[Met Performance] CID:16250
Manon {10} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/27/1896.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 27, 1896

MANON {10}

Manon...................Nellie Melba
Des Grieux..............Jean de Reszke
Lescaut.................Victor Maurel
Count des Grieux........Pol Plançon
Guillot.................Armand Castelmary
Brétigny................Maurice Devries
Poussette...............Mathilde Bauermeister
Javotte.................Marie Van Cauteren
Rosette.................Clara Hunt

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

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

Manon received three performances this season.

Review of Reginald DeKoven

Massenet's 'Manon" is certainly a masterpiece, a lyric gem, admirable, well nigh perfect of its kind. Somewhat "en miniature," perhaps; somewhat too "fine" and delicate a picture, perhaps, for the large frame of the Metropolitan, but wholly delightful, and principally because it possesses the melodic spontaneity, the graceful, suave charm, the genuine emotional force and sincerity, which a work like "La Navarraise" lacks wholly. There is real inspiration in "Manon," and the masterly use of the somewhat limited thematic material is artistic in the extreme. Massenet has indeed been rarely successful in grafting the principal of the "leit motiv" onto a purely lyric opera.

The performance of the opera given last night was to my thinking even better than that of last year, and Mme. Melba in the title role covered herself with dramatic glory-the vocal has long since been hers-and fairly surprised even her most ardent admirers. After seeing her real feeling, dramatic sincerity and emotional power in the scene with Des Grieux at the close of the third act-the great moment of the opera-no one can claim with any semblance of truth or justice that Mme. Melba cannot act and act well, too.

During the first act I was dubious, for she was evidently constrained and nervous, and consequently rather shy and gauche. In the second act her action was much more graceful and natural, and her appearance most charming. The first scene of the third act struck me also as too studied and lacking in repose; but in the scene at Ste. Suplice she found the note of genuine feeling and passion, and played with real power and convincing sincerity. There were real tears in her voice in the charming little "Adieu" in the second act, and while the "Je suis Reme," with the Sanderson cadenza omitted, did not sound quite as brilliant as usual, a charming menuet not in the scene, and written especially for Mme. Melba by Massenet, was sung with so much spirit and dainty grace that it made ample amends. Mme. Melba's action was certainly at times lacking in the necessary coquetry and "espieglerie," but for a first performance of the role hers was unquestionably a remarkable one, and future performances will surely give her greater ease, especially in the earlier portions of the opera. The waltz in the fourth act was charmingly sung, as indeed one expected all her music to be, and one was not disappointed. Unless I am much mistaken "Manon" will be accounted one of Melba's best roles. Flowers were hers in plenty, one basket containing a pair of diamond bracelets. Her success was complete, and she certainly deserved it all.

M. Jean de Reszke repeated his most finished and artistic rendering of Des Grieux. What style! What diction! What absolutely perfect art was shown in his singing of the delicious "Fuyez fuyez," which he would not repeat in spite of prolonged applause! Such art is as rare as it is enjoyable. I did not like M. Maurel as Lescaut. He posed and he overacted, and how an artist of his knowledge could sing as inartistically as he did in his song in the third act I confess I cannot understand. M. Plancon, with his admirable art, lent dignity, interest, and importance to the small role of Le Compte des Grieux, and M. Castelmary as Guillot, M. de Vries as De Bretigny, and Mlles. Bauermeister, Hunt, and Van Cauteren as the three actresses were all efficient. Sig. Bevignani conducted capitally, with great finesse and spirit. I hope that so good a performance may soon be repeated.

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