[Met Performance] CID:170410

Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, December 27, 1955

Carmen (533)
Georges Bizet | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Blanche Thebom

Don José
Giuseppe Di Stefano

Lucine Amara

Robert Merrill

Heidi Krall

Margaret Roggero

Paul Franke

George Cehanovsky

Norman Scott

Calvin Marsh

Zebra Nevins

Adriano Vitale

Max Rudolf

Review 1:

Review of Frank Milburn in the 1/1/55 issue of Musical America

This was a particularly well-sung performance of a work that somehow never manages to show its age. While none of the individual roles were delivered in a way destined to blaze new trails in the annals of opera, every one of them made its effect with style and vocal distinction, thus bearing witness not only to the Metropolitan's care in casting its supporting parts but to Bizet's skill in writing them.

Blanche Thebom's Carmen has gained stature since last season, when she first performed Merimee's hussy at the opera house. While the interpretation is still edgy and high-strung rather than animal and amoral, that is no less valid a way of looking at Carmen than any other. What Miss Thebom has added this season is a suppleness both of tone production and dramatic line that make hers a satisfying heroine indeed, one capable of sustaining the audience's attention for more than three hours straight, as this heroine must. The handsome mezzo was in particularly good voice, rising with equal resourcefulness to the blandishments of "La-bas, la-bas dans la montagne" and the black despair of the Card Scene.

As Don Jose, Giuseppe Di Stefano played throughout with an ingenuous, almost boyish grace that made the doomed corporal as attractive and sympathetic as he has appeared in many moons. On the musical side the performance was less unified. There were a number of moments when the surface of a phrase grew choppy with passion, which may be all right in Verdi and Puccini but is not the way to sing Bizet; besides, the trills were not even attempted in the "Dragon d'Alcala" solo. On the credit side there was many a lovely pianissimo, while the Flower Song glowed with passion well spent, plus an awareness of the words that one does not always discern here.

Robert Merrill, singing his first Escamillo of the season, performed with his redoubtable flair and was ably seconded by Paul Franke, a new and refreshing Remendado. Norman Scott made an uncommonly musical Zuniga and acted well, while Lucine Amara, Heidi Krall, and Margaret Roggero handled their familiar roles with familiar charm and competence. In the pit, Max Rudolf conducted justly and tastefully, though with a bit too much lenience toward one or two laggards among his far-flung forces.

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