Raymond Ericson in The New York Times:
Gounod’s “Faust” presented already 12 times during the current season of the Metropolitan Opera Company, provided the vehicle for two Met debuts this week-Spanish soprano Monserrat Caballe as Marguerite and American baritone Sherrill Milnes as Valentin.
Since Miss Caballe had created a sensation in concert performances of opera here, there was considerable anticipation in the capacity audience as to how she would make out in a full-staged production, and how her voice would sound in a house the size of the Met. There was also speculation that the soprano, who had made her success here in obscure Donizetti operas, might be miscast as Marguerite, although she has a repertory of wide range.
As it turned out, it was not an ideal role for her, but when she was at her best on this occasion, singing as superlatively as she had before, there was no doubt that she belonged on the Met’s stage.
Mme. Caballe’s voice in all its pure loveliness projected beautifully in the auditorium. The exquisite pianissimos, the delicate colorations of phrase, the gleaming high tones were as much a delight to the ear as always.
There is more to the soprano’s singing than just gorgeous sounds. She is a musicianly singer and, instinctively at least, a sincere and tasteful actress, and she combined these qualities in an appealing portrait of Marguerite. She is a plump woman, and her looks were not helped by an unflattering blond wig, but she moved through her role with a becoming simplicity and an honest expression of her emotional awareness of the character she played.
The soprano sang the “King of Thule” ballad with a haunting tone, but she did not have the technical glitter or animation to do justice to the Jewel Song. Her last high note was pure gold, and the response of her listeners was such that the singer was virtually forced to turn and bow her head to the audience before the demonstration ceased. However, it was after that that she offered some of her most elegant singing, the kind that is most characteristic of her.
This was Mme Caballe’s only appearance with the Met this season, and it is almost unnecessary to express the wish that she will be back next year-and often.
(Mme Caballe had already made her American operatic stage debut, singing the top soprano role in “La Traviata” for the Dallas Civic Opera Company in November.)
Milnes’s debut had its satisfactions, too. The 29-year-old baritone handled himself with aplomb, although Valentin is not a role that allows much characterization. More to the point was the rich, fresh sound of his voice, which rang out reassuringly in his aria in the Kermesse Scene.
Born on this day in 1913 composer Benjamin Britten.
Happy 60th birthday soprano Sumi Jo.
On this day premieres of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable in Paris (1831) and Pietro Mascagni’s Iris in Rome (1898).