[Met Performance] CID:19600
Le Nozze di Figaro {12} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/17/1898.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 17, 1898 Matinee


Figaro..................Giuseppe Campanari
Susanna.................Marcella Sembrich
Count Almaviva..........Edouard de Reszke
Countess Almaviva.......Emma Eames
Cherubino...............Zélie de Lussan
Dr. Bartolo.............Agostino Carbone
Marcellina..............Mathilde Bauermeister
Don Basilio.............Roberto Vanni
Antonio.................Eugène Dufriche
Don Curzio..............Catullo Maestri

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

Marcella Sembrich and Emma Eames repeated the letter duet, "Sull'aria"

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


"Le Nozze di Figaro" Given at the Metropolitan Yesterday Afternoon

Mozart's ever young and lovely comic opera "Le Nozze di Figaro" was sung at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon for the first time this season. There was a very large audience, but only such applause as might have been expected from a matinee audience in the presence of a masterpiece from which little or no enjoyment can be obtained by those not thoroughly acquainted with the text. It is a fact worthy of some attention on the part of those ill-balanced minds which believe that the art of writing genuine "dramma per musica" began and ended with Wagner that there is almost nothing to be enjoyed by him who listens to Mozart as he would to "Semiramide." The more you understand of the text of "Semiramide" the more ridiculous the music becomes.

The plan of the fashionable operagoer, who does not even know the stories of the works, but is familiar with a few famous arias (whose Italian titles he knows but does not understand) and goes to the opera just. to hear some great singer sing them, is really the best for listening to such works as "Semiramide." But the plan cannot be applied to either Wagner or Mozart. It will not do for Wagner because there are no arias at all. And it will not do for Mozart because the arias are so closely wedded to the text, and the music follows the meaning so closely that only a few of the set pieces will be found enjoyable by these who listen only for a tune sounded by a voice. Such persons form the largest class of operagoers. For them the arias might as well be songs without words, or the singers might sing the syllables do, re, me, fa, &c. Now, most of Mozart's music will not stand that sort of treatment any more than Wagner's will. Occasionally there is a bit like the "Che soave" or "Il mio tesoro" which pleases an audience merely by its sensuous melody; but Mozart put a great deal more into even those tunes than mere listeners for tunes ever get out of them.

If this is true of serious works, in which the emotional plan is broad and deep and weighty, how much more is it true of a comic opera, in which the complications of the story, the lightning-like changes of mood, the humor, the mischief, the airy fancy, the delicate, evanishing shades of thought and feeling must all be reflected in the music. In "Le Nozze di Figaro" Mozart produced an immortal masterpiece of this latter kind. But the work is like the poetry of Omar Khayyam. It is not something to take up for an idle moment's amusement, but something to live with, to grow with, something from which to absorb gradually the spirit of true greatness in comedy.

"Le Nozze di Figaro" is a comedy of intrigue and its plot, taken from the play of Beaumarchais, is full of fun. The humor of it was well, though not wholly, brought out in yesterday's performance. All the artists concerned seemed to lack just a little of that delicate lightness of touch which is essential to an adequate interpretation of the work. Perhaps a second performance will remove this shortcoming. In respect of conception of their rôles and vocal treatment of them, all the artists did good work. Mme. Eames was a most bewitching vision as the Countess, a vision so beautiful that one was quite ready to think that a momentary flatness in the final measures of "Dove sono" was also a dream. She made that, the weakest aria in the work, warm with interest and was altogether lovely in the letter duet.

Mme. Sembrich's Susanna was the performance of a very great artist, who loves and reverences her Mozart and sings his music with an understanding all too rare in these days. Her conception of the part was perfect and she acted throughout with the most admirable skill. How many Italian opera singers would refuse to repeat the letter duet with the same letter. This Susanna, when she found the audience demanding an encore, showed the Countess that there was a big blot on the letter and induced her to tear it up. Then she sat down and wrote the letter from dictation a second time.

Mlle. Zelie de Lussan came over from Mr. Ellis's Philadelphia company to sing Cherubino, and a delightfully pretty and piquant boy she made. What was still better, she acted the part with spirit and sang "Voi che sapete" uncommonly well. Among the men there were our old friends Campanari as Figaro and Carbone as Dr. Bartoto. both excellent, as they are in "Il Barbiere" also. As for Almaviva, he was represented by Edouard de Reszke, for while the Count is a tenor in "Il Barbiere" before he is married, he matures into a stalwart bass in "Le Nozze di Figaro," after he is a settled Benedick. It was all very well to make the principal men basses and baritones in Mozart's day; but Rossini knew a thing or two better than that. He knew the uses of a tenor. Almaviva in M. de Reszke's hands is just a little ponderous, but one forgives that because of the good singing.

To complete the record it may be added that Mlle. Bauermeister was Marcellina, M. Dufriche Antonio, Signor Vanni Basilio, and Signor Maestri Don Curzio, and that Signor Bevignani conducted.

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