[Met Performance] CID:1240
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Don Giovanni {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/28/1883.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)

Metropolitan Opera House
November 28, 1883
Metropolitan Opera Premiere

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Giuseppe Kaschmann
Leporello...............Giovanni Mirabella
Donna Anna..............Emmy Fursch-Madi
Don Ottavio.............Roberto Stagno
Donna Elvira............Christine Nilsson
Zerlina.................Marcella Sembrich
Masetto.................Baldassare Corsini
Commendatore............Achille Augier

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

Don Giovanni received twelve performances this season.

Review by Henry Krehbiel, New York Tribune:

It was a performance that contained a hotch-potch of the good, the bad and the indifferent. Whatever the shortcomings of the performance, a hearty word of commmendation is due to the effort to revive Mozart's masterpiece. It was a task of herculean proportions. Mr. Abbey's is the only company that we have heard for years whilch contains singers able to cope with the most exacting of all Italian opera scores. For a long time it has seemed as if Donna Anna, the most statueesque and imposing female characteter in the whole range of Italian opera, had died with Mme. Parepa-Rosa; as if the last Zerlina had skipped off the American stage with Mme. Lucca; as if for us Donna Elvira would never be aught but a barren ideality. Yet worthy representations of these three characters appeared last night at the new opera house in Mmes. Fursch-Madi, Sembrich, and Nilsson. Some comment was occasioned by the fact that Donna Anna was not impersonated by Mme. Nilsson, this lady having a good deal of the grand style which is called for by the role. An answer to the wherefore of this that was all-sufficient was given by Mme. Nilsson's singing of the music of Elvira. It is not disparaging her other performances in the least to say that so far as the artistic nobility of the performance was concerned, her singing of the great airs of the first act surpassed everything that she has done this season, except, perhaps, a portion of her work in Lohengrin. But we cannot enter into an analysis; this must be reserved for future occasion. Suffice it that each of the three women-Mme. Fursch-Madi as Donna Anna, Mme. Nilsson as Donna Elvira, and Mme. Sembrich as Donna Zerlina-did excellent work, and if the complete success of the opera had depended on their efforts it would have been won. All the trouble there was came from other elements, notably the instrumental musicians, who made a sad mess of the finale of the first act.

Review of W. J. Henderson, The New York Times:

Mozart's noble work, "Don Giovanni." was produced at the Metropolitan Opera house last evening, before a very large audience, which was evidently puzzled because it could not arouse itself to enthusiasm over the immortal music. "Don Giovanni," properly done, ought never to fail in touching the heart and waking unlimited admiration. Da Ponte's libretto is excellently constructed, and well suited to the requirements of the composer. The succession of arias and ensembles is artistic and the text is full of life. Of Mozart's music it is not necessary to speak. It hits upon the correct expression with marvelous ease and certainty. Every human emotion is ably depicted. With such music we can follow the composer into the soul of every situation and we can follow without fear. The technical beauties of the work are surpassingly great. The mastery of form shown in the two grand finales is worthy of the sublime genius whose invention these particular forms was. In the face of these facts the cause of last night's apathy on the part of the audience must be looked for in the performance. It is recorded that the original cast of the opera in its production at Prague made up in zeal and energy what it lacked in talent. These same important qualities, zeal and energy, were the lacking ingredients of the performance. Signor Stagno was almost a nonentity as Don Ottavio. It sounds harsh, but it is a fact that the general effect of the performance would have been better if he had been out of it. He did not make the slightest attempt to sing except in "il mio tesoro," which he rendered passably. In action he was wooden and meaningless. Signor Kaschmann was apparently laboring under the idea that Don Giovanni was a tragic hero. There was none of the reckless dash and insouciance of the libertine about him. He was buried in a mood of unbroken gloom. His vocal work was correct and occasionally effective. Signor Mirabella as at times on the verge of entering into the spirit of Leporello, but he did not enter. His "Madamina" was commonplace. Signor Coraini was ineffective as Masetto and Signor Augier was not much better as Il Commendatore. The three prime donne were the three saving graces of the performance. All of them performed their work as well as could be expected under the circumstances which are not yet mentioned. Mme. Nilsson, though apparently distressed by her surroundings, sang with her usual good taste and care. Her long aria in the first act, "In questa forma," was sung with technical perfection and exquisite expression. Mme. Sembrich sang the music of Zerlina remarkably well, considering the fact that it is not the kind of music best fitted for the display of her distinctive characteristics. She sang "Batti, batti" with exceedingly good taste. Mme. Fursch-Madi was conscientious as Donna Anna, and was particularly forcible in the scene with Ottavio following her recognition of Don Giovanni as the murderer of her father. With Mme. Nilsson she was very effective in the trio "Protegga il giusto," The two great impediments to the performance, however, were a very evident lack of familiarity with the score on the part of some members of the cast and the direful work of the orchestra and brass band. Since Signor Vianesi has succeeded in raising his orchestra once more out of the retirement which a benevolent architect had provided for them, he seems to have become possessed with the idea that they are, or ought to be, the whole entertainment. Last night the orchestra sawed away with the utmost disregard of the singers and with a whole-souled energy which in a blacksmith would have been very precious. They did not accompany; they annihilated. Signor Vianesi, morever, led them through with strict beat in several measures where the singers made rallentandi and left the artists to finish without instrumental support. But if fault is to be found with the orchestra, what is to be said of the brass band? The striking scene in the garden, with Leporello at the window and the band in the palace, was sadly marred. In the minuet the brass band had its own ideas of the tempo and carried them out with dogged determination. The minuet was in a condition fit to be carried out when the band was through with it. The chorus assisted in destroying the effect of the first act by its bad work in the finale. It is to be hoped that before "Don Giovanni" is repeated it will be repeatedly and conscientiously rehearsed.

Photograph of Giuseppe Kasc hmann as Don Giovanni by Mora.

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