[Met Performance] CID:83240
United States Premiere
Anima Allegra {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/14/1923.
 (United States Premiere)
(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 14, 1923
United States Premiere


ANIMA ALLEGRA {1}
Vittadini-Adami/Motta

Consuelo................Lucrezia Bori
Pedro...................Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Sacramento..............Kathleen Howard
Coralito................Queena Mario
Lucio...................Armand Tokatyan
Eligio..................Adamo Didur
Carmen..................Grace Anthony
Frasquita...............Marion Telva
Mariquita...............Myrtle Schaaf
Tonio...................Angelo Badà
Diego...................Millo Picco
Ramirrez................Italo Picchi
Singer..................Rafaelo Díaz
Gypsy...................Paolo Ananian

Act II Ballet - Spanish Dances arranged by Rosina Galli
a) Malaguena: Rosina Galli
b) Panaderos: Rosina Galli, Giuseppe Bonfiglio, Florence Rudolph

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

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Antonio Rovescalli
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

Anima Allegra received six performances this season.

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

"Anima Allegra" at Metropolitan

The Metropolitan Opera House gave shelter last evening to a new opera from Italy, "Anima Allegra," heard for the first time in America. This was in pursuance of the promises of the management made at the beginning of the season. "Anima Allegra" is the first new opera to be given here this season. It is by a man whose name is unknown in New York, Franco Vittadini, a young Italian composer, and it is his second opera. Published three years ago, it has already gained a considerable popularity in Italy, and is now represented at many of the Italian opera houses.

The opera was heard with apparent interest by a large audience and there was much applause at the striking points, a good deal of it delivered by those who had a special and persistent interest in one or another of the artists, but much of it by those who were only interested in good performances of agreeable music. The artists were all called out many times after the curtain fell, and there was every evidence that the opera had given pleasure.

"Anima Allegra" unfolds perhaps the simplest, most harmless and least exciting story that has ever been put into an opera. Really nothing of a dramatic sort happens from beginning to end; and it has also the advantage, rare among operas, of saying or implying nothing whatever that could bring the blush of shame to the cheek of the most modest.

The libretto has been made by Giuseppe Adami from a Spanish tale by the brothers Quintero. It explains at considerable length and with copious illustration that life is dull in the Marchioness Sacramento's old-fashioned Provincial house in Alminar del Reina, Spain. Thus, Tonio, a person of whom nothing is heard after the first few pages of the opera, is painting the portrait of the stuffy old majordomo, Don Eligio, with the intervention of a certain amount of criticism; Lucio, a spoiled youngster comes in, making a noise which irritates Donna Sacramento, and is corrected; family prayers are held while Lucio misbehaves, and is again corrected. Pedro, the son of the house, who finds life in Granada more agreeable than at Alminar, arrives, is greeted and discusses his debts, and is likewise corrected - all this to establish the fact that life is dull in the Sacramento household; which it does.

Now a carriage rumbles up and discharges Consuelo, an extremely lively young niece, and her maid, Coralito, also lively, with abundant luggage, for an unexpected visit. Greetings and family talk. Bedtime comes and all go off to bed. But the sound of a serenade is heard outside the window, and Consuelo steals down in the moonlight to listen to it. Being disappointed to find that it is only by the unimportant Lucio, and not Pedro, as she had hoped. she goes back to bed. Decidedly, life is a little dull at the Sacramento mansion.

There is a gypsy encampment close by, and in the next act Consuelo breaks all Spanish conventions by seeking diversion there with Coralito and Lucio, and finding it in ample measure. In the midst of the uproarious proceedings Pedro arrives, sent by his mother to administer correction and to bring his cousin back and straighten out the proprieties. But he needs little persuasion to remain and join the festivities.

In the next act Donna Sacramento is discussing the enormity of the incident with her majordomo, and the larger question of the overturning of the household by the lively niece. They are interrupted by the return from Granada of Pedro, who cannot resist his cousin's attraction. Consuelo appears. There is conversation. Then she has them all help her in putting in place numerous pots of flowers she has ordered. Don Eligio complains of the mess, but the aunt's heart is softened by Consuelo who then proceeds to win over the majordomo, too: and what more natural than that Pedro and Consuelo should find that they love each other? They do. and the curtain falls. The net result of three acts is that life, which was dull, has been brightened at the Sacramento mansion.

Nobody need look for any arrière pensée in "Anima Allegra," any philosophy of life, or even any general theory of brightening it; any passion or ardent emotion or underhand deed of any kind. Gayety is its theme, and its lesson is that life perceptibly brightens it you are visited by a sufficiently lively niece.

And hence it follows that Mr. Vittadini had no need to search deeply into the arcana of music to find means for illustration and interpreting his libretto. What he needed and in no small measure he found was lightness, gayety, sparkle, mellifluousness and brilliancy, with some degree of characterization of his different personages, which to a less extent he has also found.

The music of the opera is fresh, free and spontaneous. There is melody, generally sweet and not generally of a very distinguished kind. The composer makes considerable use of the short-breathed "conversational" style, in which so many of the latter day Italian operas are written, brief and disjected musical phrases whose connection is made and whose point is made and heightened by the underlying orchestral current. But he has also found frequent occasion for lyrical expansion for the voices, moments in which a more shapely melodic contour is given to the music.

It must be confessed that in melodic invention Mr. Vittadini does not show a strongly original prompting. He leans upon others, but most strongly upon Puccini. But it is something, even under such circumstances, to be a melodist in these days and to write real melody for the voice instead of confining them to declamation and ejaculation.

In the scene of the gypsy encampment in the second act Mr. Vittadini found his greatest opportunity for local color and the musical expression of Spain. He has made little or no attempt at these things in the two arts that pass in the country house. But here he joins the serried ranks of composers who, not being Spaniards, have undertaken to show the Spaniards what music can do in the way of being Spaniards. Here he bursts into the greatest brilliancies of orchestra, chorus and dances. There are crashing choruses of gypsies, flower girls, cooks, spectators, all sorts of people in a crowd. A pity that there were no opportunities for bull-fighters. There are several swirling Spanish dances of a familiar outline, danced with tremendous bravura.

There is no more interesting incident among them, and none more characteristic, than the song of a young gypsy accompanying himself on a lute-like instrument - a song of intense expression and energy, showing the strong Oriental strain in the Spanish gypsy music, especially in the long, vocal flourishes. In all these things the composer is adept at obtaining the exciting effects aimed at, and in piling up all possible means to secure them.

The waltz song heard when Consuelo arrives in the first act - a passage full of delicate color - the effect of the bells when the young people finish their adventures with the gypsies by climbing into the belfry and setting the chimes a-going, and the amorous duet at the close, pretty but not cutting very deeply, are among the other passages that linger in the memory.

In his treatment of the orchestra, Mr. Vittadini has learned many of the modern secrets of glitter and dazzle and seldom forgets any of them. He writes for the orchestra with dexterity and skill, brilliantly and often with a shimmering and flashing, brightness. It is this color that he seeks and that is precisely the one to set off to the best advantage the light and rapid course of his mirthful and flowing music.

In short, it may be said that in "Anima Allegra" Mr. Vittadini has been successful in producing what he aimed for. His aim was not high, but it is something to be successfully gay.

Everything is done for the opera in the production at the Metropolitan Opera House to make it shine. Miss Lucrezia. Bori is delightful as Consuelo; fascinating in appearance, in her vivacity and contagious gayety, garbed in the most gorgeous gowns. She sings to music with élan and sparkle. So does Miss Queena Mario, who is the scarcely less vivacious maid Coralito and who represents her with much skill. The Pedro is Mr. Lauri-Volpi, the new Italian tenor. His voice is powerful, and he is apt to emphasize its power, not to the advantage of its quality or the finer expressiveness of his singing. It is also apt to take on the "white" color unpleasing except to a very special taste in Italian voices, and a hard metallic quality.

Armand Tokatyan made a sufficiently spoiled youngster of Lucio: he sang the serenade in the first act excellently and Mr. Didur put the touch of caricature doubtless intended upon the figure of the absurd majordomo, Don Eligio. Rafaelo Diaz has only a moment's work to do in singing the wild gypsy song in the second act, but he accomplishes a difficult task well. The gypsy dances in that act were thrillingly carried out by Miss Galli, Miss Rudolph and Mr. Bonfiglio. The chorus distinguished itself in this act.

Mr. Moranzoni conducted the performance in a way to make it scintillate. The decorations of the three scenes are well designed, the first showing a spacious room with a gallery of the old house: the second the square in the town filled with gypsies with the bell tower adjacent: the third, the patio. The costumes, especially those of the gypsy crowd, are dazzling in their brilliancy.



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