1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 18


Stars Apart


This may seem ungrateful when we have just been enjoying a welt-east revival of Falstaff. It will also be said that in the age of the aero- plane it becomes harder every day to assemble a first-class all-round team. But perfection is the business of -the critic. And at Covent Garden the disdain for perfection is sometimes positively sinful. There is not only the inability, under- standable after all, to get A and B and X and Y together in London on the same series of evenings—and even in the current Fatsraj we have to pay for Ligabue's admirable Mistress Ford with the loss of Alva's Fenton—but the dangerous indifference to categories.

We are still waiting for a First XI Aida. I concede that if Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Vickers and Gobbi—all of whom have been heard in the work at Covent Garden—have never appeared together on the same night, the fault lies not in Sir David Webster but in his stars. But the grievance is more rudimentary than this. When we get for once an outstanding Amneris, for instance, we always seem to be fobbed off with a ranting travesty of Amonasro. With all due allowance made for the facts of international operatic life, more care for con- gruity might surely be shown. What was bad about the Forza affair, even more than the faulty intelligence system that allowed Miss Cavalli to be chosen as prima donna, was the mentality which supposed that John Shaw be- longed in an ostensibly gala production. And now the management, having secured Gobbi to sing Searpia for the first time since 1955, have had the brilliant idea of pairing him not with the excellent R6gine Crespin, who appeared in the opera last year at Covent Garden (oppo- site, need one add, Mr. Shaw's Scarpia), but with Marie Collier. When Don Carlos is re- vived later this season (with Boris Christoff as King Philip, one of the great operatic perform- ances of the age, but, missing from the last re- vival of the work, just when a first-class Eboli, Rita Gorr, was finally added to the cast), Elisabetta is to be sung not by Sena Jurinac, as was at first announced, but by Marie Collier. Miss Collier is a promising artist who, with the right guidance, may develop into a highly talented one, but her most fervent admirers would hardly claim that she is ready to take her place in a star revival.

Some disparity is inevitable; but Covent Garden carry it too far. Why cannot the man- agement contrive to put on a few performances of Tosca with Gobbi and Madame Crespin and (while we are on the subject) di Stefano? With only three main roles, Tosca should not be an impossible opera to cast at full strength more than once in a decade. The cynical answer is that one star of sufficient magnitude will draw an audience, so why waste money on three? But for an opera house which prides itself on its musical standards and has begun to achieve among the resident company a good sense of team work in operas like King Priam and Peter Grimes, this is not enough. Ensemble begins at home: it should not end there.