Notes and Editorial Reviews
Wilfred Pelletier, cond; Risë Stevens (
); Ezio Pinza (
); Mimi Benzell (
); James Melton (
); Donald Dame (
); John Gurney (
); Lucille Browning (
); Metropolitan Op O & Ch
SONY 88697 96192 2 (2 CDs: 138:31) Live: 1/27/45
In this installment of its Metropolitan Opera series, Sony has released a historical recording of an opera that is rarely performed today, and there are relatively few performances of this opera available on CD. At the Met
was performed in the late 1920s and through the 1930s and 1940s. In checking the index of
magazine I found only three performances of this work listed in the last 10 years, one in France in 2007, and one in New York City in 2005. The third was in 2001 in Toulouse, and in his review of it in
Hugh Canning wrote, “In the years after its premiere at the (old) Opéra-Comique in 1866, Abrose Thomas’s
clocked up hundreds of performances, almost challenging Gounod’s
as one of he most popular French operas of the 19th century before
By the second half of the 20th century, this enchantingly tuneful and sweetly sentimental work had all but disappeared from the repertoire.”
The stars of this performance are Risë Stevens, who first sang the role at the Met in 1938, and the great Ezio Pinza. Stevens sings elegantly, and Pinza’s Lothario is magnificent. Mimi Benzell is a competent Philine, but since this is a live performance at times she is difficult to hear. Lucille Browning in the trouser role of the young Frédéric sings her solo aria quite well. The three supporting roles are all well sung by John Gurney as Jarno, Donald Dame as Laërte, and Osie Hawkins as Antonio. James Melton’s Wilhelm is unfortunately nasal and he lacks the grace necessary for the role. He is merely competent.
Wilfred Pelletier’s conducting is excellent. He has a wonderful understanding of the music.
A totally complete recording of this opera was first issued on four LPs, and is available on CD. It features Marilyn Horne as Mignon, Ruth Welting as Philine, Frederica von Stade as Frédéric, Alain Vanzo as Wilhelm, and Nicola Zaccaria as Lothario, and is conducted by Antonio de Almeida. That set was reviewed in
by Rodney Milnes, who wrote, “Here the recitatives are used, and anyone who thinks Haydn’s are boring should try sitting through these horribly wooden effusions.” The timing of that recording is 175 minutes. This recording is 138 minutes and uses the standard cuts principally of the recitatives; all the arias are present. It also uses the happy ending; Thomas also wrote an ending in which Mignon dies.
The sound is sometimes quite bright from this remastered live recording, and depending on where the singers are on the stage they are at times loud and at other times hard to hear. Overall, however, that is not too much of a distraction. The notes contain a listing of the tracks and a plot summary. Since there are rather few recordings of this opera and because Stevens and Pinza are so wonderful, anyone interested in this tuneful work should get it.
FANFARE: Bob Rose
Works on This Recording
Mignon by Ambroise Thomas
Mimi Benzell (Soprano),
James Melton (Tenor),
Ezio Pinza (Bass),
Risë Stevens (Mezzo Soprano)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Written: 1866; France
Date of Recording: 1/27/1945
Act I: Bons bourgeois et notables
Place, amis, faites place!
Pour gagner maintenant toute votre indulgence
Eh! Quoi! Mon cher Laërte
De mon ami, monsieur, excusez la folie
Ce pays enchanté n'est-ce pas l'Italie?
Me voici! Tu m'as rachetée
En route, amis, plions bagage
Corbleu! Les somptueux lambris! . . . Belle, ayez pitié de nous
Me voilà seule, hélas! . . . Je connais un pauvre enfant
C'est moi, j'ai tout brisé, n'importe!
Elle est là, prés de lui!
Ah! Brava! La Philine est vraiment divine!
Je suis Titania, la blonde
Ah! Au souffle léger du veut
De son coeur j'ai calmé la fièvre!
Vous verrez de cette fenêtre
Lothario! Wilhelm!... Je suis heureuse!
Ah! - Ah! Je le savais bien ce n'était pas un rêve
Allez, je vous attends ici! . . . Paysanne ou signora
Dieu! - Sperta! - Quel rire moqueur!
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