excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 84-90 (555 words)

excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 84-90 (555 words)

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Thirty Years of Musical Life in London

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In the summer of the following year to be pre-ise, June 22, 1878 Signor Garcia accompanied me to the first performance in England of Bizet's "Carmen." It was not an easy thing at that time to persuade him to go to the Opera...I recollect that Signor Garcia was in a very critical mood, albeit prepared, with his customary impatiality, to allow the full meed of praise where praise was due. The opera was well cast and well staged. Mr. Mapleson had seen it at the Brussels Monnaie during the preceding winter, and it was on the strength of the success won there, alike by the work and by the exponent of the title-role, that he had determined to transfer both to the boards of Her Majesty's. The Carmen in question was no other than Miss Minnie Hauk, the young American prima donna who had sung at Covent Garden one autumn season when quite a girl, but had not been heard again in London until the present year, when she made her rentree as Violetta in "La Traviata." Her Carmen was already famous. It was considered as good dramatically as that of Mme. Galli-Marie, and in a vocal sense far superior. Garcia was simply delighted with the artistic finish, the vivacity and charm, of her performance. He thought she had caught with marvelous instinct and truth the peculiarities of the Spanish type, the coquettish manners and the defiant devilry of the wayward gipsy. He admired immensely the individuality of an assumption which, if it was subsequently followed upon more or less identical lines by many excellent artists, has been equaled only by three I mean Pauline Lucca, Emma Calve, and Zelie de Lussan. Nor since have I heard a sweeter, gentler, or more persuasive Michaela than Alwina Valleria (nee Miss Lohmann, of Baltimore), another American soprano who was just beginning to win her way into the affections of the English public. The Escamillo - and an altogether ideal one - was that remarkably fine barytone, Del Puente, who in after years settled down in New York as a singer and teacher; while Campanini sang and acted with superb dramatic power as Don Jose. It was a strong cast, therefore, and Sir Michael Costa conducted the opera with exemplary care, even if he failed to bring into full relief the manifold beauties and exquisitely delicate touches of Bizet's score. But Signor Garcia was simply enthusiastic, and he labored as effectively as any individual in the whole theatre to bring about the triumphant reception that greeted "Carmen" that night. The subject and its treatment alike appealed to him; he thought the story intensely dramatic; the degree of real Spanish color in the music quite astonished him. He had not imagined that any Spanish opera after "Don Giovanni" and "II Barbiere" could please him so much. I may be excused for thus dwelling at length upon the premiere of "Carmen " in England, because from that moment dates the real popularity of the opera in Europe a popularity, by the way, that has been exceeded by one opera only, Gounod's "Faust." It was further noteworthy in that it first brought into prominence the two American-born singers Minnie Hauk and Alwina Valleria who were to be most closely identified with the rapid upward progress of the Carl Eosa opera enterprise from 1880 to 1886.

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excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 84-90 (555 words)


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