[Met Performance] CID:77430
United States Premiere (The Polish Jew)
The Polish Jew {1}
Il Segreto di Susanna {8}
Metropolitan Opera House: 03/9/1921.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debut: Chief Caupolican

Metropolitan Opera House
March 9, 1921
United States Premiere
In English (Translation: Sigmund Spaeth, Cecil Cowdrey)


Polish Jew..............William Gustafson
Annette.................Raymonde Delaunois
Christian...............Mario Chamlee
Hans....................Chief Caupolican [Debut]
Katharine...............Kathleen Howard
Schmitt, Judge..........Robert Leonhardt
Niclas, Murdered Jew....Louis D'Angelo
Frank, Clerk............Angelo Badà
Watchman, Assessor......Paolo Ananian

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Designer................Willy Pogany
Choreographer...........Ottokar Bartik

The Polish Jew received three performances this season.

Alternate title: Der Polnische Jude.


Susanna.................Lucrezia Bori
Gil.....................Antonio Scotti
Sante...................Giordano Paltrinieri

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

Il Segreto di Susanna received four performances this season.

Unsigned review in The New York Times (Richard Aldrich)

Novelties crowd upon each other's heels at the Metropolitan Opera House. To Giordano's "Andrea Chenier," given there for the first time on Monday, was added last evening Karel Weis's "The Polish Jew." It was given in an English translation of an original German - for though the composer is a Czechoslovak and has produced operas in the tongue formerly called Bohemian, this one is in German. It is a short opera in only two acts, not long enough to take up a whole evening; and so it was followed last evening by Wolf Ferrari's vivacious little one-act comedy, "The Secret of Suzanne." The original libretto was written by Victor Leon and Richard Batka. The English translation is by Sigmund Spaeth and Miss Cecil Cowdrey.

The reception of the opera last evening could hardly be called enthusiastic. There were the applause and the recalls for the principal singers after the two acts that are civil and customary. The dances in the first act gave pleasure; the very effective setting of the dream in the second act was admired. As for Mr. Weis's music there was not much in it that could be found stirring.

"The Polish Jew" is by no means something new; it was first produced twenty years ago and had some vogue for a time in Germany, but it has left no blazing landmarks of triumphant success in European opera houses. It is safe to say that before the announcement of its production was issued by the Metropolitan Opera Company very few people indeed who patronize the opera had ever heard of the opera or of its composer. And it must be said that the chances all seem to be that both, after the present opera season is ended, will lapse peacefully into the oblivion from which they have been temporarily summoned.

The opera is founded upon that tale by the Alsatian writers, Erckmannn and Charitan, from which Henry Irving's play of "The Bells" was derived, the play in which he first appeared before an American audience and in which he made one of his greatest successes. Of the two acts of the opera, the first shows the marriage festivities of Mathis's daughter in his inn on a stormy Winter's night, which recalls to Schmitt, the forester, the murder of a Polish Jew fifteen years before. The Jangle of sleighbells without - an illusion of which jangling has tormented Mathis this fifteen years, for he was the murderer then - is a prelude to the arrival of another Polish Jew, who flings a money belt down on the table just as the other one did, of which Mathis robbed him; whereupon Mathis collapses and is led off to bed, and the Jew is taken to another room adjoining.

In the next act Mathis is seen going to bed very uneasily. He wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to wholly unpleasant dreams. These are shown in a very effective stage setting of his ghostly trial for killing the other Polish Jew, in which he swoons with a great cry. Again his bedroom is seen, and Mathis is found dead in bed.

Mr. Weis has put this to music of a perfectly unexceptionable kind. It runs along harmlessly in that mild post-Wagnerian style that had its vogue in Germany a quarter of a century ago. The orchestra is continuous: It develops recognizable and melodious fragments into a more or less pleasing fabric. The instrumentation is reasonable and competent. The sleighbell motive comes into frequent prominence. It is all as it should be - but it is all ineffective and dull. It rolls out of the listener's one ear as fast as it rolls in at the other because it is so undistinguished, so lacking in originality, so deficient in real power of expression or characterization

The composer's greatest task and the greatest opportunity came in the scene of the trial in the second act. But he has not risen to any great tragic height or even given any potency of melodramatic expression to what is, after all, essentially melodramatic in its character. This scene, famous in Henry Irving's performance of "The Bells" as one of the most effective and thrillingly melodramatic passages in modern drama, elapsed without a thrill, without quickening the pulse of many in the audience. It was long, tedious, and for those whose memories take them back to the English actor's extraordinary performance, its failure to arouse emotion signified the failure of the composer at the climax of his work, The performance, so far as Mr. Bodanzky could control it, was sufficient. But the cast, it must be confessed, was only moderately competent to interpret the opera on a plane to make it seem any. better than it really is.

An interesting appearance was made by Chief Caupolican, who took the part of Mathis. He is a real Indian chief, half of South American Indian blood, a member of the Chilean tribe of Araucarias. He has been educated in the European ways of singing and acting, and is wholly familiar with the technique of the stage. He is said to have appeared in this country in vaudeville and to have been a lecturer in the Chautauqua circuit. The chief's English is quite without accent, and last evening was the clearest of any heard on the stage. He disclosed a baritone voice of hard and unyielding quality, and was rather apt not quite to reach his upper tones. He sang the music otherwise competently and enacted the part with considerable naturalness in the first act and not without a good deal of the tragic suggestiveness called for in the ghastly trial scene of the second.

Mme. Delaunois as Annette, Mme. Howard as Katharine. Mr. Chamlee as Christian Brehm. Mr. Leonhardt as Schmitt were in various degrees effective in the other characters; but the average of the singing was not high. In the merrymaking of the first act there is some dancing that seems less Alsatian than Bohemian; the chorus had some not unpleasant passages which it performed not unpleasingly. Mr. Bodanzky conducted the opera with great zeal and energy and did all that could well be done to bring out its stronger points.

The performance of Wolf Ferrari's trite one-act opera. "The Secret of Suzanne," brought that piece back to the Metropolitan stage for the first time in some years. Nor have Mr. Scotti and Miss Bori been familiar in years gone by as the Count and Countess. They were both capital in their representation of their misunderstanding, and both sang the music delightfully. It is a useful lesson to have Mr. Scotti's accomplished skill as an actor brought back to the Metropolitan: and it would be enjoyed if it were brought back oftener. Mr. Papi conducted this performance.

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