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November 22, 1975 - Image 3

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Michigan Daily, 1975-11-22

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Saturday, November 22, 1975

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page T"hre4

Saturday, November 22, 1975 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Three

'Boehme'

survives tran

By JEFFREY SELBST
There is a raging controversy
in the opera world-whether to
present opera in English or the
original language. Translating a
mellifluous language like Italian
into English often sounds choppy
and singing less - than - poetic
lyrics to high tragedy often
comes off silly.
But in the original, many
members of the audience are
turned off, because they can't
understand the action and con-
sequently fcouldn't care less.
How do you decide?I

One important criterion is the
quality of the translation. And
University Music Director Josef
Blatt's translation of Puccini's
La Boheme, which opened
Thursday at Mendelssohn, was
not -a good one.
Fortunately, the mnnate ele-
inents of the music and the
drama, as well as an often
exemplery presentation, over-
came this deficiency. The sing-
ing ranged from adequate to
marvelous (with the exception
of an unbelievably slo v e nly
chorus, and the acting was uni-
formly fine.

Arts Briefs

"I'm so proud of the way we
play now," says Zubin Mehta,
music director and conductor of
the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
And with good reason. For as'
Thursday evening's concert at
Hill Auditorium amply proved,
the Los Angeles ensemble has
developed during Mehta's 14
year reign as music director
into a brilliant corps capable of
producing some of the sump-
tuous and mellow sounds in clas-
sical music.
T h e Philharmonic's m o s t
uniane quality is' its fine sense
of blend-a rare ability to mesh
a variety of tone colors into a
single, unified, texture. Unlike
t h e Philadelphia Orchestra,
which always seems to sound
heavy and ponderous because of
the predominance of string
tone, the Los Angeles group of-
fers balanced sound across all
sections-and hence a richer,
deener resonance.,
This faller, warmer tone qual-
ity makes the Philharmonic
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Volume LXXXVI, No. 69
Saturday, November 22, 1975
is edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan. News
phone 764-0562. Second class postage
paid at Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106.
Published d a i1 y Tuesday through
Sunday morning during the Univer-
sity year at 420 Maynard Street, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, 48104. Subscription
rates: $12 Sept. thru April (2 semes-
ters); $13 by mail outside Ann Ar-
bor
Summer session published Tues-
dar, through Saturday morning.
Subscription rates: $6.50 in Ann
Arbor; $7.50 by mail outside Ann
Arbor.

ideal for performance of thej
sundry tone colors of RomanticI
music, which dominated Thurs-
day's program. In Dvorak's
Concerto in B minor for Cello
and Orchestra and two Wagner
orchestral selections, Mehta ex-
ploited a wide range of dynamic
and textural effects that few
other American orchestras could
produce.
Cello soloist Samuel Mayes,
professor of cello at the School
of Music, contrasted nicely with
the Philharmonic in the Dvorak
concerto. Rehearsal time had
been at a premium, however,
and it showed: Mayes seemed
unhappy with Mehta's quick
pace, especially in the opening
allegro movement.
The Wagner selections, ex-
cerpts from Gotterdamerung
and the familiar prelude to Die
Meistersinger, featured brilliant
performances of the German
romantic's dissonant harmonies
and complex orchestral cn-
cepts. Mehta capably mixed
sound colors, deftly marking
accents with the tip of an elbow
and phrasing with a subtle hand
gesture.

Act I began auspiciously,
though Thomas Jenrette as Mar-
cel and James Hopkins as Ro-
dolphe were rather weak at
first, The scene of bohemian
gaiety stemmed organically
from the precise tempi and di-
rection.
Mimi, played by Ashley Put-
nam, was appealing as the
neighbor who falls for Rodolphe.
But then came Act II. The be-
ginning of that act was an un-
qualified disaster. The tempi
were sufficiently slow to smoth-
er any developing sense of
movement; the chorus capered
about as if at gunpoint, and
their lack of vocal capability
undermined the intricate pas-
sages in which the principals
overlay the chorus. Frankly, it
was hollow.,
But, when the scene reached
the famous "Musette,'s Waltz,"
both the tempi and the acting
came alive. Kay Murray as
Musette was a perfect flirt, even
if her voice could not quite over-
come the orchestra's fortes.
Acts III and IV were handled
well, if perhaps indulgently. It
was characteristic of the pro-
duction that everything improv-
ed by the end. The poignancy of
the libretto and music resulted
in a bit of overacting. But isn't
that what grand opera needs?
The broad gestures must be de-
signed to fit the larger-than-life
emotions.
Jenrette warmed up consider-
ably after the beginning, as did
Hopkins. Jenrette has a fine if
understated baritone v o i c e,
while Hopkins' tenor works best
in the middle range, his high
notes sounding a little thin and
strained.
Charles Brown and Stephen
Bryant performed well in the
roles of Colline and Schaunard.
I couldn't help laughing a bit at
Colline-the words he sang were
pretty silly. But that was in the
translation.
Kay Murray did the best job
of bringing her claracter,-Mu-

slation
sette, to life, though her voice
was not as good as some of the
others. She showed herself a
consummate performer, at any
rate.
Which brings us to Ashley Put-
nam. She was a) delightful, b)
entrancing, c) as fine as any-
one who ever came out of the
Music School, d) charming, etc.
I run out of multiple choices
when I describe her.
The orchestra was the cause of
very good, and when they chose
to sound pianissimo, they didj.
so delicately. The problem is
that they didn't choose to near-
ly often enough; many times
they completely drowned out the
singers.
The orchestra was the cause of
Ms. Putnam's only problem. The
louder she sang, the louder they
played, as if they knew they
could get away with it under
her. And she soared brilliantly
over the top. The only thing
that got lost in the battle were
the words.
Josef Blatt is conducting this,
his last opera with the Music
School. He mostly did a fine
job, but failed to keep the
orchestra quiet enough during
some key moments, and took
liberties with the tempi.
Alice Crawford did the set-
she also designed the set for
Counterpoint and other Univer-
sity productions, and I've always
admired her work. The sets fcr
La Boheme, however, were gen-
erally drab and haphazard-look-
ing, with a simplicity suggestive
not of classic lines but rather,,
Tinkertoys.
In an utter lack of considera-
tion for the audience, the harp
was placed directly between a
third of the main floor and the
stage. My escort, a polite young
lady, had to pull up her skirt
and watch the performance
perched on my shoulders. Now,
really.
But in all the production was!
largely successful. What can I
say? It made me cry.

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