[Met Performance] CID:73070
New production
La Juive {19} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/22/1919.

(Debuts: Evelyn Scotney, Mathilde Castel-Bert
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 22, 1919 Matinee
New production


LA JUIVE {19}
F. Halévy-Scribe

Rachel..................Rosa Ponselle
Eléazar.................Enrico Caruso
Princess Eudoxie........Evelyn Scotney [Debut]
Prince Léopold..........Orville Harrold
Cardinal de Brogni......Léon Rothier
Ruggiero................Thomas Chalmers
Albert..................Louis D'Angelo
Herald..................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Major-domo..............Paolo Ananian
Dance...................Rosina Galli
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

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

Director................Richard Ordynski
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert [Debut]
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

La Juive received ten performances this season.

Review of James Gibbons Huneker in the New York World

"The Jewess" is his [Halévy's] high-water mark. Its success was enormous, though it soon paled before the refulgent fire of "Les Huguenots." The idolized tenor, Adolphe Nourrit, did not disdain the role of Eléazar, and Franz Liszt improvised on its themes, though he never published his original fantasia. It is said that it was an air from The Jewess that he was juggling one night at a fashionable soiree that provided Stendhal's cutting epigram: "Mon cher Liszt," said the author, "pray give us your usual improvisation." Coldness ever afterward between the two men. However, there is no denying the one-time popularity of Halévy, a testimony to the taste of his epoch. Perhaps a half-century hence, Mascagni or Puccini or some other favorite of 1919 will undergo the same fate as the sincere, frivolous music of "The Jewess." The march-like measures and the cauldron of boiling water suggest Bernard Shaw's title, "The Funeral March of a Fried Eel."

Old opera goers recall Materna, Lilli Lehmann, Jules Perotti, Anton Schott, Fischer and Alvary during the German regime at the Metropolitan Opera House, though hardly with any degree of pleasure. If the present recrudescence of the work proves successful it will be entirely due to the magnificent singing of Caruso, Rosa Ponselle and the magnetic conducting of Artur Bodanzky. As a matter of fact, there are only two beautiful voices in the Metropolitan company, and Rosa Ponselle is the other one. As for Caruso and his impersonation of the old Jew, Eléazar, we may say that he has seldom demonstrated his vocal artistry or his dramatic gifts in such a striking manner. His make-up is that of Shylock curls, gabardine and the racial nose. His delineation of hatred and paternal love were alike admirable. His scorn for his Gentile oppressors - there were Sabbatarian bigots and pogroms even in those days - and his violent denunciation of the pretended Samuel, really Prince Leopold, the would-be seducer of his daughter - were testimony to the histrionic skill of a singer whose luscious voice makes us deaf to the unmistakable appeal of his acting. And with what a gesture of malignant triumph he revenges himself on the fatuous and fanatical Cardinal Brogni, as he points to the cauldron wherein Rachel perishes and cries, "La voila!" For the unhappy girl is the daughter of the prelate, and not a Jewess. Leah the Forsaken is mildly melodramatic in comparison to this climax.

We have seldom heard such expressive singing as Caruso's delivery of his air in the fourth set, "O Rachel." Our generation should feel it a privilege to hear this truly great artist sing; apart from his unique vocal organ he is dowered with a musical temperament rarely found in the tenor tribe. His success was tremendous on this occasion, as it deserved to be. His voice was in splendid condition, and Shylock-Caruso bids fair to become one of the sensations of a not particularly promising season. He was called a half dozen times after Act IV.

Rosa Ponselle's artistic development grows apace. Her singing and acting are surer, better coordinated than last season. The role of Rachel is wholly conventional, one of the "O ciel" kind, but she easily compassed it. Her solo in Act II was effective though of the music we only remember the introductory bars for the horns appropriated from "Oberon."

Impressive was the setting of the Passover (Pesach) celebration when Eléazar breaks the sacred `shew' bread (Kala) with his alleged daughter and family. Miss Ponselle distinguished herself in the duet with Eudoxia, the niece of the Emperor and Leopold - Samuel's spouse. A newcomer, an Australian and protege of Melba's, Evelyn Scotney, made a satisfactory debut as the fond and foolish woman who would buy gems for her false husband, the victor in the Hussite war (the scene plays at Constance A.D. 1414). Mme. Scotney has a light, high soprano, a flexible coloratura, rather chilly, thin and at times acid in the upper tones. It has in a certain register an infantile quality, which we recall in the singing of Melba and Tetrazzini. Of a handsome stage presence, the acting of Scotney is restrained to the point of respectability.

Another debut that is on the boards of the Metropolitan was Orville Harrold's, a tenor well known in English opera and a seasoned artist. He enacted the perfidious Leopold and sang effectively. Mr. Harrold made an excellent impression. Rothier, with the sonorous voice and giant figure, is at his best as an ecclesiastic - we remember his Cardinal in "La [Reine] Fiarnmeta" last season. He was both unctuous and formidable as Cardinal Brogni, especially when he booms out the anathema of Mother Church against Eléazar, Rachel and Leopold: "Soyez maudits! Anatheme! Anatheme!" Chalmers, d'Angelo, Malatesta and Reschiglian made up a capable cast. The scenic settings were new and picturesque, particularly a gothic interior, Act III, and the last tableau, with its hideous cauldron of sizzling oil and the sinister executioner silhouetted at the top of a hill against a menacing sky. Costumes and trappings were rich. Mr. Setti's chorus was, as ever, well trained and truly enjoyable. The one cheerful tone of the production was the incidental ballet invented by the fertile and seemingly inexhaustible Rosina Galli, with the inimitable Rosina dancing several delightful solos. The first ballet, with the children, would by itself float to success any Broadway show. Bonfiglio was the male dancer. Mr. Bodanzky outdid himself, conducting with a nervous intensity that might better have been expended on a masterpiece instead of the unmusical fustian of "La Juive." But then, he is not only a great conductor, but also a conscientious one and, with the cooperation of Caruso and Ponselle, made vital the faded music of Halévy. To hear Caruso sing "O Rachel," was worth the dreary leagues we had to traverse before reaching this touching air. The audience was a record one and appreciative to fever heat.



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