[Met Performance] CID:168050

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, February 21, 1955

Review 1:

Review signed F. M. in Musical America

Substituting for Giuseppe Campora, Eugene Conley sang his first Metropolitan des Grieux with notable success. His voice has seldom been heard to better advantage than in this role, which calls for the most delicate blending of suavity and passion. Abetted by Massenet's considerate orchestration and the clarity and restraint of Pierre Monteux's conducting, the tenor gave a performance that more than made up vocally for what it may have lacked histrionically, ranging from a tenderly sustained pianissimo in "Le Rêve" to a climax in "Ah! fuyez, douce image" that rang with force and conviction without ceding one whit of elegance or control. Though in the last act Mr. Conley seemed to tire, in general he cannot be praised too highly for the finesse of his phrasing, his unerring accuracy of pitch, and the way he steadfastly refused to strain or shout in a part in which such sins come close to being unpardonable.

Eleanor Steber, heard as Manon for the first time this season, displayed authority and intelligence in meeting the rôle's considerable acting demands. Her voice does not seem ideally suited to Massenet's irresponsible heroine, but she sang with fluency and brilliance and - barring some overemphasis in the St. Sulpice scene - with estimable purity of tone. The second act was particularly fine.

In supporting rôles one must single out Fernando Corena, for performing Lescaut broadly but with style, and Shakeh Vartenissian, for touching the thankless part of Poussette with the magic or what may turn out to be a great voice. The stage direction of this production continues to strike one as rather aimless. The Cours la Reine ballet, on the other hand, succeeds in conveying the pictorial charm of a Lancret.

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