November 22, 1913
Page 1

A Spirited Performance with Caruso in Good Form at Head of the Cast—Amato, Destinn and Toscanini at Their Best—Audience Plays Its Own Brilliant Part Brilliantly—Geraldine Farrar’s Cold Gives Ponchielli a Distinction That Belonged to Massenet

WITH a spirited performance of “Gioconda” the Metropolitan Opera Company began its season last Monday night. The occasion was as brilliant as others that have gone before, and if it is not difficult to recall premieres of greater artistic pith and moment it behooves the chronicler of the august event to record the generally diffused glamor as a matter of necessary convention. As usual there were as many crowded into the house as could conveniently or otherwise be fitted into it and, as usual, many were turned away for lack of accommodations, There was the usual tenseness of expectancy as the opera began and the usual superheated enthusiasm once it had gotten under way, There were noisy ovations after every important musical moment during the progress of the acts and there were more of them, heightened by horticultural tributes as each curtain fell.
The audience also played its part well. Parquet and boxes were sartorially resplendent and admiration was mutual and protracted. Even the house itself looked better for some light refurbishing, Curtain and decorations gave the impression of having undergone a needed cleaning and in the promenade was a brand new carpet pleasing to walk upon.
Although it is widely assumed that the first Metropolitan audience cares little which opera is set before it so long as plenty of vocal opportunities are provided for Mr. Caruso and three or four other favorites, it is not unlikely that some regretted the withdrawal of Massenet’s “Manon,” which had originally been scheduled for the occasion, owing to Geraldine Farrar’s cold. And yet Caruso’s most ardent admirers realize in their heart of hearts that his distinctive style is better adapted to Ponchielli's melodrama, fourth-rate music as it is, than to the subtler exactions of Massenet’s Dresden china opera. Moreover, it provides opportunities not only for the first tenor and soprano, but permits two contraltos, a baritone and a bass to shine forth luminously. It is therefore useful, though for the greater part detestable musical drivel.
Monday’s “Gioconda” was excellent, all told, as concerns the musical aspects of its interpretation. To be sure, we have heard many equally good in the past, but given under any other than first night auspices they have produced distinctly less of a sensation. No features of novelty distinguished the cast. Caruso was the Enzo, Amato the Barnaba, Destinn the Gioconda, Matzenauer the Laura, Duchène La Cieca and Segurola Alvise. Toscanini conducted and Toscanini can inform even Ponchielli’s tawdry score with red blood and dramatic life that might to some extent command critical respect for the work if respect could be commanded by any mortal means.
Hubbub Over Caruso
Each of the principals was received with a volley of applause as he or she appeared on the stage for the first time, and Caruso made his entrance to an extraordinary hubbub. For some reason or other the beginning of every Metropolitan season finds the populace nervous over the popular tenor’s vocal condition. And when he has sung a few bars there is invariably a sense of unspeakable relief and the word goes forth that the golden voice is as good as ever (save when some in their supreme rapture discover that it is even better). The same tendency was to be noted last Monday, both in the joyous exclamations after Enzo’s big moments and in the trend of entr’acte discourse. The truth is that Caruso proved himself all told neither very much better nor very much worse than last year or the year before that. He gave forth his voice lavishly in the first act, he sang loudly and held high tones long. And when Caruso can sing tones at once long and loud nine-tenths of his adorers are ready to rise and call him blest. Withal Caruso has been known to sing “Cielo e Mar” better than he did it Monday. Furthermore, the more keenly sensitive might at times have discovered with misgivings a distinct vibrato on certain sustained tones. No characteristic of Mr. Caruso’s voice has hitherto been more noteworthy than its absolute steadiness.
The tenor was the recipient of numberless wreaths and bouquets between the acts. He was in his celebrated good humor and at each curtain call provided plenty of the usual “comic relief” to the manifest pleasure of those operagoers who enjoy that sort of thing.
Amato and Destinn in Splendid Form
If any adverse comment must be made of Mr. Amato’s performance it might be that he was too prodigal in the outpouring of his voice. Yet he was in glorious form and was heard to better advantage than at almost any time last season. The Summer’s rest has freshened his tones perceptibly and he refrained from forcing them as he has been known to do in the past. Dramatically his portrayal of Barnaba was signally convincing. Mr. de Segurola was also at his best and made the most of Alvise’s doings in the third act.
To confess frankly to being thrilled by anything in Ponchielli’s “masterpiece” (heaven save the mark!) seems something of an admission of palpably defective artistic discernment. And yet there were some thrilling moments in Monday night’s performance. These were due not to any particular musical charm of the work as such, but to the overpowering loveliness of much of Emmy Destinn’s singing. It is not that Gioconda suits her better than other roles—a considerable part of it makes demands on the middle register in which her voice is not always completely satisfying—but that for sheer beauty her tones, particularly of the upper range, have seldom sounded forth with such consummate purity and ethereal quality as they did in this instance. Certain moments were unforgettable. It was a pity indeed that so many persons should have left the house before she had sung her “Suicidio” air, which she did with great breadth and emotional trenchancy. Mme. Destinn’s voice is now at its zenith and one looks forward avidly to her work in operas more worthy of her gifts.
Were it not that Maria Duchène’s voice is marred to some extent by a pronounced tremolo hers would be one of the rarest contraltos on the operatic stage to-day. It is luscious, rich, warm and backed by a well-defined emotional understanding. She made the most of the opportunities that fell to her as La Cieca. Mme. Matzenauer was Laura. Her performance was intelligent and dramatically telling, but her singing was not altogether up to its wonted standard. The great contralto can command a far greater variety and opulence of tone color than she disclosed this time. The choruses were rousingly sung, and under Toscanini the orchestra played with a wealth of shading. In all respects the presentation moved with the utmost smoothness. —H. F. P.
Comments of other New York critics:
The performance of the opera last evening was one of uncommon excellence. Although all of the principals had been concerned in the same interpretation before and despite the fact that some of them were deficient in their wonted velvet, the spirit with which all entered into the discharge of their duties and the command of the style possessed by all of them made the presentation one to give plentiful and substantial pleasure to the large audience. —Mr. Henderson in The Sun.
It is doubtless much more to the point to note that Mr. Caruso seemed to be in admirable voice and sang not only with all needed power but also with taste and style; with more of these qualities, indeed, than he has sometimes displayed in the past. —Mr. Aldrich in The Times.
No less impressive was Pasquale Amato, whose portrayal of Barnaba, more intense and powerful dramatically than ever, revealed him in full possession of his superb vocal powers. —Mr. Smith in The Press.
As always, when she is in voice, Emmy Destinn sang with conviction in the name part, and again disclosed the most brilliant upper tones of any dramatic soprano in the Metropolitan’s long list. —Mr. Key in The World.
After each act the artists were obliged to respond to numerous recalls and at the close of the second act the stage was deluged with floral pieces, wreaths and tri-colored flags, quite as a soldiers’ monument. —Mr. Halperson in New Yorker Staats-Zeitttung

“DON QUICHOTTE” HAS AMERICAN PREMIEREWell Performed by Chicago Company in Philadelphia—Music in Massenet’s Familiar Vein
Bureau of Musical America, Sixteenth and Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia, November 17, 1913.
THE first real novelty of the local opera season was offered at the Metropolitan last Saturday afternoon, when Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” had its American premiere, under the direction of Cleofonte Campanini, with Vanni Marcoux in the title rôle, which he had sung many times in Europe; Hector Dufranne as Sancho Panza, and Mary Garden as La Belle Dulcinea. The performance was a genuine success. The score is in Massenet’s familiar vein: It offers a continuous flow of melody, light, sometimes almost inconsequential, and not often of dramatic significance, but at all times pleasing, of an elegance that appeals to the aesthetic sense, and in all its phases appropriate to the story, sketched rather briefly by Henri Cain from the voluminous romance of Miguel de Cervantes.
In the beautifully spectacular production that was disclosed at the local Metropolitan on Saturday is shown first a street in a Spanish town, before the house of Dulcinea, then a stretch of country landscape, with the revolving windmills, which Don Quichotte valorously attacks; the lair of the brigands, which the Don seeks in his determination to win Dulcinea’s favor by recovering for her the stolen pearl necklace; the courtyard of Dulcinea’s house, during a fête, and the forest, where, broken of heart, alone with his faithful Sancho, Don Quichotte yields up his still uncomplaining spirit. All of these scenes are beautifully staged, particularly that of the windmills, and the final tableau, showing through the forest trees the dim blue, snow-peaked Sierras in the distance.
In his impersonation of Don Quichotte Mr. Marcoux, who had previously appeared here only as Scarpia in “Tosca,” gave new and convincing evidence of his dramatic ability by offering a characterization quite as effective as, but in all respects in direct contrast to, that of the villainous Chief of Police in the Puccini opera. His Don Quichotte is essentially a comedy portrayal, but presents a keen analysis of character and is imbued with an underlying vein of tenderness and pathos that obviates the comic effect of the poor old knight-errant's unconscious grotesqueness. Marcoux’s make-up might be called a cross between Mephistopheles and Svengali. Of a slender figure, which he accentuates, he looks tall, gaunt and ungainly; peaked of countenance, with parrot-like nose, and sunken of cheek; clad in a semblance of armor and carrying an exaggerated spear nearly twice as long as himself, the Don is not a person to win admiration, and yet, so skillfully does Marcoux suggest the man’s innate gentleness and nobility of soul, that one bestows admiration, and forgets to ridicule, Even the Don’s hopeless adoration of the fair Dulcinea, who laughs him to scorn, inspires a pitying smile, and in the end, realizing the futility of his hope, having been thrust aside even after he had fulfilled the lady’s wish and recovered the stolen jewels, thinking that her hand was to be his reward, his death in the lonely forest, accomplished with realism and accompanied by music written in Massenet’s most sympathetic style, is tearfully impressive.
Marcoux’s costume and make-up have the authority of the illustrations of Cervantes’s book in its early editions, and the scenes of the opera also in several instances suggest a reproduction of the sketches in the book. While one cannot give to the French baritone the same degree of praise for his singing that is freely granted his impersonation, as a character delineation, it may be said that vocally he ably fills the requirements of the rôle, singing at all times with authority, and in places with appealing sympathy of tone. The serenade of the Don beneath Dulcinea’s window, in the first act; the appeal to the brigands, in the second, and the sympathetically subdued death scene in the last act, were all done with telling effect.
As Dulcinea, Miss Garden appears only in the first and third acts, but the part, though comparatively small, affords her an opportunity to add another striking characterization to her distinguished gallery of operatic portraitures. Gayly attired in Spanish costume, after the manner of Carmen in her festive days, with dark hair piled high and adorned with a large red rose, and flirtatiously wielding the in1evitable fan, Miss Garden is a picture fair to look upon. In every movement she is graceful and winning, with the charm of beautifu1 coquetry, while in the softer mood finally inspired by Don Quichotte’s devotion, there is a well-defined suggestion of the ' desire for something better that lies beneath the manner of thoughtless frivolity. The music, peculiarly adapted to Miss Garden’s voice, as Massenet’s music generally seems to be, enables her to give the part something of real value vocally. She sings with fluency the rather florid aria from the balcony, in the first act, and throughout gives tonal expressiveness to all she does, as usual making her voice show varying emotion.
The Sancho Panza of Hector Dufranne is an admirable portrayal, in comedy vein, yet having so distinctly the artistic touch that it never descends to the level of mere buffoonery. Short, fat, broad of countenance, suggesting Falstaff done by an Irish comedian with a fringe of red whiskers, Dufranne nevertheless makes the part more than comic. Voluminous of voice, his tones remarkably resonant and rich, he sings the music impressively. The remaining parts are small and of comparatively little importance, though a word of especial praise is due to Edmund Warnery, as Juan; Vittoria Venturini, as Rodriguez, and, Constantin Nicolay, as the Chief of the Bandits. The chorus work, which is rather brief, was commendable, and the whole performance went admirably, particularly when the difficulty under which it was prepared is remembered, the stage of the Metropolitan having been available for only two or three rehearsals.
The opera begins after only a few bold strains from the orchestra, there being no regular overture, and the expected “gem” of the score was discovered in the short, subdued and alluringly melodious prelude to the fifth act, in Massenet’s most sympathetic vein, and which, like the Meditation in “Thais,” is undoubtedly destined to frequent repetition. It brought prolonged applause on Saturday and was played the second time, —ARTHUR L. TUBBS.
Safer to Mind and Morals To Study Music in America, Says Mr. Freund
“Conditions Surrounding Music Study Abroad, Especially as They Affect American Girls, Are of Nature That Makes White Slave Stories Sound Like Pretty Fairy Tales,” Declares “Musical America’s” Editor in Address at Peabody Institute in Baltimore—Not Necessary to Go Abroad for “Atmosphere” [By telegram to MUSICAL AMERICA]
BALTIMORE, MD., Nov. IS.—That American music schools and American music teachers afford opportunities second to those offered in no other country in the world and that the musical schools in this country provide a safer and cleaner life for our young girls and young men who are studying music was the opinion set forth convincingly this afternoon by John C. Freund, editor of MUSICAL AMERICA, before an audience of nearly a thousand persons at the Peabody Institute of Music. Mr. Freund’s address, made by invitation of Harold Randolph, director of the institution, was listened to by the most prominent factors in Baltimore musical life and the frequent outbursts of applause indicated that he had struck a popular chord.
“The conditions surrounding music study abroad, especially as they affect American girls, are of a nature that makes the white slave stories sound like pretty fairy tales,” declared Mr. Freund. “To illustrate this, let me quote exactly the words of a former director of the Metropolitan Opera House, who after a search for American singers in Europe said: ‘They came to me hollow-eyed, these American girls who had .been studying in Europe; they had been stripped of their money, stripped of their health, their jewels; stripped of their virtue, even of their belief in a God.’”
Here, continued Mr. Freund, was a condition which American parents should recognize. The popular belief that it was necessary for students to go abroad to imbibe real musical atmosphere, he said, was based on ignorance, since France, Italy and Germany cannot to-day afford musical opportunities equal to those of American cities. “For many years,” Mr. Freund continued, “the finest musical talent of Italy, Germany, France, England and Spain has come to this country to locate and enter American citizenship. Are we to understand that the transfer of these musicians to our shores means that they have lost their love of music, their ideals and their taste? Then, why must our parents continue to send their children to Europe subjecting them to the dangers which we know exist there?” Mr. Freund reviewed the statistics he had previously given out with regard to the tremendous amount spent annually for music in this country and touched on the points he had made in his addresses a month ago in Atlanta, Nashville and other cities. In the evening he was entertained at the Florestan Club, an organization composed of the leading musicians of Baltimore, and made another address, in which he repeated his plea for the recognition and support of American teachers and musicians before an audience that listened attentively and applauded enthusiastically.


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