[Met Performance] CID:42230
Carmen {199} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/3/1908.

(Debut: Maria Gay, Eduardo Cibelli

Metropolitan Opera House
December 3, 1908

CARMEN {199}
Bizet-Meilhac/L. Halévy

Carmen..................Maria Gay [Debut]
Don José................Enrico Caruso
Micaela.................Geraldine Farrar
Escamillo...............Jean Noté
Frasquita...............Rita Fornia
Mercédès................Matja von Niessen-Stone
Remendado...............Concetto Paterna
Dancaïre................Angelo Badà
Zuniga..................Bernard Bégué
Moralès.................Eduardo Cibelli [Debut]
Dance...................Gina Torriani

Conductor...............Arturo Toscanini

Director................Jules Speck

Carmen received eight performances this season.

Review in the New York Herald:

With a new Carmen, a new Toreador and a new Micaela, last night's programme of "Carmen" in the Metropolitan Opera House promised its fill of novelties, and the performance itself fulfilled all these feature of novelty and did much more, for it was a most satisfactory production of this popular opera. Chief in interest was the appearance of Miss Maria Gay, who made her début in the Metropolitan. She sang the title rôle. A part for which she is famous abroad, and she aroused the enthusiasm of the audience.

The general opinion seemed to be that Miss Gay has an exceptionally beautiful voice, which she uses artistically, enunciating with remarkable clearness . She acted with a great deal of abandon, indulged in none or few of the subtleties of the histrionic side, but made her dramatic points by her singing rather than her acting. She has great temperament, but she never sacrificed voice for noise, and her play of mien is artistic.

In the first act she tantalized Mr. Caruso who was the Don José, by rumpling his hair, tickling his nose, and when he attempted to tie her hands she "handed" him an operatic upper cut. It was a delightful play between the two, and it seemed to amuse the audience very much. Later she sounded the more dramatic depths of the rôle successfully. She was awarded with curtain calls and received large bunches of roses. Miss Farrar sang Micaela for the first time here. She made a lovely picture in the part, and acted with the naivete that should accompany this rôle. She has not sung better this season. The audience expressing its enthusiasm over her work by applause.

The rôle of the Toreador was sung by the new barytone, Mr. Jean Noté, who here appeared in opera at the Metropolitan for the first time. He is well known in Paris, and his singing last evening proved his claim to renown. He displayed a voice of ringing beauty and of enormous volume. An encore of the Toreador song would have followed if it had been allowed.

Of Mr. Caruso's singing of Don José there is nothing but praise to record as this great tenor was in exquisite voice, and he stirred the audience to great applause many times. Dramatically , too, the tenor was at his best. especially in the latter scenes, where he stirred the audience deeply by his acting. There were curtain calls for the principals after each act, and the audience, which was huge in size, applauded after the entr'acte music, which is unusual for Metropolitan operagoers.

Review in the New York Sun:

Bizet's "Carmen" which is French and from the Opéra Comique, was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House last night, and the audience had an opportunity to learn what Mr. Gatti-Casazza could do in the way of presenting a lyric drama of this type. There was also a chance to discover what Arturo Toscanini could do in conducting a French work. Furthermore there was a new and well advertised Carmen in the person of Maria Gay, an unfamiliar Don José in Mr. Caruso, a new Escamillo in Jean Noté, a new Micaela in Geraldine Farrar and several other new ones. In fact, little seemed to be left of former productions except the scenery and Mr. Bégué, the Zuniga.

It was altogether a curious performance and until Mr. Caruso's bottled up tones and pent up emotions were liberated in the tragic scene of the last act there was little to move the audience demonstrations of great joy. Even Don José's flower song was received with what Mr. Gilbert would have called "modified rapture." The chief causes of the composure of the hearers during the first two acts were Mr. Toscanini's misdirected attempts to refine things by eliminating most of the life from Bizet's piquant rhythms and a plethora of bad singing on the part of nearly every one concerned.

Naturally the Toreador song woke the audience up for it was taken at a good tempo and Mr. Noté, a solid, straightforward, hard finish routinirére of the real Opéra Comique type, sang it with a plentitude of tone which if dark and cold was at least vigorous. Mr. Noté deserves credit for what he did.

Mme. Gay was a substantial looking Carmen, but her face was attractive and admirably suited to the character. Much has been said about the revelations of elemental humanity which she was to make in the part. She lived among the Spanish gypsies and knew their ways. Carmen was no lady--that she well knew--and she was going to show her as a common cigarette rolling Romany.
But why such a pother about this? It has all been advertised by other Carmens. This one's hair fell down, and she threw a tambourine half way across the stage. Others have let their hair fall down and have thrown even chairs. As for her manifestations of amorous propensities they were no worse and no more interesting than those we have already seen. Neither was anything in her performance better. Judged strictly by its own design, it was no more than tolerable histrionically, and it was much of time less than tolerable vocally. The singing of the music, mostly out of tune, was without artistic resource and generally devoid of color or dramatic expression. On the whole it must be said with regret that Maria Gay's Carmen did not consist with the best traditions of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Miss Farrar appeared to be in poor voice or health and sang with great reserve. Her Micaela had a great appetite for colors and decorations in dress, but doubtless they were cheap in her part of the country. It was a pity that the soprano could not or did not sing out in the duet with Mr. Caruso in the first act. The tenor took all the glory. It is no pleasure to repeat, what has been said before, that Mr. Caruso is not at his best in French music nor in the French language. The elegance of the Gallic style is not at his command since he has so thoroughly habituated himself to the explosive theatricalism of the all pervasive Puccini. But his declamatory force was quite effective in the latter part of the opera.

Mr. Paterna, Mr. Bada, Mme. Fornia and Mme. Niessen-Stone were the four gypsies who help Carmen to sing a quintet in act II. None of them was inspiring, but the two men were sorry rogues indeed. They sang sadly and were as funny as Romulus and Remus, The chorus sang only passably, the women producing a poor quality of tone.

Photograph of Maria Gay in Act IV of Carmen by Aimé Dupont.

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