[Met Performance] CID:70630
Manon Lescaut {44} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/4/1919.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 4, 1919 Matinee


Manon...................Frances Alda
Des Grieux..............Giovanni Martinelli
Lescaut.................Antonio Scotti
Geronte.................Andrés De Segurola
Edmondo.................Angelo Badà
Innkeeper...............Mario Laurenti
Solo Madrigalist........Flora Perini
Dancing Master..........Albert Reiss
Sergeant................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Lamplighter.............Pietro Audisio
Captain.................Louis D'Angelo

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

Review of Max Smith in the American


Performance Gives Food for Thought Indicating Growth in Later Art of Puccini's Mastery of Orchestra

On Friday night Giulio Gatti-Casazza presented to his subscribers Puccini's latest tripartite work. Yesterday afternoon, falling back a quarter of a century, he offered for hearing the same composer's "Manon Lescaut," which had its premiere on February 1, 1893, in the Regio Theatre of Turin. This marked Puccini's third venture in the field of lyric drama. His two earlier scores were "Le Villi," which Signor Gatti produced here in his first season, with Alessandro Bonci and Frances Alda in the cast, and "Edgar," which has never been sung in America.

Why would it not be a good idea, by the way, to introduce "Edgar" into the repertory of the Metropolitan? That opera, it is true, did not win great success at its first performance, which took place at La Scala of Milan on April 21, 1889, and, as far as we know, its career was as short as that of "La Fanciulla del West." Where, indeed, may it be heard nowadays, even in Italy? But a "revival" of this well-nigh forgotten work would surely arouse a certain amount of interest; and, for all we know, it might give as much pleasure as, say "Il Tabarro" or "Suor Angelica."

Following close on the heels of "Il Tabarro," "Suor Angelica" and 'Gianni Schicchi" yesterday's performance of "Manon Lescaut" gave food for thought. Puccini's mastery of the orchestra unquestionably has grown. Some of his earlier scores, including that of "Manon Lescaut," have been retouched considerably in recent years, so that the differences in his treatment of the orchestra are minimized for the uninitiated listener. In his knowledge of the stage and in his grasp of what is theatrically effective Puccini also has advanced steadily, though his natural talents in that respect were unusual. Yet may one suppose that the Italian composer would readily give up all that he has added to his accomplishments in twenty-five years if he could summon to his aid once more the spontaneity, the enthusiasm, the melodic exuberance which he had at his disposal when he wrote "Manon Lescaut." Technical dexterity alone does not suffice, after all, for the creation of a masterpiece.

In the opinion of the cognoscenti, indeed, Puccini has never surpassed his "Manon Lescaut," and it is difficult to account for the fact that this opera has failed to win popular acclaim in New York. It is the only work from which those who have listened to the various compositions of the Italian over and over again can still derive unalloyed pleasure, and the reason is quite clear:

There are real emotional vitality and genuine sentiment in the music of "Manon Lescaut" - not of a profoundly moving or overwhelming character to be sure, but straight-forward, unaffected, sincere and these fundamental characteristics count for a great deal in the long run. They remain unscathed even when the external theatrical garb has been worn threadbare by constant use. There were conspicuous once more yesterday in a performance conducted with skill and temperamental fervor by Gennaro Papi and sung by a cast that included Frances Alda in the title role, Giovanni Martinelli as Des Grieux and Andres de Segurola as Geronte.

We have known Manons more impassioned in their utterance and more touching in their pathetic appeal than Mme. Alda's. This prima donna is heard to better advantage as the colder and coquettishly calculating heroine in Massenet's version of the same subject. But she sang delightfully yesterday, achieving especially pleasing results in the graceful song beginning "L'Ora, o Tirsi," with its concluding trill on F sharp.

Signor Martinelli was as always, a manly and vigorous Des Grieux. He and Mme. Alda combined to make the great scene of the second act dramatically as well as musically impressive. Antonio Scotti gave an admirably conceived and elaborated character study of the roistering Lescaut, and all the other performers, including Giulio Setti's virtuoso choristers, fulfilled their duties in a manner that left nothing to be desired.

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