[Met Performance] CID:91060

Metropolitan Opera Premiere (L'Heure Espagnole), New Production (Der Barbier von Bagdad)

Der Barbier von Bagdad
L'Heure Espagnole
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, November 7, 1925 Matinee

Der Barbier von Bagdad (13)
Peter Cornelius | Peter Cornelius
Abul Hassan
Paul Bender

Elisabeth Rethberg

Rudolf Laubenthal

Ina Bourskaya

George Meader

Gustav Schützendorf

Giordano Paltrinieri

Max Altglass

Vincenzo Reschiglian

Arnold Gabor

Max Bloch

Paolo Ananian

Artur Bodanzky

Samuel Thewman

Set Designer
Joseph Urban

L'Heure Espagnole (1)
Maurice Ravel | Maurice Étienne Legrand
Lucrezia Bori

Angelo Badà

Ralph Errolle

Lawrence Tibbett

Adamo Didur

Louis Hasselmans

Wilhelm Von Wymetal

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Der Barbier von Bagdad received six performances this season.
L'Heure Espagnole received seven performances this season.
Some costumes for Der Barbier von Bagdad, designed by Georg Heil, derived from the 1912-1913 production of Die Zauberflöte.

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

Two short operas, the one a revival, the other, though not new to this city, a novelty to the great majority of the audience assembled, made the double bill given yesterday afternoon by the Metropolitan Opera Company. The revival was Cornelius's "Barber of Bagdad," which had not been heard in thirty-odd years at the Metropolitan; the novelty was RaveI's opera comique, "L'Heure Espagnole." These operas were well contrasted, and they made an uncommonly entertaining afternoon.

This is not to say that Cornelius's "Barber of Bagdad" is a work of unlimited originality and inspiration. When it was produced by Liszt in Weimar it became the target of attacks which helped greatly to give it reputation. Its history has been a troubled one, and it has never held the stage for long and uninterrupted periods in the great musical centres. At the same time it has qualities-really humorous moments, and passages of originality and inspiration. The libretto, though palpably not the work of an old hand of the stage, is better than most composers could have provide

The music has melodic quality that is sometimes individual and theatrically effective: there are other pages that lapse into conventional sing-spiel style and a harmonic flatness that is curious in a student and passionate admirer of Wagner. As musical history proceeds, the narrowing perspective of the past removes large gaps visible at the time of their appearance between works of historical importance. Today the "Barber of Bagdad" is not as far separated from other works of its period as when Liszt took up the cudgels for Cornelius: but it has a life of its own, due to the composer's sincerity, humor and invention.

Solo and concerted numbers in this act have substance and a happy inspiration. There is the entrance and song of the Barber, the shaving scene, the sentimental music of Nureddin. The prelude to the second act, the echoes of the Mezzin's call, are still fresh and pleasingly exotic in color. The concluding "Salameikuni," is sufficiently pompous and humorous for the occasion.

The performance was appropriately in the comedy spirit, verging occasionally on farce. Mr. Bender's unction and byplay were admirably in the vein and style of the work. His pompousness. loquacity and sudden servilities were of a piece with his patter song and his sentimental remarks to his young client. The role was taken by Mr. Bender with a thorough understanding of and delight in its character, and his voice is of the right timber for the part. Mr. Laubenthal felt compelled to sing most of Nureddin's music of the first act at the top of his lungs, whether he was berating Abul Hassan or confiding amorous ardors to the surrounding walls and spaces of the Metropolitan Opera House. Neither his meaning nor the character of his voice were for an instant in doubt. Miss Rethberg, by her accomplished vocalism, often made a commonplace melodic fragment beautiful. Mr. Meader's Cadi was funny and a highlight of the scenes in which he appeared. Mr. Schuetzendorf's Caliph was appropriate.

Some of the humor of the lines was missed by the audience because of the German text. Could not an opera like this one be Englished, and if so would it not gain, rather than lose, by the translation? It is a fair libretto, as librettos go, and a good enough score, in spite of its limitations, to carry the listener through two short acts with considerably satisfaction and amusement to him. The overture used yesterday was the overture composed by Cornelius years after the premiere of the work. Mr. Urban's scenic setting is picturesque, but garish.

L'Heure Espagnole.

Nothing more effective in contrast to the "Barber" than Ravel's piece could have been provided. There is not a measure that fails to tell its tale; not an innuendo of a racy text which fails to find its echo in the score. The opera is a masterpiece in little. Its character may not be pleasing to those who feel as Beethoven felt, that it was a pity for Mozart to devote his divine genius to such a subject as Don Juan. Aside from this consideration, "L'Heure Espagnole" accomplishes perfectly its purposes, and this with a distinction of workmanship past describing here. Every event of that Spanish hour, when the young baggage of a wife deceives her doddering husband, the clock maker, welcomes her lovers, and at last consoles herself with the muleteer is depicted by the orchestra with a humor as adroit as it is inspired in its craftsmanship.

We have here a truly Gallic effusion which is not quite "opera comique" so much as it is glorified "opera bouffe," at the hands of one of the most skillful and sophisticated modern composers. The score contains the drowse of a Summer afternoon in the land of the Guadalquivir; the ticking of many clocks and mechanical contrivances; the parodies of Spanish rhythms; idiotic roulades for the song of the effeminate dandy: farcical cuckoo calls as the ridiculous elderly libertine hides in his clock. Each and every happening on the stage is echoed by the orchestra, and the final stroke is itself a masterpiece-the moment when the singers advance to the front of the stage, and, to the rhythm of the fandango, give a takeoff of an Italian finale.

It is capital fooling, transmitted as such by Mr. Hasselman's orchestra, and by some of the singers. Mr. Tibbett's treatment of a difficult role was awaited with much interest. His performance was highly creditable to his intelligence and his growing power of characterization. His part like the others, in this opera, may be said to be for virtuosos only. In song and in action Mr. Tibbett achieved a large percentage of its demands and evidently had the approval of the audience. Miss Bori's Conception was flirtatious rather than hot-blooded and amorous in the sense of the libretto.

Mr. Errolle's Gonzalve was one of the best elements of this cast. It had the vanity, foolishness and complacency of the fop. Mr. Didur took the part of Don Innigo as an Italian buffo. While this was at variance with the style of the opera, it did not lack humor. Mr. Bada's clockmaker was not old enough in make-up and manner for the dotard who, in the opera, is hoodwinked so easily.

The orchestra was directed with technical thoroughness and understanding by Mr. Hasselmans. The interpretation, as will be seen, could have been more consistently in key with the work, which, nevertheless, had its hour of success with a large and amused audience.

Photograph of Angelo Badà as Torquemada by H. Mishkin.

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