[Met Performance] CID:64130
United States Premiere
Iphigénie en Tauride {1} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/25/1916.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debuts: J. Monroe Hewlett, Charles Basing, A.T. Hewlett, Marie Sundelius

Metropolitan Opera House
November 25, 1916 Matinee
United States Premiere
In German

C. W. Gluck-Guillard

Iphigénie...............Melanie Kurt
Oreste..................Hermann Weil
Pylade..................Johannes Sembach
Thoas...................Carl Braun
Diane...................Marie Rappold
First Priestess.........Marie Sundelius [Debut]
Second Priestess........Alice Eversman
Temple Attendant........Robert Leonhardt
Greek Woman.............Lenora Sparkes

Act I Incidental dance: Rosina Galli, Giuseppe Bonfiglio, and corps de ballet
Act II: Dance of the priestess by Rosina Galli

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Jan Heythekker
Set designers: J. Monroe Hewlett [Debut], Charles Basing [Debut], A.T. Hewlett [Debut]
Costume designer........J. Monroe Hewlett

Translation by Richard Strauss, Peter Cornelius

Iphigénie en Tauride received five performances this season.

[This production was performed as Iphigenie auf Tauris in the version by Richard Strauss. The translation was by Strauss as well, who probably worked from an earlier German version by Peter Cornelius.]

Alternate title: Iphigenia in Tauris.

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

The production of Gluck's "Iphigénie en Tauride" at the Metropolitan Opera House, which-errors and omissions excepted-is declared to be the first in America, was a notable achievement. It is one for which some will thank the management for undertaking. Whether the opera will make a place for itself in the admiration of this public is something of a question. Its archaic qualities fall strangely upon ears accustomed to melodies of greater incisiveness, to harmonies of more stirring emotional potency, to dramatic movement that seems nearer human life today than the Greeks and their gods and goddesses seem at first sight. Much is demanded of an audience today in listening to "Iphigénie," as much was demanded in listening to "Armide" and even to "Orfeo" when they were in the Metropolitan repertory, in surrendering the expectation of these stronger and more moving musical methods of expression that have been developed since Gluck's day.

It is likely that many in the matinee audience yesterday did not quite know what to make of "Iphigénie;" and still more likely that some did not make of it what it really is and is entitled to be considered. The art of music changes and develops new forms more rapidly than any other art and in music the opera is the form that most quickly becomes out-moded and old-fashioned. This is less the case with operas that have so substantial a basis of truth, sobriety, and grandeur of expression as Gluck's, or those so filled with the vitalizing force of genius as Mozart's. It is the purely decorative effects in music that most speedily become tawdry and the coloratura operas of bygone times make a quick disappearance.

Gluck's 'Orfeo" has more appeal to the modern taste than either "Armide" or "Iphigénie"-though the weightiest critics of the past have judged that "Iphigénie" was the greatest. But even those who listen to "Orfeo" must be prepared to leave at the doors of the Opera House, when they enter, many of their tastes and prejudices, their preferences and habitudes in music. Something has been done to meet those tastes and preferences in presenting "Iphigénie" to modern audiences by condensation, by strengthening the orchestra, which has a sound probably never dreamed of by Gluck and by what Dr. Richard Strauss considers a more effective and dramatic ending. But even so, "Iphigénie" must necessarily have an archaic effect upon unprepared listeners of the present day.

They must be ready to waive most of the harmonic resources that express, to our minds, the varied emotions of dramatic development and all the novelties, piquancies and surprises that are found so beguiling today. They must not expect the full flavor of modern melody. The lines of Gluck's music are severe and simple. It is art in the grand style; it has really much in common with the spirit of Greek tragedy with which it deals-not that the Greeks themselves ever knew or imagined any music in the remotest degree resembling Gluck's. But for the discerning modern listener there is a deep, underlying spiritual kinship. Greek tragedy is not in the least amusing, nor is Gluck's musical representation of a Greek tragedy amusing.

Listeners who came with a full consciousness of what was before them also had to be ready to waive enjoyment of something that really belonged to them and that is the singing of Gluck's music in the broad, simple, sustained style for which the composer calculated it. There are few singers left now who can do this. The style is obsolescent among operatic artists, who have, for the most part, been brought up on the declamatory style of Wagner and the passionate and vehement strains of the new Italian school. The repose and dignity, the perfection of phrase, the broad and sweeping outlines of Gluck's music are foreign to them. It can hardly be expected to be otherwise. There is a large question involved in this of the decay of the true art of singing, the art of bel canto which, it is maintained, disqualifies no one for the singing of any kind of music, ancient or modern, while it gives the artist the complete command and control over his voice that preserves its beauty and potency and puts everything, so far as his natural limitations permit, within his power. It is enough to say here that the modern conditions of operatic art have discouraged, if they have not obliterated wholly, that style of singing. There was not enough of it shown in the performance of "Iphigénie en Tauride," and the lack of it was one of the chief blemishes of the performance.

But those who can put themselves in touch with the music itself, who can forgive the vocalists and are not deterred by the strangeness and severity of the opera's exterior; who are willing to look beneath the surface, to put themselves into a frame of mind not wholly of today, to perceive the power and beauty of much of this music that time has not invalidated, will find a deep satisfaction and refreshment in listening to "Iphigénie en Tauride." It may be hoped that there are enough to repay Mr. Gatti-Casazza for making what, after all, was something of an experiment.

Production photos of Iphigenie en Tauride by White Studio.

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