[Met Performance] CID:83730
New production
L'Africaine {25} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/21/1923.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 21, 1923
In Italian
New production


L'AFRICAINE {25}
Meyerbeer-Scribe

Sélika..................Rosa Ponselle
Vasco de Gama...........Beniamino Gigli
Inès....................Queena Mario
Nélusko.................Giuseppe Danise
Pedro...................Adamo Didur
Diégo...................Paolo Ananian
Alvar...................Angelo Badà
Grand Inquisitor........Léon Rothier
High Priest.............Léon Rothier
Anna....................Marion Telva
Usher...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Officer.................Pietro Audisio

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban
Choreographer...........August Berger
Translation by unknown

L'Africaine received six performances this season.


Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun:

GIGLI TRIUMPHS IN ELABORATE REVIVAL OF "L'AFRICANA"

Meyerbeer Opera Sung at the Metropolitan for First Time Since 1907

The pomp and circumstance of Giacomo Meyerbeer returned amid the blare of trumpets and the screaming of the wry necked piccolo to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House last evening. Out of the golden remote past arose a splendid reincarnation of Vasco di Gama, hero and navigator, who conquered the Cape of Good Hope long before the Flying Dutchman was invented. Beniamino Gigli breathed the breath of life once more into the bold mariner of 1497 and led "L'Africana." The last opera of Meyerbeer (the work he did not live to hear) to a triumph approved by the plaudits not only of the professional celebrators behind the rail, but of the amateurs in boxes and stalls.

The opera, like Bruennhilde, had enjoyed a long sleep and might well have echoed her pointed question, "Who is the hero that awakened me?"….Whether present day audiences will enjoy the ingenious combination of musical and pictorial spectacle which is the fibre of Meyerbeer's works remains to be demonstrated. It is not essential that any long critical essay be written about "L'Africana." But one thing may be asserted without hesitation, to wit, that if any new composer should arrive with as attractive an exhibit as this skillfully joined mechanism of operatic puppets and scenery we would all arise and cheer him vociferously.

"L'Africana" is dull in spots, but its bright spots are bright indeed. The brightest of all musically is Vasco's air generally known as "O Paradiso." But Inez and Selika and Nelusko all have opportunities, and as for the chorus, who could have equipped it with "Tu che las terra adora" save the wizard of the Paris Grand Opera? The topmost ascent of Meyerbeer's fancy in this score is to be found in the fourth act.

The old wizard (or shall we say juggler?) of the Paris Grand Opera had no doctrines to promulgate about the union of the arts tributary to the drama, but when he wrote this act he knew what he wished and how to get it. Here we have exotic scenery and costumes, a dazzling assembly of people of No Man's Land (dimly identified by elephantine decorations in the architecture and melodious invocations of Brahma and Siva.

A gorgeous ballet with effective music, a tenor solo of the richest operatic quality and an ensemble that appeals to both eye and ear and even enlivens the imagination, furnish an outlay of theatrical treasure of unusual worth. The scene makes an excellent contrast to the last one in which Selika, abandoned by Vasco, dies under a manzanilla tree, of aromatic pain.

Miss Ponselle's voice proved to be well suited to Meyerbeer's music, but her experience in the field of opera had not taught her the precise stage value of the numerous ad captandum effects designed by the most accomplished trickster among lyric composers. Sometimes she used the effects well and sometimes she failed to get them over the footlights. But on the whole she impersonated Selika with credit to herself and justified the impresario's judgment in casting her for the part.

Miss Queena Mario had to portray Inez, the bleating lamb of grand opera. She accomplished the undertaking commendably. She would have had more success if she had sung all the music with better tone, but she has of late fallen into a habit of elevating her chin as high as she can so that her vocal organs are not in the most favorable position.

Mr. Danise was an excellent Nelusko. A more stentorian voice and a more burly style than his would be nearer to the demands of the part, but he sang and acted with intelligence, beauty of tone and physical vigor. His costumes and makeup were admirable. Mr. Didur as Don Pedro, Mr. Rothier as the Grand Inquisitor and the Brahmin priest and Mr. Ananian as Don Diego rounded out a competent array of artists.

Mr. Bodanzky conducted, despite the fact that it was a French opera sung in Italian, and his tempi and dynamics showed that he was well acquainted with established manner of giving the opera. The chorus sang very well and the ballet performed its remarkable gyrations before the Hindu temple with much grace and agility.



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