[Met Performance] CID:8000
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Der Fliegende Holländer {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/27/1889.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Opening Night {7}
Edmund C. Stanton, General Manager

Debut: Theodore Reichmann, Sophie Wiesner, Charlotte Huhn

Metropolitan Opera House
November 27, 1889
Opening Night {7}

Edmund C. Stanton, Director of the Opera

Metropolitan Opera Premiere


Dutchman................Theodore Reichmann [Debut]
Senta...................Sophie Wiesner [Debut]
Erik....................Paul Kalisch
Daland..................Emil Fischer
Mary....................Charlotte Huhn [Debut]
Steersman...............Albert Mittelhauser

Conductor...............Anton Seidl

Director................Theodore Habelmann

Der Fliegende Holländer received seven performances this season.

Review of Henry Krehbiel in the Herald

The sixth season of grand opera in German at the Metropolitan Opera House had its beginning on this occasion. The significance of such an occurrence and the popular interest which it arouses have so often been emphasized that its features might safely be left to the imagination of the reader. An audience which crowded the magnificent room that glowed with light and blossomed with gay toilets, eager expectancy concerning the merit of the new singers, lovely enthusiasm in the climacteric scenes of the opera, keen interest in the social aspects of the affair, not unmixed, perhaps, with that spirit of emulation whose manifestation contributed so much to the brilliant beauty of the scene that would not be dimmed by the rain; finally, hearty expression (in the conventional methods of the theatre during the performance and animated conversation between the acts) of the belief that, delightful as the evening had been, the greatest pleasure which it gave lay in its promise of a season of high and honest endeavor and glorious achievement. Such are the features which are never absent at the opening of the Metropolitan season, and which may be left to the fancy for combination and coloring. It would have been strange, however, after the lessons of the preceding seasons, if there had not been noticeable at this open*ing more signs of glad expectancy than usual, if the spirit pervading the room before the curtain went up had not been pitched in a higher and more beautiful key than ever before. Opera of the kind provided by the new regime, though often short of perfection in performance, begets an interest deeper than curiosity and cultivates a higher faculty of enjoyment than mere sensuous pleasure. The Metropolitan audiences have steadily grown in seriousness of purpose and depth and sincerity of appreciation. This is the o'er true tale told by the box-office and repertory, as well as the conduct of the people themselves. It is not fanciful speculation; the most obdurate skeptic may convince himself of it if he will.

The opera was Wagner's "Flying Dutchman " - a compromise selection some will say who recollect that Mr. Stanton is every year called on to endure the criticism and abuse of addle-pated individuals because he tries to meet the wishes of the public as plainly expressed in the facts of attendance and enthusiasm. "The Flying Dutchman" is Wagnerian, yet not Wagnerian. It does not aim to be anything else than a conventional opera, though the student of Wagner's works will have no difficulty in finding in it the germ of that system of composition which, when it was developed, compelled him to discard the term "opera" and to adopt one which, though much criticised, is merely a translation of the "dramma per musica" of the Italian inventors of the opera. It contains a good deal of writing in the conventional manner, some of which is innocently melodious enough to gratify the most unconscionable lover of tunes, and for this reason may be considered a concession to those opera-goers who have decried Mr. Stanton's lists as too heavily Wagnerian. But it also happens to be in parts profoundly dramatic in the best sense. Singularly enough, the scene which is hailed by the admirers of the old style of operatic song as truly beautiful is one of the most truthfully dramatic in the work, and the very one from which Wagner set out on his mission of reform and reconstruction. It is that which opens the second act - the spinning chorus and Senta' s ballad. This scene has been loudly praised because of its unconstrained musical beauty, yet, if Wagner is to be believed, it must be looked upon as the starting point of his theories touching operatic composition. It was the first number of the opera that he composed, and it presents the characters as well as the ethical elements of the drama in a nutshell - the infinite longing for rest of the curse-burdened Ahasuerus of the ocean (the phrase is Wagner's), his stormy wanderings, and the self-sacrificing love of Senta, a woman faithful unto death. The melodies which the composer invented to give expression to these essentials of the tragedy he used over and over again whenever the moods in the play were synonymous with those expressed briefly in the ballad. This fact has a beautiful interest for the student of Wagner's dramas and its significance is not marred by the circumstance that besides the dramatic music (to which his purpose when a mental mood recurred to repeat its thematic expression gave rise) there is much operatic music of the old kind in the score. For the operatic music, save that part of it which borrows color from the folk-tunes of Germany (and by that token may be looked upon as the results of Weber's influence upon the youthful Wagner), I confess I am unable to cultivate a liking. It is pretty tawdry stuff; and wedded to a libretto of the ordinary Italian stalking-horse kind would have long ago sunk into oblivion. The book saved it and, fortunately, with it that marvelously invigorating sea and sailors' music which has the freshness and braciness of a stiff sou'easter, as well as the splendidly dramatic music of the Dutchman and Senta.

In all probability, however, it was not Mr. Stanton's anxiety to steer cunningly between the extremes of feeling on the Wagner question so much as the presence of Herr Theodor Reichmann in his company which occasioned the choice of "The Flying Dutchman" as the first opera of the season. The title role has dimensions and potentialities commensurate with abilities of the first magnitude, and not to waste words over a matter which is hardly likely to be debated, it may be said that these dimensions were never fully disclosed to the New York public till this night. For this credit was due equally to Herr Reichmann and Herr Seidl. Herr Reichmann owes his celebrity chiefly to his identification with the part of Amfortas in the Bayreuth festivals; his fame in the musical world rests largely on his impersonation, in Vienna and the principal opera houses in Germany, of the Dutchman. Through his profoundly pathetic conception of the "Wandering Jew of the Sea," and Herr Seidl's sympathetic appreciation of the score and his ability to make the performance shadow forth its tragic import, the entire opera assumed a physiognomy that must have seemed strikingly new to those whose opinion of it had been formed on the performances that have been given here in Italian and English. Herr Reichmann's singing is not wholly free from faults, but in his exemplification of the true purpose of singing in dramatic representations he is a master. His voice is strong, full, and vibrant, his declamation superbly eloquent, his use of vocal color thrillingly effective. The veriest novice in the audience must have observed at the beginning of his duet with Senta in the second act, if he had not already detected it in the monologue of his first scene, that he was an exemplar of a species of vocal art which is a hundred times more moving than conventional operatic singing. Something like a magnetic shock went through the house when his superb tones united with the suave and lovely voice of Herr. Fischer in the first duet, and though the intensity of interest felt prevented any outburst of enthusiasm at the time (every effort at applause being sternly checked by a storm of hisses), both were rewarded with warmest tributes of gratitude and appreciation as soon as the curtain fell.

Herr Seidl conferred a twofold benefit on the representation at the Metropolitan Opera House by sinking the orchestra into the place contemplated in the architect's original plans. Practically he put it out of sight, for, though the heads of some of the violinists were visible, they no longer obtruded themselves between the spectators and the picture on the stage. The orchestral pit never had a trial in the first season of opera at the Metropolitan, Signor Vianesi condemning it untried. When Dr. Damrosch took the helm, he tried it, but for some reason, which seemed insufficient to me at the time, abandoned it and placed the players where Vianesi had them, nearly on a level with the first row of chairs. The growth of the band sent the drummers outside the railing, but still no one was brave enough to restore the original arrangement till the sixth German season was opened. In every respect it was an advantage. Not only were the illusions of the stage helped and the beauty of the pictures enhanced, but the music sounded better. Many of the virile effects in the music of modern composers can only be made by vigorous use of the brass choir; and a brazen forte is always in danger of degenerating into vulgar noise. Herr Seidl secured the desired sonority without the blatant noise by placing the blowers of brass and pounders on drums on the floor of the pit under the projecting front of the stage. The quality of tone generally was improved, and sounded more homogeneous.

According to a report in The New York Times: "There was a noticeable feature of the auditorium in the lowering of the orchestra pit so that the occupants of the seats on the main floor did not have their view of the stage interfered with by the jibbing violin-bows and by the bobbing heads of the musicians. There was one thing, however, that the audience did miss, and that was the kettledrum and he who used to play it with such gymnastic ability. Now that artist, Mr. Bernstein, is hidden beneath the stage, where the thunderous accompaniment rolled forth unattended by physical demonstrations. Herr Seidl, however, is still in full relief and the audience used all the opportunities offered it to applaud the musician with all the enthusiasm that an opera audience can arouse."

Alternate titles: The Flying Dutchman; Il Vascello Fantasma; Der Fliegende Hollaender .

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