[Met Performance] CID:42330
Carmen {200} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/12/1908.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 12, 1908 Matinee


CARMEN {200}

Carmen..................Maria Gay
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
Dance...................Gina Torriani

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

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

Review of Reginald de Koven in the World

CARMEN BETTER SUNG AT THE METROPOLITAN

Maria Gay's Performance at the Matinee More Artistic than at Her Debut

Although the cast was identical, including Maria Gay, Farrar, Caruso and Note in the principal roles, the performance of "Carmen" given at the Metropolitan at the matinee yesterday was distinctly better than the previous one, as showing more finish and greater homogeneousness.

As I hold that a most important function of competent criticism is to be the medium of interpretation between the artist and the public. It is often most helpful to the critic and his public to know the exact standpoint of an artist when approaching the portrayal of a familiar character like Carmen. According to Miss Gay, herself a Spaniard and my informant, Merimee and Bizet's Carmen is a view of Spanish life, character and incident seen through purely Gallic spectacles. Her aim in her impersonation has been, she tells me, to invest what should be a national type with its proper Spanish characteristics in appearance, action and gesture.

As to this, I would say to Miss Gay, whether successful in her attempt or not - and few of us are conversant enough with the typical Spanish woman to judge - as I do to Miss Farrar, that the conventions and traditions of a familiar role that have stood the test of time are pretty nearly right and should not be lightly disturbed, even when the purpose is as sincere and apparently as reasonable as Miss Gay's.

Although she holds that in an adequate presentation of Bizet's heroine the music must necessarily be of secondary importance. Miss Gay yesterday entranced the artistic value of her impersonation by singing distinctly better than on her debut, showing her voice to be richer and far more agreeable in timbre and quality than I had supposed. Her portrayal of the character is certainly a most picturesque and to me interesting one, whose faults, as I still think, lie in the restlessness induced by an over-elaboration of detail and in the undue emphasis laid on its purely physical aspects, making Carmen seem at times almost disagreeably sensual. And yet Miss Gay tells me that the Spanish cigarette girl is apt to busy herself more with political than with amorous intrigues, which, in view of her expressed intent in her interpretation of the role seems paradoxical. Personally, I find her altogether more subdued and naturally human in action than at her first performance.

Perhaps the absence of the sensational features which have characterized her performances abroad and tempered here has made her impersonation less striking; but I found her yesterday more legitimately artistic than before.

Apart from Toscanini's tempi, which I again found lymphatic and lacking in the spirit and entrain to give to the music the needed contrast, there was little more in the performance yesterday to call for extended comment.

Again Farrar, Caruso and Note's work could hardly be caviled at, though Caruso's voice struck me as having a peculiarly baritone quality at times, which may be the result of his constant calls upon it. Again I found some of the smaller roles inadequately filled, although Van Nissen-Stone as Mercedes and Begue as Zuniga were capable. But all in all, as noted above, the performance showed a marked improvement, and can be truthfully characterized as enjoyable.



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