[Met Performance] CID:100000

Opening Night {44}, General Manager: Giulio Gatti-Casazza

L'Amore dei Tre Re
Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, October 29, 1928

L'Amore dei Tre Re (49)
Italo Montemezzi | Sem Benelli
Rosa Ponselle

Giovanni Martinelli

Giuseppe Danise

Ezio Pinza

Angelo Badà

Philine Falco

Young Woman
Mildred Parisette

Old Woman
Dorothea Flexer

Giordano Paltrinieri

Tullio Serafin

Samuel Thewman

Set Designer
Mario Sala

Set Designer
Joseph Novak

Novak designed the set for Act II.
L'Amore dei Tre Re received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Herald Tribune

The Opera Season Opens: 'L'Amore dei Tre Re' at the Metropolitan With Ponselle

It is said that Mr. Spurgeon, the eminent divine, proposed to his inamorata by the aid of a passage from Martin Tupper. Mr. Gatti-Casazza has resorted at times to expedients almost equally desperate, from the standpoint of the music lover, in wooing the favor of his opening-night opera audiences. But his choice of last evening's inaugural opera can surely have seemed desperate to no one - except, perhaps, to those few who resent the invasion of opera by beauty and gravity and sincerity.

If many such were on hand last right, they were deserving of commiseration. Montemezzi, in composing "L'Amore dei Tre Re," had no thought of the groundhogs, of those for whom opera is a show or a diversion. "L'Amore dei Tre Re" is neither. It is almost as spare, as free from accessory elements, as concentrated in its direct and passionate intentness as is "Tristan und Isolde" (wide apart though the two works are in their musical quality). Montemezzi in this score inhabits a different world from the facile and shallow Puccini, in whose heart so many merchants trafficked.

In "L'Amore dei Tre Re" there is not a measure from beginning to end that is musically meretricious, that was with a view to an "ad captandum" appeal. From beginning to end the music is the handmaid of the tragedy, plastic and devoted and inflammable - beautiful often, in its own right, but never asserting that right to the damage of the work's integrity and its noble unity of address. Let us hope, therefore, that the majority of last night's audience were properly grateful to Mr. Gatti-Casazza for giving them so deep a pleasure upon an occasion that has often yielded no pleasure deeper than that to be extracted from the dreary, spectacular banalities of "La Gioconda" or the perfumed pieties of "Thais."

There are cynics who declare that the tactful and astute director of the Metropolitan selected "L'Amore dei Tre Re" for his opening bill not because it was good, but because it was short. Those who choose may feast to their heart's content upon such clammy disillusionment. We, being sealed in the clan of cheerfully determined illusionists, prefer to think that Montemezzi's opera was offered to us last night because it is not only a fine work but an effective one; because it is not only the noblest music drama that has come out of Italy since Verdi's "Otello," but because it is a flexible and responsive vehicle for the Metropolitan's performing forces.

Surely, there were many last night who found their major satisfaction in witnessing Montemezzi's swift and passionate fantasy upon the old Greek theme of the tangled feet of Destiny - in seeing the lovers, Fiora and Avito, awaiting the doom that is about to fall upon them: seeing Fiora, cowering yet defiant before, the blind. inexorable steps of the terrible old king, guiltless in her own view but horribly guilty in his; or Avito drinking poison from the lips of the adored and slain woman, that "sweet fruit upon the ancient tree of death," and in hearing the eloquent music - music simple, sensuous, passionate - which Montemezzi has put in the mouths of these figures of tragic ecstasy, the ecstasy of love and hate.

For those who were not thus centrally engrossed and moved, there were the figures of the music-drama's pattern as limned by the sumptuous-toned Rosa Ponselle, a Fiora of warmth and sincerity, if not a Fiora of wholly capturing illusiveness; by Mr. Martinelli as Avito, ardent end forthright; by Mr. Pinza as the somber Archibaldo. But, most influential of all, there was the superb conducting of Mr. Serafin, who, with due respect for every one else concerned, was the dominating star of last night's performance. The kindling, propulsive, immensely dramatic leadership of this remarkable Italian kept the music unceasingly aglow and alive.

If it was not, aside from the lustrous and duly applausive audience, a "brilliant" opening, perhaps it was something better - an evening of rich artistic satisfaction in a lyric theater that can, at its best, deal worthily with great matters. We are still remembering high moments of communicative passion and sincerity in a performance that was worthier of a second night than of a first. We are still remembering the shadowed, sensuous beauty of Rosa Ponselle's voice in that loveliest passage of Montemezzi's score, Fiora's "Damini le labbra e tanta ti daro, di questa pace," with its troubled ecstasy and sweetness. We are still hearing those urgent orchestral voices in contrary motion that give so passionate a life to the music of Montemezzi's poignant second act. We are still held by the pity and terror of the overwhelming finale of that great act, with its curtain falling upon the picture of the dreadful Archibaldo staggering beneath the burden of the dead body of the woman he has slain. Above all, we are still happy over the realization that the most glittering and external occasion that the opera in America provides is able now and again to yield an evening of beauty and high illusion in the theater of the mind.

Review 2:

Review of William Spier in unidentified magazine


Mr. Gatti Opens with Three Kings to a Full House - Heralding the Inauguration of New Opera Season

Surging, radiant, eager crowds - and those that did not surge, nor exhibit radiance, and rather frowned upon eagerness. Persons with troubled countenance being buttonholed by little men in derbies, and little men in derbies buttonholing persons with serene countenances. Spangled sartorial splendors emerging from glossy limousines, and painstaking attires of varying grades emerging from the subway. People hastening along Broadway toward a very dirty building on 40th Street, most of them early but anxious. Elderly ladies in the lobby peering at librettos with long handled glasses and searching, with pursed lips, for belated seat mates. A line of patient and impatient beings, standing, reaching all the way back to Eighth Avenue. College girls whose calendars these many months had borne a red circle around the legend: "Monday. 29th" on the page marked "October..." The Metropolitan season is on.

It was a stroke of something, perhaps nothing but pure perversity, that made Mr. Gatti begin his twenty-first year of jurisdiction over America's forty-five-year-old emporium of staged music with Montemezzi's fine opera of love and tragedy. Observant sages have observed sagely that the opening gun of the season is usually the most brilliant novelty or revival of the preceding term, with a provision as to the equalized rights of prima donnae. Last year's first night, for instance, revolved about the Turandot of Mme. Maria Jeritza. This year we remarked to everyone we know (with the easy confidence that is so characteristic of us), it would undoubtedly be "Norma," clothed in habiliments from the wardrobe of Miss Rosa Ponselle. Others of our ilk have been prognosticating along the same lines. So Mr. Gatti chose "L'Amore."

Some years ago, in the regime of Maurice Gran, an opera season got officially under way with no less than "Tristan" and everybody that knew went around looking dire for weeks before. The atmosphere of a Metropolitan christening is not the sort that best nurtures a purely artistic result, it is true. Nevertheless, the experiment then, and this later one now with "L'Amore," are worthy in their own right of the success that was preordained for them by social ornaments. A healthy majority of those who filled every bit of available space in the opera house last Monday would have been there whether Mr. Gatti had announced "Lucia," "Tannhäuser," "Samson," "Fedora" or "La Gazza Ladra."

If L'Amore is not "Tristan," it might just as well be as far as the afore-described branch of the patronage is concerned. "L'Amore" was not primarily intended to dazzle the eye-minded or to feed the cavernous ears of that public which Knows What It Likes. It is a traitor to the popularly accepted tradition of opera in that it has a libretto of superb power and significance, and a musical profile that is utterly unoperatic in its vita aristocracy. The appeal that animates L'Amore is essentially symphonic, to be technical. More justly, its excellences are those of taste and ecstatic illusion, coupled with a superior sense of dramatic verity. Montemezzi has not approached the inspiration that breathes and speaks in "L'Amore" since he lent the fire of music to Sem Benelli's poignant and beautiful "poetica tragico" some fifteen years ago, and certainty he had not distinguished himself commensurately before. As a matter of fact," L'amore" stands fairly apart from other essays in the literature. It is not, surely, so seminal a force, not so epochally unique, not so perfect an art work as Pélléas et Mélisande." "L'Amore," for one thing, is unmistakably Italian - not, however, in the sense that "Pagliacci" or "Rigoletto" is Italian. It sings of the medieval Italia, the land of heroes and conquests, of glorious adventure, of innate greatness. It does not stoop to pettiness of emotion or deed, for it is peopled with beautiful natures to whom baseness is unknown. Its tragedy is wrought by ruthless fate and not through a decaying of human ideals.

These things Benelli has incomparably set forth for us, and Montemezzi has not been far behind him. He has boldly shaken off the shackles of time and confining nationality to provide a fitting musical scheme tor a truly big: conception. Admittedly, he has borrowed, at intervals, a brand from the torch of Wagner, a bit of poetic imagery from the Verdi of "Otello," a zephyr of orchestral atmosphere from the impressionist-Frenchmen. But the predominant potency of his creation is its own. "L'Amore" will not die in a hurry. Last week's performance, with due consideration for the conflicting holiday spirit in the stalls, was neither the most puissant nor the weakest that has been put forth in this city. It was both laggardly and ignescent on occasion, and its singing was, with reasonable uniformity, of superior quality. For the various excellences that obtained in the pit, we had Mr. Serafin's vitalizing baton to thank.

Miss Ponselle (anyway we are right about the season beginning with her) gave the music of Fiora the benefit of her luscious utterance. The uneasiness that characterized her entrance was supplanted by a stirring vibrancy in the superb second act love scene. If we have not yet come to believe implicitly in Miss Ponselle's Fiora, as regards hearing and dramatic significance, the miraculous natural emotionalism with which she voices the role unquestionably belongs to it. To Messrs. Pinza and Danise, perhaps, should go the most substantial honors of the evening. Mr. Pinza's portrait of the blind patrician is among the finest details on his honorable record. Vocally resplendent, though momentarily inaudible beneath Montemezzi's soaring strings, he gave unstintedly of himself, and was of inestimable value in the visual reality of the proceedings. Mr. Danise has rarely been so completely in the picture, nor was his disposition of resources inferior to any that the occasion allowed. Of unusual worth, too, was the Avito of Mr. Martinelli, who sang with a sensitive freshness that has not always been identified with his efforts. Mr. Bada, the enslaved Flaminio, was artistic, as ever.

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