[Met Performance] CID:70540
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Oberon {1} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/28/1918.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debut: Cesare Del Grande

Metropolitan Opera House
December 28, 1918 Matinee
Metropolitan Opera Premiere

C. M. Weber-Planché

Oberon..................Paul Althouse
Rezia...................Rosa Ponselle
Huon....................Giovanni Martinelli
Fatima..................Alice Gentle
Scherasmin..............Albert Reiss
Puck....................Raymonde Delaunois
Mermaid.................Marie Sundelius
Harun al Raschid........Louis D'Angelo
Babekan.................Mario Laurenti
Abdallah................Paolo Ananian
Almanzor................Carl Schlegel
Charlemagne.............Léon Rothier
Titania.................Lilyan Ogden
Mesrour.................Cesare Del Grande [Debut]

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

Director................Richard Ordynski
Designer................Joseph Urban
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

Oberon received six performances this season.

[Bodanzky eliminated all dialogue, arranging recitatives-the words were adapted by Theodore Baker-from motives in the score; he also added an orchestral version of Weber's Momento Capriccioso Op. 12 for piano as an interlude between Scenes 1 and 2 of Act II.]

Review of James Gibbons Huneker in The New York Times

"Oberon," opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber, was sung yesterday afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera House for the first time in this city in nearly half a century. The Lord High Keeper of New York's musical archives, H. E. Krehbiel, has found no record of a performance since 1870, so the present revival of Manager Gatti-Casazza is a novelty to the present generation of opera goers and music lovers-not always to be confounded-and a very fascinating novelty it proved to be both as music and as a spectacle. Strictly speaking, Weber was as great an innovator as his follower, Wagner, not only historically but actually. More original and prolific in musical invention, he has been a veritable Forty Thieves' cave for the plunder of later composers. All have helped themselves from his liberal hoard, but few have acknowledged their indebtedness: and he remains the chief source of the modern music-drama of which Richard Wagner is the supreme development. Weber was not the first poet to speak in terms of music, but he was the first in a long line to invest with the glamour of romance the music of opera. In the phrase of the psychiatrist he was a "visual" and an "auditive." He saw his situations and landscapes and characters before he heard them, painted them in tone. He was a master of that elusive quality we call atmosphere.

Mr. Bodanzky might profitably have made more excisions [he had reduced the original twenty-one stage tableaux to seven] without impeaching the integrity of the music. As for his own personal part in the performance there can be no words but those of warmest praise. He is that rara avis, a musicianly conductor with temperament. He is a great conductor whether in Weber or Wagner, and his interpretation of the famous overture was poetic and electric. The orchestra played to a man with fire and finesse. It always does under his inspiring baton. With his Weber-like profile, alert eyes, and infallible hearing, he dominated the stage from first to final curtain. For his devotion to the memory of Weber he, like Signor GattiCasazza, deserves the gratitude of the musical community. Whether or not "Oberon" proves a magnet is a question for further discussion. Critics are seldom prophets honored by their own pronouncements. But we may say without peradventure of doubt that there is more music in "Oberon" than in an entire fleet of modern operas. Weber was a composer and a dramatist.

The production was sumptuous [and] the enthusiasm of Mr. Bodanzky was contagious. Mr. Martinelli sang the difficult measures, martial and amorous, with energy and authority. Mr. Althouse had an ungrateful role, and made the most of it. Miss Sundelius sang her mermaid's song as she sings everything, artistically. Miss Delaunois was a shapely, sprightly Puck and agreeable to gaze upon. Miss Gentle deserves praise for her Fatima, Mr. Reiss as a squire was amusing. The English diction of the foreign-horn in the cast was understandable though unmistakably streaked with strange accents.

[There] remains Miss Rosa Ponselle, upon whose broad shoulders rested the hapless heroine Rezia. To say that she was grown in artistic stature would only be the truth. Singing Verdi, especially with Italian blood in her veins, is not the same as delivering the majestic and tragic music of Weber. Miss Ponselle is too young, has had too little experience to sound the heights and depths of the mighty "Ocean'" aria-itself at times too grandiloquent, not to say stilted; but with her dramatic temperament, musical intelligence, above all, with her beautiful, natural voice and its remarkable range, from a rich velvety contralto to a vibrating, silvery soprano - well, for a newcomer on the operatic boards a few month ago, and with her artistic training and antecedents, we confess our hearty admiration for her work and high hopes for her brilliant future. Her scale is seamless, so equal are her tones from top to bottom. Her personality is pleasing, her acting immature.

She was a buxom, well-proportioned figure, and in Turkish trousers she was fascinating; her wig was a palpable one. In excellent voice, she sang not only the big aria with better effect than at the rehearsal-rhythmically she has gained, while the plaintive cantilena in the last act caught the fancy of the audience and the applause was spontaneous. In one costume, and she wore several gorgeously barbaric, she resembled Henri Regnault's Salome. Her features seemed more Moorish than Italian. That she won her hearers there can be no possibility of a doubt; to alter slightly a colloquialism, she '"has arrived with both lungs."

Costume designs by Joseph Urban.

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