[Met Performance] CID:2250
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Les Huguenots {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/19/1884.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debut: Miss Alberti
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 19, 1884
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
In Italian


LES HUGUENOTS {1}
Meyerbeer-Scribe/Deschamps

Marguerite de Valois....Marcella Sembrich
Raoul de Nangis.........Italo Campanini
Valentine...............Christine Nilsson
Count de Nevers.........Giuseppe Del Puente
Urbain..................Sofia Scalchi
Count de Saint Bris.....Giuseppe Kaschmann
Marcel..................Giovanni Mirabella
Tavannes................unknown
Méru....................unknown
Lady of Honor...........Miss Alberti [Debut]
Bois-Rosé...............unknown

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

Director................Mr. Corani
Director................Mr. Abbiati
Costume Designer........D. Ascoli
Costume Designer........Henry Dazian

[Sofia Scalchi repeated "Nobil Signor."]

Les Huguenots received three performances in Italian this season.

Alternate title: Gli Ugonotti.

Review in The New York Times (probably W. J. Henderson)

ITALIAN OPERA

The representation of "Gli Ugonotti" at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening would have excited greater enthusiasm and compelled warmer commendation had it not followed many notable performances of Meyerbeer's masterpiece. As matters stand nothing short of an absolutely perfect rendering of the opera is likely to efface the memories (to go no further back) of the present decade. That the recollections we refer to were not dimmed by yesterday's incidents was proved by the comparative tranquility with which the latest performance of "Gli Ugonotti" was enjoyed. Only twice did the approval of the audience assume unusual proportions. Mme. Scalchi's first song was loudly applauded and redemanded, and the duet in the fourth act was attended by a demonstration of delight which, in point of fervor and unanimity, has seldom been surpassed. It was close upon midnight when the curtain fell upon the fourth act of the opera, and hence a detailed review of the evening's events just now is out of the question. The general character of the representation, however, may be hurriedly indicated, and, this being done, the reader will probably find it easy to account for the lack of impressiveness of the entertainment as a whole. Its chief defect may be defined as a want of accent. Mme. Nilsson and Signor Campanini, whatever criticism may be suggested by their respective efforts, are to be exempted from the accusation of limiting their labors to an honest and straightforward delivery of words and tones. And Mme. Scalchi's noble voice, which redeems the most unimportant phrase from insignificance, lifted her portrayal of Urbano above the plane of respectability. But the remaining performances were simply earnest, correct, and lifeless. Mme. Sembrich sang Margherta's music with her wonted facility and brilliancy, and even aroused the audience from its apathy by a powerful D in altissimo, at the close of "A questa voce cola," but her work was, as heretofore, monotonously bright, and her vocal adornments of Meyerbeer's themes were in very doubtful taste. Signor Kaschmann was physically and vocally, a somewhat petty St. Bris, and but for his phrase in the council scene would never had led one to suspect that he was at all qualified for his position as a first baritone. Signor Mirabella as Marcello was merely acceptable, and even Signor Del Puente, although as efficient a De Nevers as in the past, appeared to be affected by the surroundings and failed to produce the familiar impression -wrought by his elegance and talent as a singer. The chorus was fairly steady, and its tone was sonorous enough to fill the house, but it made no attempt whatever at shading. The orchestra was almost continuously irresponsive to Signor Vianesi's baton; at the outset of the evening, the musicians, like the band in "Princess Ida," behaved as if pleading illness, and often refused to come out without coaxing, and throughout the representation the conductor found it utterly impossible to give anything approaching light and shade or gradations of tone to their interpretation of the instrumental score. The result of the joint exertions of artists, chorus, and orchestra will be surmised from this record of facts. "Gil Ugonotti" was interpreted with care, its rendering enlisted the services of many performers of repute, and it was brought forth with fresh and beautiful scenery (albeit the cottage used in "Faust" was a little out of place opposite a chapel on the banks of the Seine) and with new and gaudy costumes. The vital spark which kindles many a less elaborate entertainment into warmth and splendor was, however, wanting in this representation. There is no occasion to dwell at much greater length upon the subject. As already mentioned, Mme. Scalchi's "Nobil signor" was encored, and the impassioned singing and acting of Mme. Nilsson and Signor Campanini in the great duet filled the stage and awoke the spectators to a realization of possibilities such as persons who had not heard "Gli Ugonotti" before last night would not have dreamed of. Both artists were recalled again and again. Much of the effect of Mme. Sembrich's first air and subsequent duet was marred by a most offensive exhibition of ill-temper, consequent upon Signor Vianesi's having played the ritornello preceding her entrance previous to her appearance in the wing. In Europe conduct of this sort would have been harshly reproved; American audiences are more kindly, but acts of this nature are not calculated to soften their disposition. The audience that witnessed "Gli Ugonotti" was very numerous-probably the largest gathered in the Metropolitan Opera-house since the establishment was opened to the public.

Review in unidentified newspaper (The Tribune? Krehbiel?)

MUSIC: METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

Though not without numerous thrilling moments in action and music, and a good deal of pomp in the stage sets and costumes, the greater part of the brilliancy in last night's performance of "Les Huguenots" was in the audience-room. One of the largest audiences which have ever gathered within the walls of the new opera house was assembled to see an opera of really grand dimensions, presented by a company that has won fame for notable achievements whenever great demands have been made upon it. The listeners were on the tiptoe of expectation, and had manifestly placed their standard so high that only a phenomenal performance would have stirred them up to a pitch of lasting enthusiasm.

A performance of such a character was not given. As a whole it lacked elasticity and power. Chorus and orchestra were frequently disappointing, and Signor Campanini, upon whom devolved so great a portion of the effective work of the opera, was unequal to it in voice. He struggled heroically to bring out the high notes of his music, but when they came they were lifeless and devoid of color. In action nothing more vigorous, dignified and appropriate to the situations of the drama could have been asked than his portrayal of the tempest-tossed Raoul, but in "Les Huguenots" it is imperative that the musical accomplishment shall go hand in hand with the histrionic, and a failure in this respect leaves a flaw in the performance of the opera which the brilliant singing of the representative of Marguerite or the most impassioned singing and acting of Valentine cannot efface.

The opera opened listlessly, and warmth of feeling was not infused into the audience until the scene was reached in Marguerite de Valois's idyllic court, where the artistic vocalization of Mme. Sembrich gave the full measure of satisfaction for which the audience was somewhat impatiently waiting. Once before there had been a hearty ebullition of enthusiasm called out by Mme. Scalchi's singing of "Nobil Donna." It won her prompt recognition as the fittest of all of Mme. Sembrich's associates in the cast, and the warm interest thus excited followed her into the succeeding scene, where her active participation in the opera ended, along with that of Mme. Sembrich. After that the dull feeling on the stage and in the room set in again, and was only dispelled momentarily in the grand duet between Valentine and Raoul in which Mme. Nilsson's command of the most thrilling accents of dramatic declamation, and the tenor's passionate action atoned for the vocal shortcomings growing out of the lack of freshness and compass in the two voices. This want of freshness robbed Mme. Nilsson's impersonation of Valentine of its considerable portion of the charm which once it exerted. It has made known the fact that she must now labor to bring out the music, and that to win the old measure of applause she must rely more upon her acting than her singing. In this province, however, she, like Signor Campanini, has grown to heroic stature, and their combined efforts in the climax of the opera last night resulted in a performance that created a perfect furore. Signor Kaschamnn and Signor Del Puente in their parts were admirable. The opera was given with the last act.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).