[Met Performance] CID:22970
Faust {162} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/29/1899.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 29, 1899


FAUST {162}

Faust...................Albert Alvarez
Marguerite..............Emma Calvé
Méphistophélès..........Edouard de Reszke
Valentin................Antonio Scotti
Siebel..................Eugenia Mantelli
Marthe..................Mathilde Bauermeister
Wagner..................Theodore Meux

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

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

"FAUST" AT THE OPERA

Mme. Calvé Gives a Beautiful Performance of the Heroine of Gounod's Masterpiece

The promised reappearance of Mme. Calvé as Marguerite in Gounod's "Faust" took place last night. When the eminent French soprano was first announced for this part she was taken ill and Miss Adams was heard in her place. It was this change which caused so much complaint that Mr. Grau had to decide that hereafter money would be refunded in case changes were made in the allotment of the principal parts. The audience which assembled to hear Mme. Calvé last night was not so largely in excess of the subscription list as one might have been led to suspect from the public clamor. But it was a large assemblage and it demonstrated in an unmistakable manner its delight in the admirable interpretation of Marguerite by Mme. Calvé.

When this lady first emerged before the public gaze as Marguerite there was considerable difference of opinion as to the artistic value of her impersonation, and most of the difference was in this paper. What was praised by some as unconventionality was here condemned as extravagance, for to be unconventional is not in and of itself meritorious. In her dramatic work Mme. Calvé's departures from the comfortable traditions of Gounod's opera carried conviction and, though they were not always discreetly fitted into her general scheme, they aroused discussion and sometimes stimulated the imagination.

It was with her singing of the music that most fault was found. She distorted the phrasing, introduced unjustifiable readings -- as when she sang in a hysterical staccato laugh the slurred run at the beginning of the jewel song--and many pantings and forcings of her voice generally disturbed the melodic polish of Gounod's music. Last night, to the astonishment of those whose memories of the performance were clear, the old faults had gone and it was as a singer pure and simple that Mme. Calvé added another to her already valuable list of operatic triumphs. This is not saying that her former interesting embodiment and development of the character of Marguerite has been thrown aside. Mme. Calvé is too much an actress for that, but she now conveys her reading of the part to the audience, not only without violation of the composer's intentions, but through a radiantly beautiful adherence to them. Her voice last night had a perfectly delicious quality and a velvety smoothness. She sang the notes faithfully and phrased every measure with an exquisite art. The lovely touches of vocal coloring which she gave to her music and the eloquent dramatic nuances were nearly all new and were admirable improvements upon her former reading. No one can sing the jewel song, for example, more beautifully than she sang it last night and throughout the garden scene her lyric work was that of a mistress of vocal art.

In later scenes, of course, she introduced the requisite note of tragedy, but she never forgot the demands of good singing and in this her Marguerite may be called a new one. Mme. Calvé, it must be confessed, is erratic in her work, but she shows a general tendency toward heights of potent reposefulness altogether worthy of praise. A gifted woman, indeed, she at times seems to be moving toward the highest level of her art. Genius she has and culture she is acquiring. Her career is a source of constant interest.

Associated with her in last night's performance were M. Alvarez as Faust, M. Edouard de Reszke as Mephistopheles, Signor Scotti as Valentine, and Mme. Mantelli as Siebel. Of the first named it is only necessary to say that his interpretation of Faust did not in any respect differ from that already made known here. His best work was heard in "Salut demeure" and in the last act, while he sang flat in the same places as before. Signor Scotti was a very good Valentine. His fresh, sonorous voice is pleasant to hear. M. Edouard de Reszke was the same excellent Mephistopheles as he has been at all times.

The stage settings of the opera were the sane as heretofore, except that the church scene was played in the street, a proceeding for which there is no artistic excuse. The management of the lights in the garden scene was again very bad. The orchestra played well and Signor Mancinelli conducted in his customary manner.




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