[Met Performance] CID:70120
Le Prophète {58} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/23/1918.

(Debut: Mary Mellish

Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 23, 1918 Matinee


LE PROPHÈTE {58}
Meyerbeer-Scribe

Jean of Leyden..........Enrico Caruso
Berthe..................Claudia Muzio
Fidès...................Louise Homer
Zacharie................José Mardones
Jonas...................Rafaelo Díaz
Mathisen................Carl Schlegel
Count Oberthal..........Léon Rothier
Peasant.................Pietro Audisio
Anabaptist..............Paolo Ananian
Officer.................Albert Reiss
Citizen.................Mario Laurenti
Captain.................Pompilio Malatesta
Choirboy................Mary Mellish [Debut]
Choirboy................Cecil Arden
Choirboy................Marie Tiffany
Choirboy................Veni Warwick
Dance...................Rosina Galli
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

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

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

Le Prophète received six performances this season.


Review of Henry E. Krehbiel in the Tribune:

"LE PROPHÈTE," A BOLSHEVIK DRAMA, AT THE METROPOLITAN

If opera were the educational institution which it is frequently proclaimed to be by a lot of half-baked enthusiasts who dote on it, the performance of "Le Prophète at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon would provide much food for reflection. Why was it revived last year after it had almost passed into the limbo of forgotten things? A ban had been officially proclaimed on German opera and a clamor raised against all music by German composers. It was not only that German singers, with a few exceptions, were excluded from the company - that was justifiable on excellent grounds, for they were enemy aliens, some of whom hold obnoxious opinions and some of whom had been guilty of pernicious activity against American institutions - but a pretense was made that the repertory had also been purged. Wagner's dramas were eliminated from the list and "Fidelio," composed by one of the most uncompromising democrats who ever lived to rail at monarchial government. The one German opera by Mozart which retained vitality in New York was thrown over and one of his Italian operas, based on a French drama, retained. Flotow's "Martha" was kept in the active list, perhaps because it was sung in Italian and no one could remember when it was performed in its original German dress, but much more likely, because it offered a part to Mr. Caruso. 'St. Elizabeth," a German oratorio, was paraded out in operatic habiliments and received without protest, because we suppose, if an explanation is necessary, it was sung in English. But its music was written by a Hungarian, a representative of a people of whom the war has taught us to think with as little kindliness as we think of Prussians. Then came "Le Prophète." What font furnished forth the holy water which took the curse off of Meyerbeer's opera? Its composer was by birth a Prussian (he was born in Berlin), the only Prussian in the Metropolitan company's list. Was it sanctified by the French text to which its music was written, and in which it was sung? Why, even the devil we have been told, can quote scripture.

But this is only a waste of critical breath. The record stands without justification because there is no foundation of sincerity under it, as there is none under the agitation against the artistic creations of the great German masters who are dead, who never contributed thought nor sentiment to the political institutions which the American people are antagonizing, institutions which were as cordially hated by such men as Beethoven and Wagner as they are by the best and wisent champions of democracy today. Every note of music which reflects the best elements in German character was given to us by composers who were the children of the small states into which once-imperial Germany is now resolving itself.

It is necessary that the public should think of things like these simply because "Le Prophète" was performed yesterday afternoon at the Metropolitan? Not at all. The opera public is not called upon to think; it is enough that it hears and enjoys when Caruso sings. Caruso was the raison d'ètre for "Martha"; he is the cause and justification of "Le Prophète." He is not all of the opera. There is Mme. Homer, for instance, who as Fides yesterday put some gripping moments into the final scenes, singing with such sacrifice of self that she exhausted the last ounce of her strength just before the drama gave her release. But as a rule, at the opera, it is Caruso, only Caruso, toujours Caruso. They tell a story of the early days of the great tenor. Comes to the box office an Italian. Boot black? Possibly? Peanut vendor? Not unlikely. Obviously a lover of opera. "Carus work-a-to-night?" "Yes" "Give-a me a tick" What was the opera to him? Caruso was to sing.

But even Caruso and Homer did not sum up yesterday's representation. There was the coronation scene which, in the glory of its stage furniture, no less than in the splendor of its music, is one of the best achievements that Mr. Gatti and his people have put to their credit. In this music there is a singular commingling of the noble thoughts nobly expressed, and banalities, which come all the more like a blow to quickened sensibilities because they are associated with dramatic situations of real nobility and pathos, such as the denunciation of the prophet by his mother and the scene of simulated exorcism, with its pathetic appeal. Not soon will old habitués of the Metropolitan forget Niemann and Brandt in this episode. To it Mr. Caruso brings tones of marvelous musical beauty, but the dramatic dénouement in declamation pose and facial play are all but absent. His Jean is vocally an imposing figure, but supposing his hearers were given to thinking about the opera and its people, would anybody have recognized in his impersonation a portrait of the sixteenth century fanatic and voluptuary who went to his death at Munster? Scarcely. And if opera is educational, why ought not "Le Prophète" enable us to see in its story a counterfeit presentment of an act in the political drama which is playing on the stage of Russia at this moment? Socialists with notions of the equality of men and the communality of property were the Anabaptists at the beginning of the Peasant's War in Germany; anarchists with blood lust plunder and profligacy in their hearts at its end. Johann Bockholdt, the tailor of Leyden, who became prophet and king at Munster was the Brigham Young and Trotsky of his period.



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