October 11, 1913
Page 5

Several Long-Debated Questions Will Have Their Answer in Season Bound to Make History—Two New Companies in Field That a Year Ago was Occupied by Metropolitan Alone—Ignoring Possible Legal Difficulties, Hammerstein Announces Five Dollar Opera and Popular-Priced Opera in English—Century Company Giving the Opera-in-English Problem a Thorough Test—American "Madeleine," German "Rosenkavalier," French" Julien" and Italian" L'Amore Medico" Principal Metropolitan Novelties—Eminent New Singers to Be Heard in All Three Companies

ON the threshold of a portentous musical season, New York stands confronted by an operatic situation that is in all probability without precedent or parallel in the annals of the city. Its outcome is problematic in the extreme, but it offers, none the less, a state of affairs of superlative and unaccustomed interest. The approaching Winter months, if lived in due conformity with present schedules, will supply a definite response to certain questions much mooted of recent years and furnish unimpeachable evidence of the Justice or invalidity of sundry theories for some time aggressively maintained in reference to the operatic propensities of New Yorkers.
To be brief, the operatic year will be triangular—a possibility undreamed of at a corresponding date last Fall. For the first time since Oscar Hammerstein relinquished his operatic ventures three years ago, the Metropolitan will not monopolize the field. On one side is the new Century Opera Company, presenting the masterworks in English and at popular prices; on the other, Hammerstein's latest enterprise, housed in the newly constructed American National Grand Opera House, on Lexington Avenue, between Fifty-first and Fifty­second Streets, and launched in defiance of his compact with the Metropolitan in 1910, forbidding him to prosecute any further operatic experiments in New York for the space of a decade.
Disregarding this injunction for reasons that seem to him to warrant such a procedure, Mr. Hammerstein has worked energetically at the erection of his latest edifice. Its opening date will be November 17 or 24, and the inaugural offering, Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette." Further to complicate the more or less merry war, Mr. Hammerstein will offer alternately with his performances in foreign languages representations of operatic chefs-d'oeuvre in English at prices less than one-half of those charged on the other nights. And he purposes to continue these English performances throughout the Summer.
Strictly speaking, the New York opera season is already under way at the present writing. The Century company is about to enter upon its fifth week. So much has been written about its performances and its chances of success in this journal during the past month that it seems superfluous to dwell in detail upon its aims and aspirations at this juncture. The large audiences which have patronized it thus far have been widely accepted as an indication that the city's demand for opera is insufficiently satisfied by the ministrations (however excellent) of a single establishment. The truth of which supposition will be effectually proven only when the older house opens its doors. The experience of Mr. Hammerstein in the days of the Manhattan Opera House tailed in the long run to show that the city was ready or willing to maintain two operatic institutions in its boundaries. Hence one may reasonably speculate as to its willingness and ability to provide sustenance for three at the present stage of happenings. At all events New York has never been called upon to lend a serious ear to three institutions of such magnitude simultaneously. The Spring of 1914 should witness some noteworthy and conclusive revelations, and in one manner or another set a milestone in the history of the city's artistic progress. It will be broadly significant by virtue of its triumphs or its failings.
Five New Works
In respect of interesting novelties and new singers of high standing the year promises to surpass the season of 1912-13. To the Metropolitan—which opens its doors November 17 to continue till April 25—one looks for some five new works of considerable promise. Additional zest will be imparted to the production of three of them by the presence of their composers.
Deferring to the precedent established by the last four years, Mr. Gatti-Casazza has secured what he deems the best new American opera available. His choice has fallen upon "Madeleine," a one-act work by Victor Herbert, whose "Natoma," despite its shortcomings, still retains its distinction as the best American-made opera of the last five years, if not more. The libretto of "Madeleine" is the work of Grant Stewart and is described by those familiar with it as of exceptional charm. The music captivated Mr. Gatti. Mr. Polacco, who will conduct it, and all those who were present last Spring, when the composer gave a hearing of the score on the piano. He has worked at its instrumentation during the Summer. The date of the premiere bas not yet been decided upon, but it is known that the title role has been entrusted to Mme. Alda.
Those who have lamented the boycott levied upon the dramas of Richard Strauss since the unfortunate wrangle over the morality of "Salome" in 19O6 will derive considerable satisfaction from the knowledge that the difficulties between the Metropolitan management and the composer have been smoothed over and that the German master's comic opera, "Der Rosenkavalier," will have its first New York hearing on December 6. The work has already established itself in the repertoire of many of the foremost German opera houses, and, while it does not represent Strauss's last word, it appears to have outdistanced his other stage works in popularity and favor. That incomparable artist and consummate comedian, Otto Goritz, will assume the leading male role, while Frieda Hempel will sing the principal soprano part. Mr. Hertz, who has had the advantage of studying the score with Strauss himself, is to conduct.
Big Rôle for Caruso
One French and two Italian novelties arc likewise slated for production. Gustave Charpentier's "Julien" is the former. The elaborately spectacular and confessedly symbolistic work of the composer of "Louise" scored but a succes d'estime when brought out last Spring at the Opéra Comique. The comparative coolness of its reception is claimed by many to be traceable to shortcomings of interpretation and scenic investiture. At the Metropolitan it is to be mounted with exceptional lavishness, while the two leading characters are to be assumed by Mr. Caruso and Geraldine Farrar, The remaining parts, though large in number, are of subsidiary importance, and. the legions of Carusomaniacs will be overjoyed to learn that Iulien occupies the center of the stage through practically the entire course of the opera. The brilliancy of the performance will be further enhanced by the presence of Mr. Charpentier himself, who has definitely promised to cross the ocean in order to be present on the occasion of the American premiere of his work.
Wolf-Ferrari has thoroughly endeared himself to the American public by his charming "Secret of Suzanne" and to a greater or lesser degree by his '''Donne Curiose" and the melodramatic "Jewels of the Madonna." At present he has reverted to the manner of the first of these works in a lyric version of Moliere's "L'Amour Medicin"—Italianized as "L'Amore Med ico." It is in two acts. The Metropolitan will present it as one of its pair of Italian novelties, and Wolf-Ferrari will be on hand in person 'to receive the popular verdict.
"L'Amore Medico" has not yet received its first presentation on any stage, and it is consequently impossible to prognosticate its fortunes in America. But the second Italian offering of the year has been heard and warmly approved in Italy. In fact, it was one of the most highly esteemed operas brought out there last season. The work in question is Italo Montemezzi's "L'Amore dei tre Re" ("The Loves of Three Kings"). Montemezzi is a new name on the lengthy, if not always distinguished roster of contemporary Italian composers. The libretto, which is of a rather sanguinary melodramatic order, is the work of Sem Benelli, who has a considerable reputation in his country as a poet and dramatist.
The "Carmen" Revival
Apart from these novelties, certain revivals are promised. "Carmen," the greatest of all French operas, which has been unaccountably slighted at the Metropolitan of late years, is an assured fact this coming Winter. Geraldine Farrar, who has been heard in Bizet's masterwork as Micaela is announced as the cigarette girl, a character to which she seems admirably adapted temperamentally and in appearance. Besides "Carmen," there is mention of a possible "Mefistofele," “William Tell," "Masked Ball" and "Samson and Delilah." Delibes's"Coppelia," Saint-Saëns's "Javotte" and other ballets are bespoken. And in accordance with its annual habit, the Metropolitan announces that it has acquired the sole American rights to Debussy's "Fall of the House of Usher," "Devil in the Belfry" and "Legend of Tristan," which are still unfinished, but which may someday arrive at completion; also Ravel's "L'Heure Espagnole" and Giordano's "Madame Sans Gene," whose lot seems identical with that of the aforementioned Debussy operas.
The regular repertoire remains in all essentials as before. As Verdi's "Falstaff" figures on the list of standard attractions, it is not unreasonable to surmise that it may be slated for revival, particularly in view of the Verdi centenary observances. At any rate, intimation to that effect was afforded by the management last year. The customary afternoon "Ring" cycle will be given, and "Parsifal" will serve to solemnize holidays. 'Wagner lovers will learn with gratification that the tetralogy will be entirely restaged. It has certainly suffered seriously from the want of worthy scenic accoutrements for some years. "Parsifal," which has been sung in the same garb since Conried imported it, will be similarly favored. Last season's triumph, "Boris Godounow," is, of course, retained, as is also Damrosch's "Cyrano." Furthermore, one notes with pleasure that the "Bartered Bride" reappears on the prospectus.
On the register of the company there appear fewer new names this season than has been the case in some time. The soprano division discloses not a single new acquisition. It will be similar in all respects to last year. There are to be two new mezzo sopranos, Sophie Breslau and Lillian Eubank, American girls both. A new contralto reputed of the first importance is Margarete Arndt-Ober, of Berlin. From Berlin, too, comes Rudolf Berger, whom Oscar Saenger translated some years ago from a baritone to an heroic tenor. The Italian tenor division is to be strongly reinforced by Giovanni Martinelli, who has won the undivided approval of Covent Garden and who is mentioned in some quarters as a possible rival to Caruso. A further Italian tenor will be Luigi Marini. Two unfamiliar names are added to the baritone contingent—Robert Leonhardt and Carl Schlegel. The bassos remain as they were last year, with the exception of William Hinshaw, who is no longer associated with the Metropolitan.
Appearing occasionally as guests will be Alice Nielsen, Marie Claessens and Eduardo Ferrari-Fontana, of the Boston Opera; also Julia Claussen and Clarence Whitehill, from Chicago.
The staff of conductors comprises again Messrs. Toscanini, Hertz and Polacco, with Messrs. Hageman, Morgenstern and Rothmeyer as assistants.
Hammerstein's Announcements
In despite of all manner of threats of legal interference from the Metropolitan directorate—against which he professes to have thoroughly safeguarded himself—Oscar Hammerstein announces in 'positive terms the opening of his season on either November 17 or 24. He will not, as previously rumored, begin his year at the Manhattan Opera House, as the American is positively to be completed at the requisite time. As noted above, popular-priced opera in the vernacular will alternate with high-priced (that is five-dollar) presentations of works in foreign tongues. The former will be given on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at prices ranging from $2 to 25 cents, and at the Wednesday after noon performances the prices will not exceed $1. Yet these performances are intended to equal in artistic quality those for which the highest prices are demanded.
The English singing forces, consisting of Orville Harrold, Edward Johnson, William Castleman, Marcus Kellerman, Henry Weldon, Mark Fellows, Diaz, Seamon, Alice Gentle, Frieda Baker, Marie Billing, Jenny Armstrong, Augusta Doria and Nina Morgana, have been constantly enlarged, and now that arrangements for opera in English have been completed, pending contracts will be closed. In all eight performances a week will be given at the American Opera House. The one on Saturday evening will be given at popular prices and in a foreign language. The season of foreign opera lasts for twenty weeks.
As on his previous New York operatic venture, Mr. Hammerstein will introduce to American audiences a number of European artists of established reputation, in addition to the new American singers just enumerated. In view of the paucity of colorature sopranos of the foremost rank to-day, Mr. Hammerstein's acquisition of the Spanish artist, Maria Barrientos, is of importance. During the last five years she has been acclaimed in Italy, Spain and South America. The impresario (who does not hesitate at instituting comparisons in his preliminary prospectus) significantly notes that Barrientos surpasses his previous florid vocal trump card, Tetrazzini.
Nor has Mr. Hammerstein been chary in the matter of dramatic and lyric sopranos. From Italy he will bring Gemma Bellincioni and her daughter, Bianca Stagno­Bellincioni. The former, who is shortly to retire from the stage, has long upheld the title of greatest Italian dramatic soprano and as appeared in well-nigh every European opera house of importance. Her daughter is accepted as one of the foremost light sopranos of her nation. From France come Marthe Chenal and Victoria Fer. Mlle. Chenal has long been one of the strongest vocal and artistic pillars of the Paris Opera and has won success at the Opéra Comique. Miss Fer also has been a strong stimulant to critical approbation in France. Other sopranos include Desirée Serishevich, Nina Morgana, Frieda Baker, Odette Le Fonteney and Cécile Eyrains. Cécile Thévenet, from the Opéra Comique, heads the list of mezzo sopranos and contraltos, who further include Augusta Doria and Alice Gentle (both remembered from Manhattan Opera House days), Madeleine Masson and Maria Zaccaria. Foreign born tenors include Cesare Vezzani, loaned to the American manager for one season by Albert Carré of the Opéra Comique; Giuseppe Paganelli, Raphael Diaz, Breton Geibet, Francesco Ventura and Gaston Dubois.
The prospectus of the American Opera House contains no news more welcome than the announcement of the return of Maurice Renaud, greatest of all French singing actors. Other baritones include Giuseppe Danise, Andre Allard, Marcus Kellerman (better known as a concert and oratorio artist), and Lionel Tessie. Theodore Marvini, from Paris, and Henry Weldon, an American, long associated with the Monnaie, in Brussels, are the leading bassos.
As his principal conductor Mr. Hammerstein has secured Giuseppe Baroni, of whom great things are spoken. Further occupants of the conductor's chair will be Gaetano Merola and Josiah Zuro, who during the last few years has revealed himself as a most admirably equipped conductor and a musician of exceptional gifts and qualifications. Jacques Coini, who did such yeoman service at the Manhattan, will also act as stage director at the American.
French and Italian Repertoire
The repertoire will be made up of the standard French and Italian works. As yet Mr. Hammerstein will not commit himself in regard to the extent to which he may indulge in presentations of operas by Americans. Only two novelties are definitely announced—Erlanger's "Aphrodite" and Massenet's "Therese." The former, with Mlle. Chenal in the title role (and in all likelihood in the presence of the. composer), will be given on the second night of the season. "Therese" will be deferred until January, pending the arrival of the creator of the name part, Cecile Thevenet.
The American Opera House is designed to accommodate 2700 persons.
Little remains to be said at this date of the Century Opera Company, under the direction of Milton and Sargent Aborn, which at this writing appears to be prospering. As has already been remarked, the test of its vitality will come only with the opening of the two other institutions. English is the language sung save on Monday nights, when the original text is used. The repertoire consists of established favorites and certain ultra-modern works are also announced for production. Inasmuch as the Century abjures the exploitation of stars and exalts no one artist above another, it is perhaps unnecessary to mention the names of the principal singers, whose performances, indeed, have already been recorded in MUSTCAL AMERICA. It will not be amiss, however, to make casual mention of the fact that the majority of the company's members are American born.
An agreement exists between the Century and the Metropolitan companies whereby the former may on occasion secure various accessories of scenery and properties on payment of a nominal sum for wear and tear. —HERBERT F. PEYSER


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