[Met Performance] CID:45740
New production
Orfeo ed Euridice {13} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/23/1909.

(Debut: Paul Paquereau

Metropolitan Opera House
December 23, 1909
New production

C. W. Gluck-Calzabigi

Orfeo...................Louise Homer
Euridice................Johanna Gadski
Amore...................Bella Alten
Happy Shade.............Alma Gluck

Act II, Scene 1: Dance of the Furies
Act II, Scene 2 and Act III, Scene 2: Pantomimic dances by Thamara de Swirsky and Corps de Ballet

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

Director................Jules Speck
Set Designer............Paul Paquereau [Debut]
Costume Designer........Blaschke & Cie

[Divinités du Styx from Alceste was interpolated by Louise Homer at the end of Act I.]

Orfeo ed Euridice received five performances this season.

Program Note:
Arturo Toscanini has made a number of changes in "Orfeo ed Euridice", in order to obtain a more uniform musical style. In discussing these changes Mr. Toscanini says:

"To begin with, I have omitted the overture, because I want my audience to find itself immediately surrounded by the atmosphere of the work, without being detracted by the prelude, which I consider a musical anachronism." This prelude is doubtless by the composer, but of an earlier period, probably written for one of his former works, at a time when his great style had not yet fully developed.

"At the end of the first act I have substituted the well known aria from Gluck's 'Alceste', 'Divinités du Styx', more appropriate to the situation, for the 'aria di bravura' from 'Aristeo', which is generally given in Europe. This aria belongs to an entirely different school."

"In the last act I have introduced the trio Amore-Orfeo-Euridice, which originates from 'Paride ed Elena,' the last opera Gluck composed. In this I have adopted a method which has been followed ever since the opera was first staged. I have also substituted the final chorus from 'Echo e Narciso' for the 'Trionfi Amore.'"

"All these changes were advocated by Gevaert, the late director of the Conservatoire in Brussels, who devoted nearly all his life to musical researches, and more especially to Gluck. The version which I have adopted is based upon the one adopted by Gevaert in Brussels at the first performance there, in 1893."

"The orchestration used in the performance at the Metropolitan Opera House was copied from the original score in the library of the Conservatoire, in Brussels."

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times:

For the first time in fifteen years Gluck's "Orfeo" has been restored to the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House, where it was produced last evening under the direction of Mr. Toscanini. The production had been prepared with much care; two of the finest singers of the company, Mme. Homer and Mme. Gadski, were concerned with the chief parts, which are indeed associated with only two other much subordinated ones in the representation; there were new scenic decorations for the five tableaux in which the opera is represented painted for the most part with much skill and artistic feeling.

The choruses and corps of dancers, who have a considerable part in the effect of the whole, were prepared with much care, and Mr. Toscanini threw himself into the performance with that wholehearted devotion that has given us so many exquisitely finished and dramatically vital representations of great masterpieces of lyric drama.

It was, no doubt, the most beautiful and artistic performance that Gluck's masterpiece has had in this country, at any rate since the brilliant revival of it that the American Opera Company made at the Academy of Music in 1886. The subsequent performances of it at the Metropolitan Opera House were rather shabby affairs from most points of view. They were certainly not such as would be likely to recall Gluck's opera to a new lease of life upon the stage....

There is need for discrimination and selection on the part of the conductor in establishing the text of "Orfeo" for performance, and Mr. Toscanini had discriminated and selected. His version is based upon that made by Gevaert, the distinguished musical scholar, the late head of the Brussels Conservatory. The overture to the opera is left out. It is old-fashioned, stiff and conventional, having no dramatic or musical relation with the opera, and is well spared. As is well known, Gluck revised and added to the opera for the performance in Paris; one of the additions made for that purpose is a bravura air at the end of the first act. It was not by Gluck, but by one Bertoni, though Gluck consented to its insertion that the tenor (for the title part was sung by a tenor in this version) might make a brilliant exit. Instead of it, there is now substituted the air, "Divinités du Styx," from Gluck's opera of "Alceste."

The subject matter is appropriate, though the musical style is different from that of "Orfeo." In the last act Mr. Toscanini introduces a trio after the air, "Che faró," which is taken from "Paride ed Elena," another opera by Gluck. A dance is inserted after the change of scene, and for the final chorus one from "Echo et Narcisse," Gluck's last opera, is substituted.

Mme. Homer's impersonation of Orpheus was one of nobility, dignity, and plastic grace for the eye and of full-throated and beautiful song for the ear. She was in this something other than a woman disguised. There was a true representation of the Greek singer, of his grief, and of the innate power that carried him through the perils and affright of his quest. It was one of the finest and most artistic, as well as one of the most original impersonations that Mme. Homer has given here.

Fitly consorted with it in excellence was Mme. Gadski's Eurydice, whose singing of the music was admirable in style and in beauty and expressiveness of tone. Miss Alten was less familiar with the style of this music, and she by no means mastered that which she has to sing as Amore. Nor did she find the expression of face and limbs, the persuasiveness of gesture, that her companions in the cast so becomingly and so easily commanded. Miss Alten was, in fact, curiously out of her element in this part. A very pretty piece of work was done by Miss Gluck as one of the happy spirits...

The ballet was appropriate in its contribution to the total impression, especially in the beautiful and stately pantomime of the spirits in the Elysian fields, in which Miss de Swirsky executed an expressive dance. The dance of the Furies in the underworld was less characteristic, having more of the conventional traits of modern dances of the sort.

The playing of the orchestra was quite in the right spirit, displaying all the color that was called for and giving nothing of undue emphasis. Mr. Toscanini's direction of the performance was masterly and was another manifestation of his versatility and power to identify himself with the spirit of different men, different periods and styles. The audience was large and displayed and unexpected enthusiasm, especially after the scene in the Elysian fields.

Photograph of Louise Homer and Johanna Gadski in Orfeo ed Euridice by Lande.

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