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Subject: Re: The Met's Traditional repertory
From: Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 17 Mar 1998 08:31:15 -0500
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Pierre M. Bellemare wrote:

> So this is what the Met BASIC repertory looked like in the Johnson years,
> towards the end of the great depression :

As a preface to the following, I would point out that most opera companies until
the fifties, and even sometimes, then, geared their repertoire to certain
singers on their rosters and threw in a few bones to accommodate eclectic
tastes.  When we look back at the Chicago Civic Opera, about which much was made
a few days ago, we only have to note that Mary Garden was the alpha and omega of
that company, and therefore we see lots and lots of esoteric French Opera.  It
had, in my opinion, little to do with adventurism, rather a great deal to do
with the cult of the personality, which in itself is a rather conservative
approach to developing repertoire.

> ALL OF THE WAGNER CANON, from FLIEGENDE HOLLAENDER to PARSIFAL
> (not surprising if you consider what a golden age of Wagnerian singing
> those years were at the Met)

There it is again, a roster that had Flagstad, Lawrence, Traubel, Lehmann,
Schorr,Kipnis, Janssen, Melchior and others.  Why not?

> OTHER GERMAN OPERAS
>
> FIDELIO
> THE MAGIC FLUTE
> HANSEL AND GRETEL
> THE BARTERED BRIDE (then performed in German, and considered a German
> opera)
>
> A short list indeed! Please note both the absence of Strauss and the
> presence of Smetana's masterpiece, not performed that often nowadays (our
> loss!)
>

All of which speaks to my premise that the Met was not a very adventurous
company over the long haul, though they did do many premieres, most of which
went "bye, bye"after a couple of performances.  "L'Oracolo" was a huge
exception, staying in the repertoire for years after its premiere.

> FRENCH OPERAS
>
> TALES OF HOFFMANN
> ROMEO AND JULIET
> MIGNON
> SAMSON AND DELILAH
> CARMEN
> FAUST
> LAKME
> MANON
>

Do you see the names Lily Pons and Bidu Sayao hitting you right between the
eyes?And let's not forget "America's" own Rise Stevens.

> Note the prominence of French opera - at least the French BASIC repertory,
> as strong quadre of 8 works regularly performed at the time.
>
> THE ITALIAN OPERAS
> (much less prominent then as later, or even today)
>

But that had as much to do with the very small number of Italian singers on the
roster as anything else, I think.  One of the hallmarks of the Met throughout
its history, and until the Bing era, is the imbalance of Italian stars as
opposed to their northern colleagues.  Yes, they always had some, but not nearly
so many as would seem likely.

> DON GIOVANNI (but NOZZE is nowhere to be seen)
>

Pinza, Pinza, more Pinza.

> THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (but nothing else by Rossini)
>

Pons!

> LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (but nothing else by Donizetti; and nothing at all by
> Bellini, not even NORMA)
>

Pons!

Oops!  I don't think the Norma statement is quite correct.  I believe Milanov
had a very important revival in @ 1942 or 43, smack dab in the middle of the
Johnson era.  There was an oft quoted review by, maybe, James Hinton, that went
something like "when Madame Milanov began the Casta Diva, the moon turned a
sickly green as if to comment on the proceedings".

> RIGOLETTO
> LA TRAVIATA
> IL TROVATORE
> LA FORZA DEL DESTINO
> AIDA
> (THAT was THE ESSENTIAL VERDI at the time. Note, however, that FORZA, not
> included in George's list, is nonetheless present.)

But it is interesting to note that FORZA did not have its Met premiere until
1918, long after any other theater that I can think of.  It was standard fare
throughout South America and Iberia, as well as Italy.  And Germany, as Pierre
mentioned to me in a private note, led the way in "rare" Verdi in the twenties
and thirties, a very true statement.

> GIOCONDA (indeed - not really a major repertory piece any more)

Milanov!

> I PAGLIACCI / CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (always so popular)
>
> The BIG SURPRISE is the TOTAL ABSENCE of PUCCINI! (could that have been a
> question of copyright?)
>

Could have been, but there were revivals of "Butterfly" until the United States
entered the War in late 1941.  Albanese sang it and "Boheme" in 1940 and Favero
made her Met debut and farewell as Mimi in 1938, along with Bjoerling who
debuted in the same performance, and decided to hang around for a while :-)

> Comments from old timers are welcome...

I just did :-)

Cheers!

Bobolink

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