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Subject: Re: The repertory in 1916 (long)
From: "Pierre M. Bellemare" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sun, 15 Mar 1998 08:09:59 -0500

TEXT/PLAIN (229 lines)

A few comments on Joe Schallan's very interesting list.

But, first, a word of caution.

> But what I found particularly interesting about this old book was
> the author's assertion that the 116 works synopsized represented
> the repertory of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago,
> ca. 1910-1916.

Repertory? This is not exactly what the author says :
> >From the author's preface:
> "Among the hundred and ten operas the stories of which are told
> in this book are all the grand operas that have been put upon the
> stage during the last five seasons in the four opera centers of the
> eastern United States -- New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and
> Boston -- and also half a dozen others whose premiere or first
> American production or American revival is announced for the
> coming season by one or another of the leading companies."

For an opera *to be put upon the stage* and to be part of the repertory
are two different things and what the list shows is not that the repertory
was any more diversified at the time than it is now (it wasn't), but
merely that the number of productions of NEW OPERAS was significantly
larger at the time (especially on the stage of major opera houses) than it
is now. Having said this, the reason why you won't easily find most of
those operas in any house today is simply the fact that a majority
of them NEVER actually entered the repertory. They were new or
comparatively new, either of American or European origin, which were
produced at the time, never to be heard from again.

But there are exceptions - works that were in the repertory of opera
houses at the time and have become scarce since then. Let me point them
out in the list.

> Here are the ones I don't think I'll easily find in any house
> today:
> L'Amore dei Tre Re, by Montemezzi

As mentioned by someone else, this one has always remained on the fringes
of the repertory. If my memory serves me well, there was a production of
it in British Columbia about two or three years ago.

> L'Amore Medico, by Wolf-Ferrari
> Aphrodite, by Erlanger

Erlanger is typical of those composers who seem to have been very well
known and highly regarded at some time and then were completely forgotten.
His name and the titles of some of his operas keep popping up in the opera
guides published at the time.

> Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, by Dukas one of those works that have never entered the repertoire of opera
houses (presumably because they are not stageworthy), and yet have
acquired a good reputation, because of the high quality of their music (a
phenomenon which, in the history of music, began with Berlioz, and perhaps
even earlier, and has never ceased taking larger proportions).

> The Bohemian Girl, by Balfe

Here is an example of an authentic repertory piece of the past - very
popular at some point (at least in English-speaking countries), and for an
extended period of time, and then progressively falling into disuse, if
not oblivion.

> The Canterbury Pilgrims, by De Koven
> The Children of Don, by Holbrooke

> Les Cloches de Corneville, by Planquette

was part of the mainstream repertory of French operetta - and remains part
of it inasmuch as such a repertory may still be said to exist. Several
recordings exist and, for as long as operettas were still regularly staged
in France (i.e. up to the 1950s), productions of it were very frequent.

> Conchita, by Zandonai
> The Cricket on the Hearth, by Goldmark

> Crispino e la Comare, by Ricci

by the Ricci brothers - another example of a 19th century repertory piece
now almost completely forgotten, although at least one CD recording

> Cyrano, by Damrosch
> Dejanire, by Saint-Saens
> Djamileh, by Bizet
> Le Donne Curiose, by Wolf-Ferrari
> Der Evangelimann, by Kienzl

one page from that score remains very famous and has often been recorded;
about 30-35 years ago, there was still enough interest in that opera in
Germany for EMI to have produced a complete recording of it.
produced a complete recording

> Fairyland, by Parker

> La Favorita, by Donizetti

here again, 19th century repertory - but sill on the fringes of today's
repertory. The work is produced from time to time, and could become even
more popular in the future. Several more or less complete recordings exist
in both Italian and French. (The original is in French.)

> La Foret Bleue, by Aubert (typo? Auber?)

No typo. Louis Aubert is a 20th century French composer, no relation of
Daniel-Esprit Auber, the composer of FRA DIAVOLO, LA MUETTE DE PORTICI
etc. The world premiere of LA FORET BLEUE took place in 1913 (which
illustrates my point about the book...), but the work enjoyed a good
reputation for a number of years and probably deserves to be revived.

> Goyescas, by Granados

One of the works whose world premiere at the Met was announced for early
in 1916. The premiere took place and shortly afterwards led to the
untimely death of the composer. The opera never became part of the
repertoire - contrary to its pianistic counterpart, also by Granados.

> Griselidis, by Massenet
> Gwendoline, by Chabrier
> La Habanera, by Laparra

These three titles bear witness to the prominence of *modern* French
composers until WW II - an interesting phenomenon of that period's
repertoire. I doubt that any of those works was ever regularly staged
anywhere, but they seem to have  enjoyed a number of revival. LA HABANERA
was brand-new at the time.

> Iris, by Mascagni
> I Giojelli della Madonna, by Wolf-Ferrari
> Julien, by Charpentier

Louise's luckless twin brother!
IRIS seems to have been very often performed in the days when verismo was
in fashion.  With a renewed interest in that repertoire, it may come back,
in about the same way as Fedora is making a return.

> Konigskinder, by Humperdinck

Maintains a toehold on the fringes of the repertory in Germany. It is both
stageworthy and full of magnificent melodic material.

> Der Kuhreigen, by Kienzl
> Lobentanz, by Thuille

> Louise, by Charpentier

another of those fringe repertory works, not often revived nowadays, but
often recorded and famous for at least one of the musical numbers (Depuis
le jour).

Thuille was a German contemporary of Richard Strauss whose case parallels
that of Erlanger : famous in the early 1900s and then completely

> I Dispettosi Amanti, by Parelli
> Madame Sans-Gene, by Giordano
> Madeleine, by Herbert
> Mona, by Parker
> Monna Vanna, by Fevrier
> Natoma, by Herbert
> Noel, by Erlanger

all works recent at the time, some of them American, and which created
interest for only a short period of time (although there is no doubt that
NATOMA, for one,can be considered historically important).

> L'Oracolo, by Leoni
The American *success* of that work was essentially linked to the
prominence of one singer who championed it (Antonio Scotti). Scotti
imposed it to the Met in 1915 and it remained part of the house's
repertory only for as long as Scotti continued to sing there.

> The Pipe of Desire, by Converse
> Quo Vadis, by Nougues
> Rienzi, by Wagner

On the fringes of the repertory in Germany. It has been revived a number
of times over the years, mainly for the sake of curiosity. But the
production of that score raises a number of thorny problems.

QUO VADIS was a short-lived success of the time (it had premiered in Nice
in 1909).

> The Sacrifice, by Converse
> Il Segreto di Susanna, by Wolf-Ferrari
> The Taming of the Shrew, by Goetz
> Versiegelt, by Blech
Another series of recent works - except for the TAMING, which premiered in
1874 - and all but forgotten today, except for IL SEGRETO, a gem of
musical theater which has often been produced since its premiere in 1910
(it is great fun and inexpensive to stage.)  It is also curiously
neglected by the record companies, perhaps because of its old-fashioned
and politically incorrect time (women's liberation through

For those who may wonder, Blech is the same as Leo Blech, known for his
early recordings of Wagnerian operas. He composed a few operas which enjoy
some success in Germany in the early years of this century. It would seem
that American opera houses were very much in tune with was happening in
Germany at the time.

> So here are 45 works that, according to Ms. Ordway, saw
> the stage in the eastern US during 1910-1916.  Can you
> imagine it?  Is this not unimaginable today?

Today the number of world and American premieres is probably smaller, but
the number of opera houses in America is considerably larger (which means
that, all in all, the diversity of works staged is probably as wide, if
not wider now than it was back then - even if you don't take account of
the concert performances.)

  And, my,
> wasn't Signor Wolf-Ferrari the toast of the opera world?

Yes, but precisely at that time and for a comparatively short period. For
a few years, there was a real passion for W-F in America - then he went
out of fashion. But those scores present many of the qualities (they're
inventive, witty, singable, full of catchy melodies etc...) that should
help make them popular again.

Pierre M. Bellemare
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