[Met Performance] CID:2030
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Hamlet {1} Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio: 02/21/1884.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Review)


Cincinnati, Ohio
Music Hall
February 21, 1884
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
In Italian


HAMLET {1}
Am. Thomas-Carré/Barbier

Hamlet..................Giuseppe Kaschmann
Ophélie.................Marcella Sembrich
Claudius................Giovanni Mirabella
Gertrude................Sofia Scalchi
Laerte..................Nicola Stagi
Polonius................Baldassare Corsini
Horatio.................Ludovico Contini
Marcellus...............Amadeo Grazzi
Ghost...................Achille Augier
Dance...................Malvina Cavalazzi

Conductor...............Auguste Vianesi

Director................Mr. Corani
Director................Mr. Abbiati

Hamlet received three performances in Italian this season.


Review in unidentified Cincinnati newspaper:

THE PERFORMANCE

"Hamlet" last night was a success, and altogether a brilliant performance - certainly one of the best presentations so far in the progress of the Festival. It was splendidly mounted, the scenes in all their details met all requirements, and some of them were pictures of beauty and display. The costuming was new, in correct taste, and in the court scenes assumed the appearance of regal splendor. The last scene offered a lovely landscape to the view. The lake stretching out in the distance, its shores lines with umbrageous trees, and the effect of light indicating the break of morning, was one of the most pleasing perspectives ever put on the stage at Music Hall. The exquisite ballet music introduced in this scene was most enjoyable, and it terpsichorean interpretation was artistic, as well on the part of Mme. Cavalazzi as the corps of trained dancers.

It would be difficult to pass an even judgment of the music of 'Hamlet." The subject which it illustrates is certainly dramatic enough, but it is not so easy to adapt its details to operatic treatment. There is an interminable string of dialogue running through the libretto, and it is but seldom relived by solo or ensemble singing. Such a subject might have been developed by Wagner, whose music purports to be an adequate examination of the text depending upon a regular thematic development for effect, and never upon solo singing, but Ambroise Thomas has such an admixture of the Italian and French methods in his style of composition, that in 'Hamlet" he has failed to give his musical forms an individual character and complexion. The long dialogues become tedious in the foreign musical dress with which he clothes them, and at times endeavoring, not always successfully, to imitate a sturdier school of music, he again condescends to those familiar forms of melody that are best enjoyed in his "Mignon." The prelude to the opera abounds in dramatic effects, which afterwards reach their climax in the fourth act. The brasses and wind instruments are ingeniously used, and one passage occurs where the strings are beautifully expressive of the sighing and weeping and desolation of the scene. The passage bears a strong resemblance to a similar effect produced in the opera of "Tannhäuser." The few arias that are used in the opera and some of the ensemble music are strikingly beautiful and expressive. The libretto itself curtails many things that are found in the Shakespearian drama, and by finishing with the unfortunate drowning of Ophelia, makes her really the heroine of the story more than Hamlet.

Many things may be said in praise of the performance last night. The ensemble was good, the chorus singing was creditable, and the principal soloists of the cast acquitted themselves satisfactorily. Signor Kaschmann was an excellent operatic Hamlet. In his conception and interpretation of the role, there was not to be found that high and matured art which characterizes the great Shakespearean actors of the day, but it was art nevertheless, and in the exciting scene between Hamlet and his mother queen his action was at times intensely dramatic. He did the part full justice and to his credit, it must be said, that while he was indisposed and asked to be relieved of his duty on that account yesterday morning, he was generally in good voice, and imparted to his singing a great deal of sentiment and expression. The drinking song, "O come, come, drive away," in Scene 5 of the second act, was one of his most successful efforts. It was sung with animation and brilliancy. Also in the ensemble effects, as, for instance, in the beautiful trio of the fourth act, his voice was heard to good advantage. He had less tremolo in his voice last night and his notes were less liable to faulty intonation.

Mme. Sembrich gave a unique and lovely interpretation of Ophelia. It was a tender, sympathetic, consistent interpretation, which found its legitimate climax in the last scene. She was in the best of voice, which she always managed according to the rules of high art. In the scene of the Gardens of the palace, where she sings alone, her acting was of great assistance to the whole effect. The subsequent aria, which Hamlet overhears, was one of the successes of the evening. In the final scene the aria, "I will divide my flowers," was sung with the most finished execution. Her command of fioriture was again fully demonstrated, as well as her highly artistic management of voice. As far as sentiment goes, Mme. Sembrich always does extraordinarily well. Last night she gave proof of how beautifully she can take a low note, and how very comprehensive is her range of voice. In the time of the portamento also was equally happy. Her voice too, was expressive and sympathetic throughout, at the same time in the upper register it was not always agreeable in quality, nor was it always reliable as to intonation. On the whole here Ophelia was a very decided success, and she received a full share of that enthusiasm Cincinnati audiences have already accorded her.

Mirabella made an imposing figure on the stage as the King of Denmark, and did the part considerable justice. At the same time his voice was often false in its intonation. The other inferior parts need hardly be mentioned. The ghost, of course, had not much assigned him, but he was hardly majestic and mysterious enough for a being from the other world.


Photograph of Marcella Sembrich as Ophélie.



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