[Met Performance] CID:97060
United States Premiere (Violanta)

New Production (Hänsel und Gretel)
Violanta {1}
Hänsel und Gretel {93}
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/5/1927.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debuts: Mildred Parisette, Dorothee Manski

Metropolitan Opera House
November 5, 1927 Matinee
United States Premiere

Korngold-H. Müller

Violanta................Maria Jeritza
Alfonso.................Walter Kirchhoff
Simone..................Clarence Whitehill
Giovanni................Angelo Badà
Bice....................Mildred Parisette [Debut]
Barbara.................Henriette Wakefield
Matteo..................Max Altglass
Soldier.................Giordano Paltrinieri
Soldier.................James Wolfe
Maid....................Charlotte Ryan
Maid....................Mary Bonetti

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Wilhelm Von Wymetal
Designer................Joseph Urban

Violanta received five performances this season.

New production


Hänsel..................Editha Fleischer
Gretel..................Queena Mario
Gertrud.................Henriette Wakefield
Peter...................Gustav Schützendorf
Witch...................Dorothee Manski [Debut]
Sandman.................Merle Alcock
Dew Fairy...............Mildred Parisette

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Wilhelm Von Wymetal
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban

Hänsel und Gretel received twelve performances this season.

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Tribune

New Opera "Violanta" With a Revival of "Haensel und Gretal"

It was that knowing baggage, Salome, who observed (if Oscar Wilde was a good reporter) that "the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death." Some such thought may well have been in the mind of Simone Troval as he rushed into his drawing room to slay, by prearrangement with Violanta his wife, the libertine Alfonso, only to discover Violanta in rapturous dalliance with that deplorable rake. "I hate him!" Violanta had cried a while before to her husband, as they planned Alfonso's death, Yet now, dagger in hand, Simone is halted and his horrified ears are filled by Violanta's cry, "Kill him not, Simone - I love him!"

In fifteenth century Venice, where these high-pitched occurrences took place - as set before us Saturday afternoon in Mr. Erich Korngold's opera, "Violanta" - so startling a revulsion would doubtless have seemed mysterious; though it was as evident as Mona Violanta's Titian-hued coiffure that she was troubled by a certain Obsessional Neurosis, in the symptomatology of which (as any little Freudian could have told Simone) there is an agonizing conflict between love and hate for the same object.

Of course, poor Violanta was not aware of all that she was doing. According to her, she died for purity, like Boy Renwick in "The Green Hat" - at least, that is what she tells Simone, as she lies mortally wounded by his intercepted dagger-stroke; only she puts it much more prettily. "I'm carried away by waves of silver purity!" she sings . . . ."Salvation is mine. . . . I am freed from sin and shame!" To Simone, that balked, unhappy husband, to whom she has long denied herself, she cries consolingly, "Your wife is yours again!"- and sinks back dead. To which Simone might justifiably have retorted, with some bitterness, that this was rather a Pyrrhic victory, after all.

But Simone never had a chance, as we shall see if we go back to the beginning. Alfonso, that Neapolitan devil among the ladies, had ruined Violanta's sister, the innocent Nerina, causing her in desperation to fling herself to death in the canal. You hear this from the lips of Violanta as she enters Simone's palace on a night of Carnival, wrapped in jeweled gorgeousness and coiffed with flame beneath her diamond fillet. She tells Simone that she has arranged a rendezvous with Alfonso in that very room, and that Simone must slay the wretch: "Into his eyes I will gaze, his smiling face I will flay with Nerina's sobs and moans. And when the proud seducer will have been brought quite low, I will call you with my song, and pitilessly you shall mow him down as if he were a thief" - thus Violanta, in the tasty if not impeccable language of Herr Hans Miller's libretto (English version by K. H. B. de Jaffa).

Now, if Simone had listened carefully he would have heard Violanta murmur, "Through the night and silence the sinner's longing will rise within me." But that significant confession appears to have escaped him, and so the poor fellow goes stumbling to calamity. The death trap agreed upon, Violanta is left alone, trembling with emotions which it is not for us to name, Alfonso enters on a tide of song, "young and full of life, with a princely grace and bearing," says the libretto. At least, in the person of Mr. Walther Kirchhoff, "he has" (as Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson said of Sir Willoughby Patterne) "a leg."Alas, unlike Sir Willoughby's, it is not "the leg without the naughtiness": It is the leg of the cavalier, a lute to scatter songs to his mistress; a rapier if she be obdurate.

Violanta is not obdurate. She does, to be sure, go through the motions of upbraiding Alfonso for his treatment of her sister, but Alfonso is ready with an explanation: "My lips," he admits ("turning to her simply") "have kissed your sister's lips, 'tis true," All his gallivantings, however, were "decreed to him by fate." In an impassioned aria he makes it clear to Violanta and to us that if only his mother had lived he would have been a better boy: and no doubt the court of the dissolute King of Naples was no place for a growing lad. Violanta melts into his arms. The voice of Simone is heard from without. In a frenzy of exaltation Violanta sings the lethal tune, receives in her breast the knife aimed by her spouse at the betrayer.

All this, as you see, - is very high tragedy indeed. Like the death chamber at the end, plot and play and music are "lit" (in Herr Miller's lucid words) "by mystic reflections of red." A sanguinary sunset, bloodshot mists, are Herr Miller's psychic properties. He offers us a sort of Laura Jean Libido (if Mr. Philip Littell will yield us his immortal phrase), staged in a Renaissance cozy corner; and young Mr. Korngold has sheathed the drama in music of sympathetic character.

It is, in its way, a remarkable score that the celebrated composer of "Die Tote Stadt" has given us in this earlier one-act opera (it was produced at Munich in March, 1916, and antedates "Die Tote Stadt" by more than four years). Korngold was seventeen when he composed his "Violanta," and although that fact is neither here nor there when we come to assess the absolute value of the score as an artistic product, nevertheless it would be churlish to deny that the music of "Violanta" was an extraordinary thing for a boy of seventeen to put forth.

It would be taking lyric candy from a child to wrest from the precocious fist of the Korngold of "Violanta" the tonal sweetmeats to which he helped himself so liberally from the counters of Richard Strauss and Wagner and Puccini and Debussy and Tchaikovsky, and other attractive confectioners of his day. No one will need to be told that this bombastic, tasteless, preposterous, yet surprising score is musical tutti-frutti compounded of a dozen different ingredients. The various masters who nourished the imagination of the Korngold of seventeen greet us on every page of "Violanta" - Salome bows shudderingly above her Galilean cistern; Octavian scatters the frosty perfume of his silver rose; the Rhine Maidens sing their hail to the golden treasure of the depths.

But what would you have expected from a Korngold of seventeen? He was no Mozart, but only an astoundingly precocious youngster, unblushingly acquisitive, who had learned to handle with startling facility the tools of his trade. The score of "Violanta" is remarkable for its technical address, its mastery of resource. It is faithful to Herr Muller's cheap and tinsel book, enforcing and italicizing its effects, gloving fitly its clammy, melodramatic hand. The music "sounds"; it is put upon the orchestra with skill and certainty. To take it seriously would be absurd; to fail in recognition of the talent that accomplished it would be unhandsome.

The Metropolitan has scarcely pulled off one of its most brilliant achievements in its production of the work. Mme. Jeritza as the neurotic and tormented Violanta fills the role with passion and beauty and intensity and plastic grace; but even the most wholehearted admirers of Jeritza's genius must feel some misgiving, over her growing tendency to force her voice. Is it possible that she is paying too high a rent for Turandot's vocal penthouse?

On Mr. Kirchhoff's Alfonso we have not the fortitude to dwell. It is enough to say that it was unillusive in action, in make-up, and in song. Nor was Mr. Whitehill completely happy as the ill- starred Simone. Mr. von Wymetal, too, had one of his off days in his handling of the carnival roisterers, who were as high-spirited as if they had supped on boiled New England dinner and drunk their buttermilk to the dregs. Mr. Urban's setting was not conspicuous for beauty or imagination. We are inclined to think that the honors of the performance were carried off by Mr. Bodanzky, who conducted the youthful opus of Mr. Korngold with devotion and effectiveness which surely left no moment of its shoddy eloquence undiscovered or unconveyed.

"Violanta" over, Mr. Gatti was graciously pleased to transport us to a different and a lovelier place and time - a place and time of Old World simplicity and naïveté, of faith and fairy tales and peasants and children's dreams. It was delightful to hear again the little masterpiece of Humperdinek, so canny in its art, so true in feeling: and it may be said without further ado that the Metropolitan has seldom offered us a more pleasurable revival, nor done a better job in its accomplishment.

Later, we shall have space in which to praise it in detail as it deserves: there can now be room only to salute the irresistible Gretel of Miss Queena Mario, the capital Haensel of Miss Fleischer, and the general adequacy of the rest of the cast - including the vivaciously dreadful Witch of Miss Dorothee Manski (a newcomer); though there was only a fairish Dewman in the person of another debutante, Miss Mildred Parisette (who had already sung the part of Bice in "Violanta"), and Miss Alcock's Sandman was marred by a curiously maladroit make-up.

Mr. Urban has made a captivating thing of his new settings, with their blended poetry and humor. His forest scene is quite the most successful that we recall, and we shall not be content until Mr. Gatti borrows it from Hansel and Gretel and the Sandman and the Fourteen Angels for use in the second act of "Siegfried." Nothing, we fancy, would make the gentle shade of Humperdinck more happy than to find himself contributing thus to Wagner, After all, it would only be turn about!

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