Oscar Thompson in the New York Sun:
“Cock-a-doodle-doodle-doo” crowed the familiar fowl of “The Golden Cockerel” at the Metropolitan Opera House last night-and it crowed in English. When it was last heard three years ago, it crowed in French. It was created, of course, to crow in Russian, but that has never done at the Metropolitan. From the lukewarm response of last night’s audience, it may be suspected that its English crowings will not be long continued.
Rimsky Korsakoff’s last opera is filled with delightful music. It was still delightful last night, in spite of a secondary production with secondary singers. . . . The Tsar Dodon of Norman Cordon plods through its three acts, sometimes moderately amusing, at other times seemingly uncertain as to what to do. He has neither the high notes, nor the low ones, for a really satisfactory accomplishment of Dodon’s music. But he is more acceptable vocally, than his shadow, Polkan, who is impersonated by John Gurney.
Patrice Munsel sings quite well as the Queen of Shamakhan. And it is a hard part to sing-high, full of ornamental scale passages, and with one tune succeeding another after “The Hymn to the Sun.” All of its vocal trials are crowded into the second act. The youthful soprano had the compass to get over the notes neatly and she was fairly secure. The voice was often of pretty quality. But she was not the Queen of Shamakhan. She was a very demure and very young girl who had diligently rehearsed her gestures and arm wavings, without contriving to make them sinuous or really to mean anything at all.
As Amelfa, Margaret Harshaw was another who sang her music attractively, and she was adequate in her stage behavior. But little depends upon Amelfa. Much does hinge upon the acceptability of the Astrologer. Anthony Marlowe reached the topmost notes of this cruelly high part, but there was almost nothing of quality in their delivery. One was not reminded of anybody “picking his way among the stars” in his singing before the curtain. . . .
The translation by Tatania BaIkoff Drowne was only partly caught by the most intent listening. Lines that were understood -like Dodon’s “Why rest and eat some candy, listen to a tale that’s dandy,” or the Queen’s “That old fellow’s got some push! Doesn’t beat about the bush”- may have provoked smiles, but they did not contribute to the illusion. They seemed to sing fairly well, though Mr. Cordon’s parlando was possibly the result of word difficulties.
The Rimsky score, of course, is by now amply familiar. New York has been hearing it since 1918, and some of it-like the slumber music of the first act and the brilliant march of the last-has been heard in a symphonic suite. “The Hymn to the Sun” is the only air that has been taken up by singers far and wide, but the Queen’s parade of her charms in “Were my garments less concealing” and her dance song a little later are equally haunting, if not so excerptible. But “Le Coq d’Or” is an epicure’s morsel. These fluent melodies, and Rimsky’s ornate orchestration, assert only a very moderate appeal to the generality of opera patrons when experienced in any but a very scintillant performance.
Happy 99th birthday soprano Lucine Amara.
Born on this day in 1896 conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos.