[Met Performance] CID:22870
Carmen {126} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/20/1899.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 20, 1899


CARMEN {126}

Carmen..................Emma Calvé
Don José................Albert Alvarez
Micaela.................Emma Eames
Escamillo...............Pol Plançon
Frasquita...............Mathilde Bauermeister
Mercédès................Marie Van Cauteren
Remendado...............Auguste Queyla
Dancaïre................Eugène Dufriche
Zuniga..................Herman Devries
Moralès.................Jacques Bars

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

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


Unsigned review in the New York Telegram

There is no Carmen but Calvé. All that Merrimee conceived in his book-all that Bizet developed in the opera-all these and more is the Carmen not of literature or music drama-the living Calvé. This was demonstrated last night as never before. It was the great singer's first appearance in three seasons and her reception was all her heart could have desired. Time after time the curtain was raised and after each act the promenade before the footlights was insisted on. To her credit be it said that Calvé insisted that all other artists share honors with her. Her insistence on the constant appearance of Mme. Eames was the apparent seal of the rumor that artistic feuds are at an end.

However considered, the programme of "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera House last night was noteworthy. Not only was the Carmen par excellence in the title role, but Mme. Eames as Micaela was all that the part could demand. The novelty was the Don Jose of Alvarez, who has been heard in every leading city in the country, except New York. His first appearance Monday night gave rise to some discussion over his merits-a problem not entirely solved last night. Alvarez is a great dramatic tenor. His presence is good, his fervor intense and his voice somewhat uneven. At times he sings divinely; at others he is off the key. This, however, is so common that it is no disrespect to Alvarez.

The public some thirty years ago went mad on tenors. There were a few great singers of the Italian school who could pour forth liquid gold in most amazing power, with almost angelic sweetness. It was the bel canto of the male singer. Hans von Bulow said once that a tenor was a disease. By this he meant that the highest form of tenor singing, which for years captivated the civilized world, was an abnormal production. Certainly there are none such now. We have the normal tenor, which is usually an exaggerated baritone. Alvarez has the power and dramatic intensity of the French school and, at times, the liquid beauty of the Italian. His Don José was a notable effort, even if it failed in some respects by comparison.

Mme. Calve comes back to us somewhat reduced in flesh, with increased facial beauty and more dramatic intensity than ever before. A more perfect abandon than she gives the cigarette girl has never been witnessed on the stage. It is all that intently conscienceless passion can suggest. Her Carmen is capricious, lustful, utterly reckless, entirely faithless and absolutely lovable. It is somewhat strange that this character, which reduces woman to the lowest terms in all but her physical charms, is so popular. Perhaps it is because we are all human, and Carmen is the most human of operatic characters. Certainly in the hands of Calvé the cigarette girl is a whirlwind of passion, a paradox of inconsistency, but somehow a most sympathetic and lovable creature, whose end seems justified on the grounds of strict justice, but whose tragic demise is always mourned. It is hardly a credit to the human race that the character is loved-but it is and, so long as millennial dawn is not in the horizon, it will be loved and admired and went over and Carmen will be forgiven "because she loved much."

Calvé last night was superb. If she had not sung a note, she would have been the central figure in a galaxy of notables. All that passion could be-and a good deal of what it should not be-Calvé gave us in a most seductive manner. There is no Carmen but Calvé. There are others who play and sing the part. She alone makes us believe and sympathize with it.

Plançon's Escamilio was spirited, musically delightful and, though not without its drawbacks, a most remarkable first production of a role which is so familiar. Mme. Eames looked unusually girlish as Micaela and showed unusual dramatic fervor in the comparatively small part she played. But she received her share of applause, and fairly divided the honors of the evening.

It was a notable performance in the presence of nearly as many people as could be crowded into the house.




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