[Met Performance] CID:106590

United States Premiere, New Production

Le Preziose Ridicole
The Fair at Sorochintzy
Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, December 10, 1930

In Italian

Le Preziose Ridicole (1)
Felice Lattuada | Arturo Rossato
Lucrezia Bori

Armand Tokatyan

Gladys Swarthout

Mario Basiola

Pavel Ludikar

La Grange
Angelo Badà

Millo Picco

Pearl Besuner

Vincenzo Bellezza

Ernst Lert

Robert Edmond Jones

August Berger

Felice Lattuada

The Fair at Sorochintzy (2)
Modest Mussorgsky | Modest Mussorgsky
Maria Müller

Armand Tokatyan

Ina Bourskaya

Ezio Pinza

Old Crony
Giuseppe Danise

George Cehanovsky

Pastor's Son
Marek Windheim

Angelo Badà

Max Altglass

Pompilio Malatesta

Rita De Leporte

Cesare Del Grande

Giuseppe Bonfiglio

Tullio Serafin

Felice Lattuada

Le Preziose Ridicole received four performances this season.
Act II, Scene 2, 3 Ballet (Devised and Arranged by Rosina Galli) - Choreographic Intermezzo, with Mussorgsky's Symphonic Poem, A Night on Bald Mountain, depicting Tcherevik's dream:
Corps de Ballet
Act III Ballet (Arranged by August Berger) - The Hopak
Corps de Ballet

Review 1:

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

Precosity Ridiculed in Lattuada Opera at Metropolitan

"PrezioseRidicole" Mounted Carefully at Metropolitan

In these barren days, any opera that presents a broadside of tunes is likely to meet with friendliness and favor in the lyric theatres of the world, if the subject be colorful and the construction as professional as that of "Le Preziose Ridicole," by Felice Lattuada, which had its American premiere at the Metropolitan on the evening of Dec. 10. There is even a probability that the music will seem better than it is, so eager is the opera public for new material that will gratify the ear rather than perplex it with harmonic and structural experiments which may or may not represent some liberation from old shackles for those who are writing music, but which leave opera audiences stranded and athirst for recognizable melody.

Italy has gone on making tunes, while Germany and Austria have done much of the experimenting, which may explain the pouring of copious vials of wrath on the Lattuada work when it recently was produced in Berlin. With its world-premiere at La Scala as recent an event as February, 1929, this opera might be regarded - if it were to prove of any considerable importance in the great opera houses - as one of the signposts pointing away from the atonalists and polytonalists to a continuation of the paths of lyric fluency and charm traversed so successfully by the late Giacomo Puccini.

Considerations such as these made the Metropolitan advent of "Le Preziose Ridicole" of more import than just the arrival of the season's second novelty and fourth addition to the repertory. Little has been known of Lattuada other than that he is an Italian, forty-eight years old, a native of Morimondo, in the vicinity of Milan, and has composed several operas. A compatriot journalist has supplied a brief sketch of his career, pointing out that he is the son of a school teacher; that he took up that means of livelihood at an early age, made it a habit to arise at four in the morning to study counterpoint, played the piano so much that he was obliged to move from lodging to lodging, and in due time received a degree from the Conservatorio in Milan. Preceding "Le Preziose Ridicole," his operas numbered "Sandha," "La Tempesta," after Shakespeare, and "Don Giovanni," no one of which seems to have been of any permanence in the Italian repertory.

Molière Comedy Adapted for Text

"Le Preziose Ridicole," as presented at the Metropolitan, is in two scenes, the first little more than a curtain raiser for the second. As the opera is too short for an evening's entertainment, it was presented in combination with its immediate predecessor among the season's novelties, Moussorgsky's "Fair at Sorochintzy." In the cast were Lucrezia Bori, Gladys Swarthout, Pearl Besuner, Armand Tokatyan, Mario Basiola, Pavel Ludikar, Angelo Bada and Millo Picco, with Vincenzo Bellezza conducting and Ernst Lert in charge of the stage. The scenic investiture was designed by Robert Edmond Jones, and because of its latticed brightness, whatever is to be said of its appropriateness to the pre-rococo period from which the opera derives, it must be considered one of the chief enticements of the production.

As its Italian title at once proclaims, "Le Preziose Ridicole" is rooted in Molière's famous comedy of the middle of the seventeenth century, "Les Précieuses Ridicules." The operatic text by Arturo Rossato unhesitatingly follows the original, but so adapts it as to make possible a succession of solos, duets and concerted numbers in a manner conducive to the composition of tunes.

Immediately the question arises as to how much obligated the composer is to preserve the spirit and atmosphere of the Molière play. Classics do not easily withstand transmutations as to nationality. Of modern composers, Maurice Ravel is the one whose name at once suggests itself as the right one for an opera version of a satire so elegantly French as that of Molière. The genius of Mozart would have met the issue. He might have made of it another "Cosi fan tutte," for all lands and all time. Rossini? Perhaps. One feels that Molière is less adaptable than Beaumarchais. The tale of the "précieuses" made ridiculous is peculiarly one for manneristic writing such as has always been associated with the French.

Two gentlemen lovers vow punishment on the ladies who have scornfully turned them away because their manners are insufficiently affectatious. The worthy who is father of one and uncle of the other of the two exquisites threatens them with the convent. But the gods deign to send them two handsomely overdressed suitors, a Marquis and a Vicomte, to whose grandiosity they fall ready victims. The pair, in reality, are but lackeys masquerading as noblemen, and in the midst of a public betrothal other servitors of the rebuffed gentlemen fall upon them, unmask them and beat them before the eyes of the humiliated beauties. The opera ends with the petulant tears of the fair ones and the merriment of their maid.

Buffo Spirit Replaces Airiness

In setting Rossato's Italian adaptation, Lattuada made some obeisances to the time, writing a courante and a sarabande in the old style. But his score is frankly Italian. It is orchestrated in the singing Puccini fashion, with perhaps more suggestion in his material of Giordano than Puccini. Likewise, he echoes Verdi and Wolf-Ferrari. He brings the first of his masquerading servants on the scene with music that inevitably recalls the arrival of Octavian with the Strauss silver rose. He chimes the celesta, and resorts now and then to a music-box sort of tinkle. But he prefers glowing strings, as did Puccini; strings that make his orchestra almost vocal. He has written an Overture like old comic opera overtures, stringing tune to tune. It is all agreeable sound.

But where has vanished Molière? And what has become of the quintessential spirit of the comedy, its affectation of manners, its lavish artificiality of grace, its airiness, its persiflage - in a word, its preciosity? All is too thickly spun. There is no gossamer. A hearty buffo spirit prevails. Mascarille, one of the false noblemen, seats himself at a spinet, sings a madrigal that is an opera burlesque, deserts the keyboard for a sobful climax, mistakes the position of a chair, and sits clown-like on the floor. This is one of the chief numbers and in disposing of it Mr. Tokatyan sang, sobbed and sat with good buffo technique.

Like a page of "Manon Lescaut" is the solo written especially for Miss Bori, "Lo innamorato di ardente valore," one of the best numbers, and very gracefully sung by the soprano. But her distinction and her charm were her own. There was little of the "prècieuse" in her Madelon. Miss Swarthout's Cathos was similarly pretty and faintly precious. A rather engagingly wrought quartet sung by the two ladies and the masqueraders was marred rather than helped by Mr. Basiola's idea of how to make himself appear clumsy beneath his proud raiment. The "fine Italian hand" is one thing, the French little finger quite another.

Enough has been said of a cast of routine competence, save that Miss Besuner was much more in the frame as the maid than Messrs. Bada and Picco were, as gentlemen of distinction. As Gorgibus, Mr. Ludikar labored, with negative consequences. Orchestrally the opera fared well from Mr. Bellezza, and the stage was smoothly handled. The usual curtain calls brought the principals forth to bow, along with the conductor and stage manager. Afterward. Moussorgsky, as eked out by Tcherepnine, had his say in the idiom of the Ukraine, with the same singers as before doing duty as Little Russians, save that Mr. Tokatyan appeared also as Gritzko, in place of Frederick Jagel, incapacitated by an automobile accident. Tullio Serafin conducted.

Other Opinions

Olin Downes in the New York Times: "Lattuada is an accomplished technician and obviously well acquainted with operatic writing . . at first his piece drags . . as the plot thickens there is better material . . the composer makes use of old forms with amusing ingenuity?. , there are funny artificialities of vocal style . . . the performance was one of high excellence."

Noel Straus in the Evening World: "If Molière had been present . . . he might have been excused for not recognizing that the opera purported to be founded on a famous comedy of his invention. That all of the wit and most of the humor evaporated . . was largely the fault of the composer's score. But not entirely. For a more comprehending interpretation might have rectified matters considerably. An eclectic hodge-podge derived from all sorts of sources . . .crepitant, coarse-grained?. . the tunes rarely provoked a hint of seventeenth century atmosphere."

W. J. Henderson in the Evening Sun: "Such a score should not be taken too seriously. The book, which leaves little of Molière, makes that unnecessary. There is a fair degree of amusement , . and a gentle charm which is not to be despised. The performance was good. The outstanding numbers of the score are the overture . . . a madrigal ... a quartet . . . two dances, a corrente and a sarabande. The quartet . . . showed ingenuity in the treatment of

the voices."

Pitts Sanborn in the Evening Telegram: "A clumsy musical setting ... poverty of tunes . . . coarseness of workmanship . . . served as a curtain raiser . . would serve still better if its boring overture were omitted and other wholesome cuts made . . . The one member of the cast who seemed to know what the play was about, who caught and conveyed the spirit of Molière, was Pearl Besuner."

Samuel Chotzinoff in the Morning World: "Lattuada's music is slight; melodious, sometimes cleverly humorous, and of a pre-war harmonic vintage . . . orchestration graceful and mildly sensuous . . little attempt at characterization outside of musical clowning , . . uncertain heaviness characterized the action on the stage."

F. D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune: "Mr. Gatti-Casazza's one-act novelty . . proved, rather unexpectedly, unusually successful; this was one of the occasions when a liveliness and spirit on the stage was able to communicate itself to the audience, The text is skillfully set with grace and Italianate tunefulness; the orchestration is effective."

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