[Met Performance] CID:116380
World Premiere (In the Pasha's Garden)
In the Pasha's Garden {1}
La Bohème {304}
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/24/1935.
 (World Premiere)
(Debuts: Helen Jepson, Frederick J. Kiesler

Metropolitan Opera House
January 24, 1935 Matinee

World Premiere

J. L. Seymour-H. C. Tracy

Hélène..................Helen Jepson [Debut]
Étienne.................Frederick Jagel
Pasha...................Lawrence Tibbett
Zümbül Agha.............Marek Windheim
Shaban..................Arthur Anderson

Conductor...............Ettore Panizza

Director................Wilhelm Von Wymetal Jr.
Designer................Frederick J. Kiesler [Debut]

In the Pasha's Garden received three performances in one season.


Mimì....................Queena Mario
Rodolfo.................Nino Martini
Musetta.................Helen Gleason
Marcello................Richard Bonelli
Schaunard...............Millo Picco
Colline.................Ezio Pinza
Benoit..................Pompilio Malatesta
Alcindoro...............Pompilio Malatesta
Parpignol...............Giordano Paltrinieri
Sergeant................Carlo Coscia

Conductor...............Vincenzo Bellezza

Review of Carleton Smith in an unidentified magazine

"In the Pasha's Garden"

The Most Economical Opera Ever Produced in the Metropolitan Runs Forty-Five Minutes, Requires no Chorus, No Ballet, and Has Only One Stage-Set

"In the Pasha's Garden" is the most economical opera ever produced in the Metropolitan Opera House. If present announcements prove to be correct, and Giulio Gatti-Casazza does not remain as the head of the institution through another winter, that opera will have the honor of being his final American production. It runs forty-five minutes, requires no chorus, no ballet, and has only one stage-set. The action takes place during late afternoon and night, and, as the title suggests, is in a garden overlooking the Bosporus.

Novel Stage-Setting

Written by John Laurence Seymour to the text of Henry C. Tracy, the score had its world premiere as a curtain-raiser to a benefit performance of "La Bohème" on the afternoon of January 24. Instead of the conventional minarets, marble pillars, statues, and other bric-a-brac which might form the setting, the background was a simple white canvas curtain. On the seventy-by-forty-foot screen, the scenic pattern was projected from glorified lantern-slides. There were seen three overhanging and heavily veined leaves, which had been photographed reduced to microscopic size and placed on a slide, then thrown on the screen.

This novel scenic investiture was the creation of Frederick Kiesler, who gained the reputation with the production of Capek's "R. U. R." and who more recently designed the Juilliard production of "Helen Retires," an opera by John Erskine and George Antheil. Mr. Kiesler said he made "an abstraction of the theme of the opera by giving an impression of a sumptuous exotic garden." This he accomplished by the three overhanging leaves. "It is not necessary," he continued. "to have many, many leaves to give the impression of a garden. One leaf would not be enough, two leaves not enough, but three leaves are a crowd. They overhang the action vastly, and seem to brood above it. Those leaves are threatening, sinister, watchful, even as the spying eunuch is watchful."

The foliage was of such character as to suggest lushness, as of a Southern climate, "but," declared Mr. Kiesler, "it is not a static, decorative setting. The whole movement of the plot is carried on in the movement of the background, the fading out of the microscopic sections of the leaves, in the lighter moments of the lovers' happiness, to their dark retraction during the moments of the Pasha's vengeance. Unlike the old peep-show settings of the proscenium theater, the motion of the setting is cued to the music, singing and acting on the stage. The most serious difficulty, according to Mr. Kiesler, was keeping all the background outside of the leaves perfectly dark, even when the leaves grew smaller, and less distinct, as night came on, and when, in reality, the background was white canvas.

The Story

The singers moved about on an elevated platform of beige, champagne, and chocolate colors, a slowly spiraling incline, and a bench beneath a great swoop of voile which represented a kiosk in the garden. Their movements were followed by spotlights. The libretto by Henry C. Tracy, of Hollywood, was based on a tale, "In the Pasha's Garden" found in a collection of stories on present-day Turkey ("Stamboul Nights," by H. G. Dwight). Dress-clothes are worn, and the Pasha has but one wife. The story is not too modern, however, for a eunuch has a principal part. Contrary to early press-reports, the Seymour opera never was titled "The Eunuch."

As the curtain goes up, the Pasha's young French wife stands with her lover watching the sunset, and sings of their joy in the springtime. They are interrupted by the approach of a eunuch, and this startled wife conceals her lover in a chest thinking they soon will be alone. The eunuch has heard voices, and refuses to leave until the Pasha arrives. The Pasha scoffs at the eunuch's suspicions, orders him away. Servants bring dinner. In place of a table, the chest is pulled out and used.

The wife remains calm, but narrates the legend of Pandora, which gives the Pasha the idea not to open the chest. She pleads weariness after the meal and leaves. As a proof of her confidence in him, she hands her husband the key to the chest.The eunuch returns to plead for "the honor of this house." Thereupon the Pasha, annoyed, decides to bury the chest. That done, he turns out the lights and flings the key into the pool. The nightingales sing.

The music was written by Mr. Seymour several years ago "with a view," he said, "of adapting it to the demands of the subject." It is atmospheric and episodic, though there are several bits of sustained melody for the singers. The wood-winds are employed frequently to suggest oriental color. Lawrence Tibbett, who creates the rôle of the Pasha, another distinctive portrait in his growing gallery of memorable characters, believed that this was an opera which should have been produced in a smaller theater than the Metropolitan. "It is too subtly done for a big house," he said, "and would be better put on where the turn of an eye could be seen, and its significance felt by everyone present." Mr. Seymour has written many songs, and a dozen operas - among them "Antigone," "The Snake Woman," "The Affected Maids," "The Devil and Tom Walker," and "Ramona." Whether his present effort will become popular remains for subsequent performances to determine.

The Singers

In the premiere cast, in addition to Mr. Tibbett, were Marek Windheim, as the eunuch, "Zumbul Agha." Mr. Windheim, a Polish artist, shares with Mr. Tibbett the distinction of having been a member of the cast of every opera produced in English by the Metropolitan since be joined the company. Considered the foremost character actor in grand opera to-day, he sings more than sixty rôles at the Metropolitan, and was the first to introduce slang in opera when he shouted "Whoopee" and "Bootlegger" in Weinberg's "Schwanda." Helen Jepson, tall and statuesque radio beauty, made her Metropolitan début as Hélène, the Pasha's wife. Her young lover, Etienne was Frederick Jagel. Ettore Panizza, the Metropolitan's new Italian conductor, directed the performance.

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