[Met Performance] CID:1090
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Lohengrin {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/7/1883.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debut: Emmy Fursch-Madi

Metropolitan Opera House
November 7, 1883
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
In Italian


Lohengrin...............Italo Campanini
Elsa....................Christine Nilsson
Ortrud..................Emmy Fursch-Madi [Debut]
Telramund...............Giuseppe Kaschmann
King Heinrich...........Franco Novara
Herald..................Ludovico Contini

Conductor...............Auguste Vianesi

Director................Mr. Corani
Director................Mr. Abbiati
Set Designer............Charles Fox, Jr.
Set Designer............William Schaeffer
Set Designer............Gaspar Maeder
Set Designer............Mr. Thompson
Costume Designer........D. Ascoli
Costume Designer........Henry Dazian

Translation by unknown

[The credits for Corani and Abbiati did not appear in company programs until the performance of 11/17/1883.]

Review from unidentified newspaper:

Some of the most obvious criticisms on the performance of "Lohengrin" by Mr. Abbey's company last night are of the kind which it would be unfair to make under all the circumstances of the case. This company is an Italian company; more Italian even than we have been accustomed to here, for the nationality did not stop with the singers. With few exceptions the members of the orchestra are also Italians, and upon them devolves, in "Lohengrin," as in the other operas of Wagner, some of the most characteristic and trying work. Now, although this opera does not mark the culmination of Wagner's style, it is thoroughly Teutonic, and its proper performance calls into play factors which are natural to Germans but very foreign indeed to Italians. In even the best of Italian representations, "Lohengrin" is obliged to submit to a change of physiognomy which is disappointing to the devotees of German - in this case, also, correct - ideals. But as our musical affairs are shaped at present, we are obliged to accept an Italian "Lohengrin" or none; and in this case half a loaf is infinitely better than no bread.

The interest exhibited by the public in the event - unfortunately a Wagner opera is an event with us - was a most gratifying and significant fact. The beautiful opera house was filled by an audience that did not seem to lack more than two hundred persons of being as numerous as the audience that the unique attraction of the [inaugural] night brought within its walls. It was an audience, moreover, that for the greater part seemed filled with a different spirit than the ordinary audience of the house. The pitch to which interest in the music was raised, and the anxiety to ignore the conventional things of an Italian opera performance which was felt, were attested by the rapt attention with which the music and the play were followed and the impatient emphasis with which outbursts of applause during the progress of a scene were hissed into silence. Other things than high notes engrossed the attention of last night's listeners, and many of the unobtrusive instances of intelligent, artistic effort received prompt recognition and decorously expressed reward. It night be argued from this that the patrons of the opera in New York are ripe for something better and nobler than the sweetmeats of the hurdy-gurdy repertory, and that a winning card to play in the game now going on between the rival managers would be a list, not necessarily large, of the best works of the German and French schools. Certainly, if the difference between last night's audience and eight of the nine audiences that preceded it can be taken as a comparative measure of the interest in the two classes of operas, no manager can keep his eyes closed to the demonstration completed yesterday.

"Lohengrin" will be repeated next Monday, when occasion will be given for a more discriminating as well as a more deliberate discussion of the merits and demerits of the performance than could be had after the late hour at which the opera closed last night. It is a compliment to the performance that it must be set down as worthy of a more careful judgment than is ordinarily given to the amusements of an evening. The interpretation of the work as a whole, no less than the accomplishments of each performer, furnish food for reflection. The pleasures of memory were stirred by the reappearance of Madame Nilsson. and Signor Campanini in the characters which they introduced to the .American people; for, if we are not misled by our recollection, "Lohengrin," when these two admirable artists first aided in its production more than a decade ago, had only been heard here by the visitors to a modest German performance in the present Thalia Theatre, then the German Stadt Theatre, in the Bowery. Madame Fursch-Madi, who made her first appearance this season as Ortruda (and fairly earned the laurels due to the most artistic work of the evening), Signor Kaschmann, Signor Novara and Signor Contini, all ought to be remembered even in this note of prelude; but there is time only for the enumeration. We cannot refrain, however, from complimenting the management of the house for the brilliant setting given the opera, and the magnificence of the costumes worn by principal singers and choristers, The play was a thrilling spectacle, and only the eloquence of the music prevented an interruption of the action to permit the people to express their delight with the first scene.

Another feature of the performance worthy of serious attention was the use of the depressed orchestra space as constructed by the architect of the opera-house, Mr. J. Cleaveland Cady. We are inclined to vote the innovation a success acoustically- the fact that it would enhance the spectacular effect was never open to question - but prefer to give it further trial on Monday night.

Review in The New York Times (probably W. J. Henderson):

The first production of a Wagner opera at the new abode of the music-drama was effected under very favorable circumstances. The large band of instrumentalists who obey Signor Vianesi's baton were placed for the first time in the sunken chamber provided for them by Mr. Cady, the architect who planned the opera-house. The artists who were entrusted with the chief characters in the opera were, with few exceptions, equal to the weighty tasks imposed upon them, and the audience was so numerous that the vast auditorium was actually crowded in all parts, with the exception of a few vacant seats in the first balcony. As may be inferred, therefore, the occasion was one of real enjoyment, and the protracted representation of a work the performance of which is as sure a test of the appreciative powers of an audience as it is of the executive powers of the artists was witnessed until its close, after midnight, with many manifestations of delight. The representation was worthy of the approval it received. At many points ample justice was done to the matchless beauty of Wagner's score, and adequate expression was given to the lofty and impressive situations which the composer has wedded to music, and if, at all tines, the performance did not reach the majestic proportions of the great German master's design, it was never puerile, and the general effect was satisfactory. The mounting of "Lohengrin" and all the mechanical contrivances necessary for its rehearsal were provided in an opulent manner. The stage pictures were notable for splendor, and in the processions and groupings the harmonious blending of rich colors and the sparkle of burnished metal were most agreeable to the eye.

Signor Vianesi's treatment of Wagner's opera met with very general approval. The effect of the band was heightened by its removal to quarters more remote from the audience, and the beautiful vorspiel and the noble introduction to the third act received excellent treatment. It was noticeable, however, that the conductor had more work to do in the way of reproval and correction, that he was obliged to give too much attention to individual players, and give too many orders in hoarse whispers for a public performance, facts that indicate too few private rehearsals of the opera. But in spite of these flaws the work was generally good, especially that of the strings, the quality of some of the brass instruments and instruments of percussion in this band being less agreeable than we have been accustomed to in New York. To that other important department in a Wagner opera, the chorus, less praise can be given. The splendid choruses of the first act, especially that which precedes the appearance of the swan, were weakly sung, and it was made plain throughout the evening that the choristers will need some time to get used to the new position of the orchestra: These strictures, however, do not apply to all of the work of the chorus, for in some parts, notably in the second act, which usually suffers the most, the effect was nearly all that could be desired.

With Mme. Nilsson as Elsa, Signor Campanini as Lohengrin, Signor Novara as the King, Signor Kaschmann as Telramondo, and Mme. Fursch-Madi as Ortruda, any presentation of "Lohengrin" must have been noteworthy. The two great artists whose names stand first in this list were heard to the best advantage last evening, and were applauded wherever the opera admits of applause. Mme. Nilsson's splendid voice and broad style give all due importance to the music of Elsa, and her rendering of the part, while not substantially different from that which was so greatly admired a decade ago, appeared to have gained in dramatic strength if not in vocal excellence. Mme. Fursch-Madi repeated the virile and impassioned impersonation of the wife of Telramondo which was witnessed in this City last year. Her great scene in the second act was given with capital judgment as well as dramatic vigor, and her voice was heard to good effect in the massive music allotted to the role. Signor Campanini's presentment of the mystic knight is the same as of old - a majestic and moving impersonation which regarded by this public 'as the realization of Wagner's ideal. His singing throughout the evening was beautiful, and in the grand duo both he and Mme. Nilsson gave appropriate effect to a scene in which human passion and human weakness are expressed in music with wonderful art. Flowers were given to all the principal artists, and Signor Vianesi received, with becoming modesty, a large wreath of laurel. A word of praise is due to the swan, which was a very handsome bird.

Photograph of Italo Campanini as Lohengrin by Mora.

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