[Met Performance] CID:89450
United States Premiere
Giovanni Gallurese {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/19/1925.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debut: Giovanni Grandi

Metropolitan Opera House
February 19, 1925
United States Premiere


Giovanni Gallurese......Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Maria...................Maria Müller
Rivegas.................Giuseppe Danise
Nuvis...................Giovanni Martino
José....................Adamo Didur
Tropéa..................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Pasquale................Pompilio Malatesta
Bastiano................Angelo Badà
Officer.................Millo Picco
Shepherd's Voice........Merle Alcock
Dance...................Florence Rudolph
Dance...................Rosina Galli
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Giovanni Grandi [Debut]
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli

Giovanni Gallurese received five performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in the February 25 1925 issue of Musical America


Italian composer Is Center of Repeated Demonstrations at the Metropolitan When "Giovanni Gallurese" Is Mounted - Score Contains Attractive Melody, Wedded to Outmoded Plot - Maria Müller, Lauri-Volpi and Danise in Chief Parts

ITALO MONTEMEZZI, tall, spare, and with hair silvering at the meridian of life, looked back twenty years to "Giovanni Gallurese," his first opera, when it was accorded its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House Thursday evening, Feb. 19. Summoned repeatedly before the curtain by a demonstrative audience, and presented with an enormous ornamental wreath, the distinguished Italian bowed and beamed his happiness after each of the three acts. It was a kingly reception which New York thus extended to the composer of its beloved "L'Amore dei Tre Re," but after the tumult and the shouting died, the impression left was that the demonstration was for Montemezzi more than for Thursday's opera, and that he was lionized because he wrote "L'Amore," rather than by reason of his authorship of "Gallurese."

Reversion to the earlier works of men who have won operatic fame after several preliminary ventures, long has tempted impresarios, and in this they are continually seconded by opera patrons, who till their small-talk with speculations as to the nature of this or that early product of some celebrity; and with wonderings as to why opportunities of hearing these works are not forthcoming. Those with relatively brief operatic memories can recall experiments at the Metropolitan with Puccini's "Le Villi," Bizet's "Pearl Fishers" and Rossini's "L'Italiana in Algieri," as well as the more rewarding resuscitations of early Verdian scores. That success seldom has crowned these efforts to give vitality to works of the formative period of operatic masters apparently is never a conclusive argument against further delving into the past. Always there remains the possibility that some amazing jewel will be found, one that was not properly appreciated when it first came to light either because it was in advance of its time, or because men did not recognize a diamond in the rough. We may yet hear Verdi's "Nabucco" and Wagner's "Die Feen" or "Das Liebesverbot," having so recently experienced "Ernani" and "Rienzi."

Interest in the Metropolitan's acquisition of "Giovanni Gallurese," however, was not of the historical character to be found in most of the works referred to. Rather, it was a personal interest in Montemezzi, growing out of the abiding affection in which this public holds his "L'Amore." "Gallurese" is much too recent to be of importance to the pedant or relic hunter, dating back only to 1905, when it achieved its premiere at Turin under the baton of the same conductor who presided over the performance Thursday, Tullio Serafin. It is only eight years older than "L'Amore" and must stand or fall as a modern work.

The performance given the novelty was a competent one, the details of which naturally take a place subordinate to a discussion of the character of the opera itself. The libretto by Francesco d'Angelantonio… is not badly made, so far as craftsmanship is concerned. But for operatic purposes, the choice of the subject is not a happy one. There is both too little and too much action, due to the circumstance that either nothing at all is happening, leaving the characters to sing the equivalent of old-fashioned solos and duets; or there is gunplay and an excess of scurrying about of a kind that does not lend itself naturally to musical expression.

"Giovanni Gallurese" resembles in details of its story both "Ernani" and "William Tell." They sufficed for the dramatic requirements of the early part of the last century, but no composer of this era would think of setting the book of either. Montemezzi has taken their equivalent in "Gallurese," with the result that he has prejudiced his cause at the start. His subject is outmoded, his characters are cardboard figures with little human appeal, the arrangement of the text is such as to call for reactionary rather than advanced musical methods - for operatic set pieces instead of the semi-symphonic web of the post-Wagnerian music drama - and the very nature of most of these events (abductions, rescues, battles of musketry and eventual assassination) more or less hostile to musical investiture. Some one has said that there never has been a successful shot fired in opera. "Gallurese" is about as badly off in this respect as "La Navarraise." Like that work, it suggests a moving picture at times more than it does a lyric drama - but the films do such things far more convincingly. In physical heroics, opera singers usually are fortunate not to evoke laughter where least intended.

Montemezzi's music is not that of a half-fledged youth. He was thirty when "Gallurese" was first sung. His musical gifts were those of a man mature both in ideas and craftsmanship, and it was his subject more than his lack of experience that kept "Gallurese" from reaching the splendors of "L'Amore." The first act, devoted almost entirely to the soliloquies of the tenor and the soprano, and to the love music between them, is filled with warm, pulsating melody, much of it worthy of the hand that penned the melodies of "L'Amore." It is melody that will grow in the affections with re-hearings. And it is orchestrated, for the most part, with a taste and mastery that Puccini and others of the latter-day Italian opera-makers have not equaled. But the music came to Thursday's audience as neither quite one thing nor the other - the railbirds tried to applaud the vocal parts as they would old-school solos and duets, only to be hissed at by others intent on the symphonic continuity of the scoring.

In the second act, the composer set for himself a task foreign to his particular gifts. For two Sardinian dances he adapted or imitated native airs of vitality and charm, but for the violent action which followed the divertissement he found no suitable musical corollary. Even at the time when muskets are crackling behind the scenes, as the Spaniards and the followers of Gallurese are battling, there is no excitement in the scoring. The orchestra wends its way, rather sadly serene, or else halts altogether. Save for the dances, this is musically a very barren act. Nor has the composer been very happy in his apparent imitation of the accordion, visibly (but silently) played by a member of the chorus in the "Danza Montanara." After "Petruschka," however, it is possible that even the real thing in accordions would seem only a feeble and unconvincing imitation of itself.

The third act, in spite of the futility of the taunting of "Rivegas"- inevitably recalling Moussorgsky's stingingly vital treatment of the somewhat similar scene of the maltreatment of the Boyar in "Boris" (and in spite also of the ill-chosen gun play which brings on the final tragedy) has lyric moments approaching in beauty those of the first act, some of the music being in fact a partial repetition of the earlier themes. The love duet just preceding the assassination, with its climactic unison high B, is very good operatic writing of the "Cavalleria"-"Pagliacci"-"Jewels of the Madonna" order, but is much less aristocratic in its melodic inspiration than the music of Giovanni and Maria in the first twenty minutes of the opera.

There is a rather effective musical picture in the last act of the refugees wearily fleeing Spanish tyranny, and the very close of the opera, when Maria hovers over the dying Giovanni, brings a beautifully simple melody to the orchestra, expressive not so much of the human tragedy, as of the sorrowing solitude of the Sardinian hills. From the brazen solemnity of the very brief prelude to the first act, something of this brooding loneliness, a little sinister and ill-omened, invests the score. There is not much of characterization though there are recurrent themes in the music allotted to Giovanni and his adversary, Rivegas. Atmospherically, the music succeeds in suggesting its locale.

Miss Müller's Maria possessed the requisite vocal charm to yield to Thursday's audience the full beauty of this air, her earlier entrance song and plentiful duet passages with Giovanni. She enhanced the impression previously given that she combines with a very lovely voice a considerable measure of skill in its use. Her acting, however, again had details wanting in finesse, and she over-employed the expansive smile that has given a somewhat kittenish aspect to several characterizations doubtless intended to be naïve or simple.

Mr. Lauri-Volpi was vocally a very lusty outlaw, prodigal of ringing high tones and vigorous in action as well as song. Quantity of tone was not always matched by quality, however, and he had occasional difficulties with the pitch, especially during the sombre solo which opens the opera - perhaps the sturdiest music of the entire score. He must be credited with dying eloquently, and, with Miss Müller of making this scene distinctly more moving than similar tragedies in opera usually are. Mr. Danise did what there was to be done with the thankless part of Rivegas, and Mr. Bada and Mr. Martino were excellent in the small roles of Bastiano and Nuvis. Merle Alcock's lovely voice was heard, faintly but tunefully, in the few bars of an off-stage Shepherd's song.

The settings were of the routine order that have come to be expected of Milanese and Viennese importations. The second act dances, led by Rosina Galli, Giuseppe Bonfiglio and Florence Rudolph were lively and colorful, but also of a routine savor. Routine, again, characterized the handling of the chorus and the disposition of the stage crowds. It was the presence of Signor Montemezzi that served to make this American première the event it proved to be.

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