[Met Performance] CID:8720
Norma {2} Boston Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/9/1890.

(Review)


Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Theatre
April 9, 1890
In German


NORMA {2}

Norma...................Lilli Lehmann
Pollione................Paul Kalisch
Adalgisa................Félicie Kaschowska
Oroveso.................Emil Fischer
Flavio..................Albert Mittelhauser
Clotilde................Emmy Miron

Conductor...............Walter Damrosch

From an unsigned review in the Boston Evening Transcript

We can not remember hearing "Norma" in German here before; but German or no German, it was good to hear this beautiful opera, which has almost completely lapsed from the Italian repertory in this country. We have never been quite able to understand how it came about that three of the old, standard Italian operas, which were once prime favorites, and are admirable examples of their several composer' genius, would have been given here so very seldom during the last ten or fifteen years. These are Bellini's "Norma," Donizetti's "Lucrezia Borgia," and Verdi's "Ernani." We would give a good deal to hear "Lucrezia" and "Ernani" once more; but now we have heard "Norma," for which let us be sincerely thankful…

Mme. Lehmann's Norma is one of the finest we know. Never has her commanding presence on the stage been more nobly impressive; the mere picture she presented to eye, as she stood up at the altar in the first act, was infinitely beautiful and majestic. She was every inch the high priestess of Irminoul. In action she is equally superb; all she does is on the grand, tragic scale, and even in her most violent scenes there is an element of regal majesty. When she discovers the relation between Pollione and Adalgisa - let us once and for all drop the German names and stick to the more familiar Italian - and her whole being is torn by jealousy and horror, we could not but recall Zola's description of Ristori, as Phèdre…The distinction she draws, too, between passion and pathos, is always just and finely felt; nothing could speak more appealingly of motherly tenderness than her manner with her children. Seldom have we seen anything more tragic and pathetic at once than the quiet dignity, the look of self-contained mental anguish, with which she lays aside her priestess' wrath and proclaims herself the culprit. It was, dramatically, a truly great impersonation.

Her singing, too, was almost invariably superb. It should be remembered that she was suffering from a cold, and not in her best voice. This may account for her singing both verses of "Casta diva" "sotto voce" throughout, which, with all her perfection of phrasing and beauty of sentiment, robbed this incomparable "cantilena" of some of its thrilling effect. In this air the human voice should not seek to imitate the placid moonlight whiteness of the flute in the introductory "ritornello'" it should add to it, and infuse into the melody the warm thrill of human emotion. But, if in "Casta diva" she left a little to be desired, nothing more completely fine in every respect would be imagined than her singing of "Bello a me ritorne." Here she carried everything before her. Italian prime donne had but look to their laurels, when a German - and a great Wagner singer to boot - sings "colorature" with the clearness, fluency, grace and brilliancy of bravura that Mme. Lehmann does, and dramatically at the same time, without any mincing prima donna graces. From this moment to the end Mme. Lehmann sang simply magnificently, save that we think that the dramatic force of the great terzet between Norma, Adalgisa and Pollione would have been more vividly revealed if the tempo had been a bit slower.

Frl.. Kaschoska made an almost ideal Adalgisa dramatically, acting with both truth of feeling and still, especially fine was the manner in which she made the artless maidenly charm and sincerity of the character to be felt. Her singing, too, was excellent in style and expressiveness, when it was in tune - which we are sorry to say, it was not invariably, her shortcoming in this particular being especially troublesome in the duets with Norma. Her vocalization, too, is not always quite clear in florid passages.

Herr Kalisch sang Pollione capitally. He has genuine depth of feeling and a certain poetic instinct that give beauty and grace to his expression. Take him all in all, he is an artist of exceedingly fine fibre, and with all his passionateness and animal vigor, he shows great keenness and delicacy of perception. Histrionic skill is not his, but he is earnest, wholly concentrated upon his part and sings admirably.

Herr Fischer has the voice and presence for Oroveso, but singing Bellini "cantilena" is hardly in his line, and he did not go beyond giving the part its proper dignity. The chorus was pretty thoroughly unsatisfying, although one could detect signs of careful training; but what a poor substitute their semi-inaudible "staccato" whispering was for really heartfelt singing of that divine bit of poetic melody, in thirds and sixths, which fall to their share between the verses of "Casta diva." The orchestra is to be credited with one good piece of work -- their exact observance of the dotted-eighths and sixteenths in the March showed this movement in its true light, as brilliant and "popular," but not vulgar. For the rest, however, they left a good deal to be desired.



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