[Met Performance] CID:259010

Le Prophète
Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, September 25, 1979

Le Prophète (92)
Giacomo Meyerbeer | Eugène Scribe
Jean of Leyden
Guy Chauvet

Rita Shane

Marilyn Horne

Jerome Hines [Act I]

Ara Berberian [Acts II, III]

Charles Anthony

Robert Goodloe

Count Oberthal
Morley Meredith

Loretta Di Franco

Shirley Love

Andrij Dobriansky

Nico Castel

John Carpenter

Gene Boucher

Charles Mackerras

John Dexter

Peter Wexler

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stuart Sebastian

Le Prophète received eight performances this season.

Review 1:

Bill Zackariasen in the Daily News
The Opera Stick Needs Shtik

The seminal composer of French dramatic music, Giacomo Meyerbeer, returned to the. Metropolitan Opera Tuesday night via his "Le Prophète." Once again, it was intriguing to hear the beginnings, the tools of the operatic trade which Meyerbeer largely invented. In addition, there was added interest this time in the true-life libretto of Eugene Scribe, which shows that the overthrow of despotic governments by those who practice theocracy, usually makes things worse for everyone.

Watching the saga of Jean of Leyden, a religious fanatic who thinks he's the Messiah, driving out the infidel aristocrats from Muenster and then instituting a reign of terror, I couldn't help but think of recent events in Iran. One only hopes the Ayatollah Khomeini might, like Jean, have an eventual change of heart and, Samson-like, bring down the walls of oppression on himself and all his evil cohorts. At any rate, here's another example of life imitating art.

Otherwise, the performance of "Le Prophète" Tuesday lacked some of the riveting fascination the production had when it was new at the Met three seasons ago. I fear the fault lies in the conducting of Charlee Mackerras, a man I admire greatly in the Baroque and Slavic repertory, but who seemed to be feeling his way around Meyerbeer. The admittedly episodic writing needs above all a firm hand at the stick, something Henry Lewis surely had in 1977. Mackerras, despite good orchestral discipline, kept allowing tension to sag — the climactic Coronation Scene is a case in point, as it broke into bits and pieces of sound instead of roaring its way inevitably to the big Jean-Fides confrontation, which should become one of the great moments in all music drama.

However, the vocalism was by and large impressive. Marilyn Home, once again attacking the towering role of Jean's mother Fides, was even more awesome than she was three seasons ago — the high notes and coloratura in the Prison Scene aria "O pretres de Baal" were those to recall a Homer or Schumann-Heink.

The new Jean was Guy Chauvet, apparently recovered from the bad vocal period he went through last season. His intonation was sometimes suspect and he gave little more than rudimentary dramatic expression, but the high tones were appropriately stentorian and his voice easily filled the house. Rita Shane (Berthe) took her time getting the flutters out of her voice, but by the time she reached the last act (which contains her most demanding music in any case), she was in well-controlled, thoroughly committed vocal estate.

A bit of unexpected drama was injected into Act I as Jerome Hines, singing the pivotal role of Zacharie, suffered an attack of stomach cramps and left the stage, to be quickly replaced in hemmed-up costume by Ara Berberian, who made his premature Met debut. The Michigan-bass has built up a fine reputation across the country (and at City Opera) as splendid “basso contante” of imposing dramatic ability, and he handled himself in this unexpected assignment with remarkable confidence. He moved on stage like a veteran, his voice boomed out with ease, and he gave us the not oft-encountered pleasure of some genuine trills in his aria "Atissi nombreux que les etoiles.”

The neo-Brechtian production by John Dexter and Friends remains controversial in its lack of realism, though the action still stands out in bold relief. However, the revision of settings for the last act was misguided – the castle collapsing in flames was even more hilariously inadequate than before, and Files' prison now resembles a circus menagerie.

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