[Met Performance] CID:38090
United States Premiere
Fedora {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/5/1906.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debut: Lina Cavalieri, Tullio Voghera
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 5, 1906
United States Premiere


FEDORA {1}
U. Giordano-Colautti

Fedora Romazov..........Lina Cavalieri [Debut]
Count Loris Ipanov......Enrico Caruso
Countess Olga Sukarev...Bella Alten
De Siriex...............Antonio Scotti
Desirè..................Giovanni Paroli
Dimitri.................Marie Mattfeld
Gretch..................Eugène Dufriche
Lorek...................Vittorio Navarini
Cirillo.................Bernard Bégué
Baron Rouvel............Giovanni Paroli
Dr. Borov...............Adolph Mühlmann
Boleslao Lazinski.......Tullio Voghera [Debut]
Peasant Boy.............Josephine Jacoby

Conductor...............Arturo Vigna

Director................Eugène Dufriche

In response to audience enthusiasm at the close of Act II, Enrico Caruso and Lina Cavalieri repeated the act's final scene.

Fedora received five performances this season.

Unsigned review in The New York Times (Richard Aldrich?)

GIORDANO'S "FEDORA" GIVEN AT THE OPERA

First Performance in America of Work Based on Sardou' Play

MISS CAVALIERI'S DEBUT

She and Caruso Make a Success in Second Act - Music That Has Little Dramatic Effectiveness

Mr. Conried is doing unprecedented things at the Metropolitan Opera House in the way of producing new operas and especially in the way of producing them early in the season. Last night he brought out for the first time in America, Umberto Giordano's opera, "Fedora." The performance was notable also as bringing before the Metropolitan audience for the first time one of the new Italian sopranos of the company, Lina Cavalleri, who took the part of the heroine. The cast also included Mr. Caruso as Loris Ipanoff, the hero; Mr. Scotti as de Seriex, the French diplomat and Miss Alten and Mme. Jacoby and a number of the other prominent singers.

The opera was heard by a large audience and it was evident at the end of the second act, which contains the most brilliant scenes and the greatest of its dramatic situations, that it had deeply stirred the listeners. It was a result to which the superbly dramatic performance of Miss Cavalieri and Mr. Caruso at the close of the act chiefly contributed-they and M. Victorien Sardou; for it seemed as if the dramatic situation here, for which the French dramatist is responsible, was beyond the reach of the composer, whose music did little to heighten the effect. So great was the enthusiasm over this scene that, after the principals had been called several times before the curtain and they had been overwhelmed with flowers, Mr. Caruso signaled to Mr. Vigna, and the whole thing was done over again to the great delight of the demonstrative contingent of the audience.

The play of "Fedora" has long been known here in the performances of Fanny Davenport and Mme. Bernhardt, as one of the most skillful of Sardou's theatrical productions; one of those in which his inexorable theatrical logic, his swift method, closely knitted structure and clear divination of climax are most forcibly shown. Incident follows incident in precise succession toward the inevitable closing-in of the fateful climax; everything contributes toward the catastrophe, nothing is superfluous and every dramatic situation is made to tell to its utmost.

But for musical treatment, even for such rapid and incisive treatment as the young Italian school has adopted in opera, there is no room for the fullness of the playwright's method. The story and the dialogue have both to be cut down or modified; and in so concise a drama as Sardou's "Fedora" nothing can be spared without loss. The result in Mr. Giordano's opera is distinctly to be traced. There has been a sacrifice of some of Sardou's lucidity for the music. But the musician has also had to make sacrifices for the drama as it stands. There are many scenes which do not lend themselves well to lyric treatment.

There is much dialogue which goes rapidly to the point when spoken, but is retarded by music. There are scenes like that in the first act-the greater part of the act - in which there is a police inquiry as to the murder of Fedora's fiancé. In this, as in a number of others throughout the opera, music has little to do, little to say, because the scenes are prosaic or essentially not lyric; or they have not the emotional prompting that finds its right expression in music. What Giordano has done, and rightly done, as Puccini has done in "Tosca" in a very similar predicament, is to make most of his music an excited and fragmentary accompaniment to the action and to seize moments of special emotional or dramatic significance and enforce these by musical elaboration.

Of such pages there are several in Giordano's score. He makes a number of them of much charm; as the scene where Fedora lingers over her first and faithless lover's portrait, the brilliant ball music in the second act, to which the fierce passion of Fedora is a foil; the interlude, where the guests are departing after the news of the Czar's assassination, the distant sound of the Swiss mountaineers' music at the [beginning] of the third act. A scene that is treated with ingenuity is that in the ball in the second act, where a Polish pianist-modestly introduced as "the nephew and successor of Chopin"-plays (and as represented by Mr. Voghera, plays capitally) while Fedora and Loris Ipanoff are engaged in a tense and suppressed tête-à-tête. There are melodious solos for Fedora and for Loris, as his avowal of his love for her, which Mr. Caruso sang in his most impassioned manner and had to repeat. Much of this music is immediately pleasing in its melodious quality-for Giordano has unquestionably a vein of copious and fluent melody, though it is not always highly distinguished melody or deeply expressive. But melody is so rare and looked at so askance by the composers of these days that one who can thus furnish it and is so little ashamed of it should be held up, in his degree, to honor.

The weakness of the opera is in the inability of the composer to rise to the height of his dramatic climaxes; to write music that enforces and intensifies the emotional power of these climaxes. Nor does he interpret convincingly the mood in many places where the music has a rightful function to perform. There is not always a true power of characterization in it, differing and shifting as the moods change and are contrasted. When de Siriex announces the attempt upon the life of the Czar, the most emphatic means Mr. Giordano can think of to accentuate this terror is the drum. When Lois is relating the discovery of his wife with Fedora's lover, whom he kills, the orchestra straggles in vain to give a complete voicing of the overwrought emotion of the scene. When Fedora prepares to take the poison from her jeweled cross there is little heightening of the significance of the action from the music. The music, while it shows melodious invention of the sort we have mentioned, is rather thin in its substance, though there are certain passages of clever contrivance and combination. As to the orchestration, it has little richness on the one hand or finesse on the other. The composer gains not much from expressive color in his scoring.

The performance of the opera was superb and much credit is due for it to the principal singers and to Mr. Vigna. Miss Cavalieri did much to carry it to success. She is a brilliant and fascinating picture upon the stage, of a beauty whose praises have not been exaggerated and whose plastic and picturesque presence is a delight tote eye.

She has a strong dramatic instinct and knows how to gain powerful and moving effects. Her voice is not a great one; It is not of sensuous or beautiful quality and, while she uses it upon occasion with thrilling power, she rarely does so with the finish and skill of an accomplished vocalist. That she made a place at once in the favor of the audience through the general effect of her impersonation was plainly evident. Her work in other parts will, no doubt, be an interesting disclosure of the season.

Mr. Caruso has a part in Loris Ipanoff that offers him many of the opportunities he most eagerly welcomes. In the moments of impassioned song that have already been mentioned, as well as in the racking revelation of the last act, he sang with all the overwhelming power of voice at his command and in some of these moments he forced his tones unduly and indulged in exaggeration of portamento and other vocal effects such as are only too familiar. But on the whole his singing was superb and, at its best, of poignant and sweeping power. His acting is cut on one pattern` and is the conventional acting of the operatic tenor. He does not really reach distinction in it at any point.

The cast employs a number of the excellent singers of the company in comparatively subordinate parts. In such parts Mr. Scotti, (de Siriex.) Miss Alten (Olga.) Miss Mattfeld. (Dimitri,) Mr. Bégué, (Grillo,) Mr. Ullmann, (Boroff,) Mr. Dufriche, (Gretch,) did commendable service.


Excerpt from the review of W. J. Henderson in the New York Sun

The most ingenious, striking and genuinely dramatic conception in the opera is found in the employment of a piano to accompany Ipanov's confession. The scene is a reception at Fedora's house. A noted pianist consents to play for part of the guests, who surround the instrument while Fedora and Loris sit on a sofa on the opposite side of the room. The composer essays to contrast a brilliant piano piece with the tense and broken dialogues of the two principals. The scene is excellently conceived and well written, but if Giordano had put his voice parts over one of Chopin's tragic preludes be would have done something more powerful. But then Mr. Conried would have to engage Paderweski to make the scene perfect.

It would not be profitable to go further into details in the discussion of this new opera. The impressions of a first night do not invite profound consideration or philosophic discussion of the work. Doubtless the public will be offered at least one more opportunity to hear "Fedora," which has certain reasons for a repetition.

One of those will probably be found in the presence here of Lina Cavalieri, the soprano, who made her debut last night in the title role. The production of the opera was probably due in large measure to her being a member of the company. It is hardly likely that Mr. Caruso has been yearning for an opportunity to sing Loris Ipanov, which is one of the most thankless roles he has had at the Metropolitan. His best opportunity came in the "Amor ti vieta." What he achieved in the duet at the end of Act II was due to himself rather than to the music.

Miss Cavalieri justified her reputation as a beauty. Her figure is exquisite and her face a delight to see. Her voice is a light lyric soprano, very pretty in quality but not rich or vibrant. It has a good deal of tremolo and often runs to unrepentant shrillness. It is quite unsuited to some of the heavily accented declamatory passages in Giordano's score.

Miss Alten had a comparatively small role in Olga while Mr. Scotti as De Siriex redeemed himself in his salon costume, walked about, looked very handsome and sang creditably a very stupid Russian chanson. Several members of the company had small parts and the chorus the smallest of all. The opera was very handsomely staged and the performance as a whole was good in respect to stage management. The orchestra discharged its duties capably and Mr. Vigna conducted with skill.



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