hand, might have been in the Everglades of Florida, while the studio and church scenes offered nothing distinctive whatever. Compromise between tradition and an effort to be different made the effort look mawkish and meaningless.

Ex-Clevelanders Lauded

One would like to say that this did not affect the musical side of the production but unfortunately it seemed to do so, and no special distinction was added by the conducting of Kurt Adler, which was competent but unimaginative.

Individual contributions were good. Conley’s work was clear and satisfactory. Merrill’s rich baritone was especially enjoyable. And two former Clevelanders in the cast Miller and Votipka, turned in praiseworthy performances.

Miller, it will be remembered, was a pupil here of Marie Simmelink Kraft and a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music. She continues to make laudable progress with her excellent voice.
Review 2:

Review of Arthur Loesser in the Cleveland Press
Scenic Effects Add Thrills to “Faust”

Last night at Public Hall the Met’s new production of “Faust” proved to be about the liveliest “Faust” many people had ever seen or heard. The massed scenes were especially effective: The Kermesse in Act I was full of unusual bounce and roguishness, while the Witch’s Sabbath ballet in Act V was one of the most devilish, unearthly, gripping things of its kind I have even experienced. It was done behind a gauze curtain, thus emphasizing the gray ungodly shapes and movements of the fabrics and the people as well as the twisted faggots they handled.

It was the same curtain, but distinct with its Martian landscape involving two different colored moons, that formed the visible set at the very [beginning] of Act I, before dissolving and showing the aged Faust in his musty study.

Costumes Startling

Costumes, too were startling in many cases, and pointedly anachronistic. Méphistophélès was dressed in a facsimile of evening clothes and a high hat, like the villain of an 1860 melodrama.

Siebel, supposedly a simple country lad, looked like a sophisticated fob with his two-toned frock coat and his gray opera hat, too. Marguerite, sweet innocent, seemed to be wearing a Paris “tea gown.”

But who cares? Or rather who ought to care” The very music, full of 19th Century sentiment and symmetry, is an anachronism with regard to the 16th Century story. Anyway it was all very exciting.

Victoria de los Angeles as Marguerite was the outstanding vocal artist of the cast. She delivered her melody at all times with a wonderfully warm sweet quality, always clear and full of color, and its delineation in perfect taste.

Proud of Miss Miller

Cesare Siepi was a highly satisfactory Mephistopheles, both vocally and dramatically, perhaps a shade less pungent in his effect than other famous devils of the past.

Eugene Conley, in the title role, pleased especially with the lyrical quality of his sustained melodies, and was at his best in the garden scene.

Robert Merrill’s bold, sonorous baritone helped to put real life into the somewhat negative art of Valentin.

We continue to be proud of Mildred Miller, our home grown star. She sang the part of Siebel with notable clarity, vivacity, and imagination, especially the “flower song,” which is its principal element.

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