[Met Performance] CID:82120
New production
Madama Butterfly {160} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/24/1922.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 24, 1922 Matinee
New production


MADAMA BUTTERFLY {160}
Puccini-Illica/Giacosa

Cio-Cio-San.............Florence Easton
Pinkerton...............Giovanni Martinelli
Suzuki..................Flora Perini
Sharpless...............Antonio Scotti
Goro....................Giordano Paltrinieri
Bonze...................Paolo Ananian
Yamadori................Pietro Audisio
Kate Pinkerton..........Cecil Arden
Commissioner............Vincenzo Reschiglian
Yakuside................Paolo Quintina

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

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Joseph Urban

Madama Butterfly received eight performances this season.

Review of H. E. Krehbiel in the Tribune

MISS EASTON WINS TRIUMPH IN "BUTTERFLY"
Artist Brings New Loveliness and Dramatic Power to Role of Cio-Cio-San in Debut in Puccini Opera

To all intents and purposes and for the vast majority of those who heard the performance at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon Florence Easton then made her debut as Cio-Cio-San in "Madama Butterfly." "Dit Rosina pense Patti." said a French critic long ago when the composer of "Il Barbiere" used to announce his presence in the Parisian home of the great singer by playing "J'as bon tabac" with one finger on her pianoforte and send to the cook the Parmesan cheese which he wanted served with the spaghetti.

So it has been with us New Yorkers for the last fifteen years - until yesterday. We have said Madame Butterfly and thought Geraldine Farrar. Yet other singers had been seen and heard in the character, which has come down to us, greatly changed in features but recognizable nevertheless, from Pierre Loti's "Madame Chrysanthème." One of the first of these was Miss Easton, who sang it in an English version of Puccini's opera at the Garden Theater three months before it received its first Italian performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in February 1907. It was one of Miss Destinn's roles when she first came to us, and there may be some people left who thought as we thought then, and think still, that she sang the music of the part better than the brilliant woman who made herself so much of a popular idol that she became for them the only acceptable counterfeit presentment. But saying and excerpting the little Japanese lady who was the Cio-Cio-San of Mr. Gallo's representation at the Garden Theater only a few weeks ago, no one would so look the part and body forth its pretty coquetry and touching pathos in her action as well as Miss Farrar.

Miss Easton's Work Supreme

It is therefore a daring thing to say that, despite all this, Miss Easton's performance yesterday was the most beautiful that we have ever seen or heard. But there is no use in having the privilege of expressing an opinion unless one has also the courage to do it. Miss Easton labored under great disadvantages. Not having a crowd of young women to rush almost palpitant and breathless in an ecstasy of adoration for her person, she had to win the triumph which came to her by the sheer exercise of her art. She had sung it twice before at the Metropolitan, bet even that bare fact did not linger in many minds. The first time was a popular Saturday night performance in March 1920; the second at a benefit performance for the Masonic Fund in May, 1921, some time after the season was a thing of the past and fashionable people had put it out of their minds. We heard neither of these representations, and such a tumultuous flood of music had poured over us since the Garden Theater days that for us she was something new, not only something new - a revelation. Not that we were not aware of her great gift of versatility - not because we knew that her intelligence and her artistic equipment were wide enough in scope to compass a Cio-Cio-San as well as an Isolde and Kundry - not for these thing alone, admirable, thrice admirable as they are, but because we found that she could invest the character with elements of artistic loveliness which none of her predecessors had discovered in it.

Her Butterfly was that of John Luther Long, David Belasco, Puccini and his librettists, and a good deal more. She enlarged the heart which these men put into Mme. Chrysanthéme to bring her within the reach of Occidental sympathy, and did so in a manner that made us oblivious of the anachronism which the character presents. She was a mere fragile and innocent creature at the beginning of the story (so far as her personal appearance permitted - but one can quite believe that even a French naval officer expected the woman whom, according to similar custom, he leased along with a home for a short space, was a child of fifteen years), but she grew to be a loving, trusting, hoping woman and a tragic victim by such obviously natural steps and with such convincing sincerity of song, declamation and action that we were willing to yield to the admiration and emotion which she compelled.

And there was an unusually fine finish in the entire representation; in Mr. Martinelli's Pinkerton, Scotti's Sharpless, Paltrinierei's Goro, Miss Perini's Suzuki (so good that by its very excellence it invited a feeling of sorrow for the passing of her predecessor, Miss Rita Fornia), and even Miss Cecil Arden's Kate Pinkerton -a character the introduction of which was as pitiful a blunder on the part of the composer as his change in the original form of the opera, which contained no interruption of the touching all-night vigil by the closing of the curtain. Much blame for this blot is the scutcheen falls upon the Italian audience at the first performance of the work; but we cannot wholly excuse Puccini for yielding to critical clamor against his own confessed sense of artistic propriety and righteousness.

There was new stage furniture designed by Mr. Urban. Ostensibly to gain intimacy, which is to be had with difficulty in a large theater, he has indulged in the liking for platforms, stages upon the stage, which he showed in "Oberon" and "Cosi fan tutte." This penchant for different planes for the action has a parallel of a sort in the harmonic planes of the revolutionary composers who want to "advance" art by superimposing contrapuntal voices of different keys upon each other. Why the people of the play should be walking up and down a series of steps in a room which should obviously have a flat floor we shall not attempt to explain. But it makes it easy for Sharpless, who has not accustomed himself to a cross-legged attitude on a mat, to sit in comfort. In the first scene we have an unconscionable amount of latticework, but must forego the picturesque and familiar Japanese gateway. It was also somewhat confusing, though the stage management has been improved by Mr. Wymental, to have daylight blot out the shadows of the garden visible in the moonlight and under the paper partitions opaque. But perhaps, this too, exemplifies progress.



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