[Met Performance] CID:32810
Carmen {176} Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 02/9/1904.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 9, 1904

CARMEN {176}

Carmen..................Emma Calvé
Don José................Andreas Dippel
Micaela.................Marguerite Lemon
Escamillo...............Marcel Journet
Frasquita...............Paula Ralph
Mercédès................Josephine Jacoby
Remendado...............Albert Reiss
Dancaïre................Eugène Dufriche
Zuniga..................Bernard Bégué
Moralès.................Mario Guardabassi

Conductor...............Felix Mottl

Director................Karl Schroeder

Marcel Journet repeated the Toreador Song.

Review (unsigned) in a Philadelphia newspaper (unidentified)


One Distinguished Figure in an Otherwise Dull Performance to a Great House

The interest in the performance of "Carmen" which drew a crowded and brilliant house at the Academy of Music last evening was derived from the reappearance of Madame Calvé in the role in which she has attained an exceptional popularity. It was a solo performance mainly, Bizet's beautiful opera serving as a background for one predominant figure. The reputation of Madame Calvé's Carmen was won not alone by her personal attractions, the beauty of her voice and her histrionic skill, but by the subordination of all these to a dramatic characterization which developed with the fateful drama in which it was enwoven and impressed by its sincerity and truth. She has come in time to subordinate the dramatic relations of the character entirely to her personality. She no longer presents a figure in the drama, but a figure out of the drama - a detached figure of extraordinary brilliancy and beauty to which the drama is merely accessory and the music an added illumination.

The Italian prima donna used to come down to the prompter's box to sing her aria because that was the place to sing it and it was intended to be sung there. It had but an incidental relation to the action of the opera, which halted while the aria was performed. But a modern musical drama like "Carmen" does not halt for the execution of arias. The songs are a part of the action from which not even the prima donna can detach herself without destroying its very purpose. When Madame Calvé, therefore, in the character of Carmen, came out of the picture, playing and singing her part entirely at the front of the stage and addressing herself always to the audience end never to the persons she is supposed to be addressing, she changes the whole nature of the performance and reduces one of the most intense of musical dramas to an exhibition of her extraordinary personal attainments.

This is probably what a part of last night's audience desired, and it must be said that the management had frankly recognized the conditions and had provided an ensemble that kept itself well in the background and never intruded upon the predominance of the star. While it is impossible not to recognize the earnest intelligence with which Dippel undertakes any role assigned him, of any genre and in any language, neither his voice nor his style is adaptable to Don José. Miss Lemon is inoffensive, but ineffectual, in the lovely part of Micaela, and Escamillos's music is entirely above Journet's voice, though some of the auditors, who would not feel they got their money's worth if the Toreador's song was not repeated, evidently did not know how poorly it was sung.

What was more surprising was that Mottl, whose one previous appearance here had explained his reputation as a conductor, manifested no more than a perfunctory interest in the opera and conducted it in apparent recognition of the fact that he was merely playing an accompaniment for Calvé. It was accurate and correct in detail, but without any distinguishing accent, and a duller performance of "Carmen" is not often heard. And yet, for the occasion, this did not seem to matter. For Calvé, in her unique way, was never more superb. Her voice is wonderfully beautiful with a rich, "fruity" tone that no other recent voice has had, and she sings with a careless freedom, a fluency of phrasing and a. charm and wit in her clear delivery that give to the whole performance significance entirely its own. The fascinating figure, with its graceful poses, its sinuous movements, and this beautiful union of musical and histrionic expression, constitute a type of dramatic singing so perfect in its kind that not all of its artifice can impair the impression it makes as a consummate work of art.

Her performance is not essentially changed, except as it has further developed in the direction long since recognized. She no longer attempts to keep her place in the picture. The "Habanera" was sung at the footlights, with gestures to the gallery. The [beginning] of the second act - in which she wears a superb ball gown, made from an embroidered Chinese crepe shawl over a ruffled train of orange color, a strange costume for a pusada - she has elaborated into a solo, to the entire subordination of the ballet and the chorus. She is always in the foreground. Nothing else counts. It is a wonderfully attractive figure, though it seems to bear less and less relation to the Carmen of the opera. It must be accepted as frankly as it is offered, on her own terms or not at all. She will not help us to an appreciation of Bizet's opera, except in her delicious singing of the music of her own part, but she leaves an impression of peculiar art that is not likely to be effaced. It may be art misplaced, but in its way there is nothing else just like it.

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