With a magnificent disregard for the naive sort of arithmetic we once imbibed at school, St, Gertrude Stein, grown at last beatific in the warmth of Upper Case Arty adulation, has given us what she chooses to call “four Saints and Three Act,” but which is really thirty-odd in approximately four acts and a prologue.
An “opera to be sung” (to quote St. Gertie), its gay, witty, tuneful, mock-heroic score was confected by Virgil Thomson who, althoug he probably doesn’t know it, had no need for her absurd babbling. An opera, to paraphrase the beatific one, is an opera is an opera.
But the Harry Moses production “? Saints in ? Acts” is wonderfully Theatre; intelligently conducted by Alexander Smallens; handsomely costumed and decorated (in cellophane- “hear a fresh opera”); enacted and sung as only the all-Negro cast could have enacted and sung it; and altogether an unduplicabel evening in the theatre – turned – opera-house, The music is modern in the rather circumscribed sense that it is primitively melodious and naively lovely. Those who took this burlesque on grand opera, conceived in the Lewis opera, conceived in the Lewis Carroll nonsense tradition, seriously, are, to parody St. Gertie for the last time, batty are batty are batty.
Efrem Zimbalist, who probably has no use for it, has none the less my undying gratitude for having played Haendel’s priceless E major Sonata the other night, I having castigated him in the past for choosing works of singular barrenness.
LIST HITS NAZIS
Emanuel List, who unaccountably sang in Bayreuth last year, will sin no more. The Wagnerian bass of the Metropolitan, whose vioce enriches the old company, has canceled his Berlin and Bayreuth contracts.
Even though it seemed quite odd to be hearing the brotherhood of man exalted in the German language, I found myself exulting with the rest in Arturo Toscanini’s latest gift to a nation’s music-lovers-the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, performed again by the Philharmonic Symphony with the Schola Cantorum chorus, the quarted this time consisting of Rosa Tentoni, soprano; Sigrid Onegin, contralto; Paul Althouse, tenor, and Ezio Pinza, bass.
The sublime artistry of the Toscanini attack; the trained ensemble of orchestra and chorus and the seasoned understanding of the soloists contributed to a real achievement.