[Met Performance] CID:25410
Roméo et Juliette {76} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/18/1900.

(Opening Night {16}
Maurice Grau, General Manager
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 18, 1900
Opening Night {16}

Under the Direction of Mr. Maurice Grau


ROMÉO ET JULIETTE {76}
Gounod--Barbier/Carré

Roméo...................Albert Saléza
Juliette................Nellie Melba
Frère Laurent...........Edouard de Reszke
Stéphano................Carrie Bridewell
Mercutio................Eugène Sizes
Benvolio................Aristide Masiero
Gertrude................Mathilde Bauermeister
Capulet.................Pol Plançon
Tybalt..................Jacques Bars
Grégorio................Eugène Dufriche
Duke of Verona..........Charles Gilibert

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

Review and account by W.J. Henderson in The New York Times

OPERA SEASON OPENED

Fashionable Society Once More in its Favorite Public Resort

"ROMEO ET JULIETTE" HEARD

Reappearance Here of Mme. Melba - The House Crowded and Society Out in Full Force

The ninth season of opera in French, German, and Italian at the Metropolitan Opera House under the management of Maurice Gran, either singly or in association with his former partners. Henry B. Abbey and John B. Schoeffel, began last night with the customary incidents. In opera as in other things history repeats itself, and the files of the newspapers for any of the previous years could be depended upon to furnish an excellent account of what took place in the yellow temple of hybrid art in Upper Broadway last evening. In the first place, there was the customary furbishing of the temple itself to make ready for the official advent of high society. Those who read newspapers know that there has been opera at the Metropolitan this Fall and Winter since the first night of October, and that Marguerite and Carmen and Elsa and Lucie have trod the boards and warbled their passions and their woes to the same old boxes and seats. But that part of society which spells itself with a large S has not officially noticed the existence of such opera. It was opera in English, for the people, and at low prices. Some few of the personages whose names always figure in the social chronicles of the town have from time to time looked in upon the proceedings, but always, as it were, incognito.

So when the great night of open refulgence for society was at hand it became necessary to prepare the temple for the elect. There were sweepings and scourings and washings and polishings, and the old brass rail which used to separate the orchestra from the front row of seats was taken away and a handsome wooden partition, well arranged to keep the musicians' lamps from shining into eyes sufficiently shining in themselves, had been erected in its place. Before the hour for opening the doors all was ready. Treasurer Max Hirsch took his stand near the entrance, clad in his festal raiment, and Head Usher Thomas Bull stationed himself at the centre door, ready, as usual, to tell people where their seats were or explain to them the story of the opera. Amiable Peter, the keeper of the main gate was at his post, and on the stroke of 7:30 the portals were thrown wide and the eager public flowed in.

The galleries were, of course, the first to fill, for there people go just to hear music. In the orchestra stalls there was a constant movement throughout the first act and most of the second, while the occupants of the boxes did not fill the horseshoe curve with the glory of their jewels till after 9 o'clock.

There were enough persons in the house, however, to give a welcome to the distinguished figure of M. Plançon when he appeared as the urban Capulet, and to make a true prima donna's reception for Mme. Melba, when as the youthful and yet joyous Juliette she reappeared upon the Metropolitan Opera House stage after an absence since January, 1899. Saleza, who was the Romeo of the occasion, was also received with demonstrations of delight behind which no doubt were hopes that his voice would prove to be in better condition than it was when he went away. Those who are acquainted with operas will have gathered from the foregoing statements that the work of the evening was "Romeo et Juliette," grand opera in five acts, book by Barbiere & Carré, music by Charles Gounod. It was, indeed, so. In their first season Messrs. Abbey and Grau began with "Romeo et Juliette," which last night had its performance as the opening work under the sanction of the sole remaining member of the firm.

But the fact that a well-worn work was sung by persons whose interpretation of its dramatic and musical content is very familiar need count for little, The great and significant fact remains that the regular season of opera was opened, that the town was once more in the Opera House, that the time to glitter and glow, to laugh and talk, to visit from box to box, to see and be seen had come again, and no man - and especially no woman - who aspired to be any one could afford to be out of the going. Carriages began to arrive early, and there was the customary confusion at the Broadway entrance, caused by the failure of the police to prevent vehicles from approaching in two directions. This matter has never been regulated, and it is only one of the numerous instances of police stupidity in dealing with the opera problem. After the opera there is always a wild confusion of carriages at Fortieth Street, and persons crossing that street take their lives in their hands.

After the first act of the opera the lights around the circles were turned on - they are usually left out - and the audience had a chance to see itself. It was worth looking at, for it was of uncommonly brilliant appearance. Women all over the house craned their necks to see what the leaders of society were wearing. There has been, for example, a heavy run on gold trimmings in the dry goods shops, and no woman of ambition to glitter was supposed to be without some evidence of the precious metal in her garments. It took about five minutes last night to find that the members of the "smart set" were following their invariable custom of ignoring that which is easily accessible to all others. Corsages looked much the same in general style as they did last season, except there was a much smaller display of jewels. In this continence Mrs. Gould Hoy and Mrs. Starr Miller, who were in a box together, did not share, but wore some brilliant and costly gems. Mrs. Henry Clews wore a tiara with a wonderful ornament on the front much like the Egyptian headgear which usually adorns Amneris in "Aida." It was noticed that many flowers were worn in the hair of the ladies in the boxes, thus reviving a very pretty fashion.

Among the men the invariable evening dress was worn, of course, and the men of the boxes, who last season seldom wore anything but black waistcoats, last night chiefly wore white ones. Opera hats were seen on many of the heads of men in society, though the silk hat seemed to be the favorite. The "smart set" did not promenade in the corridors between the acts, but those who were not smart did so in large numbers.

The audience was in a cold mood at the beginning of the performance, though the upper galleries betrayed a readiness to applaud at the least excuse. Mme. Melba's delivery of the familiar waltz song, which she sang very fast and with an extraordinarily acid tone, was the first signal for general applause, and two bouquets were thrown upon the stage. Mlle. Bauermeister graciously consented to carry them off the stage, while Juliette went on with her part. Old operagoers remember an occasion when Mlle. Bauerrmeister indignantly refused to do this, but Mlle. Bauermeister has learned a thing or two since that time.

The duet between Mme. Melba and M. Saleza in the first scene pleased the audience, but chiefly because of the tenor's admirable share in it. It was not till the second act that Mme. Melba's voice showed its true quality, and then she and M. Saleza sang their balcony scene exquisitely. The applause which followed this came from all parts of the house, even the ladies in the boxes joining in it. The ensuing scene brought the great figure of Edouard de Reske as Frére Lawrence into sight, and there was a burst of hearty applause to welcome him back to the familiar boards. Mr. Saleza's work in the duet and banishment scenes won him enthusiastic commendation, and he was recalled several times. He was in superb voice last night, and seemed to have recovered entirely from his illness of last season.

For the rest, it should be noted that a new baritone, M. Sizes, made his first appearance here as Mercutio, and was pleasantly received. Of his singing more may be said hereafter. In other details the opera went on as it has gone so often at the Metropolitan in the hands of nearly the same artists. The chorus sang quite as rudely as it has generally done, but the orchestra played with warm tone and some expression under Signor Mancinelli's capable baton. The audience accepted the performance with evidences of pleasure, but it would require a considerable elasticity of fancy to picture its behavior as that of a festive assembly.



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