[Met Performance] CID:2000
La Sonnambula {5} Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio: 02/18/1884.

(Debut: Miss Barabino

Cincinnati, Ohio
Music Hall
February 18, 1884


Amina...................Marcella Sembrich
Elvino..................Italo Campanini
Rodolfo.................Franco Novara
Lisa....................Miss Barabino [Debut]
Teresa..................Emily Lablache
Alessio.................Ludovico Contini
Notary..................Amadeo Grazzi

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

Review in an unidentified Cincinnati newspaper:

The Performance

To write anything musically interesting about "La Sonnambula" would be difficult indeed. Certain it is that while it holds its pristine affection on certain tastes of the musically inclined, it has long ago lost its appreciation among the educated and those who, while they are only amateurs or else devoted to music in general, tire in the long run of endless repetition of the same opera. Novelty is, after all, a great attraction; and whatever the operatic merit may be as to harmony and melody, it soon deteriorates in value, unless it be extraordinarily great. "Sonnambula" is a sweet opera with an exceedingly sweet rural plot, the intrigue itself in its evolution becomes very tender, and the tenderness and sweetness. A single cavatina in a wealth of harmony might not be objectionable, but a string of cavatinas with hardly a single oasis of relief from the monotony of melodic repetition is tiresome indeed. But it is just in such operas that great artists have opportunities of displaying the mechanical powers of their voice. Such operas are always written with the purpose of promoting extraordinary talent, the musical nature of the work is considered of little value. Display catches an audience more than the quietude and repose of art. Pyrotechnics in music are generally more pleasing than the diamond that glistens and sparkles in the dark, and always retains its value. "Sonnambula" give opportunities to the voice, and as far as the title rôle of Amina was concerned, never could they have been improved more than they were last night by Mme. Sembrich. Such unbounded enthusiasm at the close of an opera was never manifested by an audience in Music Hall before. It was an enthusiasm which had grown to a climax as the opportunities of display increased. The last aria was "Ah! Non giunge" and it was given a rendition which could not have been surpassed, if equaled, by Gerster. Sembrich's high notes are sometimes wonderfully true and pure, again they are characterized by uncertainness, her middle notes between F and C are not always qualified by musical quality, but the artistic management of her voice is so great that those defects are hardly noticed, or if regarded, they are forgotten, in the general satisfaction which her singing produces. Again, her voice has the advantage of freshness, vigor and the highest cultivation of art. Her interpretation of Amina last night had at least some features of originality, and that is saying a good deal of the part in so threadbare an opera. The lovely simplicity and unfailing innocence of the country girl were beautifully portrayed. Modesty and pre-affection for the lover whom she was about to wed, and whom she was so near losing, characterized her every movement and impregnated each area that she sang with such an interpretation even Amina may be acceptable to an audience. Her voice has more volume, more breadth and strength than Gerster's. It is always managed with superior musical understanding, but it does not possess the same reliable purity and evenness in the execution. It would hardly be necessary to mention in detail her successes of last night. Her "come per me sereno" and the subsequent "sovra il sen" were elaborate examples of her peculiar forte in singing. The strength of her voice lies certainly not tenderness and sympathy of expression; it is to be found more in the domain of mechanical display. But to that display she succeeds in bringing all the rich resources of consummate art, as well as material wealth of voice which, in many respects, few prima donnas possess. In high fioriture she is especially successful, as well as in the clear enunciation of notes, following each other s staccato-like, at long intervals. Her trills are beautifully executed, and, so far as art is concerned, could not be better executed by Patti. A more thorough musician than many other prima donnas, less perfect as to the birdlike quality of voice than Patti, less sympathetic and emotional than Nilsson, she has mechanical skill that may well compete with the best. It was hardly a surprise that a complete ovation was awarded her by the audience after the final aria. Called out five times by an audience lingering in their seats and wild with enthusiasm, she was finally induced to make her reappearance after the drop curtain had gone down, with Campanini as Elvino and give a de capo. It was an occasion long to be remembered by her and the audience. Nothing in the world makes so forcible an impression on an audience as a trill well executed - a cadenza, a long run of florid notes, and the very acme of delight is reached as soon as a high note is clearly sung. But with mechanical display Mme. Sembrich possesses a high degree of art, hence her extraordinary success.

Signor Campanini as Elvino, and Signor Novara as Il Conte, shared in the honors of the evening. No one in the Abbey Company has endeavored to give more satisfaction to the Music Hall audience than Signor Campanini. His acting was an exemplification of histrionic art which few operatic singers possess, and the surprise about his voice is that it has so much sustaining power, after being so often used, utmost night after night. Signor Novara, both as to voice and acting, acquitted himself superbly. The part of Lisa was sung by Mme. Barabino, in place of Signora Corani, who was indisposed. Mme. Lablache as Teresa did full justice to the rôle. The other parts were acceptably filled by Signor Contini and Signor Grazzi.

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