[Met Performance] CID:14190
United States Premiere
Falstaff {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/4/1895.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debut: Mr. Nicolini

Metropolitan Opera House
February 4, 1895
United States Premiere

Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Victor Maurel
Alice Ford..............Emma Eames
Ford....................Giuseppe Campanari
Dame Quickly............Sofia Scalchi
Nannetta................Zélie de Lussan
Fenton..................Giuseppe Russitano
Meg Page................Jane De Vigne
Dr. Cajus...............Roberto Vanni
Bardolfo................Antonio Rinaldini
Pistola.................Mr. Nicolini [Debut]

Conductor...............Luigi Mancinelli

Director................William Parry

Falstaff received twelve performances this season.

From the review of W. J. Henderson in The New York Times

The advent of a new work by the greatest genius now writing for the stage…is surely an event which dwarfs all other occurrences of an amusement season. It was to be expected that a numerous and brilliant audience would assemble to acclaim Maurel in a new part, for that is the fashion of the public taste, but it would not be surprising to learn that many who went to worship the priest remained to bow before the god of music. Surely none could have left the auditorium without feeling that they had been in the presence of a masterwork, and one, too, little short of miraculous in its superb vitality, coming, as it did, from the pen of a man who had passed the allotted three score and ten by a full decade.

...for many years Verdi had cherished the design of writing a genuine opera buffa, and his Wagnerian studies had served to urge him more and more toward the genre of which "Die Meistersinger" is the foremost type. But Verdi's Wagnerism has never led him to commit the fatal blunder of forgetting his nationality. He has clung through all the changes of his style to Italian methods, and consequently "Falstaff' comes before us a purely Italian work, though it is indeed of a new school. The elements of which it is built are old, but they are newly combined and freshly garbed The advent of a new work by the greatest genius now writing for the stage...is surely, and the world has to thank the splendid genius of Verdi for giving it in these days of barrenness in art a fine and original work. Perhaps it would have been greater had it been national in character...as "Die Meistersinger" is, but the temptation to go to the source of "Otello" for an equally striking comic figure must have been strong. If Italian literature or legend had offered so excellent a subject for comedy as the fat knight, we may fancy that Boito would have seized upon it. But it may be that both poet and composer saw in "Falstaff' a subject known to all the reading nations of the earth, and chose it for that reason.

...But still it is not only easy to believe, but it comes with the force of conviction, that if Mozart had been born, say, thirty-nine years ago, instead of 139, and was still living he might have written "Falstaff." It is impossible to pay a higher tribute to the genius of Verdi than this.

...What will fill every hearer with delight and admiration is the youthful vigor of all this music....It bustles, it glows, it inspires, yet it never transcends the modesty of art. Rich, complex, brilliant, and eloquent as the orchestration is, it never strains for its effects and it never is blatant. Subtle, varied, polished as the recitation is, it has not a measure that cannot be sung, and neither the voice of the singer nor the ear of the hearer, is ever outraged. In short, "Falstaff" is the work of a man whose genius is inexhaustible, whose national fire burns today with the brightness of that dawn when "Ernani" [shone] as the morning star, and whose art has grown with experience and acquisition till he stands forth today a new writer and the father of a new Italian school.

Review by Henry Krehbiel in the New York Tribune

How has this play been set to music? It has been plunged into a perfect sea of melodic champagne. All this dialogue, crisp and sparkling and full of humor in itself is made crisper, more sparkling, and more amusing by the music on which and in which it floats, we are almost tempted to say, more buoyantly than comedy dialogue has floated since Mozart wrote "Le Nozze di Figaro." The orchestra is bearer of everything, just as completely as it is in the latter day dramas of Richard Wagner; it supplies phrases for the singers, supports their voices, comments on the utterances and gives dramatic color to even the most fleeting idea. It is a marvelous delineator of things external as well as internal. It swells the bulk of the fat knight until he sounds as if he weighed a ton and gives such piquancy to the spirit of the merry women that one cannot see them come on stage without a throb of delight. In spite of the tremendous stride which the art of instrumentation has made since Berlioz mixed the modern orchestral colors Verdi has, in the "Falstaff," added to the variegated palette. Yet all is done so discreetly with such utter lack of effort-seeking that it seems as if the art had always been known. The flood upon which the vocal melody floats is not unlike that of Wagner; it is not a development of mixed phrases, though Verdi, too, knows the use of leading motives in a sense, but a current which is ever receiving new waters. The declamation is managed with extraordinary skill and, though it frequently grows out of the instrumental part, it has yet independent melodic value, as the vocal parts of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" have. Through this Verdi has acquired a comic potentiality for his voice parts which goes hand in hand with that of his instrumental parts.

Victor Maurel as Falstaff. Photograph by Benque, Paris.

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