[Met Performance] CID:1880
Lucia di Lammermoor {7} Olympic Theater, St. Louis, Missouri: 02/6/1884.

(Review)


St. Louis, Missouri
Olympic Theater
February 6, 1884


LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR {7}

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

Conductor...............Cleofonte Campanini


Reviews in the St. Louis Globe Democrat:

SEMBRICH'S GREAT TRIUMPH

The New Prima Donna Creates a Sensation in Lucia

A Songbird Who Promises to Take Patti's Place on the Operatic Stage - The Performance - A Light Audience

The audience that heard "Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Olympic last night was favored with a performance in the main grand and impressive. There were many empty seats, and particularly in the balcony and gallery was the dearth of spectators painfully manifest. Yet there was such hearty, well-timed, spontaneous applause that the artists must have been somewhat appeased for the paucity of numbers. "Lucia" is the opera above all others which appeals to the soul. It teems with passages of almost divine emotion, and of the sixty-four operas which Donizetti wrote, this was the master stroke of his versatile genius. Throughout the work there is a strain of mournful melody which touches the sympathy of the listener, and holds all spellbound with the liquid, passionate music. It is the opera of love, and is to music what the rose is among the flowers. The mind is not called upon to discern its beauties. No cold intellectuality is required to reach the effect. It is the poetry of song, and from the beginning to the end where the unhappy desperate Edgardo falls by his own dagger-thrust, the arias almost blend together, so closely they follow. The audience last night was not so large as the magnitude of the composition and the merit of its rendition deserved. It was an off night only in regard to the slimness of the house. Mme. Sembrich made her debut in St. Louis and essayed the role of Lucia. In other cities she has been the sensation of the season, and well did she sustain her enviable reputation last night. She sings with the ease of Patti and the expression of Nilsson. The manner in which she plays with difficult cadenzas is marvelous. Her execution is equal to Ilma di Murska in the zenith of her success, and her trill surpasses in delicacy and purity of tone that of any diva the writer has ever heard. Madame Sembrich has all the advantages of youth, and the freshness of her voice is exhibited in every intonation; yet withal the lady has not a good stage presence, and is lacking in grace and dramatic force. She was fairly great in the mad scene, and the assemblage was almost wild in demonstrations of approval. She held every one captive, not only in the aria with the flute obligato, but in the "Spargi d'Amoro." The most critical freely acknowledged her power. Signor Stagno made a more favorable impression than on Monday night. In the last scene he displayed a vigor of action and voice, a pathos and tenderness in shading which redeemed the defects in the early portion of the opera. Kaschmann was a superb Enrico. He was at home in the part. His voice is of good range, and was exerted to successful purpose in the "Cruda Funesta" and the finale of the second act. The minor roles were creditably undertaken, and the chorus were conspicuously excellent in the "Per To Immenso." The climax of the performance was attained in the sextette and finale of the second act, which stands almost unrivaled as a gem of concerted music, and the wonderful orchestra, expressive in the highest degree throughout, was never heard to better advantage than in the thrilling fortissimo of the second act finale. They played with the skill of true artists and a force which electrified the assemblage, hanging breathless on every note until the climax, and then there were huzzas and bravos from throats which but echoed the delight of music-enraptured hearts. It is one of the peculiarities of "Lucia" that there is nothing bright or sparkling in it, and while there are gleams of sunshine in the orchestration, the sombre, majestic, awe-inspiring harmony of the score is the secret which touches the chord of sympathy. Madame Sembrich's Lucia is very much akin to that of Gerster. The two divas resemble each other in personnel, except that Sembrich is far the prettier. There is eloquence in the music of this great tragic opera when properly expressed, and she who is a great Lucia is a great prima donna.


By Another Critic:

On Tuesday night the audience at the Olympic heard "Faust," the opera, perfectly rendered in almost all its parts; last night they heard Mme. Sembrich sing Lucia in Donizetti's gloomy but most melodious work, supported fairly but not too well by Signori Stagno, Kaschmann and others, and, with a moderately good chorus and superbly managed orchestra. The feelings on leaving the house were somewhat mixed; regret for those unfortunate beings who, in obedience to some inexplicable whim of fashion, missed the opportunity of hearing probably the best-next to Patti-soprano living; some degree of irritation at weaknesses in the support, but, otherwise, rapturous delight with the prima. "Lucia di Lammermoor" differs in very essential elements from "Faust;" it is almost the antithesis of Gounod's great work; for, whereas in the latter the author has written his music as an interpretation of the poem, Donizetti has simply chosen a story on which to hang his music. Any other story almost, providing it were sufficiently gloomy, would have done as well, and very slight change in its order would have fitted the music to Guy Mannering us to "Hamlet" But Scott's somber novel happened to be chosen, and that is all there is to be said about it, except that it is remarkable how, in a tragedy so profoundly doleful, unrelieved by one single spark of humor or, say of gladness, the wonderful melody should run rippling on without exciting a feeling of incongruity. And it is wonderful, the melody of "Lucia," and wonderfully was it sung last night.

The first appearance of Mme. Sembrich created a feeling of dissatisfaction. Young she is; gifted with it pair of eyes full of gracious good humor and with a wealth of hair whose color and texture would almost tempt St. Anthony to leave gazing on his book; yet she has anything but a good stage presence or graceful stage action. Indeed, the first impression is of decided awkwardness and that is a terrible drawback to encounter at the start; would be an insurmountable one to a woman of less commanding vocal powers. But the first few notes of that wonderful voice sent a thrill through the audience such as we have only heretofore associated with the name of Patti. The tones themselves are strongly reminiscent of the great Diva; It is hardly too much to say that in all essential elemental qualities they are equal to those of Patti, with an added charm that can only be heard in youth and the loss of which is but rarely atoned for by the finish that comes from long years of laborious artistic training. By this it is not intended to be implied that Mme. Sembrich is the equal of the brilliant little Spanish genius, nor of Nilsson and several others that could be mentioned, but she is the promise of what can become greater than any of them. Her singing, simply considered as singing, is now equal to any of them, but she lacks artistic finish and all that studied attention to apparently trifling details which go to make up thoroughly satisfactory work and to win true greatness. But beyond all this Mme. Sembrich has a quality that few of her peers possess in the same or even nearly the same degree, and that is its hearty, overflowing good nature, which shines forth in every action or expression, and makes her audience forget in their ready sympathy for genuine, frank kindliness of manner all the little awkwardnesses to which reference has been made. Her first song, "Regnava nel Silenzio" electrified the people. Somewhat cold, as all audiences are when there are a painfully large number of empty chairs to divide them into groups, they soon rose to the enthusiastic concert pitch, and the applause lavished on the singer kept increasing in intensity to the very last of her songs, "Spargi d'amoro pianto," and then she was recalled a dozen times amid the most deafening plaudits, each time acknowledging the compliment with a girlish awkwardness and hurry that was attractive under her amazingly winning smile than the most finished grace of many much handsomer women.

Among the concerted pieces a very notable feature was the sextet near the end of the second net, sustained by Signor Kaschmann, Enrico; Stagno, Edgardo; Garzzi, Normano; Angier. Raymondo; Fornari, Arturo and Mme. Forti. This, certainly one of the finest passages in the opera, was given with a strength and truth such us is seldom heard, far superior to anything of the kind that has been listened to in St. Louis for many years, and the audience showed its discrimination in a most determined demand for encore, in which it was finally indulged. Signor Ksschmann, its Enrico, showed the possession of a fine voice and considerable skill in its use, besides which his acting was eminently satisfactory. Stagno's Edgardo was at first somewhat disappointing, his voice being decidedly reedy in contrast to the magnificent organ of Lucia. It would appear to be wise not to place him at so much disadvantage in future, for in the last act he sang the "Tu che a Dio" with fine taste and feeling, and deserved more applause than he got. His rendition of "Fra poco a me" was also exceedingly fine, and it is gratifying to state he earned an encore, which he gave with even better effect and finer execution than in the original effort. The other members of the cast have little individual work to perform and they may fairly be dismissed with the remark that Arturo' s voice is decidedly of too nasal a character to make pleasant music, especially when mingled with others, whom it certainly does not, or did not last night, improve.

The scenery and stage setting was about as shabby as it could well be, or at least that remark would be justified were it not that the preceding night had shown how much shabbier such work can be made. It seems so much of a pity that the splendor of performances like those we are having this week should be marred by petty parsimony of the kind. It is to be hoped, however, that it was accident, and not parsimony, or a mean desire to sell a few extra libretti, by the by, the worst written of any opera extant-that deprived the audience of the convenience of programmes. Whichever it was, however, there was not one to be had in house, and the complaints were numerous and just.



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