[Met Performance] CID:85500
New production
Martha {72} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/14/1923.

(Debut: Flora Cingolani
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 14, 1923
In Italian
New production


MARTHA {72}
Flotow-Friedrich

Lady Harriet............Frances Alda
Lionel..................Beniamino Gigli
Nancy...................Kathleen Howard
Plunkett................Giuseppe De Luca
Sir Tristram............Pompilio Malatesta
Sheriff.................Louis D'Angelo
Maid....................Flora Cingolani [Debut]
Maid....................Lavinia Puglioli
Maid....................Anna Staber
Servant.................Vincenzo Reschiglian

Conductor...............Gennaro Papi

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

Frances Alda repeated "The Last Rose of Summer" in English

Martha received eight performances this season.


Review of R. M. Knerr in Musical America


RESTORE "MARTHA" WITH FINE CASTAND NEW SCENERY AT METROPOLITAN

Tuneful Flotow Opera Sung for First Time Since Death of Caruso at Broadway Music Temple, with Frances Alda, Kathleen Howard, Beniamino Gigli and Giuseppe De Luca in Leading Roles

Melodious "Martha" was revived at the Metropolitan on Friday evening of last week after an interval of three seasons. Flotow's tuneful opera was the fourth new production of the season at the Broadway home of lyric drama. Mr. Gatti-Casazza has given it a colorful scenic mounting from the atelier of Joseph Urban, and has assigned to it several of his best singers. The work was sung in Italian, as is customary at the Metropolitan, though the locale is "Merrie England" and the composer a German.

Like several other operas which provided felicitous parts for Enrico Caruso, it had lapsed from the repertoire temporarily with the death of that sovereign singer. The work beloved of our grandparents, though it has now attained the respectable age of seventy-five years, proved last week that it may still exert a considerable charm. The reasons for "Martha's" perennial appeal are not far to seek. It provides a welcome change from the opera book soaked in blood and reeking with treasons. Its bucolic story of two simple wooings is full of human appeal. The very earnest seekers for new and disturbing harmonic combinations, to be sure, will not find these in the Freiherr von Flotow's tuneful pages, with their light, ingenuous scoring for the instruments. But who that is of a generation less recent than that reared upon Stravinskian lullabies does not cherish in the garden of pleasant memories the jollity of Richmond Fair?

"Marta," with its florid measures, is nevertheless somewhat exacting upon vocalists who essay it, and in the past a number of distinguished casts have been assembled. Back in 1887 our forebears went solemnly in the tight trousers and voluminous skirts then in vogue to hear Patti, Scalchi and Del Puente sing melodies which have been enshrined in the world's hymnals. The names of Nilsson, Gerster and the American soprano, Clara Louise Kellog, are associated with the work in that somewhat distant day, and under the golden-framed proscenium of the Metropolitan, Sembrich and Hempel have voiced "Last Rose of Summer."

The last previous performance at the Broadway music temple was given on the evening of April 18, 1920, with Maria Barrientos, Flora Perini, Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe De Luca as the quartet of principals. The only performances given in New York in the interim were those of the Wagnerian Opera Company last season, with Claire Dux in the name part.

The Metropolitan revival excelled in its animation and comic spirit and gave opportunity for some fine singing. The quartet of principals included four favorites at that institution. Frances Alda as Lady Harriet, Kathleen Howard as Nancy, Beniamino Gigli as Lionel and Mr. De Luca as Plunkett formed a distinguished foursome and gave a smooth performance of the music, particularly in the scene of the farmhouse, where Flotow spreads out his classic melodic wares.

Mme. Alda disclosed her clear and sympathetic voice to especial advantage in the passages of the score in which tender sentiment abounds. She brought a pictorial quality to the role that was most effective. Her singing in the "Spinning Wheel" Quartet of Act II was brilliant. The "Last Rose of Summer" aria brought a repetition of the first stanza in English. Mme. Howard was a broadly humorous Nancy, conveying by spirited gestures a certain lovable admixture of the vixen. She sang with considerable skill, fitted well into the ensembles and gave excellent voice to the fine concerted finale of Act III.

Interest centers in Mr. Gigli's impersonation of Lionel for, as successor to Caruso, he had a distinguished pair of shoes to fill. It may be recorded at once that he fully rose to the demand, and was vocally superb throughout the evening. He gave a fine mellow lyric quality of tone to all his music, from the duet "Solo, profugo" with Mr. De Luca in the Fair Scene, to the scene with Mme. Alda in Act IV. Spontaneous outbursts of applause broke in upon his singing in several instances. The "M'Appari" aria revealed his fine voice at his best, robust and smooth in quality and controlled with an art rare in the modern opera house. He brought an engaging boyishness to his acting as the bashful rustic youth and gave fervor to the love scenes.

Mr. De Luca's impersonation of Plunkett is familiar from earlier representations. It is vocally fine in the few opportunities given the singer, notably in his Drinking Song of Act III. In its suavity and manly timbre, Mr. De Luca's voice is an aristocrat among vocal organs. As the gruff countryman, he contributed acting in the true comic spirit.

Several lesser rôles were well cared for. Pompilio Malatesta gave an amusing picture of the pompous Sir Tristan and sang in good voice. Louis D'Angelo as the Sheriff in the Fair Scene was capital. Vincenzo Reschiglian had the minor part of a' Servant. Three members of the chorus, Flora Cingolani, Lavinia Puglioli and Anna Staber, were given opportunities as the Three Maids of the servants' market and acquitted themselves very well with their brief and tuneful quatrains. The chorus sang excellently.

Gennaro Papi conducted with spirit, reserving the Overture until the interim between the first and second scenes of Act I, when it was very heartily applauded. Indeed, the orchestra seemed to have a merry time of it during the whole evening. The real hero of the performance was Mr. Wymetal, who infused notable life and movement into his staging of the work. Throughout his hand was visible, in original conceptions of comedy action and in the synchronization of movement to the rhythms of the music. The Fair Scene was hilarious, indeed, with its naturally moving crowds and finale in which the tipsy Sheriff, waving his wig jovially, is borne off on the shoulders of the populace.

The scenes provided by Mr. Urban include a dainty miniature boudoir for Lady Harriet; a vision of the fair, surrounded by gabled houses and surmounted by a great green tree; a low-ceilinged farmhouse kitchen, with small leaded panes, and a really gorgeous setting for Act III, in which burnished trees overhang the dooryard of the forest inn.



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