1909 Opera New York 19-02-1909.

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the Globe


“The first performance in America,” read the program at the Metropolitan Opera House last night. The legend referred to the first production there of Bohemian composer Smetena’s comic opera, “Prodana Nevesta,” better known by the German title, “Die verkaufte Braut” and rendered in English,” The Bartered Bride.” After hearing the work one could but wonder why no one produced it here decades ago. Smetana wrote it back in the sixties and it must have been as charming then as it is now. But perhaps he had the happy inspiration to write it for all time so, if late in coming America, it has come to stay.

The plot of “The Battered. Bride” is somewhat complicated, but this difficulty is offset by the fact that it is a real comedy in music. The zest and impetus of this Bohemian score claim the attention from the first note and, when the actors play their parts as vividly as they did last night, the action is clear enough and steadily entertaining. Then, too, “The Bartered Bride” is one of the typically national operas. The music is Bohemian in its coloring. It is gay with the lively rhythms of the dance. The action takes place in kermesse time, and the festivities give opportunity for a polka in the first act, for a furiant in the second act, and for a full-fledged circus in the third. All these features add alike to the fun and individuality of the work.

The music is an almost continuous delight. The score beams with captivating melody. Expressed in the traditional forms of old-fashioned opera, it contains admirable solos, duets and concert pieces. The choruses are strikingly effective, the orchestration brilliant. Seldom indeed is good music of a kind so easy to grasp heard in an opera house.

It is fortunate for this production those two fine Bohemian artists, Emmy Destinn and Gustav Mahler, should be concerned in it, one as impersonator of the heroine, Marie, and the other as conductor, Mr. Mahler’s influence was evident throughout the performance and he conducted con amore. In order that late comers should not miss the overture it was played as an introduction to the second act instead of the first. This bit of paternalism had a local precedent in the case of the overture in “Dinorah” at the Manhattan Opera House. It also had a special excuse in Mr. Mahler’s whirlwind reading of the piece. which was first revealed here at a concert of the Symphony Society early this season.

As for Miss Destinn, she was at her best. Her acting was delightfully spirited and appealing. In superb voice, she sang gloriously. Carl Jörn did capitally as Hans, who finally wins Marie. His duet with Miss Destinn in the first act was one at the gems of the evening, Mr. Reiss as Wenzel, the rejected suitor, was deliciously droll. His irruption into the circus disguised as a dancing bear caused as much amusement among the audience as it did consternation on the stage.

Mr. Didur played the marriage broker most industriously and would have pleased better if he had sung better. As the various parents concerned with discipline and dowries, Mr. Blass, Mme. Mattfeld, Mr. Muhlmann, and Mme. Wakefield were individually and collectively excellent. Indeed the perfection of the ensemble had much to do with the effectiveness of the performance. The scenery was appropriate.

Photograph of Gina Torriani and Ottokar Bartik in The Bartered Bride.

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