[Met Performance] CID:18310
Martha {15} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/10/1897.

(Death of Armand Castelmary
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 10, 1897
In Italian


MARTHA {15}

Lady Harriet............Marie Engle
Lionel..................Giuseppe Cremonini
Nancy...................Eugenia Mantelli
Plunkett................Edouard de Reszke
Sir Tristram............Armand Castelmary, Act I [Last appearance]
Sir Tristram............Giuseppe Cernusco, Acts II, III, IV
Sheriff.................Antonio De Vaschetti
Servant.................Giuseppe Cernusco
Dance...................Martha Irmler

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

[Armand Castelmary died of heart failure after the curtain fell on Act I.]

Review and account from The New York Times:

DEATH ON OPERA STAGE
Armand Castelmary Expired Last Night While Acting Tristano in "Martha"

Performance Not Stopped

The Audience Applauded the Dying Singer's Fall and Gestures, Thinking He Was Doing Some Good Acting - Castelmary's Presentment of Death.

An audience of 2500 people at the Metropolitan Opera House last night saw Armand Castelmary die on the stage, and applauded to the echo, thinking it a splendid bit of acting. That was 9:05 o'clock, and the curtain was descending for the close of the second scene in the first act of Flotow's opera, "Martha." Castelmary, the veteran French basso, had the part of Tristano. He had gone through the fair scene to the very end, throwing even more than the customary life and vigor into the droll situations required of the character. At the close of the scene a bevy of girls were dancing in a circle around him. Castelmary had delighted the large audience, and all eyes were upon him. His friends on the stage were equally well pleased. Their admiration had been aroused by the courage of the old singer, as well as by his good acting, for he had not been feeling well. At the climax, therefore, he was the center of interest.

As the moment for the curtain approached, Castelmary raised his right hand to the side of his head and was seen to clutch his hair. The movement was so natural to the part that the audience and those of the executive staff of the house who were in the rear of the orchestra circle, thought it fine acting. Immediately afterward the basso fell forward and went to the floor on his side, breaking through the circle of girls. With his fall the curtain went down - without haste and all in order. The great audience broke into enthusiastic and even tumultuous applause.

In a second or more the curtain was raised in acknowledgement of the audience's liberal expression of pleasure. Then the actor was seen on his knees, trying to hold a little to one side of the center of the stage. This was another striking effect, and brought renewed applause. Had the character been in the hands of a great actor, instead of one whose fame rested largely on his voice, the unanimous verdict would have been that it was admirable. Certainly Castelmary, though a good actor, had never been known to do so well. Never, indeed, was there better acting in the opera of "Martha."

First Note of Alarm

In the circle of young women surrounding Castelmary it was known that there was something real in his fall and his dying struggle on his knees. Faint exclamations of alarm were uttered, and one of the girls fainted. Jean de Reszke, the closest personal friend of the aged opera singer, was behind the scenes viewing the performance, and was quick to discern that Castelmary was ill. When the curtain descended the second time, de Reszke rushed upon the stage and took his old friend in his arms. The man was even then breathing his last, and before anything whatever could be done more than to lay him back upon the floor he was dead. A messenger was sent into the body of the house for Dr. F. H. Bosworth, who was known to be there. The doctor realized at once that the singer was dead, and after a brief examination pronounced it a case of heart disease.

Performance not interrupted

There was consternation among the members of the opera company, but no outcry was made, and after a hurried consultation it was decided to go on with the performance. Stage manager William Parry went before the curtain and stated to the audience that, owing to Mr. Castelmay's sudden illness it had been found necessary to substitute Cernusco in the character of Tristano. Once more the audience applauded - not because it was pleased at the change, but rather in token of the excellent work done by Castelmary and in acknowledgement of the management's successful efforts to please. It was remarked by theatrical people that if Castelmary had been playing any other part, or if his death had occurred at any other period in the opera, the performance must have been stopped.

The body of the dead singer was tenderly borne to the private office of Maurice Grau, and in due time the curtain was rung up and the performance went on. The intense nervous strain under which the singers were obliged to sustain their parts was not detected by the audience. There was not a whisper of the tragedy in the fashionable throng.



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