[Met Performance] CID:19690
Roméo et Juliette {53} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/26/1898.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 26, 1898


Roméo...................Jean de Reszke
Juliette................Marcella Sembrich
Frère Laurent...........Edouard de Reszke
Stéphano................Marthe Djella
Mercutio................Maurice Devries [Last performance]
Benvolio................Roberto Vanni
Gertrude................Mathilde Bauermeister
Capulet.................Pol Plançon
Tybalt..................Jacques Bars
Grégorio................Theodore Meux
Duke of Verona..........Eugène Dufriche

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

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


The Famous Tenor and Mme. Sembrich in "Romeo et Juliette"

The Metropolitan Opera House was packed last night. Every seat in the orchestra and orchestra circle was occupied, and people stood five deep behind the brass rail at the rear of the orchestra circle. The boxes were filled, and up in the galleries people swarmed "like flies in the vernal season, when the milk wets the pails," as Homer was wont to remark. It was an eager, expectant audience, with its mind fixed on one topic. Even the advent of Mme. Marcella Sembrich, the greatest singer of her type now before the public, failed to loose the bonds of its pent-up enthusiasm. It was waiting for Romeo. It was wailing for the greatest tenor of his day, Jean de Reszke, who was to make his first appearance of the season after an absence of more than a year When he came upon the stage he was hailed with such a loud and prolonged burst of applause as seldom has been heard in any theatre in New York. It was one of those spontaneous, deep-hearted tributes of affection that this public knows so well how to give. M. de Reszke bowed low. He stood for time with bent head, evidently touched by the warmth of his reception. Then he tried to go on with the scene, but the applause grew. He came forward with clasped hands, and bowed again and again.

Finally the performance was permitted to proceed. The audience was now warmed up, and it gave to Mme. Sembrich's delivery of the waltz song the applause which it deserved. It is hardly necessary to say that thereafter every scene of the opera was followed by a tremendous outburst of enthusiasm. After the balcony scene Mme. Sembrich and M. de Reszke were called out eight times amid wild cheers and shouts of "'Bravo!" The performance was admirable in most respects. The only really weak spot in it was the Mercutio of Maurice de Vries, who was brought over from Philadelphia to replace M. Albers, still a victim of grip. M. Jean de Reszke's Romeo is so known here that comment upon it is unnecessary. Yet, how is it possible to pass by such a performance as he gave last night without a big note of admiration? His voice, never one of the wonderful organs of this world, was in quite as good condition last night as it was when he went away. His art is, as it was always, perfect. What he does not know about singing has not yet been discovered. His phrasing, his enunciation, his coloring of his tones, his dramatic accentuation-all these last night afforded a lesson in the highest achievements of lyric art. In every way the great tenor sustained his world-wide fame, and the public honored itself in honoring him.

Mme. Sembrich's Juliette was new to this public. Experienced artist as she is, she was nervous at the beginning of the evening and the [first] tones of her waltz song were just a shade off the pitch. But that is noteworthy only because it was an unusual thing in her singing. Her phrasing of this number and throughout the evening was beautiful, and indeed her entire performance was that of a great artist. Everything she did was instinct with intelligence and feeling. She shared the honors of the evening with M. de Reszke, and the two in the balcony scene and in the chamber duo gave the audience an exhibition of most warm and poetic singing.

M. Plançon was the familiar Capulet of old, and M. Edouard de Reszke was, as he always is, admirable as Frère Laurence. The other members of the cast were those who have appeared in previous performances of the same opera this season. The chorus distinguished itself by doing a good deal of singing out of tune. The orchestra played well, but Signor Mancinelli, who conducted, frequently permitted it to play too loudly.

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