[Met Performance] CID:27860
Carmen {150} Los Angeles, California: 11/8/1901.

(Review)


Los Angeles, California
Hazard's Pavilion
November 8, 1901


CARMEN {150}

Carmen..................Emma Calvé
Don José................Thomas Salignac
Micaela.................Marguerite Marilly
Escamillo...............Giuseppe Campanari
Frasquita...............Mathilde Bauermeister
Mercédès................Marie Van Cauteren
Remendado...............Albert Reiss
Dancaïre................Charles Gilibert
Zuniga..................Eugène Dufriche
Moralès.................Jacques Bars

Conductor...............Philippe Flon

Director................Frank Rigo
Director................George Egener

Review of E. F. Kubel in the Los Angeles Herald

CALVÉ'S CARMEN AT THE OPERA

Since the world was young, and from the day that Adam took unto himself Lilth, the predecessor of Mother Eve, in his primitive affections, and left unto his descendants devils of all sorts, has Woman enslaved Man. She does it by her beauty, by her graces and by her wiles, but she generally does it in a most thorough way. The poor worm wiggles and twists, but the barb holds him fast. Sometimes there is a cure from the disease for Man, but more often the wound is long in healing, if it stops at a wound. It all depends on how deeply it strikes in. Through all the ages have there been famous fascinators, lovely human Venuses and Circes, who have twisted the sterner sex about their little fingers, and some of these have left their imprints on the tablets of history. Such is Carmen the gypsy.

Out of the story told by Merimee has arisen, through the genius of George Bizet, a most virile lyric character. Intensely dramatic, the musical setting is tensely dramatic, the musical setting thoroughly illustrative of the moods and action of the gypsy and her atmosphere, a sneer runs throughout the play, there is at no time any exhibition of voluptuousness. It is a mad passion for a vain, coarse and heartless woman, and a most frank naturalness characterizes play and music alike. A follower of Meyerbeer, and to some extent of Wagner, Bizet appreciated the great value of theatrical effect, and the importance of a natural expression of the emotions. The rhythm and characteristic color of the music, the simple directness of musical speech, the absence of ornamentation, the intensity of utterance, all make this opera one of the most remarkable of modern times. The music is as picturesque as the story. Bizet has drawn on the songs of Spain for some of his leading motives, and it is curious to note that much of the characteristic color is derived from the use of the monotonous minor scale which belongs to Moorish as it does to other eastern music. Against these themes is set the motif, perhaps best known, the blare of trumpets - the fanfare of the bull fight - a rhythmic, strident figure, which goes with the toreador. The play centers on Carmen; the weak Don José, the foil, Micaela, and the animal-spirited Escamillo are incidental to her glory. Bizet has reached the acme of illustrative "color" and while we are looking upon the unfolding of this tale we are in the mountains of Spain, among people of primitive and picturesque passions.

We have had all kinds of Carmens here, ranging from the delightful daintiness of Theo Dorre to the massive freshness of Signora Almirana, from the misconception of Emma Juch to the literal Collamarini, but we have never before had so thoroughly equipped an interpreter of the role as was shown us in Mme. Calvé last night. Her dramatic temperament is most powerful, and the impersonation and its force are heightened both by the willfulness and abandon of her moods and the strikingly beautiful means of expression which she has at her command. Calvé is a great singer as well as a lyric actress of a puissant individuality. She is an artist of brains, and her intellectuality showed itself repeatedly in her faculty for associating with the words a most suitable and expressive tonal color. She felt the words, the burning speech, the torrent of passion, and her warm, obedient tones mirrored her emotions most beautifully. Her Carmen is unlike the others that we have seen; she is the veritable Gitana of the story, the incarnation of the wild, fickle nomad of the south of Europe. She must have studied the type, taken of the ordinary gypsy what she deemed illustrative of Merimee's story, and with her own conception of the character, have fashioned out of these the fascinating, tantalizing, coquettish and ferine enslaver and destroyer of men known as "Carmen." The loveliness of her musical individuality but augmented and emphasized the brilliant picture she drew. Her art of song is great; so great, indeed that it cannot be taught in conservatories and hence her undisputed....achieved a success that was warmly indicated by the large audience

The other principals of the company contributed to the performance in a marked way, notably in the quintet, which was given with a spirit, a humor and a charm that made it the best concerted number of the evening, its buffo character was admirably brought out.

The chorus of the company is of good voice, and answered all requirements. M. Flon, the conductor, in the first two acts, emphasized the mournful characteristics of his score, and the wildness of his subject, so that his reading differed materially from what other directors have given it here. Scenically, the play was well set, and Calvé's Carmen will always remain, in its entirety, as a pleasing memory.



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