[Met Performance] CID:294700

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, December 3, 1988

Debut : Veriano Luchetti

Review 1:

Review of Will Crutchfield in The New York Times

Marilyn Horne as Carmen

Marilyn Horne returned to the Metropolitan Opera Saturday night as Carmen and gave an often excellent performance marked by a peculiar duality of instinct. Even in uninspiring surroundings like those prevailing here, she never falls to the level of musical routine, but shapes her phrases with a rare elegance, purposefulness, care and true musicality. Without the collaboration of a good director, though, her dramatic instincts can lead her into overstatement and gaucherie.

It made for a curious contrast: line after line was delivered with aristocratic fineness of proportion, while scene after scene was played with an enthusiastic commonness that reached its peak in a most unconvincing final confrontation. The soft beginnings of the habañera and the card scene, the sexy likeness of the séguédille, the varied tones and pointed rhythms (with nothing overstated) were things to remember; the tendency to kick furniture, wag a finger, brandish a fist and strike a pose - all without really seeming to feel the character from the inside -were things to regret.

In a superficial sense, of course, a poorer singer who was a better actress would give a better show; the opera world has been following that logic for years with disastrous long term results as singing is gradually devalued and people are left wondering why opera no longer has the transcendent dramatic excitement it once did. For my part, I enjoyed Miss Horne's well-sung Carmen more than any I've seen at the Met in recent years - but she would be better if she took out two-thirds of the acting.

There were several other cast changes Saturday. Ilona Tokody as Micaela displayed a lovely natural voice burdened with a barrage of mannerisms and technical crutches. From F upward, her tone shows the pitiless results; it is strident and unsteady. Veriano Luchetti, who made his debut as José, is an Italian tenor who can be called, without insult, a mediocrity of the old type, honorable and honest (as opposed to the currently more common mediocrity that is pompous and eccentric). His voice is well focused, his emotional expression sincere. He does not have much left in the way of high notes; he never had much in the way of finesse; still, one could do worse.

Myra Merritt, Diane Kesling and James Courtney stepped into some of the secondary parts acceptably. Erich Parce sang easily and well as Morales. Plácido Domingo's conducting is not up to the level that ought to be encouraged at the Met. If he really wants to conduct, he should go to a green orchestra in a provincial company, where the players might actually learn something from his long experience with the opera and where he might have the satisfaction of making the performance better instead of holding it back.

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