[Met Performance] CID:94270
L'Africaine {46} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/22/1926.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 22, 1926
In Italian


Sélika..................Rosa Ponselle
Vasco de Gama...........Beniamino Gigli
Inès....................Nannette Guilford
Nélusko.................Giuseppe Danise
Pedro...................Adamo Didur
Diégo...................Paolo Ananian
Alvar...................Angelo Badà
Grand Inquisitor........Léon Rothier
High Priest.............Léon Rothier
Anna....................Henriette Wakefield
Usher...................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Officer.................Max Altglass

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

Review of W. J. Henderson in the New York Sun

'L'Africaine' at the Metropolitan

Gigli and Miss Ponselle Win Commendation in Meyerbeer's Opera

Senor Vasco da Gama with four ships was sent by the king in 1497 to find the eastward route around the southern extremity of Africa, of which reports had been made by other mariners. The Cape of Good Hope is a promontory of evil disposition. There the sailor meets mountainous seas and baffling winds and a score of terrifying legends fill the waters with direful monsters. The intrepid Portuguese fought the tempests and defied the behemoths and rounded the redoubtable headland four months after weighing anchor. In May, 1498, he reached Calicut on the Malabar coast.

The tremendous importance of this achievement cannot be overestimated, for among other insignificant results was Meyerbeer's "L'Africaine," which made its reentry into the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House last evening. Another mariner who set out to round the Cape of Good Hope had less success than Vasco. His name was Van der Decken and, according to the legend of the season, he may still be trying to by. However, in the world of lyric art, Vasco had nothing on him. Meyerbeer's deadly foe, Wagner, made an opera about him. The most striking difference between these two works is that Meyerbeer's is performed at the Metropolitan and Wagner's is not.

Both works place formidable obstacles in the path of the stage manager. Ships upon the painted ocean of the theater never are very ship shape. The movie tank conjures up illusions but the scene painter and the stage carpenter despair when they are piped to nautical quarters. Fortunately, as in "Tristan und Isolde," one can divert his attention from the antique sailing packets to the human tragedy and the fluent music. In "L'Africaine" there is plenty of catchpenny music, some that is better, and little that is really good. And all of it has the odor the theater, for Meyerbeer was a clever craftsman, who occasionally rose to the stature of an artist.

Mr. Gigli who brought the nautical opera of this musician back into the repertoire, has grown into the role of Vaso da Gama till he now makes the navigator a distinguished figure. Too many tenors have been content to treat this work as a voice opera and to make all their points by means of vocal effect, which Mr. Gigli certainly does not neglect. But he also presents a well composed impersonation and sounds a note of genuine human interest. Vasco is one of his best parts, and his treatment of it has increased the respect and admiration of observant opera goers.

Miss Ponselle's Selika has won commendation in previous seasons and will again. She sings the music well and lends a certain amount of sympathetic interest to the character. Miss Nanette Guilford was the Inez last night. Hers is a beautiful voice and she uses it well in full volume, and it was effective in the concerted music. But it is a pity that she shows no command of the mezza voice nor of nuance. The continuous outpouring of opulent tone makes expressiveness impossible. She read the recitations fairly well and exhibited an increasing acquaintance with routine and stage business.

Mr. Danise was the Nelusko. The part would certainly fare better in the hands of a lustier baritone. It is a robust role and Mr. Danise's is not a robust voice. He knows the opera and goes as far as he could be expected to go with his material. Mr. Rothier was the Grand Inquisitor and afterwards the Grand Brahmin. He pontificated with equal solemnity as the Catholic and Buddhist. Mr. Didur as Don Pedro, Mr. Ananian as Don Diego and Mr. Bada as Don Alvaro were other personages in the drama. The procession and ballet in the mysterious realm of Selika were pleasing to the eye. Mr. Serafin conducted.

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