[Met Performance] CID:25060
Faust {172} San Francisco, California: 11/15/1900.


San Francisco, California
November 15, 1900

FAUST {172}

Faust...................Albert Saléza
Marguerite..............Nellie Melba
Méphistophélès..........Pol Plançon
Valentin................Giuseppe Campanari
Siebel..................Louise Homer
Marthe..................Mathilde Bauermeister
Wagner..................Eugène Dufriche

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

Director................William Parry

Faust received fifteen performances this season.

Review of Blanche Partington in the San Francisco Call


What is the matter with San Francisco? Melba in the cast, Saleza and Plançon and seats galore glowing a lurid protest against our undoubted provincialism.

It was my pleasure to hear the good little Italian band now at the California Theater last Sunday evening, in company with the enthusiastic Latin crowd that always greets the artist among their countrymen. Immediately in front of me sat a black-polled, swarthy Italian with his bright-eyed wife and a child. They were not innocent of garlic, the woman's gown was ancient of cut and the bambino's pudgy fingers might have been cleaner, but man, woman and child were joying in the music with all their hearts, and they had given their six bits apiece for the privilege, for I saw the man pay the money.

That's not the end of the story. The next day I saw the man, smudge-faced and aproned, tilting a rubbish barrel into a garbage wagon, but with still something of the joy of the Sunday harmony in his pleasant eyes. He had eaten and drunken with the gods, and the whole week was saner, sweeter, and sunnier for the feast.

Now what proportion of his income had the wise Italian devoted to the indulgence of his higher needs? Two dollars and a quarter from say ten or, at the outside, fifteen dollars a week. Who among you of the grand opera audience last night served art at such an apparent sacrifice? And who among you might have been of the audience last night, and who neglected the largest artistic privilege of most of your lives, can show so good a reason for your neglect as this knight of the garbage-wagon might show, if he so chose?

You don't know what you are missing.

Every performance that Mr. Grau gives is a high artistic festival, a series of glorious pictures, a magnificence of sensuous and spiritual harmony, and the full gratification of every aesthetic sense with which we are gifted. You cannot go wrong in choice. One may personally prefer the Wagnerian music-drama, but yet hugely enjoy the perfection of Italian opera as it is here given and, if you are waiting for something better, heaven is your home, for it does not exist down here. The house last night was encouragingly enthusiastic. It seemed to appreciate that the flower of things operatic was before its eyes and ears. Ye gods! It was a performance!

Melba, the nightingale; Plançon, the magnificent - and the splendid Saleza were heard at their hugest best in "Faust." The choruses were magnificent. The familiar "Soldier's Chorus," with its glorious pageantry to tickle the eye, halbert and spear, slashed jerkin, glittering armor, noble knight and gentle squire, passing in endless procession was given with inimitable swing and dash, and given again to an encore that would take no denial, and the pictures, all through, a glow and delicate harmony of color and form, with the splendid, lurid splash of Mephisto woven in and through as Turner used his cunning reds. It was worth while for these, even without the abounding and astonishing cast of principals that it seems possible to get together.

Melba - well, it has been seriously questioned if the audience of Monday night - the "Romeo et Juliet" audience - were not the victims of some incredible jest on the part of the famous diva. Frigid, inflexible, irresponsive as Juliet, Melba certainly was, if one may believe eyes and ears; but this pitiful tender, loving, human figure which Melba as Marguerite gave to us last night was a revelation and profound surprise. She was not the same creature. Her very voice was different, the utmost pearliness of tone, Melba's voice has always been, but there was the tender thrill, the note of almost unbearable pathos, color, passion - all that one may ask of musician, actress, woman. Hail! Melba, queen of song!

"What a lovely devil," I heard my neighbor say as Plançon strode about the stage dominating everything by his overwhelming personality. And so say I. He is a "lovely devil." Almost would he persuade one to a return to the brimstone imaginations of one's childhood, though he has too much of a royal good humor to be amply convincing in sinister suggestion. His voice has every desirable quality, depth, compass, warmth, power and an amazing flexibility. He is eminently satisfying. His acting, too, was delightful. The touch of comedy when he tucks the little Bauermeister's (Marthe) arm into his, and fools the fatuous widow for a passing moment, was a boon and blessing. I feel like the picturesque critic of the Criterion. I should "like to herd up all humanity within hearing" of Pol Plançon!

Saleza's Faust was a dignified and graceful figure. He has a smooth, virile finished voice, a fine pianissimo, delightful enunciation, and he sings with vigor and conviction. His Faust is a good one. Valentine was excellently sung by Campanari, who has a pure, clean barytone of very pleasing quality. Mr. Dufriche did a good Wagner. Mme. Homer, who sang the Siebel part, was a charming boy, but hardly so well suited musically to the role as in her Amneris performance.

M. Mancinelli did his part nobly and the orchestra was as usual, worth the whole price of admission.

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