[Met Performance] CID:70000
Samson et Dalila {22} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/11/1918.

(Opening Night {34}
Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager
Following Act I, the allied National Anthems were sung by the entire company and audience

Debut: Robert Couzinou

Metropolitan Opera House
November 11, 1918
Opening Night {34}

Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manger


Samson..................Enrico Caruso
Dalila..................Louise Homer
High Priest.............Robert Couzinou [Debut]
Abimélech...............Paolo Ananian
Old Hebrew..............Léon Rothier
Philistine..............Pietro Audisio
Philistine..............Vincenzo Reschiglian
Messenger...............Albert Reiss
Dance...................Rosina Galli

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

Director................Richard Ordynski
Set designer............Mario Sala
Costume designer........Giuseppe Palanti

Samson et Dalila received six performances this season.

[A program error for this performance cast Reiss as Abimélech and Ananian as the Messenger.]

Review of Max Smith in the American:

Caruso, Homer and Great Cast Vie with Setti's Chorus in a Brilliant Premiere, Marked by Patriotic Demonstration

With the dove of peace hovering over the world and joy unspeakable throbbing in every heart, the Metropolitan Opera House flung wide its portals last night to the surging turmoil of Broadway and gave entrance to the happiest throng of men and women that had probably ever collected within the expansive curve of the golden horseshoe. A wildly hilarious crowd it was not, of course, this great gathering of music lovers. Before the high altar of art, in the presence of so solemn and majestic a work as "Samson et Dalila," there was little temptation to celebrate the hour in frivolous fashion. But gladness and good cheer irradiated every face in the huge auditorium, and the spirit that animated all, rising from the slope of the orchestra pit to the steep of the family circle, found vent at the close of the first act in a demonstration of triumphant patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.

It was real patriotism - love of folk and country, of our glorious past, of our institutions, our aims and aspirations; not the lust for blood, for conquest, for vengeance - that swept over the mighty assemblage as the rising curtain that had just concealed from view the first tableau of "Samson et Dalila" revealed the whole company, chorus and all, massed on the stage, each member waving a flag, big or small. Close to the footlights, bearing the standards of six Allied nations, with Caruso in the centre waving the colors of Italy, stood the principal singers. At a signal from Monsieur Monteux, this army of trained men and women, seconded by many in the audience, swung into the stirring strains of "The Star Spangled Banner," Then came the "Marseillaise," proclaimed with irresistible gusto; after that the Italian Hymn of Mamelli, and finally "God Save the King," which evoked a great deal of applause in the parquette and parterre tier.

This brought the prearranged demonstration to an end, but the Italians sitting in the gallery were not satisfied, they cried vociferously for the "Marcia Reale." And Signor Nastrucci, concertmaster, leaping to the conductor's stand, whence Mr. Monteux had just departed, induced the orchestra to answer the spontaneous demand. The unfortunate omission of the Belgian national song now brought loud remonstrance from men who stood behind the orchestra rail. This oversight, however, was not corrected until shortly before the beginning of the second act, when an orchestral performance of the "Brahanconne" pacified wounded feelings and evoked frenzied cries of "Vivee la Belgique." Someone then bellowed in tones stentorian, "Rule Britannia." And with that the noise subsided, for Monsieur Monteux and his men already had begun playing the prelude to the second act.

In selecting 'Samson et Dalila" as the inaugural opera of the season Giulio Gatti-Casazza chose wisely. Experience has shown that novelties are not to the taste of operatic first-nighters. Much more does a work like Saint-Saens's oratorio-like musical drama, big with spectacular splendors and opportunities for vocal display, fulfill the demands of the public on so festive an occasion. This surely was proven three years ago, when "Samson et Dalila" opened the season of '15-'16. There was a special reason, moreover, for starting with "Samson et Dalila" the season that began as the news of the armistice flashed far and wide. Few lyric dramas represent in as dignified and splendid a manner the nation to which we are bound by closes ties. Verily fate played a prank when it decreed that this opera should have the first scenic production at the Grand Ducal Theatre at Weimar, Franz Liszt conducting, and should not find its way to the French stage until ten years later.

Last night's performance had as its two bright and particular "stars" Louise Homer and Enrico Caruso, both of whom had been identified with previous representations. The role of the Old Hebrew allotted to Leon Rothier, was also in familiar hands. Some of the minor characters, however, had been turned over to others singers that those who had appeared in the past, and the part of the High Priest brought forward for the first time in America one of Giulio Gatti-Caszza's latest recruits, the French baritone Robert Couzinou. That it would be a brilliant performance with a cast headed by such distinguished principals was a foregone conclusion. Caruso's Samson has become one of the Italian tenor's most impressive portrayals, though in the days of yore his treatment of Saint-Saens's music gave cause for misgivings; and Louise Homer's Dalila heard none too often here, is unequalled at present.

The fine achievements of the evening were not monopolized though by these luminaries. In fact, Giulio Setti's superbly trained choristers formed the backbone of the production. They sang the choral portions of the score with a sonority, a rhythmical precision, a euphony and expressiveness that brought credit not only to themselves, but to their distinguished preceptor, who rightfully shared honors with Pierre Monteux, wielder of the baton. But what, one wonders, had happened to the damsels who formerly chanted the "Voici le printemps" of the first act with such exquisite delicacy and grace? Were some of the best sopranos absent?

At the beginning of the season every operatic fan is greatly concerned about the condition of Caruso's voice. Happily, the famous tenor, whose golden tones are the most valuable asset of the Metropolitan's box office, was in excellent form. Signor Gatti-Casazza and his subscribers may therefore feel at ease. As for Mme. Homer, she has rarely given a finer exhibition of her vocal art that she did on this occasion. There was exquisite refinement and delicacy in her performance of the Spring Song, warmth and intensity in her interpretation of the "Mon Coeur" aria, but never a forcing of tone nor any exaggeration of impassioned utterance. No less impressive than his two associates was Leon Rothier, whose sonorous bars provided some of the most enjoyable moments of the evening in the music of the Old Hebrew. As the High Priest, Robert Couzinou, the newcomer, disclosed a lyric baritone of rather bright and agreeable timbre, but of small volume. His is a voice that would probably count for far more than it did last night if were heard in a smaller auditorium, such as that of the Opera Comique in Paris. Mr. Couzinou, to judge from yesterday's experience is an artist in the true sense of the word.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).