[Met Performance] CID:100280
L'Africaine {54} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11/20/1928.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 20, 1928
In Italian


L'AFRICAINE {54}

Sélika..................Rosa Ponselle
Vasco de Gama...........Beniamino Gigli
Inès....................Louise Lerch
Nélusko.................Mario Basiola
Pedro...................Adamo Didur
Diégo...................Paolo Ananian
Alvar...................Angelo Badà
Grand Inquisitor........Léon Rothier
High Priest.............Léon Rothier
Anna....................Henriette Wakefield
Usher...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Officer.................Max Altglass

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Review of H. T. Craven in the Philadelphia Record

Opera Songbirds Give 'L'Africana' in Lavish Style

Gigli and Rosa Ponselle Perform Superbly at the Academy

Audience Shows Delight

"L'Africana," presented by the Metropolitan Opera Company at the Academy of Music last night, seems destined to remain in the repertoire while there are superb singers like Beniamino Gigli and Rosa Ponselle to fill the leading roles and conductors like Tullio Serafin to salvage Meyerbeer's score by making it appear less pompous, windy and outmoded that it actually is.

Whether or not the talented rescue crew might be better employed in works of more intrinsic merit than "L"Africana" is a point of which last night's delighted audience - judging by its applause - took little heed. The Metropolitan had turned out a grandiose show, dragged in the services of some of its most admired songbirds and staged the spectacle lavishly.

"L'Africana," as in his other works, save for certain pages in "The Huguenots," Meyerbeer covers up the shortage of vital inspiration with a wealth of clever trickery. Furthermore, his commendable faculty of writing skillfully for the voice served him well in this ponderous swan song, dating from 1865, and looking toward a musical past at the very period when "Tristan" blazed the way for the future and at least a partial emancipation of opera from the old shackles of artificiality.

Gigli's Vasco di Gama is quite the best of this operatic generation. He obviously reveled in the opportunities for brilliant vocal display and scored signally in the celebrated "O Paradiso." His acting, too, had fire and romantic charm, although his makeup, it must be confessed, rather disconcertingly suggested John Phillip Sousa before that eminent bandmaster removed his facial valance. Caruso never quite caught the spirited note in Vasco, which, if sufficiently accented, give a momentary glow to much dull, flatulent music.

Miss Ponselle exhibited the splendor of her tonal resources in prodigal style in the Indo-African maid Selika, a part which exerted some influence on Verdi in creating the later Aida.

Serafin's part in the resuscitation of "L'Africana" proved of fundamental importance. Even the extreme banalities of the score, including the ballet music, became, in his reading, much less meretricious than usual.

Auxiliary roles were in the main successfully treated. Mario Basiola proving a competent Nelusko and winning a deserved favor with his "Adamastor, Re dell' Onde Profonde," and Leon Rothier, Adamo Didur, Henriette Wakefield and Paolo Ananian filling the requirements in other parts. Louise Lerch was somewhat overweighed with the exacting coloratura role of Inez.

Stage settings and pageantry attained the standards of this grand manner. The ballet, though quite idiotic in its mélange of Oriental and Occidental Indian costuming and behavior, was colorful and the dances to Meyerbeer's feeble music denoted expert direction and regard, if not for consistency and meaning, at least for footlight effect.



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