[Met Performance] CID:1720
Lucia di Lammermoor {6} Haverly's Theatre, Chicago, Illinois: 01/22/1884.


Chicago, Illinois
Haverly's Theatre
January 22, 1884


Lucia...................Marcella Sembrich
Edgardo.................Roberto Stagno
Enrico..................Giuseppe Del Puente
Raimondo................Achille Augier
Normanno................Amadeo Grazzi
Alisa...................Imogene Forti
Arturo..................Vincenzo Fornaris

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

Review in the Chicago Tribune:

A Brilliant Debut in Italian Opera at Haverly's

"She came, was heard, and conquered," may well be said of Marcella Sembrich. She appeared with Abbey's Italian opera company last night at Haverly's in 'Lucia," and had not even been on the stage five minutes before she had convinced everybody in the audience, except those chained by prejudices, that she is a great singer. Before the performance was half over Marcella Sembrich had received more enthusiastic applause than has been given in Chicago to any debutante for years, and after she had finished the mad scene the audience was perfectly wild with delight, calling her back again and again, and showering her with applause and bravas in such a manner that it was hard to believe it was a Chicago audience, and not one composed of the easily excited sons and daughters of sunny Italy. It was without exception the most pronounced and instantaneous success ever achieved by a newcomer to Chicago.

And how did Marcella Sembrich spring so suddenly into the favor of the audience. A great deal was expected of her by those who had followed the progress of the Abbey season in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, but that the fame preceding her had not aroused the public to any considerable degree was shown by the fact that the audience numbered barely more than two-thirds of the attendance the evening before. Nor was the reception accorded her on her appearance on the scene of more than usual cordiality, or betokening the presence of any considerable number of admirers. Her wonderful success was indeed entirely due to herself, to her natural gifts, and to her many and varied accomplishments. She is a woman of very fine stage presence, with an expressive winsome face, graceful in all her motions, and gifted with all the charms of youth. Her voice is a pure soprano of great compass, of exceptional strength in the highest notes, of wonderful evenness throughout its range, and of pure sympathetic power. These are the natural gifts which her genius and intelligence have developed to a high state of perfection. Complete control has made her a great actress, who sinks her individuality in her part, while complete mastery of her voice has made her one of the greatest vocalists of her time. She uses her voice with the same unerring accuracy with which the virtuoso handles his instrument, but, imbued with true musicianly feeling, she never sacrifices musical progress to a desire to parade her vocal accomplishments. It is the musician, not the singer, who predominates in her; she is, in one word, an artiste to the fullest extent of the meaning the word.

These were the qualities that captured the audience and exercised such wonderful …on her hearers that they almost forgot everything else under the spell of her art. There have been more beautiful voices heard in Chicago in "Lucia" without arousing such enthusiasm, and a cold analysis of Marcella Sembrich's singing will prove that her vocal powers are by no means phenomenal. Etelka Gerster's voice is more wonderful, for it possesses a flutelike roundness which the other lacks, and Gerster commands the same compass and the same purity of tone. Emma Abbott's natural gifts, merely as far as the voice is concerned, are not below those of Sembrich. The value of the late Marie Litin was in some points superior to that of Sembrich. The voices of Patti, of Nilsson, and of Albani are in themselves far more impressive and musical. But Marcella Sembrich possesses that in her which her voice appear at the time of hearing it, the highest attainable ideal, and captivates not only the mere senses, but appeals also to the highest feelings; and for that reason the impression she makes will be a lasting and overpowering one, while the hold she gains over her hearers at the first moment will constantly grow firmer.

It was Marcella Sembrich's debut which made last night's performance of "Lucia" a brilliant event. All interest was concentrated on her. Her Lucia was a warm, passionate woman, arousing sympathy from the first moment. The music as interpreted by her became full of deep, impressive meaning, and, ceased to be simply a series of brilliant melodies, cadenzas, trills, and staccatos. It was in reality the musical portrayal of the feelings that drove the unfortunate Lucia into insanity. And when the climax was reached her voice, her appearance, and her motions combined to give a truly artistic conception of a woman bereft of reason.

With such a Lucia the whole performance could not be otherwise than successful, although it was far from creditable as a whole. Mr. Stagno was the Edgar. He scored in success by passionate singing and acting in the closing scene, and acted throughout with commendable care, though his voice is not a very agreeable one. Notwithstanding he can boast of splendid high notes. Besides, he is one of that class of tenors who do not care to make any effort except when they have the stage to themselves and shirk their task in ensemble work, unless it offers an opportunity to strike a high note with telling effect. Signor Del Puente was the Henry Ashton and did exceedingly well, as he always does. Mr. Augier, the Raymond, was weak in voice and indifferent in acting, and the Arthur of Mr. Fornaris was anything but a fine performance. Still the ensemble numbers, especially the great sextet, were well done. The chorus was in splendid form, and the orchestra, reduced to about fifty pieces, did creditable, but by no means faultless, work. In the matter of stage setting and stage management no improvement was noticeable, but the performance went off with considerable smoothness after all, as "Lucia" is one of the easiest operas to manage.

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