Aida: November 16, 1908<br>New Production

 


 




OPENING NIGHT
NOVEMBER 15, 1908





Review of W. J. Henderson in The Sun

THE METROPOLITAN OPENED

‘AIDA’ AS GIVEN UNDER MR. GATTI-CASAZZA

Toscanini’s Conducting of Verdi’s Great Opera –
A Gorgeous Aggregation of Scenery and Costumes.
Emmy Destinn Makes a Success in the Title Role

The regular season of opera at the Metropolitan Opera House began last night. It began without any convulsions of nature or turmoil of peoples. The King had died. Some more kings had some to take his place. Long live the kings! Almost had a dynasty ceased to exist and another dynasty come to life. But not quite that. Conried was gone, but Kahn and a few others were still in the realm of operatic activity.

Gatti-Casazza and Toscanini, all the way from Milan, had come to infuse new Italian artistic life into the effete Metropolitan. They had Andreas Dippel to help them. A new management, a new reign. But there was no convulsion. There was no turmoil. The carriages approached the house in the same old way. The police passed them along with the same old orders. The curious crowded on the sidewalks and gaped at the evening gowns just as they used to. Even as of yore the libretto boys dodged through the crowd and cried: “Book o’ de op. ”

Inside the house there was nothing to speak of a new era in history to those just entering. There were the same men at the doors taking tickets. In the box office could be seen the old faces. The ushers, at any rate, looked to be the same. Nothing seemed to be changed.

But of course. Was it to improve the approach of carriages that Gatti-Casazza and Toscanini came all the way from Milan, or to exhibit new doorkeeper, or to decorate box offices with new faces, or even to revolutionize ushers? By no means. They came to revitalize a dying spirit, to shed upon a drooping community the priceless blessings of a true art.

That is why there was no excitement in the gathering audience. Men and women waited calmly for the performance for they knew that it would be the first revelation of the glory of the new reign. Rumors had gone forth that New York knew nothing about “Aida,” and that it was about to learn things.

Many things were learned, but not about Verdi’s score, for that has been known and loved by New York for many years. But the new management had provided new scenery for the opera. And they were wonderfully gorgeous scenes. Every one of them was gorgeous except that representing the noisome tomb in which Aida and Radames sang “Oh, terra addio.” It was not easy to make even an Egyptian tomb gorgeous, or doubtless it would have been done.

At any rate it seemed to be the aim of the managers to give the spectacular element in the scenery the widest scope. There were bronze decorations, flowers in profusion and gorgeous hangings of rich stuffs and laces. Of course they were not modern laces, but just the primitive forms known to the Egyptians. Correctness in archeology is going to be one of the features of the régime.

It might have been judicious to make some scenes not quite so splendid. That would have provided contrast. No one wishes to dwell always in marble halls. But the scenes were a glittering show. And they were all new. The same thing must be said of the costumes and all the other equipments in the pictorial part of the lyric drama.

The costumes were much more harmonious and less overwhelming than the scenery. The color schemes were generally good and the character of the dresses excellent. Perhaps a stickler for exact reproduction might find a few flaws in these costumes, but something must be allowed for the demands of the stage. It is not possible to get the whole Egyptian department of the British Museum across the footlights.

With the beards there was no trouble at all. The moment Caruso was seen in his Egyptian beard was seen also. It was seen all the rest of the evening wherever Caruso was. No one ever saw Caruso look like that before. He was the only Egyptian seriously affected by his beard, because he was the only one who ought to have a familiar face and did not.

But we shall hear and see more of these glorified trappings of art and further account of them may be deferred. They were a brilliant promise of the liberality of the new government of the opera house and the public will expect much in the future. The musical presentation of “Aida” also raised some expectations, and those too will probably be gratified.

Arturo Toscanini demonstrated that he had a fine appreciation of this masterwork. His skill as director was manifested in every part of the performance of the music. Even the principals who have sung the same roles here before showed here and there in the modification of their delivery that they had subordinated themselves to a general plan.

The orchestra proved to be an efficient body of musicians and had been thoroughly rehearsed. The treatment of the various effects of light and shade had been well prepared and with artistic understanding. Some of Mr. Toscanini’s tempi were a trifle slower than those of his immediate predecessors, and with good result. But the real merit of the conductor’s début should be sought in the general musical excellence of the performance.

The cast consisted of Emmy Destinn as Aida, Louise Homer as Amneris, Caruso as Radames, Mr. Scotti as Amonasro, Adamo Didur as Ramfis and Rossi as the King. The newcomers will be heard often and need not be subjects of extended comment now.

Miss Destinn made a most favorable impression without effacing memories dear to local music lovers. Her voice is not one of the great organs of recent musical decades, but it is a good one and she uses it with technical skill and dramatic intelligence. Her Aida is an excellent piece of lyric acting in its reading of the lyric text and in its purely pictorial methods of expression.

Mme. Sparkes must be heard in some more important role than the Priestess. As for Mr. Didur, he was with Mr. Hammerstein last year and can hardly be called a stranger. As a High Priest he was not particularly imposing. Neither was Mr. Rossi “every inch a king,” but both of these may please better in other parts.

Mr. Caruso’s Radames was just what it has always been, except for the beard. Mr. Scotti has often sung Amonasro much better than he sang it last night. On the other hand Mme. Homer never sang Amneris as well before. For her it was an evening of artistic advance.



Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

METROPOLITAN OPERA OPENS WITH 'AIDA'

A Brilliant and Strenuous Performance Under the New Conductor, Toscanini

MISS DESTINN AS AIDA

Audience Moved to Great Enthusiasm by the Performance - Old and New Singers Heard

The Metropolitan Opera house reopened its doors last evening for the beginning of the twenty-fourth season of opera there-the twenty-sixth since the house was built and dedicated to the uses of the lyric drama. There was a large throng of eager operagoers who filled the great auditorium in all its parts crowding the standing room to suffocation. The spectacle of this audience had all the brilliancy that is traditionally associated with the Metropolitan Opera House, culminating in the glories of the "golden horseshoe," undimmed and undiminished. There was enthusiasm for a performance of exceptional splendor. The opera chosen for the opening of the new season under the under the new directors, Messers Gatti-Casazza, and Dippel, was "Aida." performed under the direction of the new conductor, Arturo Toscanini. He, as well as several of the new singers of the company, made their first appearance before a New York audience, headed by Mme. Emmy Destinn, who took the part of the heroine. There was a new chorus, a newly augmented orchestra, new scenic outfit for the stage, and, in fact, there was every evidence that there were new forces at work.

As for the performance, it does not so much matter what it is on the opening night. "Aida" has served before for this purpose, for in it there is opportunity in abundance for all that solo singers, chorus, orchestra, scene painter, and costumers can do, and what they do makes the most immediate effect upon an audience. This opportunity was taken advantage of to the fullest extent. Nothing more gorgeous in the way of scenic effect, of choral masses, groupings, processions, of color schemes and contrasts; nothing more voluminous in the way of vocal outpourings and of stage music; nothing more highly colored and vivid in the effect of orchestral performance, has often been seen or heard on the stage of the Metropolitan. The new management strained every nerve and put forward all its resources, apparently, to outdo all that has ever been done before in the way of painting the stage picture, It was a case of piling Pelion upon Ossa.

The purely musical part of the performance was pitched on the highest key and the spirit that pervaded it was closely instilled by the new conductor, Mr. Arturo Toscanini. He is a strenuous force, a dominating power, a man of potent authority, a musician of infinite resource. He had the performance at every point firmly and directly under his hand. If it was a criterion of his musicianship, he is a man that insists on clear-cut outlines, on abundant detail, on the strongest contrasts, on vivid color. In fortissimos the brasses could not blow loudly enough for him, nor could the crescendos be brought to climax fulminating enough. But there were other and finer points that could not have escaped the attention of the close observer; the fine modeling of phrase, the symmetry of the musical outline in many places where mere brute force was not in question. And the pulsing dramatic blood he sent coursing through score was never allowed to stagnate. If it was a loud and strenuous performance at times, it was not rude nor lacking in finish.

This prevailing spirit influenced every member of the cast, apparently, to strive for the strenuous in a similar degree. It needed nothing so potent to loosen the vocal chords of Mr. Caruso, who reappeared in the part of Radames, and who sang with probably more power, with more insistent dwelling on the highest tones, with more prodigal expenditure of his resources than even he has achieved before. Even Mme. Homer, who was heard in the part of Amneris, an impersonation that had all the beauty and more than the dramatic power that she has made familiar in it, put forth her rich and luscious tones to the limit of their capacity. M. Scotti was another familiar and well-beloved figure in his superbly intense portrayal of the barbarian King, filled with a grim and barbarous spirit.

Mme. Emmy Destinn, the new dramatic soprano from Berlin, who is to have so large a part of the responsibilities of the season now opening, was the Aida. She has a voice of great power, body, and vibrant quality, dramatic in its expression, flexible, and wholly subservient to her intentions which are those of a singer of keen musical feeling and intelligence. It is a voice possessing tones of great beauty, especially in the upper ranges. She, too, was fired with the prevailing spirit, and let the audience hear the utmost sonorities of which she was capable. She was a most interesting figure in the performance, and what she did may well have roused a lively expectation of what she has in store for frequenters of the Opera House this season.

There were other new members of the cast. Adamo Didur, who last year was a member of the company of the Manhattan Opera House was the High Priest Ramfis, and though he sang intelligently his voice did not have the weight and power that have been familiar in the part. A new basso, Giulio Rossi, was the King, a singer of excellent parts, whose voice improved in quality and steadiness as the performance went on. Leonora Sparkes whose name is also new to house bills of the Manhattan, sang the music of the Priestess acceptably. The singing of the new chorus was admirable and met most of he high expectations that had been aroused on its behalf. Seldom has the orchestra sounded of greater richness and fullness in this score and seldom have many of the finer details of it been so well brought out as by Mr. Toscanini. That it was from time to time too powerful and covered the voices of the sniggers was a part of the prevailing character of the performance.

There was a completely new scenic outfit for the opera, that differed materially from those that have become familiar in the past. It was extremely elaborate and had many points of striking beauty. Garlands of flowers and tapestried hangings seemed to enter largely into such scenes at the Temple, Amneris's room, though the "room" as out of doors-and the Hundred Gates of Thebes. The scene on the banks of the Nile is a beautiful composition, but it scarcely corresponds to the accepted ideas of the Egyptian landscape. There are questions that the archeologists might quarrel about, but they could hardly gainsay the imposing effect of the pictures that are presented.

Such a performance, as was to be expected, had a thrilling effect upon a first-night audience, keyed up as this was in its anticipations. There was much enthusiasm, and the singers, old friends and new, were recalled repeatedly after each set. There was a special greeting for Mr. Toscanini and a warm outburst of approval for Mr. Gatti-Casazza and Mr. Dippel when they appeared with the others.



Review of Henry E. Krehbiel in the Tribune

MUSIC

AT THE METROPOLITAN

Opening Night of the New Administration

The twenty-fourth season of opera at the Metropolitan Opera House had its beginning last night under the auspices of the seventh operatic dynasty which the establishment has seen since its opening. The dynasty is nominally a dual one, but the influence which is likely to prevail has been indicated with sufficient clearness to make prognostication unnecessary and discussion futile – at least for the present. The opera was “Aida,” which was presented with new scenery, new costumes, a new conductor and some new singers. It was seen and heard by an audience which in respect of numbers and appearance indicated emphatically that the popular interest in the new regime is large, lively and likely to prove enduring. Therefore, let it be said at the outset that the opening was auspicious. The opera is old, but nearly all that was new was according to the school of La Scala, in Milan. That means much or little, according to the taste and fancy of the spectators and listeners. So far as the stage pictures were concerned, the critical may have been set to wondering at the revelation made of the luxuriant flora which the Milanese operatic archeologists have provided, but, at any rate, in the scene of triumph they were spared the piled up incongruities which, under the consulship of Mr. Conried, were borrowed from Reyer’s “Salammbo,” with which Mr. Grau had made an unfortunate experiment. There were fine feathers also for all the songbirds, but they did not affect their singing, which would have been quite as good had there been less gorgeousness of color. But it did not make it any better, neither did it make it any worse. There were singers in the cast who have been admired for years and who could not be admired more – Mme. Homer, Signor Scotti and Signor Caruso, for example – though there were moments, not a few, in which admiration for the last named’s marvelous and matchless voice was paired with apprehension that his strenuous and reckless use of it may lead to its extinction long before such a calamity ought of natural necessity to occur.

Of the new conductor it must be said that he is a boon to Italian opera as great and as welcome as anything that has come out of Italy since Verdi laid down his pen. In the best sense he is an artist, as interpreter, a re-creator. Without such men music is as lifeless to the ear as it is on the printed page. Signor Toscanini brought to the understanding and the emotions of the audience all of Verdi’s score, body and soul, as it lives in him, mixing it with an abundance of sympathetic affection. He used no book; but that is a matter of small importance except as it influenced the performance. It is, or course, as a brilliant German musician once said, much better that a conductor should have the score in his head than his head in the score; but unless he can convey his knowledge to the musicians under him it will avail him nothing. Evidently Signor Toscanini’s head and heart are full of Verdi’s music, and his transmission of what he knows and what he feels is magnetic. The orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera House this year is composed of fine material, and it was fairly responsive last night. The revelations which it will make in profounder scores than this may be awaited with deep and genuine interest.

First of the new singers last night was Miss Destinn, who impersonated the heroine of Verdi’s opera. A dramatic singer, a singing actor, the histrionic and musical arts and elements meet in her and are mutually and splendidly supplemental and complimentary of each other. Her voice, not particularly remarkable for sensuous beauty, is full of pulsing vitality and is a perfect and eager slave of her feelings. It makes the heartstrings of her listeners thrill with sympathetic vibrations. She has command of some of the graces of vocalization, too, as she showed in her beautiful sustained singing of the concluding phrases of her first air – “Numi pieta,” Two other newcomers in the company, Adamo Didur and Giulio Rossi, respectively the Ramfis and the King of the evening, were like many of their predecessors, save Edouard de Reszke, whose rotund voice used to lend large impressiveness to the part of the priest.



Review of Algernon St. John Brenon in the Telegraph

SEASON BEGINS AT METROPOLITAN

Four Singers New to American Operagoers Appear in ‘Aida’

CHANGE IN CONTROL EVIDENT

Box Office Sale of Seats Stopped So Great Was the Throng to Hear the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera House is open, and we know our Gatti-Casazza; we have sounded the depths of Administrative Director Dippel; we have plucked out the heart of the mystery of Toscanini. We have heard Emmy Destinn, the heroic; we have even listened carefully to Leonora Sparkes and Rossi and Bada, all debutants. All this happened on the first night of the season, so every one revelled in that which is dear to the American heart; that which the pensive Gatti-Casazza asserts the theatre to be founded upon – novelty and variety.

Surely, there was enough novelty and enough variety in the performance of “Aida” last night to satisfy the most jaded and cynical taste. Caruso in “Aida” may be familiar, and Scotti is as persistently Amonasro as Van Rooy used to be Wotan. Even when the managers do everything in their power to put some one else in the role of the Abyssinian Charles Stewart Parnell, fate intervenes with one of its shocks and surprises, such as storms or late ships, and Scotti is once again what his compatriots behind the rail will persist in calling Amonas. These and Louise Homer, who was there with all her heartfelt and misdirected gestures, were old friends.

Things Had Changed For the Better

But otherwise all things on the stage had changed, and for the better. There were obvious signs in the chorus and ballet, in stage direction, of an ameliorative and inspiriting influence. The scenery itself was different in color scheme and in its proportions to any which has yet been seen in America. It was modeled upon that in use at the Teatro all Scala in Milan.

The scene in the Temple of Ptha, the great buildings that towered massively upward both in the Nile and the Judgment scene, reproduced to the audience something of the mysterious, almost weird vastness of Egyptian architecture, something of that peculiar sense which we feel when we contemplate the Sphinx and Pyramids. The best thing about this scenery, with its pillars reaching so high and its edifices so colossal, was that it touched the imagination poetically, and in opera as a rule one’s imagination has to undergo strange shocks and strains and to resort to peculiar shifts.

The appearance of Toscanini was awaited with especial interest. His reputation as a master of orchestral interpretation had preceded him. About 8 o’clock he entered the orchestra pit. The Italians, who are delighted that the Metropolitan Opera House should have come so completely under Italian influence, greeted him with passionate cheering.

Toscanini a Man Upon Wire

Toscanini is a sensitive, nervous-looking man, a man upon wires. In his attitude there is something almost timorous and deprecatory. He would seem to pray to be left alone.

He obtains his musical effects by intellectual insight and energy, rather than by physical display. His reading of the orchestral score of Verdi’s “Aida” had the merits of cogency, logicality and transparency. The different elements of the more complicated parts of the score stood out clear and salient, yet properly gauged and balanced in their relative values.

Toscanini’s treatment of Verdi’s noble music was delicate and poetical, and still graceful and eloquent. His Wagnerian interpretations will be awaited on the tiptoe of expectancy. He is a valuable acquisition to the musical resources of the city.

So now we have Campanini in Thirty-fourth Street, supreme and a law unto himself, and Toscanini much the same at Fortieth Street. Surely the Italians will be able to say of musical New York as Prince Humbert said of the Eternal City when he rode triumphantly in it: New York is our intangible possession.

Better Stage Management

It was observed that this “Aida” had been subjected to the most careful and detailed preparation and had been produced under a system of management entirely different in nature and in spirit to any….

The careful attempt at historical accuracy and suggestion was also patent. M. Gatti-Casazza and his assistants have evidently studied deeply in many a volume of forgotten Egyptian lore. The lighting of the Nile scene bordered on the romantic.

Mme. Emmy Destinn, who made her debut in the part of Aida, left but a mixed impression. Her acting is distinguished by a sort of stateliness. Her poses seemed deliberately assumed, but had the merit of avoiding the flatness and dullness of tradition. Her general histrionic style, however, is slightly hard and unpersuasive. She does not seem really to suffer and consequently you do not suffer with her.

Her voice has character and individuality, but is too often scant and uncolored. The high notes are singularly beautiful and penetrative. The intonation on the other hand, is frequently and irritatingly incorrect.

But this fault, one which is tantamount to the negation of musicality, is borne by modern audiences with singular patience. With all these deficiencies she is not an artist one can readily forget.

Mme. Louise Homer is naturally at home as Amneris. She has sung it many places. Many of the gestures she made were of themselves graceful, wide-swept and noble, but their precise relation to the emotion that she was seeking to express would be hard to establish. She was in splendid voice and sang with fire and eagerness….

M. Caruso is also at his best in Radames. His voice, as we know, has become broader, more dramatic of late years. But this has not come about at the expense of that lyric tenderness and pathos of voice which earned him his place in the affection of his audiences some seasons ago. The last act of slow death and everlasting farewells was in his finest vein.

Of Amonasro, M. Scotti made a most picturesque and high-spirited savage. His treatment of this splendid part – for Amonasro is a life-like character – has always glowed with its own intensity.

M. Rossi, as the King, actually gave his Pharaoh some royalty and self-assertion, qualities which, to judge by the vigorous traits of Amneris, must have some time in their history distinguished the family which regarded pyramids alone as headquarters of sufficient dignity for its illustrious departed.

Miss Sparkes sang the Priestess and M. Bada the Messenger.

At the end of the third act M. Gatti-Casazza was called out amid scenes of enthusiasm rare at the Metropolitan. He came out with the artists. At the second call he was accompanied by Mr. Dippel, and both were the recipients of the warmest congratulations on the stage and in the lobbies.



Review of Pitts Sanborn in the Globe

THE METROPOLITAN OPENING

“Aida” opened the season at the Metropolitan Opera House last night – the first season under the joint management of Messers Gatti-Casazza and Dippel – with a new conductor, several new singers, a new première danseuse, and a new scenic outfit. Just to make the vast audience, which filled every seat and every available inch of standing room, feel at home with so many strange faces, Mme. Homer, Mr. Caruso and Mr. Scotti were there in their familiar parts of Amneris, Radames, and Amonasro. They were greeted as old friends, and from the applause last night, some of the newcomers will be too before long. The ovations began when Miss Emmy Destinn, the new Aida, was called before the curtain after the first tableau. Enthusiasm reached its culminating point after the second finale, when not only the new conductor, Mr. Toscanini, but the two new managers, joined the line of bowing singers. There were wreaths and bouquets in embarrassing profusion. The season could scarcely have opened with testimony of livelier approval.

The singers who last night sang for the first time at the Metropolitan were Miss Emmy Destinn as Aida, Miss Leonora Speakes as the invisible priestess, Mr. Didur as Ramfis, Mr. Rossi as the King, and Angelo Bada as the messenger. The première danseuse is Miss Gina Torriani.

Miss Destinn might have been appearing here for the hundredth time instead of the first, such was her seeming self-possession as she made her entrance in the opening tableau. From the first glimpse the audience had of her she was in character and, from the first note she uttered, in command of her voice. Since she is an operatic actress of rare skill, endowed with a voice of extraordinary beauty, it is not surprising that her début here amounted to a triumph.

With a figure of ample height and noble lines, a finely poised head and expressive features she really looked the barbarian princess. She did not fall into the error of giving Aida’s tawny skin too dark a hue, nor did she dress with the grotesqueness of a savage. In makeup and costume her Aida might safely be a model for all who attempt the part. So might it in action and song.

From the proud humility of her entrance till she lay dead in the vault beneath the temple this Aida compelled the attention of the spectators. Never did Miss Destinn step out of the part for a moment. Even when the victorious Radames returns, she was not a famous soprano concerned with the disposition of her draperies and anxious about top notes to come. She was the agonized daughter searching the group of captives for a glimpse of her father. And she is one of the few operatic actresses who dare now and them to leave their arms at rest, having learned the value of significant repose.

The same absorbing dramatic quality pervades her singing. The voice is as expressive as it is deliciously fresh, remarkably even throughout its range, smooth and sweet in mezza voce, it has also the brilliancy of timbre to ring out like a clarion above the crashing ensembles of the second finale. “The three requisites of a singer,” a famous vocal teacher is reported to have said, “are voice, voice, and then voice.” These three requisites Miss Destinn has in rare perfection, controlled by art as rare. Here legato is unsurpassable, her intonation (last night at least) of exquisite purity, she phrases with the poise and certainty of a masterly performance on the violin. And this most appealing voice and finished art are at the service of a woman of temperament and brains. The appearance of Miss Destinn in other parts is bound to be a notable feature of the present season.

The other new singers had less chance to distinguish themselves, though Miss Sparkes succeeded in singing the difficult music of the invisible priestess uncommonly well. Mr. Dudur, though new to the Metropolitan, is not a stranger in New York. For a part of last season he was at the Manhattan Opera House and, though he did not set either river afire, he sang on some occasions much more effectively than he did last night. Mr. Rossi, as the King, seemed unduly constrained by his new responsibilities.

The familiar members of the company were of varying fortunes. Miss Homer as Amneris, put to her credit some unusually good singing, particularly in the duet between the two women, and she has seldom looked so handsome as in this scene. Mr. Scotti was as always a picturesque and vigorous Amonasro. Mr. Caruso has often sung the music of Radames in better voice than he did last night.

Mr. Toscanini justified his great European reputation by a most admirable reading of the score. The performance of the orchestra under his direction was instinct with vitality, and yet duly restrained. Breadth, impetus, and sonority were not obtained at the expense of tonal beauty and attention to detail. It was in fact through the just emphasis of many an expressive detail that Mr. Toscanini attained uncommon eloquence in the orchestral part. The reorganized chorus sang with freshness and fullness of tone, a variety of expression, and an enthusiasm that are a new thing at the Metropolitan. Seldom, if ever, at that house, have the ensembles resounded as they did last night, spurred on by Mr. Toscanini’s vigorous beat.

The new stage settings and pageantry may not always be an improvement on the old – it has been the custom of the Metropolitan Opera House to mount the opera handsomely. But the opening tableau of a hall in the palace, the scene at the gate of Thebes, the Nile scene, and the exterior of the judgment hall will probably impress most spectators as changes for the better. Particularly beautiful is the setting of the Nile scene, and the distant temple, with the effect of distance in the unseen chanting, is an improvement that will probably find favor. The pageantry in the scene of the return of Radames is picturesque and agreeable in coloring. But the dances seemed to find less favor than usual. Taken as a whole, the performance, in spite of some weak spots, was one of the best “Aida” has had here in recent years.



Review of Charles Henry Meltzer in the American

METROPOLITAN OPERA SEASON OPENS WITH ‘AIDA’
GATTI-CASAZZA AND DIPPEL WIN GREAT TRIUMPH

Emmy Destinn, New Prima Donna, Caruso Scotti, Homer in Wonderful Voice

First nights at the venerable Metropolitan are naturally more prestigious, though not necessarily more pompous, than similar occasions at the Manhattan. “Society,” that society which so many of us abuse and – envy, has long made the “Horseshoe” in the big Broadway opera house its Winter headquarters. The Metropolitan is more than a mere theatre. In the words of no less a person than Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, it is an institution. All that wealth, all that experience, all that fashion, all that prestige can do to ensure the brilliancy of the annual opening functions at the older of the New York opera houses is always done there. It matters little, too, whether the opera be “Aida” (as it was at last night’s opening), with a Destinn and a Caruso in the cast, or “Romeo et Juliette,” sung by a Jean de Reszke and a Melba. The “show” on these first nights is only half the show which most in the vast audience pay to see. The boxes, with their array of too often over-and-under dressed matrons, smart ingénues, and bored men folk are part, and an important part, of the spectacle. To the man in the street, too, there seems to be an unfailing charm, a bitter and sweet interest, in the sight of the rushing autos, cabs and carriages, which, between 8 and 9 p. m., and again at midnight, bring life and bustle to the neighborhood of the Broadway opera house.

Curiosity in New Manager’s Work

None of the familiar features of Metropolitan openings was lacking last night. Inside the house, which was packed to bursting point, unusual interest attached to the event owing to the fact that, for the first time the opera of the evening was to be produced by new managers. Gatti-Casazza and Dippel had succeeded Conried. The “production” itself challenged something more than the scant notice which, in the past, had so often been given to such matters. The museums of London and Turin, the workshops of Milan, the storehouses of Paris, had been ransacked in order to assure the accuracy and beauty of the Egyptian pictures on the stage. Last, but not least, Arturo Toscanini, a great conductor, had charge of the orchestra. In many ways, then, yesterday’s opening of the Metropolitan was one of the most memorable on record. And among the four thousand, more or less, who went to it some may have recognized Henry F. Gilling – the man who, a quarter of a century ago, helped Henry Abbey to make the Metropolitan a reality.

‘Aida’ Proved New Managers’ Claims

Messers Gatti-Casazza and Andreas Dippel, the new managers of the Metropolitan Opera House, chose “Aida” as the opening bill of their first season yesterday to show what they could give, not only in the way of singers, but also in the way of spectacle. They invited, and indeed challenged, comparisons with the achievements of their predecessors. So far as externals, at least, went, their boldness was justified. Their “production” of “Aida” was not flawless. Much in it would have borne improvement. But it was handsome, handsomer by far in most respects than any I can remember at the Metropolitan. Of the interpretation I will speak in detail later on. It was better than any we have all known and less remarkable than others. Emmy Destinn, the new Aida, proved her value as an artist, fitted to express passion and the more thrilling emotions. Caruso, though not by any means at his finest, either vocally or histrionically, in the part of Radames, was sufficiently effective to deserve much of the applause to which his many admirers have accustomed him. But – there were “buts.” The curtain rose before most of the box holders had reached the opera house, and the new conductor, Toscanini, of whom we have read so many flattering things, was greeted courteously, though not noisily. First night audiences at the Metropolitan are rarely as untrammeled in the expressions of their interest as they are at the Manhattan. They have seen so many conductors at the Metropolitan since the evening a quarter of a century ago, when Vianesei – who died only a few days ago – first raised his baton in the new, garish, yellow house (as it was then) as a signal for the first bars of “Faust.” They knew, of course, that Mr. Gatti-Casazza had made the engagement of Arturo Toscanini, for nine seasons his friend and fellow-worker at the Scala, a condition of his acceptance of the position which the Metropolitan directorate had offered him. Many in the audience had doubtless enjoyed performances which he had directed in the Milan opera house. But to the majority he was a name – a great name, but no more. So they waited till he had shown them what he could do with the opera.

Toscanini a Marvel as a Leader

He looked a short, spare, lithe and nervous gentleman as he stepped to his desk and motioned to the musicians in the enlarged orchestra pit. But the nervousness was due only to excess of temperament, and it was plain from the outset of the evening until the end that he had will, firmness and authority. Under his baton the orchestra played with new precision, force and fire, while the singers – those at least, whose artistic natures were capable of responding to Mr. Toscanini’s appeal – put meaning and vigor into their interpretation of the well-known episodes. Mr. Toscanini did not always seem tender to those singers. In the finale of the second act, which shows the Triumph of Radames, he wrought up his orchestra to such a pitch of emotionalism that it drowned the voices. Even Caruso for a time was hardly audile, and the vociferations of the great chorus were half wasted. At other times, however, especially in the exquisite “Nile Scene,” of the third act, he tempered his fervor with admirable discretion. Then his beat became an inspiration to the singers. Caruso, who, as an actor is seldom more than bearable, seemed positively electrified in the third act. Possibly though, the companionship of the Aida has something to do with the miracle, as well as the directing will of Mr. Toscanini. Almost equal in importance to the appearance of the conductor and the achievements of his orchestra was the advent of Emmy Destinn. According to her biographers she is barely thirty. But she is massively built and her beauty, if it can rightly be called beauty – is not of the womanly type which one admired last night in the Amneris who was Louise Homer. She impresses one by her passion, her energy, her wonderful ability to express emotion of the intense and poignant kind, rather than by the charm or graciousness of her individuality. Charm, indeed, is the least of her stage qualities, and one perhaps which Emmy Destinn would herself hold cheaper than some other artists. Her voice, if we may judge it by what we heard last night, it is not one of those exceptionally beautiful voices over which one raves, as one raved over that of Gerster or a Lucca or an Emma Eames. It is a voice excellently suited to dramatic efforts, rather than to displays of the pure singing dear to the Italians. At moments in “Aida” it lacked music. But at moments it thrilled one. After the third act (which revealed it most favorably), Mme. Destinn, with Caruso, Scotti and Louise Homer, had six recalls. Mr. Toscanini was obliged to take two of these recalls with the singers. Did I tell you that Mr. Toscanini conducted without a score? It is a habit of his.

Homer and Scotti Pleased as Usual

Louise Homer last night resumed the character of Amneris, for which she has always had a special liking. She was in good voice and acted with intelligence. Her personal graces counted for much, as they always do, in the favorable impression she made. The Amonasro of the night was that tried artist, Antonio Scotti. He was vivid and forceful in the part as he invariably is, and picturesque withal. Adamo Didur, once of the Manhattan, sang for the first time at the Metropolitan in the character of Ramfis. He will find it hard to efface the memories of Plançon and Edouard de Reszke in the part. The small but not unimportant role of the Priestess was sung creditably by a newcomer, Leonora Sparkes, and the role of the King – was not very impressively – interpreted by another stranger, Giulio Rossi, who had considerable difficulty in filling the vast spaces of the house with his unsteady baritone. The ballet, which, though pleasing to the eye, was not astonishingly beautiful, served to make us acquainted with the new “premiere danseuse,” Gina Torriani. It will be time enough to say more of her when she has more to do than in “Aida.” The new chorus, so laboriously recruited by the management acquitted itself well, as well as the conductor allowed it, in the second act. In conclusion, a word as to the stage settings. The interiors, built and painted – as I am assured – according to archeological and artistic authorities were exceedingly effective. So was the “Nile” scene. The costumes were rich, tasteful and in the main admirably characteristic. Altogether Mr. Gatti-Casazza and Mr. Dippel may be congratulated on the result of their first effort here.



Unsigned review in the New York Commercial

‘Aida’ Sung at Metropolitan

Last night was the opening night of the regular season of the Metropolitan Opera House. “Aida” was the opera chosen. Emmy Destinn made her first American appearance in the title role, and Arturo Toscanini presided for the first time over the orchestra forces. The performance and the production were both superb.

For the first production of the opera at the inauguration of the new opera house in Cairo on Christmas Eve 37 years ago, Mariette Bey, the celebrated Egyptologist, designed both the scenery and the costumes. I wondered last night, as the new state marvels of Signori Sali and Parravinci of La Scala were disclosed and the gorgeously hued costumes of Maison Chiappa filled the stage, if we hadn’t profited by waiting for these newer and (surely) more splendid equipments and accessories. As the Khedive paid the bills in the first instance I fancy that we have the best of him as far as real worth is concerned; and, as for taste, richness of design, and consummate art in the arrangement of color schemes I feel quite sure that we are much in advance of our friend the Khedive and his guests. All of which leads up to the statement that no more sumptuous production of any opera has even been seen on the Metropolitan or any other operatic stage in the memory of the writer.

One was put in good humor at the outset by the regal splendor of that first groove scene of the Grand Hall in the Palace of Memphis. Again, in the Temple of Phta there was an amazing sense of distance behind the receding pillars that gave to the old Egyptian god a dignity seldom found in an operatic deity.

And so one might dilate at length upon each scene, revel in the golden sunshine in which was bathed old Thebes of a thousand gates, drink in the beauty of the silvered Nile by moonlight and wonder at the daring of the roof garden upon which Amneris was wont to comb her tresses.

So much for the setting.

The music received most royal treatment. Toscanini whipped his band into several very lively tempi and gave a most spirited performance to the entire work. His is a master hand. He gives no uncertain orders. And, while it was at first a surprise to hear the “Victoria” and other choruses sung at such a swinging gate, it was an agreeable surprise, and we found ourselves wondering why our conductors had not treated us to this rapid delivery of the ensembles before. One thing is assured – our new friend of the baton from Milan is not afraid of climaxes. There were crescendos and crashes last night that did one’s heart good. And there were also diminuendos that were as soothing as a summer zephyr.

Of the individual performers first praise must be given to the Aida. Caruso has at last found his match. In that triumphant unison cry of complete surrender in which Radames and Aida voice their souls’ happiness on the banks of the Nile, it was not Caruso’s voice that topped the other. Not since Campanini and Gerster, down at the old Academy of Music 30 years ago, walked down to the footlights hands in hand, holding their wonderful high D’s in unison in “Puritani,” has there been heard such sonority of tone as was heard at the Metropolitan in this duet last night.

At the very outset the newcomer captivated her audience by the richness and fullness of her voice. You feel the richness of it first – deep yellow tones that comfort you and settle you back in your chair – glad to be alive. Presently you are conscious of another sensation. You are fairly saturated with tone! It envelopes you as it caresses you and you wonder where it all comes from and why there can be so much of it and all so beautiful!

Such is Emmy Destinn’s voice – a voice used, too, with exquisite skill. There are tones in the middle register that sound, what shall I say, too open? But when Aida opens her large brown throat and sings about “Mia patria” and all the joys of that delectable country you wonder that Radames ever came back and surrendered his jeweled sword when he might have listened to those beautiful notes every day at breakfast, dinner and supper and occasionally in the evening when Papa Amonasro didn’t care to employ him in more warlike service.

And Caruso!

Some there were who muttered between acts because the great one did not believe and roar at his topmost lung power throughout the opera. But to the judicious-minded listener no better singing has been done by Enrico since he sang his first role on the Metropolitan stage.

But who could love a warrior with such a chin-whisker! Shades of Ptolemy and all his grandsons! Must we be dictated to by such abominable barbers as there who trimmed the chins of the King and his First Lord General.

Of the other newcomers not so much can be said in praise. Adamo Didur, heard often last season at the Manhattan, rattles around in the shoes of the great Plançon with disastrous result, robbing the part of its dignity, its force, its tremendous power, the evil in the affairs of the law-breaker. Giulio Rossi, the new King, was more pompous than regal, more noisy than sonorous.

Madame Homer, always satisfactory, was more than brilliant in the music of Amneris, and looked the daughter of a thousand kings in her new red and silver Milanese robes.

The ballet, too, was at time ineffective – a blot on the otherwise perfect picture. There was one tall young lady in the front row that bobbed her pretty head to a measure all her own – much to the discomfiture of the onlookers.

Gina Torriani, the new premiere danseuse is charming to look at – quite impeccable as to figure and all that – but in the one short scene given her she made but a slight sensation. She has many new steps, I am told, for her other operas. Later on we shall see what we shall see…..



Unsigned review in the New York Evening Post

Verdi's 'Aida" with Caruso as Radames would suffice to fill the Metropolitan Opera House. Add to this combination a new Aida, of world-wide fame, Emmy Destinn, making her American début; add to it that the occasion was the opening of a season; that it was the beginning of a new régime introducing MM. Gatti-Casazza and Dippel as managers; that it marked the first appearance of Arturo Toscanini, reputed to be Italy's foremost conductor, and that Verdi's opera was to be staged in the Milanese style-and you have reasons more than enough why every seat in the big opera house was taken, and every inch of standing room occupied.

There was a time when Verdi's "Aida" was not popular in this city, but in consequence of a series of superb performance it gradually became recognized and admired as the best opera created in Italy. Last night's performance confirmed that impression. In some respects the cast was not up to the Metropolitan standard. Giulio Rossi, who made his first appearance, was a decided disappointment as the King and so, it is needless to say, was Adamo Didur as the High Priest. These rôles have always been better done heretofore. But as far as the principal four parts were concerned, last night's representation was equal to some of the best of past performances. The Radames of Caruso ...was an admirable impersonation, which aroused the usual enthusiasm, Mr. Scotti returned to the part of Amonasro, which he always invests with much interest. Mme Homer's Amneris was princely to behold, thrillingly dramatic in the scenes of jealousy and passion, vocally beautiful as well as expressive in the highest degree....

Emmy Destinn's American début proved a brilliant triumph; the audience took every opportunity to shower applause on her and on the other singers, there was in fact, an unusual amount of enthusiasm.... [Her voice] has a quality of rare beauty, even in soft measures (the highest test of a singer's voice) and when she pours out the full voice in a dramatic outburst the effect is overwhelming. She acted the rôle of the unhappy African princess with passionate ardor.

Patrons of the Metropolitan have been accustomed to hearing performances of German operas at which the principal singers, as well as the chorus and orchestra, were absolutely under the guidance of the conductor. In Italian operas the conductor has been simply an accompanist when the singers are on the stage. Not so with Mr. Toscanini. Great as were the artists on the stage last night he made them coordinate themselves to his general scheme, held them in his hands as a weaver controls his shuttles, enlisted their services as well as that of the chorus and orchestra, in building up his climaxes, great and small; in short, he proved himself one of the most masterful leaders of opera ever seen here, and the marvel of it was that his amazing memory enabled him to attend to every subtle accent and detail of phrasing without once looking at the score. .. His energy is tremendous, his strenuousness even leads him at times to allow the orchestral sonority to flood the stage; but that is probably due to his insufficient acquaintance with the acoustic peculiarities of the house; for he is too great an artist to ever deliberately relegate the voice to a secondary part, except in a grand climax. He made the whole score pulsate with life, warm with emotion. The Milanese are to be profoundly consoled with for having lost this musician, and they know it better than we do, for he was with them ten years.

If Mr. Toscanini brought to our Metropolitan musical atmosphere of Milan, Mr. Gatti-Casazza transplanted to it the latest ideas regarding the mise-en-scene. Only two or three years ago Mr. Conried gave this opera a new attire, made in Vienna, which seemed satisfactory in all its gorgeousness. We can now see that it was too gorgeous, too glaring. The new scenes are more subdued in color, more harmonious in effect; details of Egyptian realism have been studied and introduced with a scholarly knowledge comparable to that which the Kaiser and his antiquarian experts lavished on "Sardanapale." Many of these, of course, escaped the public; but one innovation was liked by all-the arrival of the victorious Radames in a chariot drawn by two white horses. The horses alone did not like it; their ears most eloquently expressed disapproval of the din caused by the orchestra, the chorus, and the brass band on the stage. But what do horses know about Italian opera?



Review of Sylvester Rawling in The Evening World

METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE OPENS ITS SEASON BRILLIANTLY. EMMY DESTINN AND ARTURO TOSCANINI AT ONCE WIN FAVOR.

Berlin’s Favorite Dramatic Singer Discloses a Voice of Great Beauty, Strong Dramatic Ability and a Fine Presence

LA SCALA’S EX-LEADER SHOWS FINE QUALITY

‘Aida’ in an Entirely New Dress and Setting, Makes a Fine Spectacle – The Whole Performance Finely Worthy

The great stage of the Metropolitan Opera House was set for the Nile scene in “Aida.” Through the tall palms that stretched their graceful outlines across the horizon the moonlight shimmered. A silver streak stretched across the river, revealing its steady, onward flow. To the right, far up the bank, the indefinite outlines of the Temple of Ptha could be seen, a rosy light beaming from its windows. Save for the chanting of the priests within there was silence. From a boat which came down the river and made a landing Amneris and Ramfis with their attendants and guards debarked and proceeded to the temple. Directly afterward Aida, veiled and shrinking, came upon the scene from the left to keep tryst with her lover, Radames. Then she began to sing, and her “O patria mia” flooded the house with beautiful music. Her voice, opulent with riches, by turns was warm, tender and plaintive. Her diction was a delight. Her poses were the embodiment of grace and dignity. Thus it was last night that Emmy Destinn justified her European reputation as a dramatic singer and became at once a New York favorite.

It was the opening night of the season at our elder opera house, and the scenes enacted were an old story. The vast auditorium was crowded to its capacity with one of the most fashionable and brilliant assemblages it ever held. There was not a vacant seat anywhere after the first act, and when the sale of admissions for standing room only was stopped a line of disappointed would-be purchasers still stretched from the box office down Broadway and far into Thirty-Ninth Street.

Stockholders Late, as Usual

The boxholders and subscribers for the stalls were late in arriving, as they always are. Not even the knowledge that one of the principal arias was to be sung by the greatest of tenors three minutes after the rise of the curtain induced them to hurry. Toscanini, the new conductor, made his entrance and Caruso sang “Celeste Aida” to bulging galleries and a packed “behind the rail” while the stalls were half empty, few grand tier boxes had occupants and only one lone parterre box was filled.

Old opera-goers will recall a time not very remote when “Aida” was anything but popular. But this masterpiece of Verdi has grown steadily in favor until now few operas are better liked. When the Grand Old Man of music wrote it he was still a master of melody. Only his horizon had widened. He had grasped the idea of fitting his music to the dramatic need. And what a splendid opportunity the opera offers for pageantry and spectacle and scenic effect! It is an opera for the eye as well as for the ear, and it appeals to the mind as well as to the heart.

A Splendid Production

“Aida” has had many sound performances at the Metropolitan, while at the Manhattan, under the direction of Campanini, it has been superbly done; but last night’s production, all in all, was the best ever offered to us. The cast of principal singers was of exceptional strength. The chorus was big, sonorous and plastic. The ballet was interesting. The supernumeraries were well drilled. The orchestra took on new life. There was a complete new dressing and stage stetting. And above all, there was a new conductor.

What Toscanini Accomplished

Arturo Toscanini is a little man, alert, comprehensive and masterful. That he had the orchestra completely under his control was manifested early. There was a crispness about his reading, a definiteness about the way in which he went after results and reached them that inspired confidence. If at first there seemed a tendency on his part to overemphasize the orchestra, the impression was fleeting. In the great scene of triumph at the Gates of Thebes he combined all his forces with superlative effect. By the time he had reached the Nile scene it was disclosed that he could produce the daintiest and most illuminative of accompaniments. It will be interesting to see what great climaxes he will reach, say in “Götterdämmerung.”

Destinn’s Voice and Temperament

Of Emmy Destinn, long of the Berlin Opera House and a favorite in London, who made a first appearance here as Aida, a word has already been said. She has beauty and temperament as well as a voice that is luscious and flexible. At her first entrance, and for some time afterward, she seemed to be testing the acoustics of the house. She had not quite satisfied herself when she sang the “Ritorna vincitor,” although she did it beautifully. In the scene with Amneris, when the latter makes her disclose her love for Radames, she showed her true quality, and in the sextet and finale after the return of Radames victorious her voice rang out true and clear above the ensemble. Then came the marvelous “O patria mia” and the following duet with Radames that was the most impassioned bit of singing New York has heard for a long time. It fairly lifted the house off its feet with enthusiasm. In the final duet in the crypt her voice was fraught with the deepest emotion.

Caruso Had a Cold

Caruso, who was Radames, had a cold. He has sung “Celeste Aida” with much more warmth than he sang it last night, but in the Nile scene, for which probably he saved himself, he rose to the same high excellence as Destinn. In the scene with Amneris, just before he is sentenced to death, his cold came perilously near to breaking his voice, but in the crypt scene he had overcame it sufficiently to give of his best.

Louise Homer made a most impressive Amneris. Her voice has grown in power without losing any of its beautiful qualities, and the development of her dramatic ability has kept pace with it. She never looked lovelier or sang better. Leonora Sparkes sang the music of the unseen priestess most acceptably, and Scotti repeated his interesting and effective Amonasro.

Didur, late of the Manhattan Opera House, was Ramfis. His voice at times seemed to lack some of the sonority that it had seemed before in … but on the whole, his was a credible interpretation. Another newcomer was Rossi, who sang the part of the King. And still another newcomer was Bada as the Messenger.



Review of Max Smith in The Press

INCENSE OF AIDA UPLIFTS A THRONG AT OPERA OPENING

Altar Smoke Actually Seems to Aid in Inspiring Effect of Wonderful Performance of Verdi Work in Metropolitan

NEW MANAGERS START THEIR REGIME HAPPILY

Arturo Toscanini Revealed as One of the Most Striking Musical Personalities We Have Known – Emmy Destinn Also Wins High Honors, and Old Favorites Renew Popularity

Incense stealing subtly from the stage of the Metropolitan in the temple scene of “Aida” last night bore to the great audience the spirit of the new regime, begun with the season’s opening in New York’s historic house of opera. Softly as if unfolded from a papyrus roll long hidden in a Pharaoh’s tomb, the compelling fragrance spread over the auditorium its message of the aesthetic attention to detail to be expected from the art consciences of Giulio Gatti-Casazza and Andreas Dippel. It was freighted with the clear soprano notes of Emmy Destinn, the new prima donna, and it thrilled with the magnetism of Arturo Toscanini, the conductor, who made his first American appearance. As the significance of this perfumed music, an artistic achievement of the highest rank, dawned on the thousands of Paris-frocked women and black-clad men in the big building, the audience forgot social interests, feminine attractiveness, its own wealth, fashion and position, all, save that on the stage before it there was in progress one of the most striking performances of Verdi’s opera ever given in this country.

Gatti-Casazza, general manager, and Dippel, administrative manager, of the Metropolitan Opera Company under the new order of things, simply had transplanted Europe to America. The art of Vienna, Paris, Palermo and Milan at last was a living fact in New York. It needed no glance at the reformed and graceful programme to tell even the unprepared visitor a new dynasty of art had arisen. This side of the footlights, it was the same Metropolitan. One saw the same red-gleaming boxes, the same flare of diamonds, the same smiles of tenderness or appreciation or gaiety and, with at least one conspicuous exception, the same persons.

But beyond the sparkling bend of the boards it was a new Metropolitan. From the skill of stage direction that eliminated the old tedious waits to the wide sweep of productive imagination that made the gorgeous scenic and ensemble effects possible, everything was better. It was plain there had come into power a management that realized New Yorkers could not forever be put off with accessorial makeshifts, even though solaced by the world of greatest singers, and that, to adopt the new English, the best in its most superlative sense was the least metropolitan audiences would accept in their own Metropolitan.

Destinn, a soprano of matured excellence, triumphed in her American debut as in the capitals of Europe. The voice and feeling and looks and dramatic force that have made her the favorite prima donna of England’s Queen won for her the approval of several thousand American sovereigns. Of her singing and acting the music critic writes technically and artistically, as he does of Toscanini’s wonderful conducting and the art of the other new singers, Leonora Sparkes, Giulio Rossi and Angelo Bada. But one did not require critical musical knowledge to realize that the prima donna stirred her audience from the moment it adjusted itself to her personality, that the slender Italian with the magic baton made all hearts beat time as he masterfully directed the strings and brass and woodwinds, and that the entire production conveyed to New Yorkers for the first time the mystery of ancient Egypt, the poetry of its palms and gliding waters, the passion of its golden sunshine. Aida, thanks to Destinn and the artist-managers, at last was a woman instead of a hieroglyph.

Beautiful as was the opening scene, a vista of stately columns in Pharaoh’s palace, it was only the herald of scenic beauties to come. The temple of Phta, the second scene, was a page from the past, its solemn majesty relieved by the snowy films that floated about the score of sacred dancers and by the white vestments of the priests. Like a giant painting of all the Orient in one frame was the apartment of Amneris. Columns might be filled with comments on the hundreds of points, big and little, in which the idealized realism of the new management had been expressed. It was noticeable that the Nubian dancing girls were made up as real negresses instead of little black demons.

Further evidence of the Gatti-Casazza and Dippel conscientiousness was abundant in the fourth scene, wherein triumphal Radames returns to Thebes of the Hundred Gates. Amneris, for example, was borne to the throne of a litter, as the King’s daughter invariably would be. Her escort was second only to that which accompanied Pharaoh himself. Parenthetically, the trumpeters’ march was played with appropriately barbaric vigor that carried the call of the wild across the centuries. And Radames, the conqueror, the hero who had vanquished Egypt’s enemies, was not asked to walk across the desert’s burning sands, like a corporal of foot guards.

He came on in his own war chariot, drawn by two white horses such as a victor would bring from the desert as trophies of his triumph over tribes of horsemen. The beauty of the animals added as much to the scene pictorially as they did in truthfulness. Subdued “Ohs!” broke from the hundreds of women and men as, arching their necks and spurning the stage, they were led to the front.

Caruso, as Radames, looked the warrior in a cuirass of burnished gold. He wore the strangely cut beard of the Egyptian soldier and bore himself as a conqueror. The grouping of the great company in that scene was natural and effective. So was the acting of the least important members. Once could understand the story without Italian or a libretto. To that, Louise Homer, as Amneris and Antonio Scotti, as Amonasro, contributed in large degree. All the singers and supernumaries seemed to understand thoroughly they were enacting a drama of life and love and death in a land where life was love and death love’s close companion.

But it was the third act that disclosed the most marvelous scenery of the production. The curtain rose on a moon-bathed bank of the Nile. Mystic light of green and silver streamed through the branches of the palms and flickered in ghostly playfulness on the flowing water at the back. The approach to the temple, beginning on the shining beach of the river, rose gently until far in the background, it touched the gloomy portal of the pile that towered above the stream. A glow that was red without ruddiness, a gleam of flame suggestive of all the cruelty of the priests of Phta, shone from the temple. So impressive was the scene that even the audience of city dwellers forgot itself and applauded with all its heart the art achievement of Jules Speck, the stage manager, before subsiding to enjoy the music that prefaced the beginning of the opera’s crisis.

Applause in measures that proved its sincerity was given to all the principals, but it was doubled when Toscanini appeared before the curtain. The conductor was greeted with bravas ardent as any that have been shouted at tenor idols. And the volume of enthusiasm doubled again when first Gatti-Casazza, then Dippel were led to the front by the singers, the appreciation swelling to a grand climax as the three men whose genius directed the production stood together between the sweeping edges of the silken screen. Huge floral pieces were sent to Destinn and Caruso, Homer, Scotti and the others. Again and again the applause rang forth until it was more than the traditional torrent of sound. Yet the audience in the closing scene with Aida and Radames in the tomb and Amneris bending above them from the temple floor preserved the silence of death until the curtain fell and left it free to show its gratitude once more.

Nor did any leave his seat until the wonderful performance was at an end -- in itself a departure from Metropolitan custom eloquent of the completeness of the new management’s success.

NEW GIANT OF OPERA IS REVEALED IN TOSCANINI

With the beginning of the new regime in the Metropolitan Opera House last night, there came into the life of this city one of the most striking musical personalities New York has ever known, Arturo Toscanini. It was this man who created and commanded last night’s performance of “Aida,” a performance such as few music lovers here can recall. It was his masterful mind that was behind every significant detail of the production, his iron hand that bent all the co-operating forces as it willed, guiding them toward one common goal.

Only a few measures of Verdi’s score sufficed to show who was the master in the Metropolitan. The voice of the one and only Caruso; the art of an Emmy Destinn, newly revealed; the glorious tones of Louise Homer, and her beauty; the dramatic power of our own Antonio Scotti; the massive sonority of the new chorus, a fine body of singers, and the irresistible sway of the Metropolitan’s noble orchestra – all these single and combined powers and many more were subservient to the man who stood, in plain sight of the audience, silhouetted against the brightness of the stage.

The movements of this man came quick as flashes of lightning. Angular movements they were like those of that other smart leader, Cleofonte Campanini, but more sweeping and covering more space. And quick as were the movements came the response, quick as the flash of the wireless telegraph on the pressure of the key. No score lay on the desk before him. Toscanini always conducts from memory. His eyes were everywhere; nothing escaped his vigilance. Yet was there no suggestion of nervousness or excitement in his bearing. There he stood, tall, slender, elegant rather than forceful in his appearance, but absolutely the master when he lifted his arms and held taut the operatic reins; so absolutely the master that the audience too, fell under the spell, and for once at a season’s opening paid more attention to the stage than to the auditorium.

But, to get a little below the surface of last night’s extraordinary performance, what did Toscanini accomplish definitely to make it memorable in the annals of the Metropolitan Opera House? Broadly speaking, he made Verdi’s old score seem almost new. He infused the sap of throbbing life into the music, charging it with a rhythmical energy that ran through the maze of listeners like shocks of electricity. The thrill of temperament, forceful, vigorous, terribly intense, yet it was a reading that had also a wealth of poetic refinements and charms. It was frequently powerful and majestic. It was equally high wrought in pathos and in the more subdued emotions.



Review of Emily Frances Bauer in The Mail

BRILLIANT OPENING OF METROPOLITAN OPERA

New Management, New Singers and New Conductor Contribute to a Notable Performance of ‘Aida’ – Destinn’s Voice Proves Most Acceptable and Caruso Was at His Best

The long-awaited opening of the Metropolitan Opera house became a fact last night and because of the change in the regime there were more people than usual who tried to attend the performance. Everyone wished to see the curtain go up on the new management, and everyone wanted to hear the first note of the orchestra under Toscanini. The house had been sold out weeks ago, and some of the best known artists and music lovers were to be found in the rows of standees that made it almost impossible to move through the lobbies between the acts. These entre-acts had an interest entirely their own, and groups of people were engaged in discussing the merits of the performance of the individual artists.

Much has been expected of Toscanini, because his record abroad has been almost sensational, and the fact of bringing him to America was held as the first great achievement of Messrs. Gatti-Casazza and Dippel. Whoever was responsible for last night’s production of “Aida” is a master of his craft and. while there were no doubt many contributors toward making this one of the most brilliant operatic offerings ever witnessed in New York, the hand in control, the one great head, is worthy of being proclaimed a genius.

Toscanini Dominant

From the instant Toscanini assumed the baton his force dominated every being on the stage, in the orchestra, and probably in the audience. He is simple, unaffected and direct, and his mastery is one over tangible things as well as over a musical score. There was absolute union between himself and the singers, and there was only one moment in the ballet where the dancers seemed to pull away from the rhythm. There were times when the voices were covered by the orchestra, but this was to have been expected in a man of Toscanini’s temperament when he is unfamiliar with the acoustics of the house.

It is probable that later this will not occur because from the way he protected the melodic outline, it is obvious that he will guard against drowning the melody, to say nothing of the singers. There were lights and shades last night in the orchestra that we have never heard before; there were effects of rubato, of crescendo and of rallentando which were almost startling by the perfection of their accomplishment with such immense organizations as the chorus and the orchestra of the Metropolitan, and there was a richness in both that was very gratifying to those who love luscious tone and resonance beyond the glaring brilliancy. Only when brilliancy is based upon these does it rise above banality and noise.

Destinn’s Debut

Interest was divided between the first appearance of Toscanini and that of Emmy Destinn, who come to us under protest from Germany.

It did not take the audience many moments to realize that, in her, New York is to enjoy one of the greatest artists who has ever appeared on the Metropolitan stage. It is only her great art that makes one forget that she is rather too large, because she has every detail of dramatic art to such a degree of finish that she handles her body as though she were as lithe as a willow.

She has a tremendous temperament, and one which makes everything she does and every note she sings pulsate and vibrate with life. Her voice is one of extreme beauty and she is gifted with a tone production that is indeed a joy. Last night there were moments of sharpness and acidity in the quality, but she must be conceded something on the score of nervousness. In the elements of real art Destinn’s singing will bear the close scrutiny; her mezza-voce is purity itself, and she gives out the last delicate sound with mastery as complete as she has at the attack.

With Caruso, who seemed more impulsive than ever in his singing of Radames, there were times when they fairly carried the audience into another realm, and the beauty in the blending of these two voices was one of the keenest delights of the evening. Radames is one of the great Italian’s best roles, and last night he seemed inspired both by his associates, with whom he has sung before, and by Toscanini, who gave to him and brought from him his best.

An Impressive Amneris

Mme. Homer was very beautiful and impressive in the role of Amneris, and that she looked every inch a queen will not be doubted by those who know her dark, brilliant beauty. She sang with great dramatic fervor and hightened her position already so well established as one of the leading forces in the Metropolitan company.

Though the absence of the singer who was to have appeared as Amonasro, the vast audience had the opportunity again to enjoy Scotti’s fine portrayal of the King of the Ethiopians. And last night he even outdid his own efforts in the past by a wonderfully self-centered and beautifully poised performance of Aida’s father. He was in splendid voice and contributed a very large share to the general excellence of the production. Other new members of the cast were Adamo Didur, who failed somewhat in impressiveness as Ramfis, less by his interpretation of the part than by the unsteadiness of his voice. G. Rossi, also a new basso, sang the role of the King satisfactorily in the latter part of the evening.

Another Newcomer

Leonora Sparkes, who comes to the Metropolitan for the first time, has a soprano of agreeable quality, and in a larger part than that of the Priestess, which she assumed last night, she will no doubt prove a valuable addition to the company.

The applause was deafening, and there were eight or ten curtain calls for the artists and conductor. When Gatti-Casazza appeared the house fairly rose in a body and gave him a royal welcome. Mr. Dippel, too, was proven that he was among friends. b

The new “mise-en-scéne” was very gorgeous. The color scheme was in good taste and there were in it effective flashes of scarlet which heightened the brilliancy without making it garish.



Unsigned review in The Evening Sun

METROPOLITAN’S NEW ERA
TOSCANINI AND DESTINN START ‘AIDA’ GORGEOUSLY

Julius Gatti and His Wizard Conductor Take Their Curtain Call with Associate Dippel and Such an International Star Cast as Never Was Made in Milan, While the Seven Scenes of Egypt’s Golden Age Blind Critical Eyes to Matron ‘Teatro Alla Scala’ in the Prospectus – Good Hard Work with Orchestra and Stage Folk Earns Reward in Refreshing Renewal of Polite Enthusiasm for Society’s Classic Show-House – Real Incense Twice Fills Hall in Temple Scenes, While Charioteer Caruso Drives Real ‘Ben Hur’ Horses on Rubber Heels and Full Powder Makeup Seven Famous Family Tiaras Outshone by Golden Horseshoe’s Newest Empire Gown – Stage Flora in Gold-Leaf and 10-Foot Horseshoe Bouquets in Silver.

With the hearty recalls that brought not only stars, not only the wizard Toscanini in delighted smiles, but also the sedate and weightier form of the long-bearded Gatti, and presently the unwilling, sprightly Dippel in his own Saxon hair, across the Metropolitan stage last night, a new “Aida’s” highest climax gave proof that New York society might still be stirred from cold composure by its own efforts in holding the blue ribbon event of the opera world. Verdi’s thrilling trumpet march has never been more lavishly staged. And what’s far, far more to the point today, it appeared that the greater public had appreciated many renewed invitations to its own interest and good will for a famous institution. Those thrice better aired upper stories, the new “lifts’ to the regions of a thousand stairs, the slightly side-benches for sky-parlor standees, were reforms for 4,000 in the same house, where the cold-proof lobby radiators and inner carriage calls, at most, concerned, magic numbers variously estimated, from the Four Hundred of old up to say, 1,200 of the alternating elect of “odd Mondays,” and some 150 other coming days.

Seven famous family tiaras were seen in the Golden Horseshoe that is first heir to an opera war of a quarter century ago. Society was itself the show on this annual first night. Crowns may pass in the Continent of Europe and empires in Asia fall, but last night’s massed opera glasses in six tiers of fussed and fur-beloved democracy were leveled upon the parterre coronets of Mmes. Belmont, Gould, Mills, Whitney, on the north, and Mmes. Goelet, Sloane, Twombly, Gerry, on the south side. The Coreys were new in an upper “grand tier.” Mrs. Harriman had crossed the parterre to the place where Mrs. R. T. Wilson, formerly sat among her daughters nearer the stage, while the next box vacated by recent mourning for Mrs. Astor had been leased for the first and all Mondays to Mrs. Lydig.

To woman spectators, the opera was clothes first and music after. It spoke volumes for the inventions of Paris when a single gown outshone the tiaras there. The creation was of the present mode, the waist abolished or carried just under shoulder high, in sharp line of the black velvet; and above, the most bewildering invisible bit of lace. Times have been when the first flash of a famous diamond stomacher, or the first turning of a jeweled shoulder or all diamond V-cut back, made assemblages like this one breathe hard. Last night, it was a thing of intrinsic nothingness, a lightest, airy trifle of a style. Lightest colors, too, and tight sleeves were everywhere the rule.

To solve a worldwide problem of entertaining so permanent an assembly is something different from all other creative theater enterprise. The new general manager never left his stage. The conductor stood at his post when a new gold damask curtain parted at 8:03, and the whole seven gorgeous scenes, painted and costumed, said the bill, at the Teatro all Scala, Milan, had all been swiftly disclosed and spirited from the view before 11:30 o’clock. “Aida’ used to die more lingering deaths even to 12:15. So the stockholders were pleased.

For Toscanini there was a hearty hand, and the most critical opera glasses of the top left could note that he led standing and without score. This man of 40 is a poetic genius of the baton. He put life into every climax and refinement into each lightest phrase. His was no “reading” but a rhapsody, a virtuoso achievement of memory and imagination. Toscanini has not been over-praised in advance, and this town will now wait for the like disclosure of his “Götterdämmerung.” He determined the new era when he hastened to the stage for the first curtain call.

With Emmy Destinn, the dramatic unities had their different way. There had been one roar of greeting to Caruso in a wonderful satyr goat’s beard on which our other Metropolitan institution, of the plastic arts, could offer amendment even to the British Museum. Caruso was dressed to be almost slender. His rich tenor, if perilously near to breaking now and again, never failed him at the top notes, and his “Tu, Amonasro!” was honest acting. Scotti was the savage Ethiopian. Louise Homer gave the greatest singing performance of her career as a Princess of Egypt all glorious in mother of pearl.

And Destinn, from the moment her dark but potent figure crept slavishly from pyramidal distance into the many-columned foreground – Destinn was a woman to make history, whether her features are of Cleopatra-measure or just all her own. The new voice is a young voice, childish at times, with a quality that at better moments might be our Nordica’s own. The Bohemian’s is a voice to dominate, not to blend. Discernable in crashing ensembles, the soprano was delightful rather in her two solos of dramatic repression. Barring a catch or two, and always some care, her pianissimo top notes were admirable.

Good, vigorous hissing stopped any riot of the countrymen of either Destinn or Polish Didur, the priest Amonasro, whose voice in the latest judgment hall scene made itself heard where a chorus was absolutely smothered somewhere under the stage. A new King, Rossi, looked large and new Messenger, Bada, lively, while a new Priestess, Sparkes, was almost as little heard as seen. In fact, the new stage manager Spock and Chorus Master Setti made their presence felt more.

Real incense swept the house in two different temple scenes, the last one staged as a side view. It was amusing to see row after row of auditors look up and take olfactory notice. Real horses, trained to footlights and bass drums, shocked with air tires and powdered white within a hairs breath of their pink eyes, drew Caruso’s new “Ben Hur” car.



Review of Ashton Stevens in the Evening Journal

Destinn as Aida Wins First Night Audience

Old fellows felt young and young fellows felt old at the Metropolitan last night, for opera seemed to be starting all over again. To be sure “Aida” was not a novelty, nor Caruso to the role of the conquering hero who would become a renegade for love of a royal brunette, nor the ever-improving Louise Homer in her now almost impeccable performance of the jealous Egyptian, nor yet even Scotti still a bit boudoir and precious for the passionate Ethiop captive king. But everything else was new, from soprano to scenery. The only token of the really long ago was Treasurer Max Hirsch, twenty-five years at his post, but with every hair of his porcelain mop still where the hair used to grow. For this was Giulio Gatti-Casazza’s first first night, and Mr. Gatty – as the town already calls him in the service of brevity and international peace – was trying to give us a new deal. He evidently wanted to elicit some of that all-around enthusiasm which we have come to know by the brand of Hammerstein, and he elicited.

Made Old Piece Sound Novel

Mr. Gatty – who is now general manager of the Metropolitan Opera House, with Andreas Dippel as administrative manager, and Ralph Edmunds as overlord of the publicity bureau, comes all the way from La Scala and brings with him a force whose absence from home must make that celebrated Milanese music establishment sound crippled. Hot and palpitant he snatched from it Arturo Toscanini. General Manager Gatti refused to leave home without him. And glad we are of it. For Mr. Toscanini is one of the best Italian conductors that we have ever heard. Even with a new band in a new place as a new night he made an old piece sound almost novel. His pulse is a thing of spark and flame, and yet he knows the soft pedal as intimately and caressingly as Paderewski does. Indeed he reads into the old score fresh and wonderful beauties, strange yet clinging delicacies. He is dynamical without dynamite, and he is also tender without being effeminate. His baton is neither a big stick nor a fan. It is just a thing with which to wig-wag, and the bandmen read Toscanini’s signals at sight – yes second sight describes it closer. So this little dark leader without a pouting chest – indeed as unheroic a general as General Grant or Lord Roberts – was really the star last night in a performance almost all star. He was the personality that dominated. He gave you the opera his way. Caruso, Homer, Scotti he carried along with him in rare team play, and with them the newcomers, including the new soprano.

Not a Poster Aida

Let us not suppress her name another line. She is Emmy Destinn, is the new Aida. And even the Cold Shoulder Ladies in their low rose boxes, with the gleaming vitals of South Africa on their headpieces leaned forward and beat their gloves with gratitude when Emmy Destinn sang – and acted! She is none of your picture postal Aidas. Miss Destinn is dramatic, and for all her Berlin experience she is dramatic without being Dutch. Something lean and Latin there is in the clutch of her Aida. She never trumpets her, for one thing, and for a refined other she does give her the shade of a dark cigar color. You could barely draw the line between this Aida and Miss Homer’s Amneris. Such cheerful portraiture was once naturally a relief to eyes accustomed to a long line of colorado maduro Aidas… Miss Destinn realized the climate of Broadway with her own bare arms. She was alive and upholstered, and you did not have to pity the perspiring tenor every time she embraced him. It looked as though a mighty dawn might be breaking on the long night of the all wool Aida.

Voice Clear, Strong and True

Why not? Even opera can be humanized, even opera singers. “La Bohème” was a humanizing suggestion. The grandest tenor became a creature of this earth and he got away from his silk and tin and spangles and into the plain “long pants” of “Bohème.” At any rate there is no longer any reason why poor Aida, like the rich Bernard Shaw, should be a wolf in jaguar clothing. Miss Destinn’s voice is first of all clear and strong and true, and in this cumulatively dramatic role she showed sane vocal generalship by exposing her full power not one minute earlier than there was a legitimate demand for it – I remember one night six or five years ago when Emma Eames sang Aida and forced her voice so that it fairly splintered on a tall note. Nothing short of a fire in the house could have created a greater stir. So far as dramatic illusion went, the performance was fairly parted in the middle. A whole opera was forgotten in a single accident. Miss Destinn takes Aida in a way that of a great singer’s throat betokens security. She acts all the time with voice as well as with face and hands and form, but she does not reveal the full sweep of her voice in the earlier scenes, not even in that first tense scene with Amneris.

Splendidly Satisfying

You know just how beautifully and sonorously Miss Destinn could sing last night only when she came to the romance early in the third act. Then you sensed the breadth and purity of her high notes and the rich color of her middle register and the profound sympathy that touched the entire conception. You were invited to hear big dramatic tidings in the duets that followed with the father and with her lover, and you were not disappointed. To the final climax Miss Destinn’s Aida was absolutely inevitable. It was splendidly satisfying. The other newcomers will not require as much space, pleasing as they were. Miss Leonora Sparkes of England, sounded neatly the notes of the Priestess, but the part is hardly big enough for a measurement. Adamo Didur executed his maiden bow at the Metropolitan very solemnly and resonantly in the role of the High Priest. Giulio Rossi was the conventional King, and Angelo Bada, still another first comer, the messenger. The really great singing was done by Destinn, Homer and Caruso, for Scotti, while a delightful artist, is altogether too urban to realize the big barbaric splendor of Amonasro. Miss Homer’s Amneris was all the better for being pitted against a new and exciting Aida. Vocally it recalled the best days of Scalchi, and dramatically it took on authority and poise such as Homer alone brings to the role.

Caruso “Played the Game”

Caruso deserved thunders of applause for not getting more thunders than he did. Year by year he is becoming a better artist, using his wonderful voice with more tact, with more sympathy for the characterizations. He certainly “played the game” last night. He was satisfied to make a beautiful song rather than a showy encore piece of “Celeste Aida.” Not once did he blare the somber note to make a cheap holiday. Indeed the best tenor singer in the world gave a very real and searching performance of Radames. Even the drive in behind two Arabian steeds harnessed to a chariot of bronze failed to jelly his seriousness. Habitual opera critics will no doubt have much to say about the “scenic production.” It is very new and very spectacular scenery, and very good scenery for opera, which usually gets the worst in the world. But the real production of this “Aida” was not a matter of this paint frame and the property room, it was a matter of human beings. Why, even that usually comic institution the tallest appeared to be human. The chorus was thoroughly awake. The famous ensembles were given with nothing short of a thrill. Thank Mr. Gatti, and then thank the little man he brought with him, Mr. Toscanini, at the conductor’s desk. There is radium in Mr. Toscanini. He was the great little man of a great night.