Review of Pitts Sanborn in the Globe


The successful revival of Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro" at the Metropolitan Opera House which had, last night, a third performance there within six days, and always in the presence of a large audience, naturally brings up the relationship as to whether we are to be privileged to hear Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at either opera house this season. There has been talk of it at the Metropolitan, and, of course there is the precedent of the extremely careful revival of the work under the supervision of Mr. Mahler last winter. But truth to tell, the revival was better on paper than on the stage. In spite of Mr. Mahler, in spite of Mr. Bonci, in spite of Mme. Senmbrich, all three of whom might be termed "Mozart specialists," there were too many weak spots in the cast to make the actual performance such as the presence of seven "stars," under the guidance of so distinguished a conductor as Gustav Mahler, might lead the unwary to expect. 

The fact is, the best performances of "Don Giovanni," the most Mozartean (in spite of an unpurified version of the score) that New York has known in a long time, were those of two years ago at the Manhattan Opera House, in which Mmes. Russ, Gilibert-Lejeune and Donalda and Messrs. Bonci, Renaud, Gilibert, Brag and Mugnoz were the singing actors, under the leadership of Mr. Campanini. Those were memorable performances. Today the Manhattan could not offer this cast. Mr. Bonci is gone and so is Mme. Russ (with all her faults the best Donna Anna either opera house has had to offer of late). It would be no easy matter to find a Leporello of the histrionic adroitness of Brag or a Zerlina of the sprightly charm of Mme. Donalda. But there remains Mr. Renaud, whose Don Giovanni is one of the performances that no lover of great singing and no lover of great acting can afford to go his grave having missed. And there remains also Mr. Gilibert, whose Masetto is unique in its excellence, descended, as Wagner said of "Meistersinger," straight from the blue.

A Leporello worthy of such company might be expected from Mr. de Segurola, or perhaps Mr. Vieulle. The lovely voice and Spanish verve of Mr. Constantino ought to make no small amends for the lost Bonci in Don Ottavio's cloak and top boots. As for the women, not Mary Garden or Luisa Tetrazzini, of course - they are out of the question - but willingly, for the sake of the men, would we pardon any of the rest of them as the two noble dames and pert Zerlina. Nor should one forget Mr. Campanini, who may not be called a "Mozart specialist," but who has shown himself equal to the task of presenting Mozart's marvelous score with appreciation and vivacity. 

Of course, the best New York cast for "Don Giovanni" would have to be supplied by both our opera houses. The house itself would be the Manhattan, because it is a more intimate setting for an intimate drama and the Manhattan would furnish the Don Giovanni and the Masetto. The conductor would be Gustav Mahler, because he, after all, is the high priest of Mozart today. From the Metropolitan would come without question Mme. Sembrich for Zerlina and Mr. Bonci for Don Ottavio, and also Mr. Blass to lend his smooth, generous voice to the Commandant's stern music. The Leporello might be in doubt, for at the Manhattan last year Don Giovanni's witty servant was the best thing Mr. Didur, now of the Metropolitan, has yet done in New York. And he should have the part, on his record, unless a Segurola or a Vieulle should go him better in a test.

The two noble dames would be hardest to choose. They say Mme. Gadski contemplates abandoning the "Merry Widow" that belied her Elvira's sadness a year ago for the weeds of bereaved Donna Anna. Nevertheless the one best guess for Donna Anna remains Bohemian Emmy Destinn. Donna Anna is the most difficult part in the opera, both to cast and perform. To many spectators this distressed lady has been a bore, as she became to Don Giovanni. But, before relegating her to the limbo of troubles to be endured, study her music and consider, too, the dramatic possibilities of the one heroic character in the opera - the woman who has been called "the incarnation of devotion to the male," and who alone is faithful unto death. Jenny Lind and Christine Nilsson were not ashamed to undertake the part, and records do not say they were a bore in it. Nor was Emma Eames when, fourteen years ago for one brief season, she revealed the loveliest Donna Elvira this generation has seen. But now that Mme Eames has ascended to the vocal heights of Donna Anna, Elvira is for her no more. With Mme Gadski also eliminated, Miss Fornia remains and if Miss Fornia were to sing all the music as exquisitely as once last year she sang Elvira's part in the trio of the second act, no one could speak of her aught, but praise.

But such speculations as these are idle dreaming. This is not likely to come true -not for the moment at least. The fact remains that at the Manhattan Opera house there are today Maurice Renaud, Charles Gilibert and Cleofonte Campanini, and Mozart is with the eternities. Surely Mr. Hammerstein owes an early revival of 'Don Giovanni" to the prestige of his house.

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