[Met Performance] CID:86170
L'Africaine {32} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/31/1924.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 31, 1924

In Italian

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


Review signed 'H" in Musical America

The First 'L'Africana'

Mr. Gatti's glittering restoration, Meyerbeer's "L'Africana," was returned to the repertory Thursday evening with all the pomp and circumstance which marked the revival last spring. This colorful pageant is unquestionably one of the outstanding accomplishments of the regnant powers, no matter how one views music of this honorable vintage. For all its theatricalism, the score is a faithful index of the melodic resourcefulness of a truly unique figure - so, all in all, even from the musical standpoint, there are valid reasons for revival. The objection can be raised, however, that some of the cuts are ill-advised, for example, several of the baritone arias.

Beniamino Gigli again sang and acted the leading part of Vasco da Gama, the intrepid explorer, with rare gusto and fire. Gigli has added many cubits to his artistic stature since his advent at the Metropolitan. To catalog some of his virtues, he has a new poise and assurance in gesture, a graceful and acute understanding of what the rôle exacts from both the musical and histrionic sides; his boyish impetuosity of the past is now under proper restraint and is conserved for the ultimate moments. Vocally, his higher tones have taken on more breadth - the vitality and volume of the altissimo notes must delight the most perfervid connoisseur among our hypercritical standees. We must add that Mr. Gigli was a personable and ingratiating figure as Vasco and that the favorite arias, including, of course, "O Paradiso," were warmly, not to say feverishly, received by the vast audience.

On the previous evening Queena Mario was Juliet in the Gounod opera, but no sign of fatigue was to be discovered in her delineation of Inez in "L'Africana." The young soprano made an appealing picture of the young noblewoman who finally, after many stirring adventures, becomes the explorer's bride. It is also a pleasure to record the success of Rosa Ponselle as Selika, the African slave, in the wholly admirable cast. She sang in her best style - and Miss Ponselle is another artist who has developed apace - and offered an impressive impersonation, despite the limited opportunities afforded by the librettist, Scribe.

Giuseppe Danise was in his familiar place as the savage Nelusko. Our only regret was that this rôle has been abbreviated and therefore affords less opportunity for this capable singer. Others in this excellent cast included Marion Telva, Adamo Didur, Leon Rothier, Angelo Bada, Paolo Ananian, Pietro Audisio and Vincenzo Reschiglian. To Mr. Bodanzky belongs credit for the wise and discreet reading of the score.

Review of Mary Ellis Opdyke in the New York Sun


An operatic cancellation earlier in the season resulted in the fact that last night's performance of Meyerbeer's "L'Africana" was the first of the winter. From the great audience that crowded every available inch of standing room, it might even be gathered that a considerable line had been forming since the opera had first been scheduled.

From the admirable discipline of the ballet it might further be deduced that every available intervening hour had been put into practice, and every available duck and goose had been slaughtered and dyed and turned into additional headgear for the luxurious savages of the fourth act. From the dramatic sovereignty of Ponselle it might be proved that the soprano had spent no little time in polishing her part, while from the freshness of Mario's voice, it would never seem obvious that she had sung two nights in succession.

But after all the deductions have been made and all the proofs of perfection recorded, "L'Africana" remains a very dull opera, little more in fact than a slave to the opulence of its production. It is difficult to analyze how Gigli manages to infect his cry of "O Paradiso" with enthusiasm when he finds himself on a barren stage, once the ballet, its only claim to paradise, has hurried away. It a more difficult to trace the voyage of the third act ship across an improbable ocean. It is most difficult of all to follow Mr. Bodanzky's baton to any kind of musical appreciation in the score.

All these facts were, however, performed last night to the audible enjoyment of certain enthusiasts among the standees and to the additional credit of the continuously effective Danise, the variously sacerdotal Rothier, and half a dozen less important but no less harassed members of the cast. In the face of such a reception no one can demand an emancipation proclamation from "The African."

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