[Met Performance] CID:64000
New production
Les Pêcheurs de Perles {2} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/13/1916.

(Opening Night {32}
Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 13, 1916
Opening Night {32}
New production

Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager

LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES {2}
Bizet-Carré/Cormon

Léila...................Frieda Hempel
Nadir...................Enrico Caruso
Zurga...................Giuseppe De Luca
Nourabad................Léon Rothier
Dance...................Rosina Galli
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

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

Director................Jules Speck
Set Designer............Vittorio Rota
Set Designer............Angelo Parravicini
Costume Designer........Giuseppe Palanti

Les Pêcheurs de Perles received three performances this season.

[This was the first time the company performed all three acts of Bizet's opera.]

Review of W. H. Chase in the Evening Sun:

Pearls of song by all star anglers were never cast before a more brilliant assemblage than passed the season's greetings in two entr'actes last night. From the new swing doors and smoking lobbies to the wide carpeted hallways, the "watch your step" red lights on darkened stairs and the new "bleachers" doubling the capacity of the side galleries, the old Metropolitan put its best foot forward as it hasn't done in years. Polacco had a welcoming hand in the pit at 8:20 when he struck up the first orchestral unison. More hands, or the heads behind them, mistook a chorus man for Caruso playing center rush in the opening mass play. The opera creaked on its hinges a bit in those old fashioned advances and recessionals before the footlights. Even a ballet in brown tights got no encouragement. But with the tenor star's appearance at 8:30 the riot began.

Thin as his hobble skirt, and hugely turbaned in an "Othello" makeup, it was Caruso thirteen years younger that the audience saw. For he wore the mustache of his American debut, with the addition of a filmy false beard. Baritone De Luca, handsome and hirsute to match, brought down the house in a superb blending of the two men's voices. To the Victor belongs that duet. It was only surpassed when 300 throats raised the great ensemble to Brahama, singing down the major scale till the house fairly whistled that chorus as it went home. Small wonder if the audience yelled in turn and the company of principals, priests and "fakirs" threw up their hands. It looked like a holdup. Later, in the tenor's chief air, Caruso did some of the most artistic singing in plaintive minor. He had the riot all to himself then, and as the "bravos" wouldn't down, he rose from his rock like the "Faun" and bowed gravely, but didn't repeat.

For the first time on any stage, Frieda Hempel sang French in [Emma] Calve's role of the Vestal. Flute and harp, for all the world like Bizet"s "Sevilliana" in "Carmen," piped a lonesome tune as Leon Rothier, with the priestly mien of a Plancon, led out Hempel arrayed as a bride of some deity in scenes remoter than the Nile. Ceylon fisher folk may have their temples ruined, but their heroine mustn't be. Even the chorus women were corseted in Western style, while the solitary woman star in the tea gown and modish turban might have graced the boxes at a matinee. Her diction, too, was ten years behind the Gallic achievement of both her suitors in the cast. Those French final "e's" she hammered out like the anvils of Verdun. The high voice, clear and true, had its innings with Caruso in the lover's duet, all velvet but the trill....This is decidedly Hempel's year.


Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun:

The performance was received by the brilliant audience with many demonstrations of pleasure. It was a good performance and deserved approval. Naturally Mr. Caruso was the star of the evening. Attired in a luxurious Oriental costume, bronzed and bearded like an Othello, bare legged save for golden anklets as a Russian ballet dancer, he was a genuinely operatic figure.

He was in full command of his vocal resources, and despite the French text, which always hampers him, sang admirably. He was especially happy in his most important solo, that of the first act, which he sang with a lyric beauty recalling his earlier days when the "Furtiva lagrima" set the house wild with joy.

Mr. De Luca displayed a side of his art hitherto unrevealed. He showed that he was a master of the delicate finish required in such a part as Zurga and he made his French text clearly intelligible. Mme. Hempel's voice was in good state and she delivered ravishing upper tones. Also she sang the pure cantilena phrases excellently. Mr. Rothier as the high priest was a sacerdotal aborigine of Gaul. Which means that he filled Bizet's requirements perfectly.

The faithful chorus must not be forgotten. It even won a round of applause for one its numbers, just like a star. The orchestra had no troubles with its duties, and Mr. Polacco conducted as one who was well accustomed to heavier burdens.

Production photos of Les Pecheurs de Perles by White Studio



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