[Met Performance] CID:79050
United States Premiere
Die Tote Stadt {1} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/19/1921.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debuts: Maria Jeritza, George Meader

Metropolitan Opera House
November 19, 1921 Matinee

United States Premiere

Korngold-P. Schott

Marietta, Marie.........Maria Jeritza [Debut]
Paul....................Orville Harrold
Brigitta................Marion Telva
Frank...................Robert Leonhardt
Fritz, Pierrot..........Mario Laurenti
Juliette................Raymonde Delaunois
Lucienne................Grace Anthony
Gaston..................Armando Agnini
Victorin................George Meader [Debut]
Albert..................Angelo Badà

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Hans Kautsky

Die Tote Stadt received eight performances this season.

[As stage manager, Agnini added the names M. Ellis, Miriam and R. Díaz to the cast list in the signed program, but his meaning is uncertain, since all roles were taken and these same artists appeared as Lucienne, Juliette and Victorin, respectively, at the next performance of Die Tote Stadt, November 24.]

Alternate title: The Dead City.

Review of Henry Krehbiel in the New York Tribune:

There is much that is fascinating to mind and fancy in "Die Tote Stadt" in its plot, its pictures, which are so thoroughly admirable that they deserve special praise, in its music and in its performance. These elements of charm are so many and potent that we dare to venture upon a prediction of success for Mr. Gatti's latest adventure. Its been found in Madame Jeritza. In the newcomer we find a beautiful voice consorted with a beautiful personality, and loveliness of face, figure, pose and movements inspired by finished art in song and dramatic action. It is not enough to say that she has charm, though that quality must needs be great to overcome the handicap, imposed upon her by music which turns song into shrieking, such strenuous shrieking, indeed, as to arouse pity and concern for her beautiful voice and her undoubtedly admirable ability as a singer. We are sure that she can sing, though Korngold does not permit her to do so often in this opera.

But this is not her only gift and acquirement. She is plainly born to dramatic instinct. She seems to emit it like sparks from an electric battery. The elements which are mixed in the character of Marietta are obvious in her every pose, act and word. Worldly frivolity, love of life, exuberance of animal spirits, the need of spiritual intoxication and physical gratification as essential to her existence and the exercised of her profession, all these find expression in her acting and singing without the slightest tinge of conscious vulgarity. Her voice is one of superb power and great beauty, and she is as light of foot and graceful of movement as a sprite. She was greeted with glad acclaim at once and will surely become a great popular favorite.

Mr. Harrold, who sang a part more brutally treated by the composer than that of the heroine, did wonderful things with it, considering that he sang in a tongue strange to him. His pronunciation and enunciation of text were found to be admirable whenever the composer permitted him to be audible-which was not often, except in the prologue and epilogue, or when he put aside his besetting bad habit of affected pathos. The score is a trying one for all concerned, but especially for the conductor, and the merits of Mr. Bodanzky were many and shining.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America:


American Premiere of Newly Imported "Die Tote Stadt" Results in Moderate Success for the Work and Striking Reception for New Soprano -Music of First of Season's Novelties Has Atmosphere and Melody but Lacks Contrast and Individuality-Small in Scope but Utilizes Orchestral Resources of a Strauss Tone-Poem

For the first time since early in 1917 an opera was sung in German at the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 19, when General Manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza mounted the season's first novelty, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt," for the regalement of the matinee subscribers and others of his clientele.

Of more concern to the audiences than the return of the exiled tongue was the advent of Maria Jeritza, the Viennese soprano for whom young Korngold and his librettist fashioned the dual role of Marie and Marietta, and whose personal charms were described so eloquently in advance of her coming-with photographs to incite or verify all that was said-that there was a greater measure of interest in her New York debut than there was in the first American representation of the opera, acclaimed as it has been in Germany and Austria as one of the most significant works of the day.

The reactions of Saturday afternoon's audience seemed confirmatory of these preliminary intuitions. Mme. Jeritza's popular success was more evident than that of the opera, though Korngold's music was applauded in its own right by an audience disposed to be cordial even in moments of perplexity. Considerable hardihood is required to base a prediction of the measure of the success likely to be attained by "The Dead City" in America on what was to be discerned at this first performance, for its reception seemed more friendly than enthusiastic; but there can be no questioning that Mme. Jeritza has begun her Metropolitan engagement auspiciously, and that, for this season at least, the appeal of her personality, more than the novelty of the opera, is likely to attract to "The Dead City" audiences of ample size. It seems also fair to say that Mme. Jeritza will be more rapturously received in other operas than in "The Dead City"-providing she is utilized in such works as "Tosca" and Aida"-and that "The Dead City" without her will lose much of its present somewhat circumscribed appeal though Florence Easton, who also is ready to sing it, doubtless will bring to it the full measure of her admirable art. Without venturing too rashly into the problematical, the writer can state his belief that this is a one or two season novelty, unlikely of performance after second year at the Metropolitan, and hence, destined to go the way of some very admirable as well as some inferior experiments of recent years.

Striking Success for Mme. Jeritza

Maria Jeritza flashed into view a blond visualization of the dancer, Marietta, that any magazine art editor would have been glad to have, without a change in the color scheme, for a "cover de luxe." She is tall-perhaps too tall to look her best in singing with other artists of ordinary stature; radiant and vibratile of personality, and youthfully athletic of figure. Her voice was disclosed as a powerful one that glittered and flashed on occasion, stormed and raged in other moments, and was smoothly lyrical at times--as in the lute song and again in the music which she sang from the portrait in impersonating the revenant of Marie. Her mezza voice was of fluency and charm, at least as much of it as the audience was permitted to hear. A tendency to scoop to upper tones, some of which were of exceptional power, was noted. There were stridulous moments in her singing when her full tone sounded hard and piercing, but it is only fair to attribute these to the temptations of, the score. A truer test of the quality of her tone and the evenness of her production will come when she sings an opera more grateful to the voice. She is an actress as well as a singer whose talents are not to be gauged completely by a single rôle, though that rôle seems to have been sufficient to establish her as an important addition to the Metropolitan roster. She can be a tigress as well as an insouciant charmer when the situation so demands; that was made clear in the later scenes of "The Dead City."

Orville Harrold has done nothing more to his credit since his debut at the Metropolitan than his delineation of Paul, a fanatic person who finds a little calm only at the very end of the opera. The music is of a frightful tessitura-there are successive pages of the score when a majority of the notes are above the staff. He did not come through unscathed as to quality, but he did sing many phrases of charm and appeal, and he succeeded in making a thankless rôle a fairly convincing one.

A debut of importance was that of George Meader as Victorin. His voice, already familiar to concert patrons, was of ample volume and he proved himself experienced in the ways of the stage. Marion Telva sang the music of Brigitta in a way to suggest that she has possibilities beyond those of the roles assigned her. Mario Laurenti's smooth and appealing singing of Pierrot's song was the most effective vocalism of the afternoon. Grace Anthony, one of the new American members of the company, had a small part which scarcely disclosed her capabilities. Raymonde Delaunois, Robert Leonhardt and Angelo Bada were others who fused well into an excellent ensemble. Perhaps it was to keep an eye on the stage groupings of the difficult second act, with its troublesome synchronization of music, action and lighting effects, that Stage Manager Agnini played the silent role of Gaston.

The settings for "The Dead City" were imported from Vienna, where they were prepared by Prof. Hans Kautsky, doubtless with the Viennese originals in mind. The first and third acts disclosed a somewhat gloomy interior in keeping with the demands of the text, and so contrived that the Corpus Christi procession in the vision was revealed by a sudden transformation, in which arches replaced the back wall of the room. The second act picture was a nocturnal one, disclosing a typical street in Bruges, with moving clouds above to suggest the wind-swept night. The normalness of this scene, even though it has the stamp of Vienna on it and may represent the ideas of the authors, is open to question. A more fantastic picture, one which, by nebulous of gauzes and suspension devices, could give more of a dreamlike unreality to the movements of the characters, might have given the act much more the character of a mirage-and less that of an operetta carnival-and thus have obviated the salient weakness of the dramatic side of the representation. Here, it would seem, was the place for the futuristic ideas of investiture which have asserted themselves far less appropriately in some other and less fantastic operas.

A detail open to criticism was the substitution of a guitar for the lute on which Marietta strummed while singing her first act air, as well as the absence of the instrument from the portrait of Marie on the wall where it was needed to complete the likeness between the dead and the living, and to justify a line of the text.

Members of the technical staff had many problems to meet in mounting the opera and the results represented no small achievement in stagecraft. Not all went as well as it doubtless will at subsequent performances, a drop veil catching on one side of the proscenium at the time of the picture episode in the first act; and what would have passed for spirit hands at a Palladino séance materializing from out the dark on two occasions during the vision when little details went momentarily awry. In its entirety, however, this was a performance well worthy of the Metropolitan. A special word must be said for the orchestra, which played the very difficult score with certitude and incisiveness under Mr. Bodanzky's ever-vigilant and vigorous leadership.

Photograph of Maria Jeritza as Marietta in Die Tote Stadt by Setzer, Vienna.
Photograph of Maria Jeritza as Marietta and Orville Harrold as Paul in Die Tote Stadt by White Studio.

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