[Met Performance] CID:88000
Aida {294} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/3/1924.

(Opening Night {40}
Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager

Debut: Tullio Serafin
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 3, 1924
Opening Night {40}

Giulio Gatti-Casazza, General Manager


AIDA {294}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Radamès.................Giovanni Martinelli
Amneris.................Margarete Matzenauer
Amonasro................Giuseppe Danise
Ramfis..................José Mardones
King....................Louis D'Angelo
Messenger...............Giordano Paltrinieri
Priestess...............Phradie Wells
Dance...................Florence Rudolph

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin [Debut]

Director................Armando Agnini
Set designer............Angelo Parravicini
Costume designer........Ethel Fox
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

Aida received ten performances this season.

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

The Metropolitan Opera House Raises the Curtain on its Fortieth Season

The Metropolitan gave its annual coming-out party for itself last night in the old homestead at Broadway and Thirty-ninth Street. The opera was "Aida." Is it necessary to say that joy was unconfined? - even though the management did not follow the precedent established by the sybaritic Ismail Pasha at the premiere of the opera at Cairo in 1871, when every member of the ballet eceived, from the philanthropic Khedive, a bottle of champagne after the performance.

It has been recognized for some time in the quarters most interested that the presence of a music critic on the opening night of the season at the Metropolitan is about as seemly as the presence of a bacteriologist at a clambake. He is extraneous to the picture; he is out of the bright key of the occasion. For, as these lucent events are usually ordered and accomplished, they offer small occasion for the sort of comment at which the critic is assumed to be adept. On the other hand, they most imperatively demand a kind of comment which he is, as a rule, pathetically unfitted to provide. He might be able to report that the grande dame in Box 999 was dazzling in a gown of' crepe suzette (if the indulgent lady at his side should take the trouble to enlighten him); but he would scarcely be able to state a hundred similar facts with the light-handed authority of the expert in that mysterious and exacting field. And, anyway, that is not what he is there for. What he is there for is to enlarge upon the qualities of the performance; and that, as a rule, is precisely what a canny management makes it almost impossible for him to do.

What the shrewd impresario aims to provide, as a rule, for the opening performance of his season is merely an irresistible operatic Personage, or a group of them if possible, in a familiar and glittering frame. The frame must not be new, and it must not be, as a frame, too fine a work of art - that is to say, it must not be, let us say, Bori plus "Pelléas et Mélisande"; for Miss Bori, magnetic attraction though she is, would be hopelessly compromised on an opening night by a frame of so rare and exquisite a quality as that. Those who came to observe Miss Bori, at such times as they were not observing each other, would be obliged also to hear "Pélleas et Mélisande" - which only a lunatic or an incredibly naive music lover would ask them to do on such an occasion.

It is true that the Metropolitan, once upon a time, did a dreadful and unforgiveable thing. That was when it so far forgot itself as to open the season with a work which offered no other attraction save the fact that it was a transcendent work of genius. The work in question was "Tristan and Isolde." But that was in the old, old, far-off days - it was, to be precise, in the season of 1901-1902. We ourself, being then juvenile, yeasty and inerrable, took it upon ourself to declare in print that the event "signalized the final triumph of the Wagnerites over the Italianissiini, so far as the local operatic public is concerned." Which, as a diagnosis and an implied prophecy, was a singularly wild shot. Neither Mr. Grau --- that historic culprit - nor any of his successors ever again opened the Metropolitan with "Tristan" or with a work of comparable artistic stature. They have opened it, instead, with operas like "Rigoletto," '"Romeo et Juliette," "La Juive," "Traviata," "Tosca," "Thais"; which, those works being what they are, and operatic openings being what they are, was exactly the thing to do.

But we have been speaking of Opening Night at the Metropolitan as it usually is - an occasion chiefly social and sociable, a sort of urbanized and glitteringly sophisticated. Old Home Week compressed into a single evening, with a minimum of novelty behind the footlights and most of the new faces confined to the audience. A reviewer who should expect to find material for serious discourse on such an occasion would be gullible enough to buy the whaling rights in the Central Park reservoir.

Last night's event, however, departed from these precedents. There were no new singers in the cast - indeed, with two minor exceptions (Mr. d'Angelo's King and Mr. Paltrinieri's Messenger), the Amneris, Aida, Radames, Ramfis, Amonasro and Priestess of last night's performance were those of last season; and we all knew how Mmes. Matzenauer and Rethberg and Wells, and Messrs. Martinelli, Mardones and Demise acquitted themselves in those roles. It remained only to record the possible heightening of an excellence here and there, or the noting of some regrettable lapse from lyric virtue. But, despite the familiar singers, there was a major element of novelty and of fresh artistic interest in last night's performance: the presence of a new conductor. This was Tullio Serafin, who comes to the Metropolitan trailing clouds of not inconsiderable glory as a leader of orchestras overseas.

Mr. Serafin, a Venetian by birth, has had almost a quarter of a century's experience in European opera houses. He was, for a time, Toscanini's assistant at La Scala. He has conducted opera at Ferrara and Madrid; at Covent Garden, London; at the Champs Elysées in Paris; in Buenos Aires, and at Turin he directed symphony concerts. He was the teacher of Montemezzi at the Milan Conservatory, and conducted the Italian premiere of "L'Amore del Tre Re." He is sympathetic toward the musical modernists - dares to speak well of Malipiero, Pizzetti, Casella, and has an open ear for the younger men. He is forty-six years old, likes horseracing and Brahms, and confessed to an inexorable interviewer for the "Times" that he inclined toward blondes - although he yielded to none in his admiration for brunettes. His manner on the conductor's stand is immensely energetic, vividly demonstrative. He is a commanding personality, forceful and authoritative. His will and his magnetism pervaded the orchestra, the chorus, the chief singers last night, He sang with them, at them, for them; he was everywhere at once, persuasive, propulsive, dominating. He secured a performance of great vitality and power, brilliant, massive, sonorous, yet charged with nervous energy.

He brought both a vivifying and a transforming imagination to his delivery of Verdi's score. The music of "Aida" is a curious blend of exuberant vulgarity and dramatic vividness. There is scarcely a page of the score in which the musical invention is of high distinction. Saliency there is, profile there is, warmth and sincerity of impulse. But the Verdi of the early seventies was scarcely the fine-natured and deeply-probing artist of "Othello" and "Falstaff." He was the Verdi who had written to a friend, a few years before the composition of "Aida," when he was avidly seeking a libretto, that the subject of Shakespeare's "King Lear" was "magnificent, sublime, pathetic, but not sufficiently spectacular for an opera." That is the Verdi of "Aida" - a composer adept in the external effects and the cruder dramatic potencies of the theater, exploiting their opportunities, but constrained by their limitations and coarsened by their requirements, and only occasionally exhibiting the deeper and more moving traits of his genius. It was the outstanding excellence of Mr. Serafin's reading of the score last night that he made the most of those finer moments of emotional sincerity that it contains, pointing and sharpening their accents and illuminating their depths; and that he transvalued, as far as any one can, the blatancies of those passages that have made "Aida" the first resort of open air opera companies and the darling of those for whom the acme of aesthetic boredom is represented by the third act of "Tristan and Isolde."

The new conductor was received with great cordiality by the audience and provoked a special demonstration of enthusiasm when he appeared before the curtain after the rousing finale of the second act - and this welcome was obviously more than a tribute from his compatriots -behind the railings. The performance was an inspiring one, unblighted by perfunctoriness. The principals in the cast - Mme. Rethberg (bewigged with an unbecoming new ostermoor), Mme. Matzenauer (slightly wavering as to voice and with a too expansive and persistent first act smile), Mr. Martinelli, Mr. Denise and Mr. Mardones were on the whole in good form, and were exuberantly greeted by the immense house. It was an auspicious beginning for Mr. Gatti's seventeenth season at the Metropolitan, and if he wasn't pleased, be should have been.



Photograph of Tullio Serafin by Herman Mishkin.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).