October 14, 1916
Page 8

De Koven’s “Canterbury Pilgrims” Will Be One of the Principal Novelties of the New York Season—Great Significance Attached to the Premiere of Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini”—Newcomers in the Company Few and Most of Them Are American Singers—Prospects of Atonement for Last Season’s Mistakes and Misfortunes

THE Metropolitan Opera House enters upon its third war year under a burden of expiatory obligations. New York operagoers tacitly and generally recognize this fact. There must be honorable amends for the sorry showing of last season. It matters nothing that the unhappy sequence of errors and failures that punctuated the past winter of operatic discontent was largely the result of fortuitous circumstances and conditions quite beyond an impresario’s control; atonement will be popularly awaited, none the less, and it is not at all certain that European conditions can be made to do the office of an all-embracing excuse. Two years ago the public would have pardoned all manner of flaws freely; in view of the obstacles overcome in getting singers and conductors to America and inaugurating the season at all, apologies might properly have seemed gratuitous. But when so poor a season as last followed hard upon so commendable a one as 1914-15, the disposition to bear gently with lapses and lacunes appears much less certain the ensuing year.
The prospectus for the ninth year of Director Gatti-Casazza’s consulship makes certain interesting promises. Of course, the full pretensions of such documents have to be taken with the habitual saline seasoning. At any rate, they are not so extravagant enough this time to challenge credulity (as they have been on past occasions). Novelties and revivals are, for the greater part, likely to give far more substantial pleasure than the meager fare of the kind proffered last year. New singers are few; that may or may not be regrettable, but at least it will obviate the likelihood of painful disappointments. The season runs for twenty-three weeks (Nov. 13 to April 20), unmixed with the baser matter of Russian ballet, which so wearied and provoked the subscribers in the course of its month-long session last April. On its own part, the company will not again waste its energies on unappreciative Boston. However; the Atlanta trip, when the New York season concludes, remains a fixed Metropolitan convention.
Newcomers in the Company
The new additions to the company may be briefly itemized. The soprano section is strengthened by Alice Eversman, who sang for a short time at the Century; Odette Le Fontenay and Marie Sundelius, an artist of seasoned qualities in concert and oratorio, reasonably well known to New York and warmly endorsed by Boston. To the operatic stage Mme. Sundelius is a newcomer, however. Among the contraltos one finds only one name that has not previously ornamented Metropolitan bills—that of Kathleen Howard, well remembered from Century Opera days.
Paul Bender, of Munich, appears among the baritones, according to this schedule. Yet Mr. Bender nearly two months ago authorized Jacques Mayer, MUSICAL AMERICA’S Munich representative; to disavow his American trip for this year, at any rate. A new tenor, Fernando Carpi, joins the ranks, of which Caruso, Martinelli, Botta, Althouse, Ferrari-Fontana, Urlus and Sembrich are again leaders. Riccardo Martin appears on the list; despite the fact that he is one of the pillars of the Rabinoff organization. Of new bassos there are none. It is some years since the Metropolitan has had so slight an infusion of new blood. Considering the nature of some of this blood in the last few seasons, it is a condition which, being paradoxically interpreted, may augur well.
Lucrezia Bori’s Return
For one circumstance the public will rejoice and be exceeding glad. That is nothing less than the return to her own of Lucrezia Bori, the young and lovely soprano and exquisite artist, whose enforced absence all last winter, owing to loss of voice through an ill-advised throat operation, proved one of the most somber catastrophes of the season. And as the rumor was then rife of her lasting vocal extinction, the joy over her reappearance will be mingled with gratitude that her voice did not actually suffer permanent blight. Miss Bori’s return makes feasible the production of several operas dropped from the repertoire owing to her disability. And she will probably enjoy the opportunity, long desired by her admirers, of embodying Butterfly.
Emmy Destinn Missing
To counteract the pleasure of Miss Bori’s return is the unavoidable absence of Emmy Destinn. It will be recalled that this illustrious lady, dropped from the Metropolitan roster at the end of the 1914 season, much to the chagrin of operagoers, enjoyed a sort of passive revenge in the failure of Erma Zarska, her appointed successor. Compelled to eat a liberal slice of humble pie, the management recalled Mme. Destinn, who made her return conditional upon re-engagement this year. But some black angel lured the soprano across the sea to her native Bohemia, where her affianced, Dinh Gilly, is immured till the advent of peace. For some reason or other the Austrians saw fit to do as much to the soprano, who is not yet a full-fledged American citizen, and all efforts have so far proved unavailing to alter their purpose. How the difficulty is to be solved by the Metropolitan, the management has not disclosed at this writing.
For the rest, the same singers will hold forth at the establishment this year as last, with the sole exception of the aforementioned Mme. Zarska. Lovers of Mme. Schumann-Heink will again have the chance to hear her at a guest appearance or two. And that sterling American baritone, Clarence Whitehill, will once more offer some of his great Wagnerian impersonations.
Another American Novelty
For the first time since VIctor Herbert’s “Madeleine” was laid to rest, management announces a new American opera. Once more a composer who won his spurs in operetta acknowledges responsibility for the score. Reginald de Koven, however, unlike Mr. Herbert, has never yet ventured into the deeper operatic waters. Therefore, his “Canterbury Pilgrims,” which utilizes as its libretto a slightly curtailed version of Percy Mackaye’s Chaucerian drama known to American theatergoers, is awaited with interest in many quarters. Though details of the cast and date of performance have not yet been made public, it is known that among the participating singers will be Mme. Ober and Messrs. Sembach, Althouse and Schlegel.
Of great significance will be the premiere of Riccardo Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini,” which the Boston Opera Company was to have done the year it suspended operations. One specimen of Zandonai’s handiwork was given to New York in the shape of the opera “Conchita,” which the Chicago Company exhibited on one of its fortnight visits several years ago. It failed signally to interest. Nevertheless, its composer is said to have developed in the interim, and there are those who acclaim him as the choicest spirit in Italian music to-day. Certainly his songs and orchestral music show engaging traits; and of “Francesca” great things are spoken. The composer, if report is trustworthy, will attend the presentation of his opera.
A novelty of rather, different nature is scheduled in Gluck’s lphigenia in Tauris.” The classic is new to America. In view of the misfortune of “Armide” and the failure to preserve “Orfeo” in the repertoire, the production of this opera may well afford ground for question. And certainly the wisdom of giving an essentially French work in Richard Strauss’s rearrangement, and of singing it in German, to boot, is abundantly debatable. But investigation of the matter may be deferred till the performance.
Strengthening the French Repertoire
An attempt to strengthen the weak French wing of the répertoire can be discerned in the promise not only of Bizet’s Pêcheurs de Perles,” put over from last season, but also of Massenet’s “Thaïs” with Geraldine Farrar in the role of the sainted courtesan, glorified to American imagination by the blandishments and skill of Mary Garden. And to serve the needs of Maria Barrientos’s brilliant coloratura, there is also to be Delibes’s “Lakmé” which, by the way, MUSICAL AMERICA recommended for this purpose when the management took the trouble to blow the dust off of ineffectual “Sonnambulas” and “Lucias” on behalf of the Spanish artist. Another possible revival is Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” which has been missed at the Metropolitan since an “ideal” cast, comprising Mmes. Sembrich, Eames and Farrar and Messrs. Scotti and Campanari, sang it about nine years ago.
In view of Mme. Bori’s happy return the regular répertoire will probably see a resuscitation of Montemezzi’s splendid L’Amore dei Tre Re”—which we had to forego last season for want of a substitute for the soprano—of Mascagni’s “Iris” and Franco Leone’s “L’Oracolo.” For ‘the rest the répertoire offers the established features. Of last year’s novelties there is no mention of “Goyescas” or the “Shrew.” There will be a special “Ring” cycle in’ the afternoon (and why not in the evening as well?) and the usual holiday presentations of “Parsifal.” It is to be hoped that “Tannhäuser” will he fittingly revived, after the unaccountable neglect of it all last year, and that no effort will be made to follow the ridiculous suggestion of a few short-sighted cranks with regard to omitting one or more Wagnerian dramas from the schedule every year. The répertoire, as a matter of fact, needs to be invigorated, not enfeebled. What the Wagner works do require is careful re-study together with a much freshened mounting in conformity with modern principles of stagecraft.
Polacco at the Helm
Despite prognostications, rumors and presages, Toscanini has no idea of returning to the conductor’s desk this season. Once more Giorgio Polacco, who may, without exaggeration, be called the peer of Toscanini, and who, in some respects, even surpasses him, will fill the place he occupied with so much honor to himself last year. Why could not his sphere be enlarged to enable him to conduct some of the greater Wagnerian dramas as well as what falls to his share—some of which, at any rate (like “Sans Gêne”) is absolutely unworthy of his attention? Artur Bodanzky will likewise be retained, but in place of Gaetano Bavagnoli, conductorship of the lesser Italian operas, devolves upon Gennaro Papi, who has served the Metropolitan as répetiteur for some time.
The ballet will again be headed by the charming Rosina Galli and the capable Giuseppe Bonfiglio. Several ballet divertissements are to be given during the winter as usual.
Week of Rabinoff Opera
A dozen or more years ago Metropolitan patrons used to be regaled with what were denominated “supplementary” seasons—that is to say, a series of performances lasting for several days or a week either directly or some time after the regular operatic year concluded. During the last three or four years New York operagoers have been treated to what might be termed “preliminary” seasons. At first they were supplied by the Century Company, which would open as early as September. Last year Max Rabinoff brought his touring Boston Opera Company and the Pavlowa Ballet to the Manhattan Opera House for a fortnight, and succeeded in attracting considerable attention. This year his organization, more expansively entitled the “Boston National Grand Opera,” minus Pavlowa (though equipped with a Russian ballet), but in other respects improved, will occupy Hammerstein's Lexington Avenue Opera Ho·1se (which, though built for opera, has never housed it) for the week preceding the Metropolitan's opening. Their repertoire includes Puccini’s “Bohème” and “Butterfly,” Montemezzi’s “L’Amore dei Tre Re” and Donizetti's “Lucia,” as well as several other familiar works. But they will offer such novelties or little-known operas as Rubinstein’s “Demon”—to be sung in Russian Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier,” Mascagni’s “Iris” (for the incomparable Tamaki Miura), and Rachmaninoff’s “Aleko.”
The personnel of the Rabinoff company includes such recognized artists as Maggie Teyte, Tamaki Miura, Mabel Riegelmann, Luisa Villani, Maria Gay Fely- Clement, Elvira Leveroni, Enrico Arensen, Riccardo Martin, Giovanni Zenatello,.George Baklanoff, Thomas Chalmers and Jose Mardones, as well as others, unfamiliar to New York, but reputedly capable. Roberto Moranzoni is chief conductor and his· assistants are Fulgenzio Guerrieri, Adolf Schmid and Alexander Smallens. The orchestra numbers sixty. —H. F. P.


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