[Met Performance] CID:43070
Madama Butterfly {26} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/6/1909.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 6, 1909 Matinee


Cio-Cio-San.............Emmy Destinn
Pinkerton...............Rinaldo Grassi
Suzuki..................Rita Fornia
Sharpless...............Pasquale Amato
Goro....................Angelo Badà
Bonze...................Adolph Mühlmann
Yamadori................Concetto Paterna
Kate Pinkerton..........Helen Mapleson
Commissioner............Bernard Bégué
Yakuside................Concetto Paterna

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

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the Globe


Ever since Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" was introduced into the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House season, until last Saturday night the Cio-Cio-San there had been Farrar. Saturday afternoon Miss Emmy Destinn appeared in the part for the first time in New York. The occasion was of particular interest because in London the Cio-Cio-San of Miss Destinn enjoyed a great reputation as long as "Madame Butterfly" has been given there. Indeed the initial success of "Madama Butterfly" in London was so much greater than it had been elsewhere that some observers deduced that the phenomenon was solely due to the impersonation of the heroine by Destinn. The subsequent wide success of "Madama Butterfly," waxing in time to a veritable triumph, has quite upset this theory. It has however, diminished the reputation of Miss Destinn in the rôle of Cio-Cio-San. Accordingly the performance Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan was bound to be one of the most interesting of the season, and it gained additional interest from the fact that was also the introduction of a new Italian tenor, Rinaldo Grassi by name, who has come to conquer a public that capitulated readily to his countrymen, Messrs. Caruso, Bonci, and Zenatello.

As a play "Madama Butterfly" is disputably appealing. Whether it is true to life is another matter. In a sense it is for love; for love, desertion, suffering and death are peculiar to no land and no people. But whether the character of Cio-Cio-San is rendered correctly may well be doubted. Readers of Pierre Loti's "Madame Chrysanthème" recall failure to explore the baffling psychology of the Japanese girl who, childlike, inscrutably defeats observation. Where Loti fails in such a matter is not likely that another will succeed. But, though one may well question the more specific truth of such a play as "Madame Butterfly," one cannot deny that in the theatre it casts its spell.

Miss Destinn does what every successful Cio-Cio-San must do. She recognizes this theatrical quality and plays part for what it is worth. But she is not content to stop there. Very delicately she does more. She gives the Japanese girl, in spite of her pretty surface, the intensity and spontaneity of a little savage. At times, as in the first act, her impersonation has a characteristically oriental superstition, the quality of the incantation. In presence Miss Destinn lacks the slimness and miniature graces by which certain other interpreters of the part here have profited. She makes up for this deficiency by the sincerity and tragic force of her acting, transforming the Japanese girl into a tragedy queen. Miss Destinn's singing was of such excellence that very little need be said about it. One detail, however, is worth emphasizing. She sang the entrance song of Cio-Cio-San in the first act with notable beauty of tone and strict fidelity to the pitch

The new singer in the sorry rôle of Pinkerton, Rinaldo Grassi, revealed a voice of baritone rather than tenor quality. He sang with more fervor than discretion and seemed to possess better musical instincts than vocal technique. His stage presence is peculiar, especially in the guise of a naval officer. Mr. Amato as Sharpless was self-effacing. Miss Fornia as Suzuki and Mme. Mapleson as Kate Pinkerton did well.
The playing of the orchestra under the masterly leadership of Mr. Toscanini added greatly to the impressiveness of the occasion. A large audience witnessed the performance and was most enthusiastic in its applause.

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