[Met Performance] CID:17690
Don Giovanni {37} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/7/1896.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 7, 1896

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Jean Lassalle
Donna Anna..............Félia Litvinne
Don Ottavio.............Giuseppe Cremonini
Donna Elvira............Sophie Traubmann
Leporello...............Edouard de Reszke
Zerlina.................Marie Engle
Masetto.................David Bispham
Commendatore............Armand Castelmary
Dance...................Martha Irmler

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

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

Don Giovanni received four performances this season.

Review of W. J. Henderson in The New York Times


The Greatest of Pure Operas Sung at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Mozart's "Don Giovanni" was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House last night. There was an audience of respectable size and a tolerable amount of enthusiasm. It cannot be said that the evening was one of glad surprises, for those parts of the performance which deserved much commendation had been made familiar in previous seasons, while those which were new to the audience did not call for special praise. In other words, what was good was not new, and what was new was not good. One would naturally suppose that an opera which has had the vitality to hold the stage for more than a century would attract an audience, large enough to tax the capacity of the Metropolitan or any other opera house. It is probable that it would do so were it not for the existence of two conditions diametrically opposed to such a state of affairs.

In the first place there is that general condition which has been brought about by the cultivation of the "Star " system on the wholesale plan. No opera packs the Metropolitan now except one of those which embraces the services of most of the favorites of the company at once. Then there is a special condition attached to "Don Giovanni." For years it has been the custom of managers to give it with uncommon casts. This, of course, grew out of the fact recognized in earlier times that it could not be adequately performed by an ordinary assembly of singers. Now no one will go to hear "Don Giovanni" unless a great cast is offered. This is a pity, because the opera is both pleasant and wholesome to hear, even when it is only fairly well performed though, of course, it cannot reach appreciation except when notably done. The performance last night had some genuine merits, but it had some painful defects. It was a performance in which individual work claimed special attention, and perhaps that is the best subject for comment,

From this point of view, Edouard de Reszke was easily the star of the evening. It is a good thing once in a while for the big basso to make his appearance among the lesser lights of the company, so that people may discern just how big he is artistically. His Leporello is simply superb. It is a joy without alloy to hear him read the recitative with all the skill of a perfect actor and vocalist and with such brimming and unctuous humor that every line is funny. As for his "Madarnina," it is one of the most admirable of all achievements in the line of buffo singing. Last night the famous basso was in fine spirits and voice and he did his work inimitably.

The Don Giovanni was, of course, M. Lassalle. He was not in good voice, and was troubled with hoarseness. But he makes a gallant figure of the celebrated hero of legendary amours, and in his delivery of the recitative he shows a thorough understanding of the old school and exhibits charming finesse in the details of his treatment. Massetto had a good representative in David Bispham, who acted with considerable humor and sang the music of his part acceptably. Signor Cremonini had the thankless rôle of Don Ottavio, which he filled to the general satisfaction. Castelmary was tolerable as the Commendatore.

The strength of last night's performance lay in the work of the men. For the women it is not possible to utter words of praise. It requires two strong dramatic sopranos and one good light soprano to make a success of " Don Giovanni." But they were not in last night's cast. Mme. Litvinne's voice is not altogether unsuited to the rôle of Donna Anna, but her style certainly is. Her phrasing is so short and spasmodic that it takes all the breadth and power out of Donna Anna's music. As for Mme. Traubmann, it is quite impossible to describe her singing correctly and decorously at the same time. It is sufficient to say that her attack is far more vigorous than discreet, while her phrasing is guided, not by judgment, but by the extreme capacity of her lungs, Miss Marie Engle's Zerlina was passable, but her voice is small for the Metropolitan, and her style is not Mozartian.

It is hardly worthwhile repeating the comments made heretofore on the stage management of "Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan. All that has been said about it before remains true. Of course it must be admitted that there were two orchestras on the stage last night, and that was something. But as none of Don Giovanni's guests paid any attention to them, it was difficult to see why they were there.

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