[Met Performance] CID:3870
Le Prophète {18} Boston Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/6/1885.

(Review)


Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Theatre
April 6, 1885
In German


LE PROPHÈTE {18}

Jean of Leyden..........Anton Schott
Berthe..................Isadora Martinez
Fidès...................Marianne Brandt
Zacharie................Joseph Kögel
Jonas...................Otto Kemlitz
Mathisen................Joseph Miller
Count Oberthal..........Josef Staudigl
Peasant.................unknown
Officer.................Ludwig Wolf
Officer.................Martin Paché
Citizen.................unknown
Dance...................Isolina Torri [Last performance]

Conductor...............Walter Damrosch


Unsigned review in the Boston Evening Transcript

The "Prophet," the oriflamme of the extreme Meyerberites, has never enjoyed the general popularity of either "Robert" or the "Huguenots." Its gloominess, its extreme elaboration and a certain tormented unnaturalness in the libretto, have stood in its way. As an example of Meyerbeer's peculiar tendencies, it fairly out-Herods Herod. One feels that there is not a note in the score that the composer did not weigh thrice over before he let it pass pure, if not of its human and dramatic truth, at least, of its dramatic effectiveness. It is undoubtedly the most sophisticated of Meyerbeer's scores, but it is admirably sophisticated. One feels in it throughout the touch of the master who knows how. Yet, were it not for the part of Fidés, the opera would, in all probability, have lapsed from the repertory. Fidés is a part for which singers who can sing it have a great affection. The opera has generally been given here, and elsewhere, rather in a "star" way; to show off Fidés. As Mr. Damrosch has higher artistic pretensions than to give "star" performances, let us say a sober word or two about the way the opera was given last evening. That the "Prophet" must be cut pretty severely to prevent its passing the endurance of an audience which likes to be in bed before morning must readily be acknowledged. The original score is a perfect sea-serpent in length; uncut, it would last nearly to breakfast-time. But the peculiar character of the music is such that the ordinary operatic process of cutting - here a bit and there a bit - works much ruin in the work. The music in the "Prophet" shines far less by spontaneous flash of genius than by elaborate, skillful and effective development. Very few of the numbers seize hold upon you at once; it is only as they grow and grow, that you feel their power. Each scene is a gradual climax, and to strike out the middle rungs of a ladder is always a ticklish business at best. There are especially two scenes in the "Prophet," the finest in the score, which depend so utterly upon consecutive and unbroken development that they never should be given otherwise than in their entirety. Not that they produce no effect at all when more or less cut, but that the effect they so produce falls so very far short of their proper effectiveness as to give little adequate idea of it. These scenes are the quartet which ends the second act, and the coronation scene (Finale) of the fourth act. The way in which the former was cut last evening was simply ridiculous; the latter would have gained much by being given in its integrity. We know well enough that, if these two long scenes are given entire, other portions of the opera must go; but they need not suffer for that. In music nothing suffers by not being given at all; music "suffers" by being given piecemeal. Cut out the whole of Fidés's "O gebt!" Cut here, and cut there, so long as you cut out "whole numbers," but do not cut out the middle of a great scene! Mr. Damrosch is evidently a man who takes his art seriously. If he wishes to leave an immortal name behind him in the annals of opera management, the opportunity is ready for him. We can think of no prouder distinction for an opera conductor than that of being the first man to revolutionize the present abominable system of cutting, by insisting upon cutting out whole scenes (if cut there must be) instead of dismembering them.

The manner in which the "Prophet" was staged, sung and acted last evening calls for sincere praise. If it was not a phenomenal performance, even for Boston, it was yet a very good one. Much of the scenery was very handsome and artistic, the dresses excellent, the stage grouping (save that in some scenes one felt the want of large numbers) admirable. The chorus, albeit not powerful, is good, singing generally well. Moreover, the singers are excellently drilled, and take a lively part in the dramatic action. The orchestra is excellent, and Mr. Damrosch conducts it with both care and authority. Frl. Brandt impressed one at once as a truly great artist. She is a real "chanteuse Stoltz" with a rich, powerful voice running easily and evenly, say, from G to B-flat (Meyerbeer, by the way, has put the whole compass into a single measure), and she is a consummate vocalist. Time has not impaired the vigor and brilliancy of her voice, although it may have affected its smoothness a little. Judging from last evening, it does not blend very well with other voices, but this is a detail. As an actress Frl. Brandt may lay claim even to greatness. Her impersonation of Fidés was singularly beautiful and powerful. There was a simple, sweet motherly dignity in her every look and action in the quieter scenes, and when she was roused she was terrible indeed. Yet even in the strenuous passages of the later portions of the opera she emphasized the tragic and pathetic rather that the wrathful side of Fidés. Herr Schott has a tenor voice of immense volume and power, very rich and mellow when not exerted, but inclining to lose timbre and become a little wooden when forced. He sings with great expressiveness and dramatic intelligence, often very artistically, as in the second verse - "Nicht beghr'ich fürstlich" of his pastoral in the second act. Last evening he sang generally true. His face is intelligent, and his acting always appropriate, often expressive and even powerful. Miss Martinez sang the music of Bertha with much soulful expressiveness, making the most of a rather slight voice. Herr Standigl was excellent as Oberthal, and the truculent trio of Anabaptists were well represented, saving that Herr Kemlitz, who is an admirable actor, sang too persistently flat. The whole performance had the not-too-common merit of being really a performance. All the participants pulled well together, each one doing his or her part for the best effect of the whole.



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