[Met Performance] CID:82100
Aida {276} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/22/1922.

(Debuts: Elisabeth Rethberg, Sigrid Onegin, Edmund Burke, Florence Hart
Reviews)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 22, 1922


AIDA {276}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Elisabeth Rethberg [Debut]
Radamès.................Giovanni Martinelli
Amneris.................Sigrid Onegin [Debut]
Amonasro................Giuseppe Danise
Ramfis..................José Mardones
King....................Edmund Burke [Debut]
Messenger...............Pietro Audisio
Priestess...............Laura Robertson
Dance...................Florence Hart [Debut]

Conductor...............Roberto Moranzoni

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Mario Sala
Set designer............Angelo Parravicini
Costume designer........Maison Chiappa

Aida received ten performances this season.


Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

Three debuts of importance to New York's future enjoyment of a favorite opera marked last night's performance of "Aida" at the Metropolitan, an occasion already "discounted" in advance in so far as the public had assumed in Mme. Sigrid Onegin, since her recent concert debut, the arrival of a first magnitude star. As Verdi's Princess of Egypt, she justified hopes and predictions her friends then made. The new Amneris as a woman of majestic grace, broad gesture, brooding calm, while her voice was again one of great power controlled with smoothness and beauty, its emotional color prevailing of the "darker" sort, but stirred with the true gleam of temperamental fire.

Mme. Elizabeth Rethberg, heard for the first time in America in last evening's title role, made her most favorable impression at the start of Aida"s lamenting air, "Numi, pietà." Her high, clear, liquid tones of a singular brightness floating above Verdi's orchestration with unforced ease. The Dresden soprano dominated sufficiently the noisier ensemble of the Theban trumpet scene, and she was dramatically acceptable in spite of crude costuming and the nervousness of this utmost critical ordeal. In the Nile scene, there was again opportunity for her singing to win its way, which, after all, is the main point; a success in essentials, distinctly was Mme. Rethberg.

Mr. Burke was a sightly King of Egypt, and vocally an old friend to many who had heard the Canadian baritone on concert tours with Mme. Melba. He sang with intelligence and acted with dignity, surrounded by Metropolitan veterans such as Martinelli, Danise, Mardones and others who were cordially welcomed by a crowded house.



Review in The New York Herald

The first performance of "Aida" for the present season took place at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening. The opera once neglected and passed by with something like contempt by all New York is now one of its dearest joys. But, perhaps it was not the opera. There were three debuts last night, those of Miss Elizabeth Rethberg as Aida, Mme. Sigrid Onegin as Amneris, and Edmund Burke as the King. Perhaps there was much curiosity to hear these new singers, especially as two of them belong to the northern wing of the organization. The soprano is a German from Berlin and the contralto a Swede from Stockholm. The latter had been heard in a concert of the Symphony Society and made a favorable impression, but last evening she made her first local appearance in opera.

Miss Rethberg was suffering so much from nervousness that she had almost no breath control. But the excellent quality of her voice and the strenuous nature of her dramatic utterance promises well for her later appearances. A fresh, strong and warm voice backed by temperament, is a valuable asset in any opera company and Miss Rethberg will probably give a good account of herself in the future.

Miss Onegin has a rich and noble voice of heroic proportions, but not quite enough range for Amneris. She suffered like her companion from nervousness, though not so much, but still enough to disturb her phrasing and in several instances her intonation. Her delivery of the more declamatory measures of Amnneris lacked intensity, but she sang much of the role admirably. It is likely that both of the newcomers will be heard to greater advantage in other operas.

Of Mr. Burke it is unnecessary to say more than that he seemed last evening to be a utility bass of a type familiar to all opera houses. The other principals were Giovanni Martinelli as Radames, Giuseppe Danise as Amonasro and Jose Mardones as Ramfis. Miss Florence Hart was the solo dancer in the scene of the triumph. Mr. Moranzoni conducted. There have been smoother performances of "Aida" at the Metropolitan, but here again the continued anxieties of two important debutantes must be considered.


Review in The New York World

The debutantes had things their own way last night at the Metropolitan. From Elizabeth Rethberg's first "Ritotna vincitor" to the closing duet beneath the temple there were new faces, new tones, and new characterizations to inject enough novelty into the familiar work to please the most accustomed regular standee.

The company has acquired two excellent voices and two invaluable actresses in the new debutantes. They proved conclusively that opera is to be seen as well as heard, especially in the triumph scene, where the conflict of emotions and impulses stands out from the general fabric of the plot like an embroidered figure. Miss Rethberg, not in least nervous, produced an abundance of fresh, brilliant tones, dynamic and full of magnetism clear to the top, although once or twice she indulged a tendency to "spread" her upper notes in a manner hardly in keeping with good singing. She made of Aida a volatile, poignant characterization. Mme. Onegin, who was heard a short time ago as a soloist with a symphony orchestra, fulfilled the prophecy made at the time that she would "do big things in opera." She was every inch a queen as she appeared in the hall of the Pharoah's the first time. Her Amneris is alluring and designing, crafty and undisguisedly infatuated by turns. There were many moments where the guile of an Ortrud showed through the sinister portrait of the enamoured Princess. She ought to be unforgettable in "Lohengrin," Her voice is opulent and gorgeously colored; there is intensity and dour drama in the turn of her head as she watches her slave rival.

Edmund Burke, the new King, is enormous in stature and stentorian in tone. He sang his lines rather mechanically, it seemed; but then perhaps it is the divine right of a King to be merely a rhetorical figure. Mr. Danise, in fine voice, brought out the dramatic agonies of the captive Ethiopian Amonasro and his subsequent masterfulness toward his daughter. Mr. Martinelli in splendid voice, covered himself with glory in the Nile scene especially. He has never sung better than he did that act. Mr. Mardones sang Ramfis, and Mr. Audisio and Miss Robertson added technical skill to the minor roles assigned them.

The piece has been re-costumed with more color than taste. It is too bad we have so little authentic data concerning what the court and proletariat of ancient Egypt wore. In the draped garments last night the Egyptians looked like so much as a bevy of rural matrons who had attended a rummage sale and were trying to wear all their bargains home. And when will some energetic director abolish the pink and brown Munsing wear for the soldiers and chorus? Somehow brown paint seems infinitely more modest (to say nothing of esthetic) than wrinkling and lumpy "heavies."

But the stage directing seemed exceptionally good, and the ballet (with an amazing number of blonde Egyptians) danced rigorously and with usual grace. Mr. Moranzoni gave the piece a speedy reading, sending the first act through like wildfire. Incidentally in the trio of that act he drowned three strong voice with his stress. If one did not have to look at the costumes, it was a fine satisfying evening.


Review of Mary Ellis Updyke in the New York Sun

'AIDA' WITH NEW SINGERS

There was a coming out party at the Metropolitan last night, with two debutantes and a new tenor for presentation. The title role of Aida fell to Elizabeth Rethberg, new to the company, from Dresden, and hitherto unheard in New York. The new Aida was thoroughly barbarian, frenzied in her acting but remarkably self-possessed and happily chary in her glances at the conductor, Mr. Moranzoni. Her voice is absolutely true, apt to grow reedy in her fortes, but often liquid and beautiful in the softer upper tones.

Sigrid Onegin, the new Amneris, displayed all the burning dramatic power that the formalities of the concert stage forced her to repress with the Philadelphia Orchestra several weeks ago. She was not always absolutely on pitch, but she maintained her regal standard in every bit of stage business that came her way. Queenly in demeanor and apparel, a similar richness of vesture covered her voice with even hue through all its broad register. Singularly regular the coloring that Mme. Onegin can maintain as far up the scale as she can go.

King Edmund Burke did not, unfortunately, preserve the aristocratic security of his Egyptian daughter. The young Canadian bass sounded and looked constrained, and Danise as the Ethiopian prisoner King has vastly more assurance within his handcuffs. Of his voice it were better to withhold judgment till a less nervous occasion.

Giovanni Martinelli appeared positively carefree among his anxious colleagues, and sang with an aplomb that met its reward in the earnest approval of the house. His "Celeste Aida" was suavity itself. Audiso brought out the interest of the messenger with commendable skill, while Jose Mardones and Laura Robertson enacted the chief priest and priestess. Florence Hart Americanized her share of the ballet and was warmly acclaimed. So were the white horses of the second act and the ascending trumpets, and all the glory of the stage. In detail, however, there were noticeable many pale grey undershirts, and wrinkled cotton gloves, many black Pickford curls hung about the weary chorister men, and many Thebes' hundred granite gates trembled at the passing of a chiffon scarf. The coming out party was a festive one in so far as the personal success of the debutantes is concerned, but there had obviously been little extravagance in regard to the coming out wardrobes.


Photograph of Elisabeth Rethberg as Aida by Herman Mishkin.



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