Cher Public

“Simple, direct and deeply human”

On this day in 1937 mezzo soprano Jennie Tourel made her Met debut as Thomas’ Mignon. 

Noel Straus in The New York Times:

In Miss Tourel, a Canadian mezzo-soprano who has sung leading rôles many a time at the Opera Comique of Paris, the Metropolitan has found a valuable artist who should prove exceedingly useful in the main season, if available. Her Mignon was not only vocally all that it should be, but in point of acting and characterization as well, could be unreservedly commended.

Miss Tourel’s pure, warm mezzo was the true Mignon voice. The part was not intended to be sung by a soprano originally and only a mezzo can bring out the real quality of its music as Miss Tourel did. Hers was the rare type of voice, in that particular category, which did not take on a soprano timbre above but carried the richness of quality of the lower register upward evenly throughout the entire scale. It was freely emitted, resonant, and exceptionally easily projected in the top tones, where most genuine mezzo reach hot water.

But above all, hers was a voice that could communicate emotion as few can. Miss Tourel projected Mignon’s tenderness and pathos, humiliation and outraged pride, with a conviction and forcefulness quite out of the ordinary. And her singing expressed these contrasting needs as eloquently as her effective acting. Her approach to the “Connais-tu le pays,” the “Swallow’s duo, the “Styrienne” or the despairing monologue in the last scene of the second act were alike simple, direct and deeply human, with an inner intensity which proved exceedingly moving.

Here is Tourel singing another composer’s interpretation of Goethe’s character: