[Met Performance] CID:266810

Metropolitan Opera Premiere (Le Sacre du Printemps and Oedipus Rex), New Production (Le Rossignol)

Le Sacre du Printemps
Le Rossignol
Oedipus Rex
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 3, 1981

Debut : Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Gwendolyn Bradley, Natalia Makarova, Anthony Dowell, Robin Hanriot

Stravinsky (1)
Igor Stravinsky

Le Sacre du Printemps (1)
Igor Stravinsky
Chosen One
Linda Gelinas

Christopher Stocker

James Levine

John Dexter

David Hockney

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux [Debut]

Le Rossignol (9)
Igor Stravinsky | Stepan Mitusov
Gwendolyn Bradley [Debut]

Nightingale (Dance)
Natalia Makarova [Debut]

Philip Creech

Fisherman (Dance)
Anthony Dowell [Debut]

Claudia Catania

Morley Meredith

John Cheek

Ara Berberian

Lili Chookasian

Japanese Envoy
Michael Best

Japanese Envoy
Gene Boucher

Japanese Envoy
Paul Franke

Lantern Servant
Robin Hanriot [Debut]

Lantern Servant
Linda Mays

Lantern Servant
Barbara Bystrom

Lantern Servant
Janet Wagner

Lantern Servant
Richard Firmin

Lantern Servant
Fawayne Murphy

James Levine

John Dexter

David Hockney

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Frederick Ashton

Oedipus Rex (1)
Igor Stravinsky | Jean Cocteau
Richard Cassilly

Tatiana Troyanos

Franz Mazura

John Macurdy

Charles Anthony

Anthony Dowell

James Levine

John Dexter

David Hockney

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Oedipus Rex received eight performances this season.
Production gift of Mrs. Edgar M. Tobin, Robert L. B. Tobin, Mrs. Lila Acheson Wallace, and Mrs. Lucy Moses
This triple bill, titled Stravinsky, was mounted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth - 6/17/1882. Oedipus Rex was the first opera performed in Latin by the company. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, choreographer of Le Sacre du Printemps, billed himself as Bonnefous.

Review 1:

Review in Variety signed by Land

In the last few seasons, following the catastrophic musicians strike, the Opera management has introduced several novelties, one the rarity of giving the orchestra an evening of stage visibility, symphonic style. Followed -a success d'estime with a three-item "Parade," a sort of history lesson reenactment of Paris around and during World War One.

A significant aspect of "Parade" was the set and costume design of David Hockney who now repeats with the present Igor Stravinsky triple bill, which will slip into regular repertory for subscription holders.

How well this Stravinsky recall succeeds will undoubtedly be debated. At the season's first performance it was mostly well received, if explosive applause was reserved for the Met's chief conductor James Levine every time he came under the introductory spotlight in the pit.

Each of the three staged compositions were professionally produced by John Dexter, designed by Hockney and lighted by Gil Wechsler. There were no individual artist applause recognition opportunities until the very end of a very long evening. In "Le Sacre du Printemps" Linda Gelinas danced herself to death as the sacrificial maiden and was seen no more. Nor was Christopher Stocker the ritual emcee of the induced cardiac arrest.

The applause blackout was rather more subject to remark after "Rossignol." Only fancy Natalia Markarova and Anthony Dowell making with their classic virtuosity to a fadeaway.

The fluttering nightingale in the Emperor of China's garden did have a quite fine orchestra pit soprano alter ego in Gwendolyn Bradley while Anthony Dowell's immensely artistic fisherman was voiced ably by Philip Creech. One could he impressed by the production values and casting throughout and Hockney's paintings.

The best of the Stravinsky music was probably realized in Oedipus Rex mostly due to the 60 male voices seated below the superstructure. The use of white Greek masks was more artsy-craftsy than successful and the spoken narrative of dancer Anthony Dowell was interesting principally as proof (and novelty) that he can serve as "speaker," if not always fully lucid.

Lobby chatter at the Met is typically wonder-making. One elderly gent groused that it was "old-fashioned Stravinsky," an odd-seeming reaction. Another posed the question: had Levine ever before conducted the works of this composer?

Unknown naturally is the Met's financial investment. What price stagehands? Designer? All the ingredients of orchestra rehearsal, voice and dance principals, that vast oratorio array for "Oedipus Rex?" A program note credits the Met's loving thoughts for Mrs. Edgar Tobin, Robert L. B. Tobin, Lila Acheson Wallace and Lucy Moses, all cash donors to the budget for this event.

Review 2:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the New York Post

Met's bold venture honors Stravinsky

Just as Igor Stravinsky was a bold, innovative genius, so the Metropolitan Opera chose to honor last night the 100th anniversary of his birth (June 5, 1882) with one of its most audacious ventures ever.

The all-Stravinsky program, which will be repeated several times, featured three of his works, [starting] with the most problematical, the first performance by the Met of the composer's ballet, "Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring"), never before performed by the Met's orchestra or ballet company.

As the Post's Clive Barnes will be reviewing the danced part of the program, I can concentrate on the score, which was so brazenly dissonant and wildly radical in form, texture and instrumentation for its time, that it created more frenzy than any musical premiere has before or since.

The uproar was so great that night of the Paris "first" May 29, 1913, that the dancers on stage couldn't hear the orchestra for the noise created by yells, catcalls, screams, fights and whatever. One alarmed listener said that "the music stood for all the unnamable horrors of revolution, murder and rapine."

Long since, however, it has been acclaimed as a masterpiece, which doesn't mean it's any easier to play.

The Met orchestra, considering that it was in the pit and not on stage as it would have been in a concert performance, was amazingly successful in evoking the work's magnetic, primitive character, which juts right out dramatically from highly sophisticated music.

The works which followed "The Nightingale," a fairytale opera with gentle music, and the austere, tragic opera-oratorio "Oedipus Rex" which closed the program could not have been more different in character from one another, nor from "Le Sacre" in musical style or in the way the Met treated them.

David Hockney from the production created by John Dexter, the trio of the evening adds up to a succession of incredible contrasts.

Color-wise "The Nightingale" sung in Russian, is a miracle of blues melding with a garden of abstract shapes, while "Oedipus," with a libretto by Jean Cocteau, after Sophoecles, tells its tale of incest and father-murder in blood red and black.

As indicated by the composer the parts of The Nightingale and The Fisherman were sung from the orchestra pit, and very well, by Gwendolyn Bradley and tenor Philip Creech. On stage they were danced by respectively Natalia Markarova and Anthony Dowell, the latter two making their Met debuts.

In "Oedipus," the English spoken text was declaimed like a master of prose by Dowell, while the Met's male chorus sang the strong, severe, music in Latin with a rhythmic intensity and choral vigor that kept the ear riveted.

With James Levine conducting, the different styles of the music were projected with sensitivity and skill. Richard Cassily was generally convincing as Oedipus, while Tatiana Troyanos as Jacosta proved magnificent.

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