[Met Performance] CID:30860
Ernani {3} Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Music: 02/10/1903.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Academy of Music
February 10, 1903

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Ernani..................Emilio De Marchi
Elvira..................Marcella Sembrich
Don Carlo...............Antonio Scotti
Don Ruy Gomez de Silva..Edouard de Reszke
Giovanna................Mathilde Bauermeister
Don Riccardo............Roberto Vanni
Jago....................Bernard Bégué

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

Review (unsigned) in a Philadelphia newspaper (unidentified)



Music Familiar to the Audience but with which the Performers Appeared to be Imperfectly Acquainted - Smooth Lyrics Roughly Sung.

When Mr. Gatti's company produced "Ernani" in New York a week or two ago, it was said to be for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House, and the production was thus spoken of as a revival. In Philadelphia - thanks mainly to Gustave Hinrichs - the opera never became extinct or, at least, survived until so recently that it is still familiar. Last night's performance, however, was rightly spoken of as a. revival, or an attempted revival, for the reason that very few of those engaged in it appeared to know the opera or to have acquired any knowledge of how it should be sung or the ability to sing it.

Any one who has read of the revolutionary effect produced by Victor Hugo's drama of "Ernani," and has recently had occasion to witness a performance of the play, could not but wonder that its now old fashioned conventions ever appeared new. When Verdi set this epoch making play to music the impression that he made was of corresponding importance. It seems old fashioned now, but if we can put ourselves back in a time when we had never heard "Un Ballo," "Trovatore," "Traviata" or "Aida," and these throbbing phrases, this lyric intensity, first burst upon with our ears, we can have no difficulty in comprehending how "Ernani" laid the foundation of the fame that culminated in "Otello" and "Falstaff." Every pulse of it is Verdi's own, and we can recognize in it today the ideas that fructified so wonderfully in later and more highly developed work, and that some of Verdi's followers have been tearing to pieces since he died.

But "Ernani" was written to be sung, and the art of song is no longer cultivated. Even the Italians, who can ejaculate broken phrases with great dramatic effect, are lost in Verdi's fluent melody. The opera rests primarily on the baritone, and there is reason to fear that Don Carlos died with Del Puente, whose performance of this great role, in dignity, grace and suavity, and in pure musical beauty, never was excelled, and is now not likely to be equaled. Scotti has approved himself as an artist of high attainment, but he showed no grasp upon this part. Some scenes he sang with taste and with musical sentiment, but the performance was generally rough and uncertain, and his voice never had that smooth and golden tone with which so many of the well remembered baritones of that past have borne up the great ensembles of this opera. The best thing he did was the tender little song to Elvira in the second act; and then "O Sommo Carlo" proved effective, as it cannot fail to do, though that was more from its inherent strength than from its execution. It requires a different art to sing the elder Verdi from that which is called for by Puccini and the rest, and the singers who start with the new roles before they have learned the old seldom recover the lost ground.

De Marchi, who has pleased in some of the modern operas, was absolutely bad as Ernani. He manifested no interest in the part and no knowledge of its requirements, and the famous duet with the soprano was simply shocking. Madame Sembrich, of course, knows how to sing Elvira, but it is not one of her distinguished roles. She has done many things more brilliantly than "Ernani, involami," and what last night's opera needed was a big, strong soprano to take hold of it and show the men what kind of music it was in which they were wandering. Of the Silva of Edouard de Reszke, it is kindness to say little.

Whether or not "Ernani" is worth keeping alive, it certainly is not worthwhile to entrust the effort to people who have never learned to sing or who have devoted themselves so long to a different kind of music that they are unfitted for bel canto. Something might have been done with these people, perhaps, by a conductor with some feeling for the rhythmic movement and passionate purpose of the work, but Flon beat time in a perfunctory way and made no effort to impart any expression or significance to what can be regarded only as a mistaken exhibition. The opera announced for next week is "Le Nozze di Figaro."

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