[Met Performance] CID:19750
Don Giovanni {41} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/2/1899.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 2, 1899


DON GIOVANNI {41}
Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Victor Maurel
Donna Anna..............Lilli Lehmann
Don Ottavio.............Thomas Salignac
Donna Elvira............Lillian Nordica
Leporello...............Edouard de Reszke
Zerlina.................Marcella Sembrich
Masetto.................Agostino Carbone
Commendatore............Herman Devries

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

Director................Pierre Baudu

Don Giovanni received eight performances this season.

Unsigned review in The New York Times (W. J. Henderson?)

Rumors have been afloat for some time past that great preparations were making at the Metropolitan Opera House for a performance of Mozart's masterpiece, "Don Giovanni." The work was announced for last night, and immediately every seat and box in the house was sold. Then came the report that M. Maurel was indisposed and would be unable to sing the title rôle in the opera about which he once wrote a book. But last night there was no red poster at the front door to frighten people away and the public poured into the house in a great crowd. The audience was one of the largest of the season. Certainly there has been none larger, except that of the first night. The enthusiasm was that of people who had paid well to hear famous singers and heard them. Mme. Lehmann was called out four or five times after her grand aria. Mme. Nordica was acclaimed after Elvira's principal aria and Mme. Sembrich was wildly applauded at every opportunity.

In short, no one failed of public approval. It was what the old-time bills were wont to describe as a "grand, gala night." There were many real music lovers in the house and many who were drawn by the glamour of famous names in the world of song. "Don Giovanni," like "Les Huguenots," is an opera in which managers always bring together, when possible, great casts. The result is that the work attracts all that class of persons which goes to the opera simply for the sake of being able to say "I have heard them all." There were probably many persons present last night who could not tell a bass from a tenor and who had no notion of what the opera was about, but they heard five famous singers at one price of admission and so achieved a record in an economical way. It is a fine thing to combine art and economy.

"Don Giovanni " was last performed at the Metropolitan Opera House on Jan. 9, 1891. The cast consisted of M. Lassalle as Don Giovanni, M. Edouard de Reszke as Leporello, Signor Cremonini as Don Ottavio, Mr. Bispham as Massetto, Castlemary as Il Cornmendatore, Mme. Litvinne as Donna Anna, Miss Traubmarm as Donna Elvira and Miss. Engle as Zerlina. This was the regular cast of that season, but upon one occasion, when Miss Engle fell ill, Zerlina was sung by the omniscient Mme. Bauerrneister. M. Maurel last appeared here in this opera in the season of 1894-5, when it was brought forward, on Dec. 31, with E. de Reszke as Leporello, Russitano as Ottavio, Carbone as Massetto, Abramoff as II Cornmendatore, Mme. Nordica as Donna Anna, Mme. Eames as Donna Elvira and Miss de Lussan as Zerlina.

For the sake of the record it may be stated here that last night's cast was as follows: Donna Anna, Lillie Lehmann; Donna Elvira, Lillian Nordica; Zerlina, Marcella Sembrich; Don Giovanni, Victor Maurel; Leporello, Edouard de Reszke; Don Ottavio, Thomas Salignac; Massetto, Agostino Carbone; and Il Commendatore, Herman Devries. This is at any rate a strong array of names and, if some of the singers were greater for the past than for the present, the audience can at least say today that it heard them.

The performance was more notable for dramatic than for vocal excellence. In spirit it was, indeed, admirable. Even the chorus had been incited to significant byplay and, it may be added, that it sang with unusual merit. The work had evidently been very carefully rehearsed and, except for some vocal shortcomings among the principals, the performance was one which did no little justice to the composer's intentions.

Maurel's embodiment of the gay scapegrace is well known to habitués of the opera in this city. It is a careful and consistent piece of characterization according to the artist's conception of the part. It is notable for its distinguished bearing, its elegance of manner and its authoritative style. As an actor Maurel has no superior in his own line,and his knowledge of the value of pose and gesture is unexcelled. His Don Giovanni is always picturesque and invariably interesting. His voice is quite as good as it was when he last visited us, which is not saying a great deal. He delivers the recitative with fine skill, but he no longer possesses the sonority necessary to the successful singing of sustained cantilena passages. But whatever M. Maurel does is worthy of attention and always command it.

M. Edouard de Reszke's Leporello is always a delight to both eye and ear. The big basso is a born comedian, and he fairly revels in the opportunities afforded him by this part. He is more successful in the recitativo secco of "Don Giovanni" than in that of any other opera, and he sings such airs as "Madamina " with irresistible humor and consummate vocal skill. In short, his Leporello is a master work and calls forth unstinted praise. M. Salignac was only fairly successful with the thankless rôle of Don Ottavio. Signor Carbone was funny as Massetto, and M. Devries was only a tolerable Commendatore.

Mme. Lilli Lehmann's Donna Anna is not unknown to New Yorkers. It is conspicuous chiefly for its intensity of emotional expression and last night it was notable for a more than ordinarily generous display of temperament. Vocally it was not all that it formerly was. Mme. Lehmann's voice does not now respond readily to all the demands which she makes upon it and the efforts attending her production of some tones are audible. But the nobility of her style remains and she produces the necessary impression of a grand nature. Her tragic air near the end of the first act was superb in its power, and it was then that she called out the loudest plaudits of the audience.

Mme. Nordica was not at her best last night. She seemed to he out of voice and in Donna Elvira's first air she sang the rapid passages with apparent effort and not always with correct intonation. But she redeemed herself afterward and in the trio did admirable work. Mme. Sembrich's Zerlina was the sparkling, brilliant piece of comedy that might have been expected of this splendid mistress of vocal art and acting. Her voice was in good condition, her acting was all that could be desired and she put herself completely into the picture at all times. She was most enthusiastically applauded for her lovely delivery of "Batti, batti."

The opera was put on the stage in the old familiar manner and, as usual, it was impossible to hear the small orchestra on the stage in the ballroom scene. Signor Mancinelli conducted.




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