[Met Performance] CID:197000

New Production, United States Premiere, American Opera

The Last Savage
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, January 23, 1964

Debut : William McLuckey, Beni Montresor

In English

The Last Savage (1)
Gian Carlo Menotti | Gian Carlo Menotti
George London

Roberta Peters

Teresa Stratas

Nicolai Gedda

Ezio Flagello

Lili Chookasian

Morley Meredith

Paul Franke

Andrea Velis

Norman Scott

Catholic Priest
Robert Patterson

Calvin Marsh

Erbert Aldridge

Orthodox Priest
William Dembaugh

Clifford Harvuot

Gerhard Pechner

Lou Marcella

Gabor Carelli

The Composer
William Walker

Janis Martin

Arthur Graham

Carlotta Ordassy

Dorothy Shawn

William McLuckey [Debut]

Thomas Schippers

Gian Carlo Menotti

Beni Montresor [Debut]

Gian Carlo Menotti

English Version by George Mead
The Last Savage received seven performances this season, sixteen performances in two seasons.

Production a gift of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, Francis Goelet, and John S. Newberry

Review 1:

Review of Alan Rich in The New York Herald Tribune

Gian Carlo Menotti's 'The Last Savage" is dislikable for enough reasons to fill this entire edition. It is also likable for that many reasons, plus a few more. The ayes have it.

Just about everything that could possibly be wrong with a modern opera-or one of any period, for that matter-is wrong with Mr. Menotti's latest effort. The score is embarrassingly derivative, almost shockingly so. The libretto is a silly piece of fluff, and full of cheap cornball gag-writing below the level of a backwoods college varsity show. Both words and music are slick, pretentious, and full of self-conscious chic.

And yet, as produced by the Metropolitan Opera, it adds up to a simply delightful evening of pure light entertainment. A lot of this has to do with the production itself, which is gorgeous beyond dreams. But some of the credit must go to Mr. Menotti and his opera. All the things that are wrong with it just don't seem to matter. There comes a time when high esthetic principles must be thrown to the winds, and this, dear reader, is the time.

The music whizzes by on wings of the finest gossamer. On its flight it drops names at the rate of about one per phrase. Here a bit of Nicolai's "Merry Wives", there an ensemble right out of "Trial by Jury", now a touch of "Ariadne"...no, wait, it's "O terra addio." You need a scorecard just to keep track.

Does it matter? Not at all. Menotti has always been an eclectic, but here he has taken a big forward step. He has crossed the Alps, moved northward, and made the whole continent of Europe his oyster. America too, for that matter; didn't we hear Sarduia's Act Three aria in "The Sound of Music"? Of course we did.

But how seductive it all is! Some of the arias are perfectly beautiful; others, notably a patter song for Mr. Scattergood in the second act, are great good fun. There is a long septet for the principals in the first act this is wondrously intricate, and another in the last act that ravishes the ears. There is a zany "Royal Hunt" in the first act that should make Berlioz hide his head, and a wild cocktail party in the second act that makes a sort of synthesis out of the Marschallin's levee and the "Meistersinger" street fight.

Only a churl could cavil at such treasures, hollow as they may be. And the list doesn't begin to exhaust the composer's bag of tricks. Actually, the only place where he seriously oversteps himself is in the publicized mockery of twelve-tone music in the cocktail party sequence. My dear, that kind of dodecaphony went out in the 1920's; get with it.

It is a little easier to get riled at the text. The shock of recognition in hearing Mr. Scattergood's ulcer set as a tragic arioso may be valid, but it's a little silly. The script is full of such rubble as "listen to your daddy, my beloved laddie," to the particular credit of nobody. These touches are not needed; the music takes care of them. (Part of the blame for this may go to George Meade, who did the English translation. One may presume, however, that Menotti was looking over his translator's shoulder.)

Hear and see. Beni Montressor is a young Italian who has done some lovely work illustrating children's books. His experience serves him well; for the opera he has torn out some of his best pages and brought them to life in a series of airy, elaborate and extremely whimsical pop-ups. To add the ultimate touch of the never-never, he has them popping and unpopping in full view of the audience. Seldom have sight and sound at the Metropolitan so completely belonged to the other.

The cast is glorious. Roberta Peters trills and roulades her way right into our hearts. George London breaks those same hearts as the noble savage trapped by civilizaton. Mr. London in a leopard skin, caged, munching a plastic bone, is one of the sights of the century. Another, last night, was the way he kept the same cage from toppling over, by dint of some extremely fancy footwaok during a complicated aria. Teresa Stratas is marvelous, and so is Lilli Chookasian, waddling around with her nose in the Wall Street Journal. Morely Meridith, Ezio Flagello, and Nicolai Gedda trail streams of vocal stardust.

Down in the pit there is the able Thomas Schippers, and an orchestra right on its tippy-twinkletoes. Thanks to the all, the Metropolitan has a hit on its hands. Forget for a moment that "The Last Savage" is not going to become a page in the annals of great opera. Take it as pure enchanting, momentary entertainment and you can't lose.

It should be added that the audience loved it all the way. When Mr. Menotti appeared at the final curtain the crowd erupted....

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