[Met Performance] CID:43670
Falstaff {24} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/20/1909.

(Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 20, 1909 Matinee


FALSTAFF {24}
Giuseppe Verdi--Arrigo Boito

Sir John Falstaff.......Antonio Scotti
Alice Ford..............Emmy Destinn
Ford....................Giuseppe Campanari
Dame Quickly............Maria Gay
Nannetta................Frances Alda
Fenton..................Rinaldo Grassi
Meg Page................Maria Ranzow
Dr. Cajus...............Angelo Badŕ
Bardolfo................Albert Reiss
Pistola.................Adamo Didur

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

Review of Henry Krehbiel in the Tribume

A REEVIVAL OF VERDI'S FALSTAFF

After repeated promises and as many disappointments, the opera of ""Falstaff," for which Boito prepared the book and Verdi composed the music, was revived at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon. It is an opera for opera lovers; serious musical taste - for connoisseurs - albeit a comedy of the rollicking order. Twice before the attempt has been made to make it a part of the permanent repertory of the Metropolitan Opera, each time under conditions more auspicious on the whole than those prevailing now; and each time the effort was unavailing. Mr. Grau essayed it in the season of 1894-1895, when the work was new and the report of its triumphant production in Italy fresh in the public mind. Then, New Yorkers were privileged to see and hear M. Maurel, who was the creator of the titular character, and to share the pleasure which the composer had felt in an ideal representation of Shakespeare's knight as recreated by two of the ripest minds and most fecund imaginations which operatic Italy has ever produced. With M. Maurel were associated artists who then lived in the warm affections of the operagoers of New York - and still live there - Mme. Eames, then in the heyday of her opulent physical beauty and vocal charm; Mme. Scalchi, an inimitable operatic comedian, whose unctuous humor found equal expression in her singing, her acting and her irresistibly fascinating appearance; Mr. Campanari, whose vocal decay in other operas was scarcely noticeable yesterday, was again the impersonator of the jealous husband, Ford, and his spirited acting betrayed no decay at all. Russitano was the Fenton of that first production, Vanni the Dr. Caius, Nicolini the Pistol, Rinaldini the Bardolph; and the musical director was Mancinelli, still in a fever heat of proud delight over a letter which he had received from the composer thanking him for what he had done in New York in behalf of "Otello." The work warmed the artists, the critics and the music lovers who were advanced enough in their ideas to keep pace with the seven-leagued progress which the Italian Nestor had made since he had given "La Forza del Destino" to the world into a lovely excitement, of which some rays were still felt at yesterday's revival. But Mr. Grau, who kept his finger on the public pulse as it beats in the box office, was moved to only three subscription performances.

Eleven months later, in the middle of the season of 1895-96 he made essay with the opera again. M. Maurel was still on hand with his impersonation, which led Mr. Apthorpe (not usually given to extravagance of utterance, and specifically refusing to make allowance for the difference between opera and spoken drama) to declare him to be the greatest Falstaff that ever Shakespearians saw on any stage. So, too, were Mme. Scalchi, the very incarnation of wholesome merriment, and Mr. Campanari - the only operatic Ford with whom New York is acquainted. These came over from the dispensation of the previous season, and allied with them were better representatives of Fenton and Pistol in the persons of Signori Cremonini and Arimondi - the latter not quite so orotund and robustious as he appeared twelve years later, when he came back to us with Mr. Hammerstein's people at the Manhattan Opera House; and a fascinating Mistress Ford in Miss Savllle. Again a hearty welcome for the work from the cognoscenti, and so great an indifference with part of the public that the representations were limited to three.

And yesterday? Well, it was a Saturday matinee, and that fact insured a fine audience - numerous and, since the season is drawing to a close, eager to be pleased, and therefore impressionable. There was much applause after every scene, and a ripple of laughter, now loud, now low, accompanied all the scenes of droll comedy in the play. Not all the singers were the equals of their predecessors of twelve and thirteen years ago, but there was in fine evidence the value of study and rehearsal such as has been brought to notice in nearly every one of the really excellent offerings of the season in. "Le Nozze di Figaro," "The Bartered Bride," "Die Meistersinger," "Tiefland" and "Götterdämmerung." The exquisite humor of the music was brought home to all the hearers because it seemed to be the glad flowering of the words and action; text and pantomime seemed the more irresistible because they floated into ken on a sparkling flood of melody which they seemed to have created and which they kept in motion. So persuasive was the spirit which honest study and intelligent direction called into life that the memory mongers felt little inclination to deplore the absence of their old favorites. In Scotti's Falstaff Maurel seemed to live again - Maurel, who was to New York, as he had been to Milan, London and Paris, the epitome of all that it is possible for the Falstaff of Boito and Verdi to be. If it was impossible not to recognize the hyperbole of Mr. Apthorpe's characterization, it was only because the operatic knight is necessarily deprived of some of his most exquisite attributes by being turned into an operatic figure. Compared with the hero of Shakespeare's comedy, he is like the Falstaff of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" compared with the fat knight who was the companion of Prince Hal in the historical play. But with no one else Mr. Scotti made us feel that; and no one need attempt to give him higher praise. In the merry bustle of the musical play there was not time to do more than to yield one's self completely captive to each madcap moment. Such scintillant points as the speech on honor (most ingeniously borrowed by Boito from the historical play) and Falstaff's description of his slenderness when he was page to the Duke of Norfolk were not permitted to cause even an eddy in the sparkling flow of the comedy's current.

It is not possible to say as much of all the other characters, but, as has been intimated, the temptation to particularize was reduced to a minimum by the general excellence due to the delightful manner in which Signor Toscanini had fused words, music and action. Miss Ranzenberg was not wholly delectable as Mistress Page, and helped to emphasize the fact that Verdi, keen and circumspect in his old age, did not call his opera by its Shakespearian title. There are no "merry wives" in it (at least, as it was performed yesterday); but only a merry wife and a foolish old knight. Poor Mrs. Page is reduced to something little better than a nullity, (she is even robbed of her daughter - for Nanetta is in reality Anne Ford), and some of her part in the play is given to Dame Quickly, who is not a bit like her Shakespearian prototype. Therefore it was not so great a deprivation to have an inefficient Mistress Page.



Review of Algernon St, John-Brenon in the Telegraph

VERDI'S 'FALSTAFF' AT METROPOLITAN

Fine Performance of the Melodious Opera Reflects Credit Upon Director and Conductor

ESSENTIALLY DRAMATIC MUSIC

After the lapse of many years Giuseppe Verdi's "Falstaff" was revived yesterday at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was evident from the careful detail and achieved beauty of the performance that M. Gatti-Casazza had concentrated the full force of his minute operatic experience and his undoubted literary scholarship on the production of Verdi's last opera.

It was equally clear that M. Toscanini -to whose extraordinary genius amateurs of music owe so many delightful and instructive hours-had lived laborious days in the patient and exhaustive rehearsal of a score which is as radiant with melody, loveliness, penetrative delicacy and effusive grace, as it is abundant in examples of the profoundest musical knowledge.

When it was announced a few years ago that Giuseppe Verdi had turned to the broad comedy of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" for his last inspiration, sensitive Shakespearians were frightened. In all literature there is nothing, not even the novels of Fielding, more native, more racily and idiomatically English than this same old humorous and fantastical tale of Sir John Falstaff in love. And Verdi, the musician, the essentially Italian musician, and Boito, the librettist, were about to lay violent Italian hands upon plump Alice Ford, sweet Anne Page and even perhaps Sir Hugh Evans and his Welsh accent.

In the Spirit of the Comedy.

But a performance of "Falstaff," especially as good a one as yesterday's, soon dispels such obvious fears. It is true that Boito has taken liberties with Shakespeare's text, but he has done this with a view to the condensation of the action. A condensed action is absolutely necessary to an opera. There is no Anne Page. She appears as Anne Ford. There is no Justice Shallow. His grievance against Falstaff is transferred to Dr. Caius. On the other hand, the music is alive with the spirit of Shakespeare's comedy.

This is so because it is essentially dramatic music. Every bar of it is illustrative of its literary text. It clings as closely to its accompanying poetry and situations as does the philosophic music of "Die Walküere" or of "Die Meistersinger." Music and drama act and react upon one another until fused into an unseamed unity. The low bows and elaborate courtesy of Mr. Quickly before Sir John Falstaff are translated into music by the adoption of the stately harmonies and pompous rhythms of the eighteenth century. The moonlight that ivories over the glades and dells of Windsor Forest shimmer and gleam in the orchestra in exquisite orchestral sheen and color. The nervous and futile bustle of the half Windsor at the heels of Ford have their due musical illustration. It is needless to multiply instances.

Will Please Shakespearians.

Verdi was always learning. That which in Wagner's methods was best and most suited to his purpose Verdi did not fail to assimilate, and the results of that assimilation are seen throughout the brilliant and fascinating score of "Falstaff." It is, of course, the method only that he has followed, for the music of "Falstaff" is as original, as individual and underived as the poetry of Walt Whitman. It is no rash prophecy to say that while the music of "Falstaff" will please every one, it will please the Shakespearians in particular. They will be enabled to view the creation of one commanding genius bathed in the sunlight shed by another genius.
And the wonder about this "Falstaff" is that it was written when Verdi was nearly eighty at a time when the intellectual abilities of most men have faded or have perished, and the inevitable palsy that has invaded hand and arm has dulled the pulsation of the spirit. Yet the inspiration and the invention of the music is large and free. It was received yesterday afternoon with roars of laughter and what would have delighted the great genius who wrote it the joyous clapping of the hands of dozens of happy little children.

One of Scotti's Best Parts.

M. Scotti's Falstaff must rank with the best of his many striking impersonations, indeed with the best impersonations on the operatic stage. The make-up was splendid. The characterization was consistent and complete. The walk was that of the "tun of man." The gesture and pose of the hands were equally veracious. There are few illusions on the operatic stage. M. Scotti's Falstaff is one of them.

Madame Destinn's buxom figure and her pretty, sparkling face went well with. Mrs. Ford. Madame Maria Gay's Mrs. Quickly was far and away the best thing she has done this season. Vocally it lies on some of the best notes of her voice. Madame Alda's undoubted intelligence and stage aptitude stood her in good stead as Anne Ford. But does Madame Alda belong in the cast and mould to the class of ingénues? Hardly. I believe she would have made a better Mrs. Page than Anne. Mrs. Page- herself was played by Miss Ranzenberg. But Miss Ranzenberg is not particularly wifely, merry or Windsorly.

The men merit all praise.

Campanari Rises to the Occasion.

To M. Campanari as Ford fell two of the most effective episodes in the score-Ford's tempestuous soliloquy on his supposed wrongs, music of extraordinary dramatic and descriptive force, and the
invincibly humorous dialogue with Falstaff. M. Campanari was in his best form and voice, and answered right sturdily to his vocal and dramatic responsibilities.

M. Bada's Dr. Caius will long be remembered. It verged, perhaps, almost on the eccentric and the caricature, but that was amply atoned for by its suppleness, its fun, its quaint alacrity, its parody of a pragmatical Frenchman. The scenery was such that the sets representing Ford's garden, Ford's house and Windsor Forest were greeted with a round of clapping. They were indeed of unusual attractiveness.

In all, "Falstaff" - its music, its scenery, its singing actors-vouchsafes one of the pleasantest of entertainments. The native wood notes of William Shakespeare always ring pleasantly upon the ear, and it is indeed something that to those native wood notes the supreme genius of Giuseppe Verdi has superadded as music that is so sweetly consonant with them.



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