[Met Performance] CID:20510
Le Prophète {38} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/8/1899.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 8, 1899


Jean of Leyden..........Jean de Reszke
Berthe..................Lilli Lehmann
Fidès...................Marie Brema
Zacharie................Edouard de Reszke
Jonas...................Jacques Bars
Mathisen................Herman Devries
Count Oberthal..........Pol Plançon
Dance...................Luigi Albertieri

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

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

Le Prophète received two performances this season.

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

Meyerbeer's opera "Le Prophète" was given with the French text at the Metropolitan Opera House last night for the first time in several seasons. It was last given when Signor Tamagno was in the company. The eminent Italian singer achieved a distinct success in the rôle of John of Leyden. The work was also given in M. Jean de Reszke's first season in America, when the present favorite of the public had one of his most brilliant triumphs. So great was the impression which he made as the prophet that most of his admirers have been lost in wonder that he did not reappear in the opera more frequently. But his recent ambition to shine in the Wagnerian drama has caused him to neglect some of his older rôles. It was, therefore, remarkable, in view of the general desire to hear M. de Reszke as John of Leyden that the audience of last night was not a great deal larger. It was one of good size in the lower part of the auditorium, but the galleries were not crowded. There was a spirit of enthusiasm, however, which nothing could quell, not even the amusing confusion in which the ballet of skaters came to a conclusion.

Not to give needless pain to the admirers of the genius of Meyerbeer, it must be said that the ballet in "Le Prophète" has no very strong plea for existence. It is a humorous spectacle to see ladies disporting themselves in short skirts and tights in a snowstorm. But the ground plan of the Meyerbeerian opera, a remarkably good plan from a theatrical point of view, requires a ballet at an hour originally chosen to meet the demands of the gentlemen of the Parisian aristocracy. Therefore there must be a ballet at that time, no matter whether there happens to be ice on the stage or not. Only one of the skaters fell down last night, but that was enough to throw things into confusion. The dancing ballet quite atoned for the shortcomings of the skaters. The dance was excellently arranged and well executed. Generally speaking, considerable attention had been given to the spectacular features of the opera, and only the stupidity of some of the supernumeraries was censurable.

There does not seem to be any strong disposition on the part of the operagoing public to take these matters seriously, and so long as that is the case comment on them must be made solely in the interest of truth and without any hope of leading toward improvement. If Meyerbeer is to be presented, however, his intentions ought to be carried out as faithfully as those of any other composer, even Wagner. The undramatic parts of his works become more apparent when matters are not offered in a serious spirit. The only question with the public seems to be whether the principal singers are famous. It really does not seem to cause much disappointment when they are laboring under evident difficulties, as was the case with at least two of them last night. The enthusiasm could not have been greater if these two had sung with the clarion tones which they know so well how to emit when they are in their best voice.

Jean de Reszke's John of Leyden suffered in the early part of last evening's performance from the state of his voice. The famous tenor appeared to sing with much effort, and he did not produce his familiar and electrifying effects in the closing passages of his first scene, that with the three Anabaptists. In the tent scene he was better, and his "Roi du ciel" was sung with vigorous spirit, though not with such energy as he used to give to it. As is usual, with him, however, he improved as the opera proceeded. His impersonation of John is one of the most consistent and carefully thought out in his repertoire. The part gives him abundant opportunity for the delineation of that rapt mood in which he is so successful. And when all is said, it is not a temporary clouding of his tones that can destroy the impression of any interpretation attempted by M. de Reszke. His art is always supreme, and the inexhaustible resources of his vocal skill carry him successfully over difficulties which would wholly wreck an inferior singer.

Mme. Lilli Lehmann, who has been unable to sing for some time, made her reappearance last night, but it was plain from the outset that she was not yet in her best form. She sang with plenty of dramatic intelligence, and her Bertha was, as it always has been, an interpretation of satisfying quality. It is a pity, however, that her return to the stage of the Metropolitan could not have been deferred until her voice had fully regained its color and elasticity. Miss Marie Brema was the Fides, and for her there need be no qualified praise. The music of the part does not abound in the kind of passages which reveals the gravest faults of her style. On the contrary, it forces her to a more sustained and reposeful delivery. She sang "Ah mon flls," with splendid breadth and with great depth of feeling. Nothing in the performance of the opera had more solid merit than her singing of this number.

As Oberthal, M. Plançon was wholly admirable. His sonorous voice, elegant diction and dignified style lent distinction to the part. The three Anabaptists were Messrs. Bars, Devries and Edouard de Reszke. They were altogether satisfactory. The orchestra was very careless in its treatment of the score and audible expostulation by Signor Mancinelli, who conducted, was of little avail.

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