[Met Performance] CID:58030
New production
Carmen {207} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/19/1914.

(Debuts: Rosina Galli, Désiré Defrère
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 19, 1914
New production


CARMEN {207}
Bizet-Meilhac/L. Halévy

Carmen..................Geraldine Farrar
Don José................Enrico Caruso
Micaela.................Frances Alda
Escamillo...............Pasquale Amato
Frasquita...............Lenora Sparkes
Mercédès................Sophie Braslau
Remendado...............Angelo Badà
Dancaïre................Albert Reiss
Zuniga..................Léon Rothier
Moralès.................Désiré Defrère [Debut]
Dance...................Rosina Galli [Debut]

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

Director................Jules Speck
Set Designer............Mario Sala
Set Designer............James Fox
Costume Designer........Giuseppe Palanti

Carmen received thirteen performances this season.


Unsigned review in the Evening Post

Last night's revival of Bizet's "Carmen" at the Metropolitan, after an absolutely inexcusable neglect of six years, was an event which in any case would have rejoiced music lovers. With a cast headed by Geraldine Farrar, who had never before sung the part of the gypsy cigarette girl, and Enrico Caruso, who excels as Don José as in few other parts, it was sure to draw an overflowing audience. Indeed, fabulous prices were paid in some cases for tickets and it may be said at once that this huge audience was hugely delighted and that there were very many curtain calls.

The question uppermost in all minds was, of course, how would Miss Farrar, the girl from Boston, act the part of this Southern coquette? But this same girl from Boston has heretofore shown such an astonishing versatility, being equally admirable and realistic in parts so utterly diverse as the Goosegirl and Tosca, Zerlina and Madama Butterfly, that her admirers had no fear that she would fail in this part, in which so many have failed, and in which Galli-Marié, Pauline Lucca, and Emma Calvé have set such high standards. Perhaps, when she first appeared last night, some in the audience may have wondered that she didn't make more of her personal beauty. But, while not as becoming as it might be, her make-up was superb. She was not Spanish, but the real gypsy, distinctly suggesting the Orient whence this race came. She seemed to deliberately build a crescendo of beauty as well as one of dramatic value, the climax of both being in the third act. Almost ugly in the first act, depending chiefly on expression and vivacity for her effect on the soldiers, she was handsome in the second, and ravishingly beautiful in the third-a vision of loveliness seldom seen on any stage. As for the last act, no Carmen, excepting Calvé, was ever as beautiful in it as in the others, But at any stage in the opera Miss Farrar's Carmen was fascinating enough to turn the head of any number of Don Josés and Escamillos.

A few of many striking details were her change of expression from mischievous coquetting to real feeling in the first act: when she turns from the wooing men to look at the indifferent José; her exultant triumph in the second, when José forgets everything to fall at her feet; her tigerish rage when he brutally ill-treats her in the last scene of the third act; the terror in her face when she sees her death in the cards, and live action in the final scene when she first braves and then flees her discarded lover's dagger.

Those who have followed Miss Farrar's career know that, however hard and long she may have studied a new operatic rôle, her début in it is only the beginning for her. It took her two years in each case to make the parts mentioned above-and several others-exactly as she wanted them, and even now she introduces changes in them. It is very safe to predict that those who were charmed by her Carmen last night will be still more fascinated as her conception of the part deepens and she tries out the variants she is sure to have in her mind.

Vocally she was at her very best last night. The part is excellently suited to her voice, and Bizet himself indicated different readings to suit the tessitura of individual singers. The way Miss Farrar sang indicated that she has fully recovered her health. For a long time, indeed, her voice has not sounded so rich, so mellow, so beautiful, as it did last night. If it had been specially composed to her order, the part of Carmen could not have suited her better. She has studied every shade of its meaning, and all those shades are mirrored in her emotional voice as clearly as in her expressive face.

Caruso's Don José shows him at his best, not only as a singer, but as actor. In the first act he was, indeed, not in good voice, but he sang the Flower Song so beautifully that an encore was demanded (but of course not granted by the admirably firm Toscanini), and in all the rest of the music he was-well he was Caruso. That he can rise to equal heights as an actor those who had heard him before as Don José knew. On this occasion he surpassed himself, especially in the scene where he furiously throws Carmen down, and in the final assassination scene.

As Escamillo Mr. Amato is not at his best, either vocally or dramatically, and the part of Micaela has never before been sung at the Metropolitan less beautifully and touching than it was by Mme. Alda; neither did she look the part or act it well. Of some of the others in the cast better things might be said if space permitted. The quintet in the third act was not nearly so glibly sung as it used to be at Oscar Hammerstein's performances, nor were the choruses in the first act; but later on the chorus sang gloriously. while Mr. Toscanini conducted with splendid vivacity and grasp, although he did not seem to show quite the same finesse and Gallic esprit as in his incomparable reading of Massenet's "Manon." It must be remembered that "Carmen" has been put on with considerably less rehearsing that it would have received had not the conductor and the singers been delayed in their departure from Europe. Such flaws as there were in the ensemble will, of course, disappear with repetition. An inexcusable shortcoming was the omission of the "Amour" vocal episode in the second act, where Carmen, after the other two girls have sung the phrase, repeats it with infinite charm, Who is responsible for this omission?


Production photos of Carmen by White Studio and Herman Mishkin.



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