September 19, 1914
Page 1

“Romeo and Juliet,” Given as Opening Performance, Reveals Gratifying Advances in Ensemble Effects−Brilliant Audience Welcomes Work of New Singers, New Conductor, New Chorus Master and New Artistic Director−Changes in Auditorium Facilitate Seating

THE Century Opera House was launched upon its second season last Monday night. Gounod’s distillation of “Romeo and Juliet,” vested in a brand new English text fashioned expressly for the needs of the organization, served as the year’s curtain raiser. The representation was accomplished under circumstances in many respects different from those that obtained last season. It took place in a house largely renovated, under the scrupulous supervision of a new stage management, new chorus direction and new orchestral leadership. It disclosed a partially renovated chorus, a largely reorganized orchestra and some new principals.
So much for generalized facts. The audience was enthusiastic and brilliant and the decision of the management to contribute the proceeds of the first two nights to the Red Cross fund for war sufferers insured capacity attendance. It was not what might justly be termed a representative Century gathering. It is obvious that the first musical function of the season should attract a very considerable number of prominent musicians and music-lovers whose attention as the year progresses will be largely transferred to other channels of activity. Yet the consensus of their opinion is not to be regarded lightly and, in relation to what they witnessed last Monday, it was eminently favorable.
Last year’s precedent seemed to prove convincingly that too much stress on the qualities of the early Century performances is ill advised. It boots little to construe their deficiencies too severely as indicative of future conditions or their strong points infallible guarantees of continued merit. And, paradoxical as it may seem, the Century finds itself in something of a similar position at the beginning of its second year as it did last September. It is again on trial and has yet to demonstrate the extent of its potentialities. Clearly, then, the first performance must be to a degree inconclusive.
Pursuit of Higher Ideals
However this may be, last Monday’s showing was distinctly auspicious, vastly better as an artistic entity to the average that the Aborn brothers were able to offer their expectant clientele in the first year of their consulship. This fortunate state of affairs is attributable to the new conditions that have been brought into play by the management in their presumable pursuit of higher ideals.
A shorter season, a smaller and less ambitiously constituted repertoire and the extension of the run of every opera except the first over two weeks on alternate nights, give promise of eliminating certain radical difficulties which sorely beset the course of things last year and occasioned some lively recrimination and much shifting of blame. The new system should insure, for one thing, a degree of preparation far more reasonably proportioned to the requirements of the works presented than has yet been the case. But equally important is the re-organization of the artistic personnel, especially as it touches the engagement for stage director of Jacques Coini, as chorus master (and second conductor) of Josiah Zuro, as first conductor of Agide Jacchia; and the energetic reformation of last year’s inefficient body of instrumentalists. Mr. Coini is remembered as one of the towers of strength of Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera House, where his consummate craftsmanship was the wholesome envy of Metropolitan patrons. Mr. Zuro’s skill in the manipulation of choral forces will likewise be recalled from the days in which he co-operated with Mr. Coini, while his musicianship and innate talents as a conductor have been attested not only at the Manhattan but in the direction of smaller operatic ventures of his own. As for Mr. Jacchia, New York enjoyed a taste of his quality during the short ill-fated season of Italian opera at the Academy of Music some six years ago and found it to its liking. Since that time he has been connected with the Montreal Company.
As to the Opera Itself
“Romeo and Juliet” is not very delectable entertainment and the impulse that brought about its selection as the inaugural offering of the season is not altogether clear. Gounod’s musical investiture of Barbier and Carré’s pinchbeck perversion of Shakespeare is a dreary thing in its sucreries, its sentimentalities, its platitudes. It is enduringly strange that of all those who have sought to voice in music the most poetic of all love tragedies only Tschaikowsky should have broken the surface and penetrated to the soul. Geraldine Farrar’s art could not save the opera at the Metropolitan’s revival of it three years ago and it proved soporific at the Century last year. But between that production and this week’s there was a vast difference in general character of interpretation.
The outstanding improvement distinguishing this latter performance lay in the sweeping betterment of the ensemble. Mr. Coini has marshaled all his stage forces with fine generalship, and has made of a crude, ligneous, unyielding mass a really pliant, mercurial and elastic body. The chorus, apart from its vocal ameliorations−and it sang with far better tone, amenability to nuance, rhythmic precision and spirit than formerly, thanks to Mr. Zuro’s able training−became a dramatic unit in the whole fabric. Its erstwhile leaden immobility was exchanged for convincing vivacity of action, and its movements in the third act, culminating in the general brawl, were calculated and executed with a superb sense of cumulative theatric effect. The consequence of this harmonious working of choral, seconded by revamped orchestral forces, was a degree of homogeneity, vitality, general cohesiveness and even style unprecedented in Century productions. That quality of amateurishness which has hitherto been so oppressively manifest in them has vanished.
Since last Spring the orchestra has likewise undergone a sea change. It played with real unity of purpose, with a new life and resiliency, precision and reasonably good tone. With time and further co-operation it will probably “play itself in” so as to improve more perceptibly in the last respect. In Agide Jacchia the Century possesses a conductor of authoritative grip, virility, dramatic understanding and, it would seem, a measure of poetic impulse. He read this tenuous and conventional score with sincerity and fervor, a feeling for broad outlines and with tenderness of sentiment held within proper bounds of moderation in the treacly love music.
How the Principals Sang
When the opera was given at the Century last Winter Lois Ewell and Orville Harrold were heard in the title roles. Last Monday evening they assumed them again and with about the same success. Miss Ewell’s Juliet is pleasing to look upon, winsome and girlish in the earlier scenes and not without pathos in the despairing colloquy with the Friar and the subsequent potion episode. Mr. Harrold, despite his abuse of operatic lacrymosity, commended himself to many of his hearers by some lusty, ringing top notes while his enunciation was exemplary. The Mercutio was Thomas Chalmers, who has proved himself from the start one of the Century’s most invaluable assets. Last Monday he strengthened the impression he created a year ago. His delivery of the music had elegance and polish of style in addition to tonal beauty to commend it. Mr. Chalmers is ripening into an artist of the first order. Alfred Kaufman was an entirely competent Capulet, Gilbert Wilson sang the few measures of the Duke imposingly; a new tenor, Hardy Williamson, was a worthy Tybalt, and another newcomer, George Everett, a highly acceptable Gregorio.
Probably the most protracted and spontaneous ovation of the evening was tendered after the first scene of the third act to the new exponent of Friar Laurence, the American basso, Henry Weldon. His name will be recalled as having adorned the roster of Hammerstein’s London Opera House. But he was connected for an even longer period with the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels as first basso. The golden opinions which he won there were quickly accounted for on Monday when his success was genuine and immediate. At the close of the scene he was repeatedly called before .the curtain and cheered. Mr. Weldon’s voice is a true bass of large volume and extensive range and of very solid texture. Nervousness caused him to deviate momentarily from the pitch, but, on the whole, he delivered himself of the Friar’s utterances with breadth and authority.
The rôle of the Nurse was capably handled by Stella Riccardo. Elizabeth Campbell, a new light soprano, was comely as the page, Stephano. Of her singing it is not possible to speak in terms of similar favor.
Mr. Brenon’s Text
It should be noted that the standard of enunciation was generally high. And in this connection, it becomes necessary to speak in no measured terms of praise of the new translation of the libretto devised by Algernon St. John-Brenon, music critic of the Morning Telegraph. Mr. Brenon has for the greater part produced a thoroughly worthy text that often rises to poetic dignity of expression and that, whenever possible, adapts actual Shakespearian text to its purpose though remaining faithful to the scheme of the French librettists. And it is properly singable.
The auditorium has been altered by the elimination of boxes and the substitution of many lower-priced seats and has been otherwise refurbished. But the changes have in nowise improved the acoustic properties of the place. —HERBERT F. PEYSER.
Comments of Daily Newspaper Critics
As far as last night’s performance affords a basis of judgment, the promises of betterment at the Century Opera House made last Spring at the end of the first season have been lived up to. In several important respects the company seems to have been made over for the better, This is most noticeably so in the case of the chorus, the orchestra, and the general ensemble.−John Hauser in the Times.
The performance as a whole ran with more smoothness than was the case in many of last year’s productions, and to the artistic director, Mr. Jaques Coini, much credit is due.−The New York Herald.
In the action, the choral delivery, the playing of the orchestra, and still better in the general cohesiveness of the interpretation of the opera, real and valuable advance over last season was made. • • • On the whole, then, it can be said that the beginning of the second season at the Century Opera House was worthy of commendation. Its artistic achievement, while not ideal, was encouraging and held out promise of better things to come when the routine of the newly arranged organization is more settled.−W. J. Henderson in the Sun.
The orchestra especially has been enlarged and greatly improved...Jacchia revealed himself as a conductor of authority, temperament and refinement. On the stage, too, a new and skillful hand was in evidence. −M. Halperson, in the Staats Zeitung.
The opening of the Century Opera Company season, with Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” last evening, marked a real advance over the performances of last winter. In all respects the production was most agreeable, and most notably in the orchestra, the department which perhaps was chiefly to be criticized in the first season.−The Evening Post.
Musically, the occasion was important. Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” will go a long time before it is given a representation so straightforward and so effective as last night’s.−Grace Egbert in the Press.
The Aborns had their singers all on hand. There were several newcomers to show that the company is better equipped with voices this year than last. The chorus displayed a fine balance of parts, especially strong in ringing tenors, while the very orchestra was noticeably improved in vigor and unity of tone.−W. B. Chase in the Evening Sun.
Opera that may be spelled with a capital O was provided by the Century organization at the opening of its second season last night. The performance of “Romeo and Juliet,” from beginning to end, was of excellent artistic balance, and if the standard thus established is maintained consistently opera for and by the people should be regarded as assured.−Pierre V. R. Key in the World.
Even though the European war, by mischance, should necessitate calling off the Metropolitan opera season, there is no occasion for the music-loving public to worry. We are going to have grand opera aplenty, of excellent quality, too, all things considered, quite the best opera that New York has ever heard for the price, at the Century Opera House.−Colgate Baker in the American.
If the standard of that first performance can be kept up throughout the season, the Century Opera Company will indeed have justified the existence.−Sigmund Spaeth in the Evening Mail.
Brilliant Performance of “Carmen” Second Offering at the Century
On Tuesday evening the “Carmen” performance attracted an audience that nearly filled the auditorium, for this, like the opening one on the night previous, was given for the benefit of the Red Cross.
The Bizet opera, ever fresh and ever to be depended upon to appeal both to jaded musical connoisseur and amateur alike, was subjected to a thorough revision as regards mounting and also, to an extent, as regards the English version employed. Perhaps the most distinctive element was the ensemble, the manner in which massed bodies and all small details on the stage were handled, reflecting great credit on Jacques Coini, the artistic director. The English translation used, which was said to be one made by the critic of the New York Morning Telegraph, was his work only in part, for there were long passages employed from the old version, a hardly satisfactory one, which was sung entire last season.
Kathleen Howard’s Carmen, which she revealed to us last season, has improved considerably over Summer. She has changed some of the details which last year were spoken of as out of harmony with the character as it is generally understood, and she has added others anew which lend to the potency of her characterization. Vocally some of the music is too high for her, but she managed to avoid the upper notes wherever an optional occurs in the score. Mr. Kingston’s Don José was vocally praiseworthy and he acted it much better than he did last season. His singing of the “Flower Song” in Act II gave proof of the fact that he has learned the value of repression even in emotional singing.
Myrna Sharlow, the young American soprano, who jumped into the limelight last season when she replaced Mme. Melba as Mimi in “Bohème” at the Boston Opera House, sang Micaela in place of Helen Stanley, who was indisposed. Unanimously did her hearers approve her lovely lyric voice, well suited to the music she essayed, and also her ability to act. She received an ovation after her third act aria. Louis Kreidler always gives a good performance. His Toreador on this occasion was virile and authoritative in manner and won him an encore on the famous song. Alice Eversman, a newcomer, as Frasquita, discharged her few duties with distinction, as did Elizabeth Campbell as her companion, Mercedes. Hardy Williamson was the Remendado, Alfred Kaufman the Zuniga, George Shields the Dancairo.
But a recording of this performance would not be complete without a tribute to Josiah Zuro, who conducted for the first time at the Century on this evening. To him fell the twofold work of preparing the chorus and conducting the orchestra. Mr. Zuro’s ability has long been recognized, but he has grown appreciably in his art and conducted a performance that was worthy of a master. The orchestra in his hands responded finely and its quality was sonorous and full, with no reminiscence of the orchestra of 1913, The work of the chorus was notably excellent all through the opera. There were curtain calls for the principals, and after the second act Mr. Coini was dragged out and also Mr. Zuro.
Albertina Rasch, première danseuse, again proved herself an artist of high rank and was acclaimed for her work in the last act. −A. W. K.
Elaborate Program for New York Symphony’s Season
The Symphony Society of New York, Walter Damrosch, conductor, has prepared an elaborate program for the coming season, which, thanks to the Flagler endowment, will be more complete and far-reaching than ever before. The scheme includes the following series of concerts: Eight Friday afternoons at Æolian Hall, beginning October 23; sixteen Sunday afternoons at Æolian Hall, beginning October 25; six symphony concerts for young people at Carnegie Hall, beginning November 21, and five young people’s symphony concerts in Brooklyn at the Academy of Music, beginning October 24. A special series of four “composers’ concerts” will be given at Carnegie Hall, and at each of these concerts one of four famous pianists will present one or more concertos. The society will also inaugurate this season a new series of concerts for the people, which will be given at the Seventy-first Regiment Armory at popular prices.
Star Spangled Banner Association Formed
A great military pageant participated in by United States soldiers, marines and bluejackets on September 11 furnished the climax of last week’s celebration in Baltimore of the centenary of the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” On the same day “The Star Spangled Banner Association” was organized in Baltimore for the purpose of fostering love of the American flag. Mayor James H. Preston of Baltimore was elected president.
Edmund Burke, the Canadian baritone, was one of a throng of refugees to make his way to London from Paris at the time when the Germans were nearest the French capital.
Cablegram from London Lists Eminent Violinist’s Name Among Death Toll Resulting from Austria’s Repulsing of Russian Attack−Rumor Rothier Crabbé, Huberdeau and Charlier Are Also Killed−Metropolitan to Assemble Company at Genoa for Return Voyage
MORE vividly and in a more personal way than ever before was the overwhelming horror of the European war brought home to the American musical public in the reports cabled across the Atlantic this week that Fritz Kreisler had given his life as a sacrifice to the grim war god. The New York American on Sunday printed the following under a London date line of September 12:
“Fritz Kreisler, the distinguished violinist, is dead to-day, having been killed in a recent engagement near Lemberg, Galicia, when the Russian army completely routed the Austrians, according to reports reaching here. At the beginning of the war it was reported that Kreisler was with his regiment at Graz in Styria, and it is said that the celebrated virtuoso was among the troops sent to meet the onrushing Russians near Lemberg.”
It has not yet been possible to confirm this report, so meager are the details cabled over as to the actual casualties in the war. It is feared, however, that the eminent violinist may actually have met his death. In the first place, there would be no reason for Austria’s enemies to send forth a rumor that a famous musician had fallen on the Austrian side if that were not true, since the news of his death would not serve a strategic purpose such as would that of one of the royal family or of a general in command.
Furthermore, the patriotism and the intrepidity of Mr. Kreisler, who is a lieutenant in Franz Josef’s army, are just such as would make the violinist rush forward into a position of danger that might result in his death. Such was the view expressed by one of the staff of C. A. Ellis, who was to have managed Kreisler’s tour of America. It was further stated that although the Ellis office was not able to confirm the report, fears were entertained that the violinist might be among the killed. Returning tourists from London added strength to the reports by testifying that rumors of Kreisler’s death were current in the English capital at the time of their departure. The violinist’s wife had enlisted in the Red Cross of her nation.
Maximilian Kramer, European manager of McCann’s Tours, Inc., who returned to New York on Tuesday aboard the Potsdam, related that he had seen Mrs. Kreisler at the American embassy in Vienna just before she started out for her Red Cross service. Friends of Kreisler told him that Mr. Kreisler was in an Austrian regiment with German forces at Metz.
Various New York papers of September 16 carried the following Associated Press dispatch from St. Louis, dated September 15: “A letter from Albert Stoessel, a St. Louis musician, who is studying in Germany, received by his father here, says: ‘Kreisler is guarding bridges in Vienna.’’’
Arriving travelers confirm the report that two sons of Eugen Ysaye are among the toll of dead in the ranks of music.
Andreas Dippel, who was a passenger aboard the Potsdam on Tuesday morning, was besieged with inquiries as to his coming opera comique season. The impresario, who had after numerous difficulties managed to get to Rotterdam, as reported in this journal, was, however, unable to give out any definite information. To a MUSICAL AMERICA representative he said: “I can talk war this morning but not opera. You see, I don’t know what arrangements my men have made here in my absence, as correspondence was interrupted and they do not know what I have planned while abroad. We must first get together and put things in order and then I’ll be prepared to give out my plans. That’ll be in about two or three days.” Meeting the conductor at the Holland-American Line pier were Dr. Anselm Goetzl, principal coriductor of his company and several of his office staff.
Definite news about Otto Goritz, the Metropolitan baritone, was divulged on the arrival of the Potsdam. It appears that with the outbreak of war the baritone presented himself to the German government as Freiwilliger (volunteer). He was, however, not accepted and is safe in Berlin. He will arrive in this country in time for his season at the Metropolitan.
Otto H. Kahn, chairman of the Metropolitan directorate, this week confirmed the announcement that Messrs. Goritz, Berger and Braun are not engaged in the war, but will be here for the season. Max Smith, music critic of the New York Press, in a letter to that paper from Munich, substantiated Mme. Gadski’s information, as recorded in MUSICAL AMERICA, that Mr. Gatti-Casazza would charter a ship, if necessary, to bring back the Metropolitan stars.
That this embarcation will be from Genoa was made evident when an American friend of Geraldine Farrar received a letter from the soprano stating that Mr. Gatti had instructed the Metropolitan singers to assemble at Genoa early in October. That preparations are being inaugurated for the bringing back of the company was evident this week when returning steamers carried to New York the wives of William J. Guard, press representative of the Metropolitan, and F. C. Coppicus, general secretary. Mrs. Coppicus was one of the passengers on La France and Mrs. Guard came in on La Touraine.
Mrs. Guard informed a MUSICAL AMERICA representative that Mr. Guard at the time she left Paris had purchased a ticket for Italy, but that she did not know whether he had yet succeeded in getting away from Paris. She related that Mr. Coppicus had gone down to Havre to see Mrs. Coppicus off on La France, but that he had not been able to leave there by train, as the space on the trains was reserved for transporting soldiers. Mr. Coppicus, it was stated, was then waiting to catch a boat for Marseilles on his way to Italy. Messrs. Coppicus and Guard, it is said, are bound for Italy to assist in assembling the Metropolitan personnel.
Through L. Verande, formerly of the Century Opera stage staff, musicians in New York have heard that Armand Crabbé and Marcel Charlier are reported to be among those killed in Belgium, and Gustave Huberdeau in France.
Arrivals on the Frederick VIII, which reached New York on Tuesday, were Frederick Steinway and Siegfried Philip, baritone. Another artist reported killed in whom Americans have a personal interest is Leon Rothier, the French basso of the Metropolitan Opera, who has been fighting in the French Army.
Albert Reiss Held as Prisoner of War in Bordeaux by the French
MUSICAL AMERICA learned on good authority this week that Albert Reiss, the Metropolitan’s famous Mime, is in Bordeaux whither he was taken by the French as a prisoner of war. Mr. Reiss, a German by birth, was in Paris when war was declared and found himself in an extremely embarrassing position, as Mrs. Reiss is French. The tenor was advised, as were all Germans in Paris at the time, to get out of the French capital as quickly as possible. But he could not go to Germany, as, it is said, he did not complete his military duty some years ago. He remained in Paris and the government transferred him to Bordeaux, allowing him, however, to take along his wife and children. It is reported that the Metropolitan Opera Company is now negotiating with the French government for the tenor’s release.


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