[Met Performance] CID:54556
Les Huguenots {120} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/1912.

(Debuts: Frieda Hempel, Eva Swain
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 1912
In Italian
New production


LES HUGUENOTS {120}
Meyerbeer-Scribe/Deschamps

Marguerite de Valois....Frieda Hempel [Debut]
Raoul de Nangis.........Enrico Caruso
Valentine...............Emmy Destinn
Count de Nevers.........Antonio Scotti
Urbain..................Bella Alten
Count de Saint Bris.....Léon Rothier
Marcel..................Adamo Didur
Tavannes................Angelo Badà
Cossé...................Pietro Audisio
Retz....................Bernard Bégué
Méru....................Paolo Ananian
Lady of Honor...........Marie Mattfeld
Bois-Rosé...............Angelo Badà
Maurevert...............Giulio Rossi
Watchman................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Dance...................Margherita Pezzatini
Dance...................Eva Swain [Debut]
Undesignated role.......Jeanne Maubourg
Undesignated role.......Lambert Murphy

Conductor...............Giorgio Polacco

Director................Jules Speck
Set designer............Hans Kautsky
Costume designer........Georg Heil
Translation by unknown

Les Huguenots received six performances this season.

Review signed M. S. [Max Smith ?] in an unidentified newspaper:

With a beautifully staged revival of "The Huguenots" as a background, Frieda Hempel, Germany's most distinguished coloratura soprano, sprang into immediate favor last night in the Metropolitan Opera House when she displayed her vocal attractions for the first time in America, signing before a gathering that packed the big auditorium. On her, of course, the interest of every one was focused, though Caruso, Destinn, Scotti and other distinguished members of the cast were not overlooked, and to judge from approval she aroused, her success in new York ought to be assured.

It was not until 9:20 o'clock that Mme. Hempel had an opportunity of revealing her powers, for Margaret of Valois, whom she impersonated, does not make her appearance before the beginning of the second act. The vocal delights she had to offer came in rapid succession. The tumult of clapping hands drowned the playing of Giorgio Polacco's orchestra, and after the fall of the curtain the soprano was recalled a dozen times and showered with floral and applausive tributes.

There can be no question that Mme. Hempel won a genuine triumph. It was not only the delicate quality of her voice and her skill in using it that had made an impression, but her fine stage presence, her regal bearing and her ingratiating manner. She is tall, slender and handsome and she acts with refinement and taste. It would have been astonishing if Mme. Hempel had not shown signs of nervousness. She was facing a gathering whose curiosity and expectations had been sharpened by her long-deferred arrival in America. She was asking for the approval of men and women accustomed to the best voices the world can provide, and she had not recovered from the cold she had contracted on her arrival. Never, perhaps, had she gone through a more trying ordeal. But the famous soprano was quick to gain her artistic poise after the welcoming applause had subsided, and soon her voice was revealed in a way that caught the fancy of her listeners.

Perhaps the most delightful feature of Mme. Hempel's singing were her smooth legato, her fine phrasing and her fluent delivery of rapid-scale passages. But the crowd delighted in her more sensational characteristics of her coloratura-her brilliant staccati, her scintillant roulades, her effortless and precise attack in the loftiest flights. Had it not been for Frieda Hempel, whose coloratura persuasion must have appropriate settings, Giulio Gatti-Casazza probably would not have attempted a revival of "Gli Ugonotti," even though the work offered him an opportunity to display another varied and beautiful series of stage pictures.

Under any circumstances Meyerbeer's seventy-six year old opera, a strutting, pompous, inflated and grandiloquent concatenation of striking but banal and artistically unrelated episodes, hardly is tolerable nowadays save as a vehicle for an exceptional aggregation of "stars" and it may be questioned whether last night's cast fulfilled every requirement. Frieda Hempel alone could not give complete compensation for the trivialities of the music. Nor could Caruso, who evidently felt ill at ease in a part that goes against his grain; nor Emmy Destinn in a role intended for a dramatic, not a lyric, soprano. As for the other artists, though each accomplished his duties as well as anyone could reasonably expect, they hardly represented a group of singers vocally as brilliant as those which veteran operagoers can recall in the "good old days" of "The Huguenots" when tenors and prima donnas ruled the operatic roost.



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