[Met Performance] CID:94050
Martha {85} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/5/1926.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 5, 1926
In Italian


MARTHA {85}
Flotow-Friedrich

Lady Harriet............Frances Alda
Lionel..................Beniamino Gigli
Nancy...................Ina Bourskaya
Plunkett................Giuseppe De Luca
Sir Tristram............Pompilio Malatesta
Sheriff.................Louis D'Angelo
Maid....................Flora Cingolani
Maid....................Lavinia Puglioli
Maid....................Agnes Moore
Servant.................Vincenzo Reschiglian

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

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

Martha received two performances this season.

Review of Samuel Chotzinoff in the World

AT THE METROPOLITAN

"Marta," that musical exposition of the servant problem in the faraway times of Queen Caroline, was offered to the Friday night subscribers at the Metropolitan last night. Many housewives in the audience must have regarded with envy the scene in the marketplace at Richmond where servants from the countryside were parceled out legally amid general good humor, music, dancing and tippling, something so unlike our modern employment agencies. Yet if you follow the course of the opera closely it would seem that the general aspects of the harassing problem haven't altered much since those days. Lionel and Plunkett, the tenor and baritone farmers who went servant hunting in the first act, fared about as well as a couple of modern squires would nowadays.

The two girls they hired refused openly to perform their regular duties, so the swains, being Englishmen, gallantly up and married them. That's really the core of the situation in "Marta," though for operatic reasons the maids were noblewomen on a lark and Lionel was discovered to be the long lost heir of somebody or other.

The music that surrounded this agreeable fable, though written by a German, manages to convey an English spirit which might be a musical prototype of the qualities of Oliver Goldsmith and Henry Fielding. There is a candor, a merry disingenuousness and an unaffected tunefulness in the music of the Richmond Fair that reminds one of the "Vicar" and "Tom Jones," though the sophistication of the latter is altogether lacking. The more serious moments are slightly Italianized, but the composer knows when to call a halt, and light comedy touches are brought in at the dangerous moments when sentiment is about to turn into sentimentality.

This happy balance of the light and serious is maintained astonishingly throughout the opera and makes for satisfying entertainment. The many well known arias for all the principals and the sparking orchestration help a lot too; and among the more serious music the quartet in the second act is beautiful, taken from any angle. The fact that "Marta" is a light comedy offering a tenor and soprano good opportunities for vocal display has kept from it the serious consideration it deserves. It has no highbrow pretensions, but it is a notable creation, just the same, and can hold up its head with a great many operatic spectacles of greater fame but lesser merit.

Last night's cast and production were the same as last season's. Mme. Alda's Lady Harriet is, physically, a little out of the picture, but she did some good singing except when the music shifted to high altitudes. Signor Gigli was again the Lionel, and delighted his admirers with some extraordinary displays of falsetto singing and pianissimos. In love scenes the tenor overworks the vocal sob and turns whatever music he is singing into so many "Ridi Pagliaccis," but during the course of an evening he makes up for it by frequent felicities of phrasing and beauty of tone. De Luca made Plunkett as polished and distinguished a characterization as he makes everything he attempts, and Tullio Serafin directed the proceedings to good ends. The house was, of course, crowded and demonstrative.



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