[Met Performance] CID:67620
United States Stage Premiere
Saint Elisabeth {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/3/1918.
 (United States Stage Premiere)
(Debut: Margarete Belleri

Metropolitan Opera House
January 3, 1918
U.S. Stage Premiere
In English


Elisabeth...............Florence Easton
Ludwig..................Clarence Whitehill
Sophie..................Margarete Matzenauer
Hermann.................Carl Schlegel
Hungarian Magnate.......Basil Ruysdael
Steward.................Robert Leonhardt
Child Elisabeth.........Constanze Bitterl
Child Ludwig............Margarete Belleri [Debut]

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

Director................Richard Ordynski
Designer................Joseph Urban

Translation by Constance Bache

Saint Elisabeth received six performances this season.

Alternate title: Die Legende von der Heiligen Elisabeth.

Review of Grenville Vernon in the New York Tribune

It is of course unfair to Liszt to judge his work from the viewpoint of opera. From that viewpoint he never intended it to be judged. Let ideal spirits rail as they may, opera is a convention intended for a public never any too intelligent musically. It stands or falls by the suffrage of that public, a public which always has required emotion, and generally crude emotion. Wagner's intellectual subtleties are lost in the surge and beat of his orchestra. His music-dramas live because of the elemental power of his muisc and its supreme melody.

Liszt wrote his "Saint Elisabeth" for a very different public and in a very different manner. That its latter scenes should in opera possess the appeal that was there last night is due more to the poignancy of the story and to its exquisite interpretation, than to the music itself. "Saint Elisabeth" has none of the melodic and spectacular appeal which has made that other oratorio, Saint Säens's "Samson and Dalila," effective in an operatic form. It remains, despite scenery, costumes and group posings, an oratorio in spirit and appeal, and leaves us with the suspicion that the time for merging of separated forms, even of the same art, is not yet.

As far as the performance went, little can be said but praise. The scenery of Joseph Urban was of a high degree of beauty only too rare at the Metropolitan. The stage pictures were well lighted and well composed, the singing and acting of the principals of a high degree of excellence. There was, however, one defect which ought at once to be remedied. The miracle in the second act consists in the turning of bread into roses, but for some strange reason the present production adds two other miracles, a fiery cross and a triple string of descending leaves, somewhat on the theory that three miracles must be thrice as impressive as one. This glaring theatrical effect distorts much of the simplicity and beauty of the scene.

The enactment of Saint Elisabeth by Miss Florence Easton will long be remembered even by those who disliked the work itself. It was a creation informed with a high spiritual beauty, a beauty such as is rare indeed on the operatic stage, while her exquisitely pure voice and clear diction brought to the part added beauty. Mr.Whitehill's performance of Ludwig was a worthy mate, a figure of splendid dignity and poetic fervor. He, too, sang the music finely and with excellent diction. Praise too, should go to Mme. Matzenauer, Mr. Schlegel, Mr. Leonard, and Mr. Ruysdael, while Mr. Bodanzky gave to the orchestral portion of the opera unlimited sympathy.

It was good too to hear and English translation, which was both singable and dignified. And yet, when all is said and done, the performance of "Saint Elisabeth," with the exquisite beauty of the final apotheosis, left its auditors genuinely moved. Religion is rarely encountered in the opera, despite the philanderings of Gounod and of Massenet, yet last night the last curtain full upon a mood of religious calm which was almost as a benediction.

It was not the music which formed this mood, but rather the spirit which seemed to animate the whole performance. Who produced this spirit it would be futile to inquire. Enough that it was there, and that suddenly the sensuous, turbulent, struggling world had vanished and that we were in the centre of a spiritual mystery. A devout Catholic might well have said that Saint Elisabeth herself had descended upon the house. For that final, breathless moment all else can be forgiven.

Review of W. J. Henderson in The New York Sun

Florence Easton was condemned to be the representative of the sacrosanct Elisabeth, a duty she discharged with laudable devotion and every outward evidence of pious gloom. She was a pleasing vision, looked upward most reverentially, knelt and rose in solemn ceremonial and with weighty significance, and above all sang her music laudably. She has a voice of excellent quality and she sings with real intelligence. In the present lugubrious state of soprano affairs at the Metropolitan she is an acquisition.

For his mind, that masculine artist Clarence Whitehill was sentenced to impersonate the Albrecht Durer image called Ludwig. He strove manfully to throttle the power of his customarily vigorous style and reduce his impersonation to the peace of a pre-Raphaelite cathedral decoration. But in spite of his upturned eyes and his frequent geneflexions, original sin at times betrayed him and made him an unseemly male.

Mme. Matzenauer had a glorious time as the Landgravine Sophie. She at least was permitted to ramp and rage and curse her impotent daughter-in-law in vociferous and strident tones. All of which she did with immense gusto and to general satisfaction. As for the others, they had little enough to do except to pose. Mr. Bodanzky labored valiantly to put life into the performance and it was not his fault that the legendary personages came and departed like Banquo and his company of shadows. The orchestra played well as it almost always does.

Herman Mishkin's photograph of Florence Easton as Elisabeth.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).