[Met Performance] CID:1440
Faust {6} Boston Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 12/26/1883.


Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Theatre
December 26, 1883
In Italian


Faust...................Italo Campanini
Marguerite..............Christine Nilsson
Méphistophélès..........Franco Novara
Valentin................Giuseppe Del Puente
Siebel..................Sofia Scalchi
Marthe..................Emily Lablache
Wagner..................Ludovico Contini

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

Review in unnamed Boston newspaper

Last evening's performance was noteworthy in several ways. First and foremost, there was a real orchestra; by this we mean an orchestra of upwards of seventy players, an orchestra that "could be heard." In quality, too, was, in general, excellent, although some bits of rough playing, especially by the celli, offended the ear now and then, and in some passages the instruments rather over-crowed the voices. But the most serious blemish in the orchestra was the too, too ambitious person who played, or rather snorted, on the bass tuba. Upon the whole, we cannot congratulate Signor Vianese, the conductor, upon his originality in finding a bass tuba part to the score of "Faust." If he feels that he must have his tuba player play in scores in which there is no part written for that instrument, just for the sake of getting his (or Mr. Abbey's) full money's worth out of him, would it not be quite as well to let him play on the Common, out of hearing of the audience? But, as we have said, the orchestra was a real orchestra, and we heard several things from it which we have never heard before in this city - the waltz theme of the violins in the second act, for instance. Then the chorus was large, and by no means badly drilled. If they flatted badly in the chorale in the church scene, the choruses in the second act, the soldiers' chorus, and the beautiful unaccompanied passage after Valentine's death were capitally sung. The artist who attempted to play the organ part in the church scene was probably not familiar with the peculiarities of that noble instrument, the reed organ, for he kept leaving out whole measures of the sustained pedal C in the [beginning] voluntary, with quite startling results in the shape of harmony and, during Mephisto's address to Maragret, he was not audible at all. The baritone and bass let go their notes at the climax of the duel trio, letting the tenor have his high B flat all to himself, thus omitting one of the most striking discord effects in the whole opera. But then, singers have always done this here in just the same way, and a bad usage is sacred. Signor Vianesi handles his forces with skill and authority, and is evidently a conductor of more than common ability; but like many Italian conductors, he has a tendency to hurry the tempos of crescendo passages, and otherwise to give way to the excitement of the moment. Never have we heard the trio in the fifth act taken at such a rush. Here, however, the effect was undeniably stirring, and the tempo could only be criticized on grounds of authenticity.

Of all the artists, the one who did her work with the most thorough finish, in the most completely artistic fashion, was unquestionably Mme. Lablache. Her performance of Marta lacked nothing of perfection. Mme. Nilsson is a person of so much innate dramatic power, or so much personal magnetism, that she cannot but be great at moments. What splendid effects she produces are mainly the result of her incomparable physique, her superb voice, her admirable carriage, and her habitual intensity of facial expression. At moments, however, her artist intelligence shows itself in the exquisite turning of a phrase. Thus, her delivery of the passage, "Signor! Conceso sia all' umil vostr' ancella," etc., in the church scene, the beautifully simple expression of joy she gave to her first words, "Ah! la sua coce al cor suono," were supremely fine. But she has faults, both as an actress and a singer, the chief of which may be said to be this: That in rising above the elementary rudiments of her art she has left those rudiments almost completely out of sight. When she sins, she does so in some very elementary way. She habitually sustains her voice badly both in long and short phrases, and she very rarely produced an essentially musical effect. Her singing is emotional simply by its wealth of feeling, but it is rarely artistic by any high standard. In her acting, too, although she now and then produces the most graceful and tremendous effects, she continually slights the very A B C's of acting, acts wholly to the audience, and has all the conventional operatic mannerisms. Had she been any one but herself, her Margaret would have been poor indeed, but being herself she made the part both charming and forcible, by sheer dint of her commanding personality. Mme. Scalchi is wholly out of place in a part like Siebel, the music of which runs too high for her voice. In the flower song, too, a certain coarseness of accent marred what was otherwise very fine singing. In her song in the fourth act, however, she was delightful at every point. Signor Campanini's voice is not what it once was, but his old fire, grade of phrasing and excellent singing remain. In action, he struck us last evening as rather more operatically conventional than of late years, but his acting was still strong and highly effective. Signor Novara was suffering from his throat, but sang and acted capitally notwithstanding, and we were surprised to see how little the audience appreciated how very well he sang the serenade. Signor Del Puente was thoroughly good as Valentine. The whole performance, in spite of many imperfections of detail, was still surpassingly good in its ensemble. Mr. Abbey has brought us a company of very exceptional excellence, and its performances bid fair to make the present opera season an event of real importance.

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