[Met Performance] CID:68550
World Premiere (The Robin Woman: Shanewis)

World Premiere (The Dance in Place Congo)
The Robin Woman: Shanewis {1}
The Dance in Place Congo {1}
L'Oracolo {14}
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/23/1918.
 (World Premiere)
(Debuts: Angela Gorman, Norman Bel Geddes, Ottokar Bartik, Giuseppe Bamboschek (Stage Debut)

Metropolitan Opera House
March 23, 1918 Matinee

World Premiere

Charles Wakefield Cadman--Nelle Richmond Eberhart

Shanewis................Sophie Braslau
Lionel..................Paul Althouse
Amy.....................Marie Sundelius
Mrs. Everton............Kathleen Howard
Philip..................Thomas Chalmers
High School Girl........Marie Tiffany
High School Girl........Cecil Arden
High School Girl........Phyllis White
High School Girl........Veni Warwick
Indian Girl.............Angela Gorman [Debut]
Old Indian..............Angelo Bad
Old Indian..............Pietro Audisio
Old Indian..............Max Bloch
Old Indian..............Mario Laurenti
Accompanist.............Giuseppe Bamboschek [Stage Debut]

Conductor...............Roberto Moranzoni

Director................Richard Ordynski
Set designer............James Fox
Designer................Norman Bel Geddes, Act II [Debut]

[Shanewis received eight performances in two seasons.]

World Premiere

Henry F. Gilbert

Aurore..................Rosina Galli
Remon...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio
Numa....................Ottokar Bartik

Conductor...............Pierre Monteux

Director................Ottokar Bartik [Debut]
Designer................Livingston Platt
Choreographer...........Ottokar Bartik

Dance in Place Congo received five performances this season.

Franco Leoni--Camillo Zanoni

Ah-Joe..................Florence Easton
Uin-San-Lui.............Paul Althouse
Cim-Fen.................Antonio Scotti
Uin-Sc.................Adamo Didur
Hu-Tsin.................Giulio Rossi
Hu-C...................Ella Bakos
Hua-Qui.................Marie Mattfeld
Fortuneteller...........Pietro Audisio
Undesignated role.......Max Bloch

Conductor...............Roberto Moranzoni

Review from the New York Times:

Shanewis, Indian Opera, Captivates: Charles W. Cadman's Little Work of Folk Songs is Tuneful and Picturesque.

The Dance in Place Congo: Henry F. Gilbert's Ballet the Most Artistic Piece of Negro Ragtime Rhapsody Broadway has Shown.

Something like a new Declaration of Independence, as far as concerns American opera or American music of the theatre, native scenic art, home-bred music and singers, was signed, sealed, and delivered with the production at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon of two little works, both tuneful and captivating, beyond question of authentic originality and native worth - Charles W. Cadman's 'Shanewis,' and Henry F. Gilbert's 'The Dance in Place Congo.' The brief hour of lyric opera, not only native, but nave, was picturesquely paired with the twenty-minute dance, to which Broadway's finest audience found itself keeping time with its toes. Together, these works formed parts of a triple bill, all American in scene, as the matinee ended with Franco Leoni's vivid slice of life from San Francisco's Chinatown in 'L'Oracolo,' repeated for this occasion.

The two novelties set a new world record for stage performance sincerely and genuinely based on the folk songs of the American Indian and American negro, songs and snatches that thousands of Americans know by heart as they do their mother tongue. Mr. Gilbert made most of the familiar Southern tunes in an artistic score of ragtime rhapsody. Mr. Cadman's quest for songs of remoter lilt and cadence lent color to a simple story of the West today, yet carried a thought of the cool morning of life on this continent in aboriginal ages long ago.

Walt Whitman would have 'heard America singing' in such a day's music, and when Sophie Braslau darted on the stage, it was good to hear a New York crowd applaud an American star at sight, then applaud her songs, her love duet with Althouse. The two acts of Cadman's opera earned twenty-one curtain calls from the house, all the singers appearing, joined at the third call by Mr. Bamboschek, the pianist in the stage 'concert,' and at the seventh by Mr. Cadman.

The Pittsburgh composer received repeated ovations, alone and in company with Miss Braslau. By odd coincidence, Tsianina Redfeather, the Indian original of Shanewis, walked down an aisle during intermission and was promptly mistaken for the star. After the second act, Conductor Moranzoni was brought out, and twice Mrs. Eberhart, the librettist, while Messrs. Ordynski and Setti, who rehearsed the stage crowd and chorus, remained invisible.

The Cambridge sage, Mr. Gilbert, non-conformist no less in his music than in his modest bearing, came out after the 'Dance in Place Congo' for seven curtain calls with Galli, Bartik, and Bonfiglio. The house clapped its hands to see the cotton plantation; it clapped the superb 'Bamboula' dance boldly orchestrated in brass and xylophone.Here and there, whether in fancy or in fact, the hearer caught the French words of 'Un, deux, trois, Caroline,' and 'Quand patat' est cuit, na va manger,' to melodies of American childhood that brought to many faces honest tears as well as smiles.

Mr. Gilbert's Dance was the most artistic piece of ragtime theatrical Broadway has shown, while Mr. Cadman's charming lighter lyrics, set off with celesta bells and all the modern apparatus, also made a popular success. The musicians heard their own music from Boxes 44 and 46, where Mr. Gilbert's mother, wife, and two little daughters from Boston sat with Mr. Cadman's two aunts from Canton, Ohio, and four cousins from Pittsburgh, 'Otherwise,' as Cadman said, 'there was no claque.'

What yesterday's audience first heard was Mr. Cadman's overture in sharp contrast with much that was to follow; a tragic overture to a merry scene, as surely as his opera's later intermezzo prelude to a swift, somber culmination. The double contrast was intentional, it was clever, and it worked like yeast in the dough. Under the sparkling froth of a society in which moved and sang an Indian girl of today, there could be felt the dark current of past dealings with the Red Man. In mastery of orchestration, though often sophisticated as to the actual native melodies used, Mr. Cadman's music was a surprise to many who knew him only as composer of graceful songs. His opera proved a succession of songs, a constant delight in this respect, less successful in its treatment of dialogue, which was brief, and less sustained in its climax, which cried for more poetic text.

What the audience saw as the curtains parted on the California bungalow scene was a really livable American interior of recognizable redwood; a double-decker living room, with balconies giving on upper rooms, and with open latticed sides showing the Pacific Ocean, for once calm as its name, in the wake of a full moon. James Fox's pictures might have been the view from mountain villas above Santa Barbara. The chorus was conceivably a company of guests, and its remarks were cheerful if not always intelligible. Miss Howard as a hostess in white carrying obviously this season's ostrich fan from a famous Pasadena fair, Miss Sundelius as a sweet girl graduate just from Vassar and the East, fitted in the picture. Mr. Althouse and the men seemed a bit formal for bungalow life in dress suits.

With its year of preparation and weeks of daily rehearsal, the opera found a heroine at a few hours' notice in Sophie Braslau, whose Shanewis will outshine all her previous roles. In white-fringed caribou hide, dark braids and simple headband, Miss Braslau was a beautiful as well as a good Indian and one very much alive, her stealthy moccasin-tread and unstudied poses suiting action to word from the first real Indian songs to the last defiance of civilization. Her voice dominated and gave dignity to the final scene. Mr. Cadman had told the origin of some of his songs from melodies of the Cheyennes, the Omahas, the Osages, as recorded by Miss Curtis and Miss Fletcher, Miss La Flesche and Mr. Burton, but in performance the songs told their own story.

The big Indian scene on an Oklahoma reservation, designed by Norman-Bel Geddes with a feeling of limitless open-air, of vastness and mystery, of mirage that is part of the true Western landscape, had all the realistic details of tents or tepees with open smoke flaps, of lemonade and peanut stands gay with American bunting, of a ramshackle prairie wagon, and a presumably popular make of motor car with about as much 'spring' in it as the present month of March in New York. Cecil Arden, Marie Tiffany, Phyllis White, and Veni Warwick crossed the stage once singing as four high school girls. Angelo Bada, Pietro Audisio, Max Bloch, and Mario Laurenti had a moment before the footlights in a powwow or Indian dance.

A more concise telling of incidents has not been heard or seen in grand opera, as unassuming is Cadman's method and so direct his conclusion. Thomas Chalmers lent his good baritone to the presentation to Shanewis of a bow and poisoned dart that had protected an Indian maid of the tribe from a white betrayer. He also shot the same arrow, which killed a rather double-dealing hero hesitating between the opera's two young heroines. Here the story was just opera, the eternal triangle. In its more general outlines it was derived from the history of a young Indian woman, Tsianina Redfeather, descendant of Tecumseh and well known as a singer on Mr. Cadman's lecture tours. She was in native costume in the audience yesterday.

Midway in the matinee bill Mr. Gilbert's 'The Dance in Place Congo' shared interest out of all proportion to its little length, less than twenty minutes, but enough to keep dancing feet busy all that time and as many times more as the season allows. A scene, not of the old New Orleans waterfront square of famous slave revels, but out across the river or bayou, with the city's spires in the sunlit distance, and black folk coming from the 'quarters' under the shady cottonwood trees, was the work of Livingston Platt, as were the costumes, a banzai sunburst of bandannas. Ottokar Bartik, who worked out Mr. Gilbert's bit of love story in low life, had been to New Orleans for local color, and what was better, he had introduced traditional figures, at least one Uncle Tom, and a half-dozen Simon Legrees. The ballet 'chorus' distinguished itself once when it not only danced but sang.

Mr. Gilbert's music, expanded forty bars in one instance to let in the booming bell of slavery's work-days with its whiplash obbligato, is for all its realism as genial a piece of symphonic writing as has come to local hearing in some time. Like Mr. Cadman, he also has told the sources of his tunes, and some he did not need to tell. The 'Bamboula,' borrowed by Gottschalk many years before Coleridge-Taylror, is universally known in the West Indies and the South, while Louisiana long ago furnished its mate in 'Michie Bainjo,' and the love song, 'Ma Mourri,' as well as the only air actually sung near the end of yesterday, the 'One, two, three, Caroline' of a good old darky breakdown.

Something of George W. Cable's story to which Mr. Gilbert set music and action may have evaded the grasp of trained dancers in conventional ballet, but the dances, not the darky love affair, were the main thing, and they set the stage awhirl. Mr. Bartik made a point of the villain's consultation of the fortune-teller. Mr. Bonfiglio gave sufficient evidence of a passion for the quadroon girl. Miss Galli, who within a fortnight had become a stage-centre star in Russian 'Coq d'Or,' achieved an astonishing transformation to the kinky-haired, black-faced vixen of the 'Place Congo.' Her climax of the dance, a trance-like orgy ending with much writhing and mopping of a carpet spread on Massa's cold, cold ground, was a tarantelle of terpsichorean virtuosity, the last word in dancing on the Metropolitan stage or anywhere else since Pavlowa's Manhattan 'Carmen.'

Photograph of Charles Wakefield Cadman, composer of Shanewis: The Robin Woman by Herman Mishkin.
Photograph of Sophie Braslau as Shanewis by Herman Mishkin.

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