[Met Performance] CID:15710
United States Premiere (La Navarraise)
Orfeo ed Euridice {12}
La Navarraise {1}
Metropolitan Opera House: 12/11/1895.
 (United States Premiere)

Metropolitan Opera House
December 11, 1895

C. W. Gluck-Calzabigi

Orfeo...................Marie Brema
Euridice................Marie Engle
Amore...................Mathilde Bauermeister
Dance...................Maria Giuri

Conductor...............Armondo Seppilli

Orfeo ed Euridice received one performance this season.

United States Premiere


Anita...................Emma Calvé
Araquil.................Albert Lubert
Garrido.................Pol Plançon
Remigio.................Armand Castelmary
Ramon...................Georges Mauguière
Bustamente..............Maurice Devries

Conductor...............Enrico Bevignani

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

La Navarraise received eight performances this season.

Review of Reginald De Koven in the New York World

Gluck and Massenet in conjunction surely extremes meet!

Compare the work of the father of dramatic opera with that of his most recent follower in the same field, and must not one say that the disciple has wandered far from the precepts of the master? Three great names make the history of operatic composition and its development. Peri, who in attempting to revive a lost art, the style of music and declamation peculiar to Greek tragedy founded the modern lyric drama, Gluck and Wagner.

These last two, working at different times, under widely differing circumstances, and with widely differing opportunities, labored nevertheless with lyric drama that essential vital principal of dramatic truth which it had lost. With composers previous to Gluck, the interest of the drama had been sacrificed to mere music, and opera became a collection of songs, without dramatic sincerity or unity. The same thing, allowing for the constant development of the resources of music as an art, was true of many composers after Gluck, until again, the needed reform came, and Wagner purged the operatic floor with mighty hand.

Is our operatic progress now to be progress backward until another reformer shall inaugurate another operatic era? It would almost seem so; for, if composers before and after Gluck made operatic music a series of vocal pyrotechnics supported by a meaningless orchestral accompaniment, Massenet, the mere handmaid to scenic effect. This is not opera; it is melodrama to an orchestral and vocal accompaniment. The dramatic action is the picture; the music the mere frame in which it is set. Illustrative, appropriate in color, often forcible, it is true, but not vital, not essential to the emotional conception, not in and of itself sufficient to present to us the power and meaning of the sentiment and situation as with Wagner or even in "Cavalleria," a dramatic adjunct, not an artistic, aesthetic essential of an organic whole.

Mme. Calvé as a singer is almost thrown away on such a piece, as her vocal work outside of one short and effective love duo is unimportant, but no other artist on the lyric stage today could approach the fire and frenzy, the passion and intensity, the force and vivid, startling truth to nature of her dramatic action. Truly a superb dramatic creation, which must enhance Mme. Calvé's fame as an artist. The story-already told in The World-of the young girl who with evident honesty of purpose murders a man to obtain the dowry needed to unite her to the man she loves moves with bewildering rapidity to a thrilling climax. We are whirled from emotion to emotion, the accompanying music often passing by almost unnoticed.

A strikingly original "soldier's song," indifferently sung by Mons. De Vries, the love duet above mentioned, a mythically fascinating suggestion of a Jota Cirragouese, and a striking theme, which opens the short prelude and recurs throughout the piece, which might be called the "murder motive," with a trumpet call fatally like the famous "sword motive," are the most salient recollections one carries away of a score well made throughout, and which altogether must be held to have achieved its purpose. It is the purpose, not the achievement I am inclined to quarrel with.

If the future of opera lies in this direction, if dramatic interest sacrificed to purely musical effect is not to be permitted to override and engulf it, one will have to change one's ideals and unlearn and set aside all precious methods and theories. If Massenet be right, Wagner will have lived and taught in vain. I cannot think "La Navarraise" will add much to M. Massenet's fame as a composer; while as a specimen of modern operatic art I can hardly consider it promising as regards the future of that art.

The performances of the work was in all respects admirable. Mme. Calvé's intense naturalness and thrilling realism all the more impressive because so restrained, made me almost forget her Santuzza, though in the latter role she is decidedly more picturesque. Her death scene is certainly a tremendous dramatic climax.

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