[Met Performance] CID:173290

Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, November 29, 1956

Debut : Belén Amparan

Les Contes d'Hoffmann (86)
Jacques Offenbach | Jules Barbier
Richard Tucker

Laurel Hurley

Belén Amparan [Debut]

Lucine Amara

Natalie Kelepovska

Lindorf/Coppélius/Dappertutto/Dr. Miracle
George London

Mildred Miller

Alessio De Paolis

Lawrence Davidson

James McCracken

Calvin Marsh

Paul Franke

Clifford Harvuot

Norman Scott

Mother's Voice
Sandra Warfield

Thomas Schippers

Cyril Ritchard

Rolf Gérard

Les Contes d'Hoffmann received six performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Robert Sabin in the December 15, 1956 issue of Musical America

The season's first performance of Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" found Thomas Schippers at the helm for the first time at the Metropolitan, introduced Belen Amparan in her debut with the company, in the role of Giulietta and also marked the first time that George London had sung the roles of Lindorf, Coppélius, Dappertutto and Dr. Miracle at the Metropolitan.

Mr. Schippers conducted the score with the complete command, taste and intelligence that have marked all his work at the Metropolitan. If this performance was too briskly paced at times and hard-driven, this could be attributed to nervous tension. I am sure that Mr. Schippers will give himself and the artists more room in future performances.

Miss Amparan, born of Mexican parents in El Paso, Texas, studied in Mexico and in Italy. She is handsome, gifted with a naturally warm and voluminous voice and endowed with temperamental fire. Her singing and acting on this occasion, however, betrayed faults which could not be wholly attributed to debut nerves. At her entrance (which is awkward for the singers because they come in at the back of the stage where they cannot see the conductor readily until they step out of their gondola), Miss Amparan was behind the beat and off pitch. Later, she grew somewhat more secure, but she tended to force her voice in top phrases and her tones were often poorly supported and unfocused.

It was plain that this talented young artist needs further training, with especial attention to vocal technique, before she can do justice to herself in a role like Giulietta which, brief as it is, calls for highly expert singing. Miss Amparan's acting, also, was a bit naive, though sincere and vital as far as it went.

George London's performance in the four roles was nothing short of masterly. Each character was beautifully delineated and quite different from the others, though a sinister thread united them. The touch of cynical dandyism in Lindorf's personality was conveyed with telling gestures, although a stronger suggestion of malevolence in this scene would be appropriate. Mr. London's Coppélius was one of the best I have ever seen: a wonderful genre portrait, a figure that might have stepped out of the pages of Balzac or Dickens.

The symbolical aspects of Dappertutto did not escape him, but it was in the role of Dr. Miracle that he was most truly Hoffmannesque. This macabre, terrifying apparition revealed Mr. London's vocal and dramatic powers at their highest. The suggestion of a Death's Head in the makeup was no superficial trick of grease paint and pencil, but the outward symbol of an inner force that was chilling in its implacability.

All of the artists were superb in Act III, which Mr. Schippers drove to a series of thrilling climaxes of emotional tension that left the audience limp. Seldom are the ensembles so expertly done.

Amara and Tucker

The other members of the cast were in familiar roles. Lucine Amara won a triumph when she first appeared as Antonia in this new production of the work and she is even better in the role today. Richard Tucker, as Hoffmann, was also in excellent voice, after a cautious beginning. Mr. Tucker has enriched the detail of his acting admirably, but he now overplays the fantastic humor of Act I. Hoffmann is the victim of this weird comedy and should not himself be sardonic or jocular. Mr. Tucker was especially eloquent in the prologue and epilogue.

Laurel Hurley was delightful as ever as Olympia, although she sang very carefully, almost in subdued fashion, at this performance. Her mime as the doll kept the audience chuckling. One of the finest performances of the evening was that of Mildred Miller, a really first-rate Nicklausse. Nor should the finished singing and acting of the veteran Alessio De Paolis as Andres, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio and Frantz go unpraised. As the decades go by, this sterling artist's work remains a model of style, finish and intelligence.

In other roles were Paul Franke, Clifford Harvuot, Norman Scott, Lawrence Davidson and James McCracken. Sandra Warfield made The Mother's Voice so beautiful that one was not surprised at its potent influence on her unfortunate daughter.

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