[Met Performance] CID:173510

Metropolitan Opera Premiere, New Production

La Périchole
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, December 21, 1956

Debut : Jean Morel, Rose Byrum, Florence Holland, Gladys Lansing

In English

La Périchole (1)
Jacques Offenbach | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Patrice Munsel

Theodor Uppman

Cyril Ritchard

Old Prisoner
Alessio De Paolis

Heidi Krall

Madelaine Chambers

Rosalind Elias

Ralph Herbert

Paul Franke

Lorenzo Alvary

Charles Anthony

Calvin Marsh

Rose Byrum [Debut]

Florence Holland [Debut]

Dorothy Shawn

Gladys Lansing [Debut]

Geoffrey Holder

Mary Ellen Moylan

Jean Morel [Debut]

Rolf Gérard

Zachary Solov

Translation by Valency
La Périchole received twenty-one performances this season.
This production utilized a new musical version prepared by Jean Morel and Ignace Strasfogel,
orchestration revised and adapted by Julius Burger.

Production a gift of the Metropolitan Opera National Council

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday

If the Metropolitan Opera had a marquee it should be spelling out the name of Cyril Ritchard in lights, big and bold, for making Rudolf Bing's new production of "La Perichole" one of the happiest examples of musical theatre New York has had in our time. And if, as viceroy of an entirely imaginary Peru, Ritchard takes rank above any marquis, that is justice too, for what country would not be glad to have Jacques Offenbach write its tunes, Rolf Gérard to design its décor (including some of the most blissfully colorful costumes these eyes have ever seen), with Theodore Uppman and Patrice Munsel to play its young lovers? If you can't get in to "My Fair Lady" don't miss "Perichole."

Out of a rather threadbare tale of a viceroy who covets a street singer but can't "have" her until she marries (naturally the "anonymous" groom is her singing partner, whom she couldn't afford to marry otherwise), Maurice Valency has elaborated a literate, sometimes genuinely witty English script and singing text. Ritchard has applied to it a composite of the musical understanding he showed in his "Barber of Seville" in 1954 and the broader music-hall approach justified by the light texture of the music. Something of Gilbert and Sullivan (a not a little of Moss Hart) have gone into a jaunty but tasteful, inventive but free-flowing treatment which makes the Metropolitan the world's largest funhouse while he is on stage...

When Ritchard is not in view Uppman is giving a capering, light-hearted performance as Paquillo which vies in excellence with the lively Papageno he did in last year's "Magic Flute." Between them Uppman and Munsel project more of an English text than has been heard from the Metropolitan stage in years, his light baritone, particularly, floating it to the ear. A perfect choice for the part, Uppman was charmingly companioned by Miss Munsel's Perichole, a composite of her Adele in "Fledermaus" and Despina in "Così," with a new flair for comic timing and saucy action which has, naturally, grown from her past experiences. If there is a technical complaint to be entered, it is that Perichole is really a mezzo part, especially in its more affecting moments, of the letter in Act I and the ""Je t'adore""of Act III (in this version), in which Perichole wins back Paquillo after, apparently, deserting him. However, Miss Munsel contributes so much charm and sparkle to the enterprise otherwise that these transgressions may be forgiven. In addition, her youth and ever-increasing sense of the stage give her rank as a comedienne whose future may be longer than her past as a coloratura. Among the major credits should be one for Alessio De Paolis as a ghoulish Prisoner with a Charles Addams personality.

In musical content "Perichole" ranks high among the best of Offenbach for the superior appropriateness of each element to the place assigned for it. To be sure, there are interpolations from other scores (a circus sequence to fill out Act I, a ballet to bolster Act II), but each duet and finaletto and finale has a suitability to its comic function that proclaims the master hand...

Disciplining the whole was Jean Morel (a graduate of the Opéra-Comique, where Offenbach is gospel), making an overdue debut as a Metropolitan conductor and finding a tidy adjustment of orchestra to voices that made the values in the score wholly audible. Crisp as the most carefully contrived "pomme soufflé," it still had the air space to keep it light and bouyant as well. Excellent chorus work (rarely has the Metropolitan ensemble, both choral and balletic, looked so presentable) prepared by Kurt Adler were blended into a whole that left no doubt that Morel is a man the Metropolitan can use and reuse to correct its faulty French accent.

Associated with the majors mentioned were some excellent minors, especially Paul Franke, Lorenzo Alvary, and Ralph Herbert as attachés charged with carrying out the viceroy's "nefarious" scheme. Rosalind Elias, Heidi Krall, and Madelaine Chambers as the Three Cousins whose bar keeps the Peruvians in a constant stage of liquid exhilaration. That all of them could be welded so suitable into a theatrical entity...is testimony to a stage sense, native wit, and extraordinary talent for organization that belong only to the theatrical greats. Ritchard's got it, and the Metropolitan has fortunately got him.

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