[Met Performance] CID:248490

Le Prophète
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, March 4, 1977

Le Prophète (83)
Giacomo Meyerbeer | Eugène Scribe
Jean of Leyden
James McCracken

Rita Shane

Marilyn Horne

Jerome Hines

Frank Little

Raimund Herincx

Count Oberthal
Morley Meredith

Alma Jean Smith

Shirley Love

Nico Castel

Charles Anthony

Gene Boucher

Richard Best

Henry Lewis

Review 1:

Thor Eckert Jr. in the Christian Science Monitor
The Met’s Resplendent New Production

Truly, the Met has been resplendent in its new productions this season.

Three of them have presented a diverse view of the much maligned world of French opera. The second new production, Massenet's "Esclarmonde," brought us a thrilling performance from Joan Sutherland in a glittering, sit-back-and-enjoy fairy-tale vehicle.

Now they have unveiled a splendid sort of sit-back entertainment, a huge spectacle as served up by Giacomo Meyerbeer – "Le Prophète" which loosely concerns Jean of Leyden and his 16th-century fling at fame as a prophet. The score is ideal theater music, designed to be experienced with a dazzling stage show.

At the Met, director John Dexter, who is slowly making his forceful mark on the look and theatrical focus of new productions there, has opted, not for a costume-pageant, but rather a framework that will unify the plot and tighten the drama.

He has worked closely with designer Peter Wexler, who has devised a stunning unit set of Gothic arches to specify a cathedral under construction. We, the audience, are witnessing the workers' pageant mounted in celebration of work thus far completed.

The result, seen on two different occasions, kinetic, using all aspects of the Met's forces — chorus, stage hands, extras, all at work rolling in the big wagons that comprise the minimal sets, It is lean, woody primitive, and unusually successful.

Wexler's set is a triumph. From the open*ing chorus to the final red silk "flames" that "engulf" the set, the sparseness is relieved by unusually fine costumes, splendid sense of color, theatrically orchestrated and presented — the red-and-white coronation scene, for instance, is dazzling.

And the vocal show is very much Marilyn Horne's. She sings the taxing role of Fides, Jean's mother, and has left her imprint on Met history. The range of the role is immense, the stamina needed intense. Though she seemed to be battling a touch of hoarseness in the final act, which quickly passed, she was never less than electrifying.

James McCracken is a true artist. His voice has a timbre many do not care for. Here he has chosen to sing several high notes in the head, reviving a lost tradition, and giving a haunting, eerie effect to his interpretation of the devout, misguided Jean, this will doubtless be one of his best remembered roles after Otello, for style and conviction of execution.

Rita Shane's Berthe proved triumphant. Finally, she has a role at the Met ideally suited to her bright, energetic sound; she rattled the chandelier more than a few times as she unfolded this ardent paper character — mad scene, high notes, and at a later performance she began to act the role, with the same excitement as she sang it, which only completed the picture.

Jerome Hines is a brick – he never wears down, he remains the imposing bass and the imposing actor as Zacherie, one of the three plotting Anabaptists. Also impressive was newcomer Raimund Herinex, a bass-baritone of no small timbre and power. He, Mr. McCracken, and Miss Horne shared top honors in projection of their excellent French. Henry Lewis never really scaled the heights, but one could admire and applaud his energy and sense of drama in his best conducting assignment to date at the Met.

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