[Met Tour] CID:214340

Cleveland Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio, Wed, May 1, 1968

Carmen (629)
Georges Bizet | Henri Meilhac/Ludovic Halévy
Grace Bumbry

Don José
Nicolai Gedda

Mary Ellen Pracht

Justino Díaz

Lilian Sukis

Marcia Baldwin

Charles Anthony

Gene Boucher

Morley Meredith

Robert Goodloe

Alain Lombard

Review 1:

Review of Frank Hruby in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

New 'Carmen' Has Good Points

When the Met premiered its new production of "Carmen" last December the reports of catastrophe could almost be heard in Cleveland directly. Surely, we thought, nothing could be that bad. Well, it wasn't. There were redeeming features about last night's performance that saved it from being a total loss, but one must agree that the Met in this case put its best foot backward.

If the staging and sets were unbelievable in this most realistic of operas, the roles were well cast, and Grace Bumbry's addition to the list of Carmens is a welcome one. She has developed her own vocal style for the role which, aided by her big and even range, is a refreshing change. Her voice has an edge to it that goes well with the flirtatious part. There was no sense of strain, but neither was there an overabundance of richness. It was unfortunate that she could not get the exact true pitch for considerable stretches of music. In all fairness it must be that she found it as time went on and that her musical artistry carried over the parts that were below.

Nicolai Gedda was, after the first act, an excellent Don José. Justino Diaz' Escamillo was well sung except for a certain weakness in the lower extremities of the Toreador Song. Mary Ellen Pracht was a lovely Micaela, and Lillian Sukis, Marcia Baldwin and Morley Meredith were fine in their roles.

The problem with the set was that it stayed there for three of the four acts. What does well enough as a cigarette factory simply does not do as backdrop for a tavern or as a mountain biding place. Barrault's staging was of little help to the progress of the story, plagued as it was by visual confusion and unconvincing stage business. The costumes, too, were a distinct letdown. A few were rich and colorful, but most of them tended toward browns and blacks - not the kind associated with the best of the Spanish tradition, but the kind that looks dull and drab.

It was the only time in my association with the Met that I recall wishing for the old production back again - in this case the one that made Rise Stevens famous and vice versa. The upshot of the whole affair was that the weaknesses of the production put the damper on the entire performance. The music seemed a little less wonderful and the overall excitement was down by the same amount. "Carmen" is "Carmen," however, and as one of the three or four most popular operas by any measure, it will survive this particular stumble.

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