Henry Charles Lahee.

The grand opera singers of to-day; an account of the leading operatic stars who have sung during recent years, together with a sketch of the chief operatic enterprises online

. (page 17 of 28)
Online LibraryHenry Charles LaheeThe grand opera singers of to-day; an account of the leading operatic stars who have sung during recent years, together with a sketch of the chief operatic enterprises → online text (page 17 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the season of 1909-1910, is described as a tail
firmly built and swarthy Russian singer, accus-
tomed to the stage. He revealed a voice that
had less sensuous beauty than penetration of
tone, poignant to the emotions rather than ca-
ressing to the ear, with the unmistakably nasal

320 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

quality common in French and Russian theatres
and agreeable to the audiences there, a voice
that plainly sets expression above sweetness.
The use of the falsetto in the upper tones, and
of vibrato at moments of emotion and intensity,
American audiences do not like.

Herman Jadlowker, who first appeared at the
Metropolitan Opera-House on January 22,
1910, as Faust, was born in Riga in 1879, and
was intended by his father for a business
career. This was not quite in accordance with
the views of the youth, who accordingly fled
from Russia. He was then but fifteen years of
age. He succeeded in reaching Vienna, where
he became a pupil of Gensbacher. He con-
tinued his studies in Italy, and eventually got
an engagement at Cologne, when he was twenty
years of age, taking a small part in an opera
of German origin entitled " The Nightwatch
of Granada."

He sang for a short time at Stettin, but first
attracted attention by his work at Karlsruhe,
where the Emperor William heard him and in-
vited him to sing at the Royal Opera-House in
Berlin. A contract for five years ensued.
This was followed by a similar contract at
Vienna, in which city he had studied under

The Metropolitan Opera-House 321

Gaensbacher at the Conservatoire, through the
courtesy of the Grand Duke of Baden.

Jadlowker made his American debut at the
Metropolitan Opera-House as Faust on Janu-
ary 22, 1910. " He is thoroughly schooled in
the finer ways of music drama," one of the
critics wrote, " his well knit and supple figure,
and comeliness of face serve him well in roman-
tic parts, his movements are free, his ges-
tures intelligent and he avoids the trite and
empty conventionalities of operatic pose. If he
has not exactly personal distinction, he has in-
teresting individuality that plays through an
evident sense of operatic character and evident
resource in operatic impersonation. Mr. Jad-
lowker made his tones his chief histrionic and
characterizing means. He truly sang, with
justice of intonation, with heed of melodic de-
sign, with musical shapeliness of phrase, with
unforced and intelligently ordered quality of
tone. His enunciation is clear, he is a sing-
ing actor."

In the spring of 1912 Jadlowker left the Met-
ropolitan Company, having been engaged by
the Royal Opera in Berlin. His contract was
said to be for five years, and his salary the
largest ever paid in Germany to a tenor,

322 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

and yet it was intimated that by the terms of
his contract he might be able to return to the
Metropolitan Opera-House in 1914. Possibly
there may be fewer tenors then than in the
season of 1911-1912.

Dimitri Smirnoff was a young Russian tenor
who came to the Metropolitan Opera-House in
1910 and remained for two seasons. Mr. Smir-
noff had a very good voice and an agreeable
presence, but did not seem to rouse any enthu-
siasm in New York. In reviewing a perform-
ance of ' ' La Boheme ' ' the critic wrote : * * Mr.
Smirnoff's Rodolfo was a poet of uneven vocal
merit who had but few moments of real lyric
beauty. During the opening act it seemed as
though the mythical cold of the cheerless garret
had really affected the singer's sensitive larynx,
since his attack was lamentably uncertain.
Later on, however, this adjusted itself and Mr.
Smirnoff sang to better advantage."

When he left America in February, 1912, he
declared that he had cancelled his contract be-
cause the Metropolitan Opera-House was in the
hands of the Italians. Inasmuch as Italian
singers had declared against the French, and
the Germans were aggrieved at both, if they
were not successful, Smirnoff's accusation

The Metropolitan Opera-House 323

points rather to an impartial administration.
But, in any case, the power behind the throne
has no nationality but American, and the
singers must be satisfactory to the board of
directors and to the audiences in order to main-
tain their positions. Smirnoff, though pos-
sessed of some excellent qualities, did not touch
the right spot and aroused little interest.

Glenn Hall is one of those singers who,
having made a national reputation as a concert
and oratorio singer, went into opera. He was
educated at Chicago University and soon after
being graduated he made his appearance as an
oratorio singer, taking part in " Elijah " in
Chicago. His success was unusual and he
toured with the Thomas Orchestra and with the
Boston Festival Orchestra, after which he went
abroad and appeared with the Gewandhaus
Orchestra in Leipzig under Arthur Nickisch,
He joined the Metropolitan Opera Company in

Clarence Whitehill is a native of Marengo,
Iowa. He went to Paris to study with Sbriglia
and Giraudet, and was engaged first of all to
sing Friere Laurent at the Theatre de la Mon-
naie in Brussels. Thence he went to the Opera
Comique in Paris, where, as M. Clarence, ho

324 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

sang Nitakantha in " Lakme," the first Ameri-
can of his sex to sing at the Opera Comique.

Henry Savage heard him and engaged him
for the English Company which he was then
managing at the Metropolitan Opera-House,
and even paid a forfeit to the management of
the opera at Marseilles, at which place White-
hill had recently signed a contract. At the
Metropolitan Opera-House he carried off high
honors. His voice, however, was too high for
the heavy bass roles, and he returned to Europe
for further study, and being determined to
sing in Germany he went to Frankfort and
studied under Julius Stockhausen. An engage-
ment at Cologne soon followed, and the next
season he joined the forces of the Metropolitan
Opera-House under Casazza.

Andreas de Segurola was born in Barcelona.
His father died when he was but three years
of age and his mother when he was six, so he
was brought up by his two uncles, one a canon
in the church, the other a diplomat, and by
them he was intended for the diplomatic

He was, however, very anxious for a musical
career, and offended his uncles by his desires,
for there had been no musical artists in the

The Metropolitan Opera-House 325

family, and such a career was considered be-
neath the family dignity.

De Segurola accordingly studied law in Bar-
celona, but in the hotel at which he was staying
there was a famous singer, Hariclee Darclee,
then at the height of her career, and a member
of the Liceo Theatre. He sang for her, and she
gave him much encouragement, even asking
him to sing at her benefit concert with her.
After this performance the manager of the
theatre asked him to join the company, which
he did at a salary of fifteen hundred francs a
month. His debut was successful and the fol-
lowing summer he went to South America un-
der Cleofonte Campanini. He sang three sea-
sons at Madrid and Lisbon, and filled engage-
ments in Eome, Palermo, Naples, Parma, and
in Argentine, and was for two years a member
of the San Carlo Company under Henry Bus-

Mr. De Segurola joined the Metropolitan
Company in 1909, and proved to be a valuable
member of the organization. At the end of the
season of 1911-1912 he was engaged by the M.
Sigaldi Company for a season in Mexico, but
during the summer he was the leading bass of
the Paris season of the Metropolitan Company,

326 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

for a Paris season has been carried on, since
Oscar Hammerstein showed the way.

The season of 1910-1911 presented new fea-
'tures in certain respects. For the first time in
the history of the Metropolitan Opera-House
twenty-two weeks of opera were given. There
were one hundred and fifty-two performances,
in which thirty operas were heard, and twelve
composers represented. There were eighty-six
performances of twelve Italian operas, fifty-
five performances of twelve German operas,
and eleven performances of three French

In addition to this the Philadelphia-Chicago
Opera Company appeared on thirteen consecu-
tive Tuesday evenings. The Metropolitan Com-
pany did less travelling than usual, only two
weeks, during which they visited Montreal,
Cleveland, Cincinnati and Atlanta.

The season was more remarkable for new
operas than for new singers, and, probably in
view of the fact that audiences had by this time
been stirred up to an interest in new things, we
began to have " first performance on any
stage " announced. This was the case with
Englebert Humperdinck's " Konigskinder, "
which took place on December 28, and achieved

The Metropolitan Opera-House 327

real success. It was performed eleven times
during that season, exceeding by two perform-
ances " The Girl of the Golden West " which
was the next in order of popularity. The in-
terest in this opera was enhanced by the pres-
ence of the composer. The leading roles were
taken by Geraldine Farrar, as The Goose Girl,
Herman Jadlowker, Otto Goritz,AbramoDidur,
Albert Reiss, and Marie Mattfield.

Another novelty was an opera by Paul
Dukas, a Frenchman, ' ' Ariana et Barbe-
Bleue," on February 3, in which Miss Farrar
also carried off chief honors.

Of the new singers there were few who made
more than a moderate success, with the excep-
tion of Leon Rothier, a French basso, Basil
Ruysdael, an American basso, and William
Hinshaw, an American baritone.

Dimitri Smirnoff, the Russian tenor, was re-
ceived favorably, but his voice was not suited
to the large auditorium of the Metropolitan
Opera-House, and he returned to his native
land, uttering somewhat ungracious remarks
about America.

The chief feature of the year, however, was
the establishment of what has been called an
operatic trust. There were three large com-

328 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

panies formed, the Metropolitan, the Chicago-
Philadelphia, and the Boston Opera Company.
Each of the companies made contracts with
some of the great singers, and these great
singers were exchanged more or less. For in-
stance, Miss Garden was a member of the
Philadelphia-Chicago Company, which took
over many of Hammerstein 's singers, and she
appeared in Boston and in New York. Miss
Fremstadt (who won new laurels during that
season by her impersonation of Isolde) was a
member of the Metropolitan Company, but ap-
peared in all four houses. Baklanoff and Con-
stantineau of the Boston Company were ex-
changed in a similar manner, and there was
frequent new interest in the repetitions of
operas by the presentation of new principals.
This plan works very well at the present stage
of the operatic enterprise of this country.

Madame Charles Cahier was formerly Sarah
Layton Walker, of Indianapolis. She began
her career in America as a church and oratorio
singer, and then went to Paris to complete her
studies with Jean de Reszke. She made a most
successful debut at Nice as Orpheus, in 1904,
in consequence of which she had several flat-
tering offers from various European opera-


The Metropolitan Opera-House 329

houses. On the advice of de Reszke she refused
all of them and went to Germany to perfect
herself in the Wagner repertory. When she
made her German debut it was as Amneris in
" Aida " at Brunswick, and after filling vari-
ous short engagements in Berlin and other
cities she finally accepted an offer from Gustav
Mahler to go to the Vienna opera.

Madame Cahier was also selected by Mahler
to be soloist in several of the musical festivals
which he conducted, and in this capacity sang
at Munich, Vienna, Gratz, Mannheim, and other
continental cities. She has appeared too at
festivals in London and Paris.

In New York she made only two appearances
in opera, at the end of the season (1911-1912),
as Azucena in " II Trovatore," and as Amneris
in " Aida," and she sang at one of the Metro-
politan Sunday evening concerts. She showed
herself to be a singer of admirable qualities,
whose vocal resources are of the best, and
whose style is finished and broad. Her acting
was vivid and emotional.

Lucie Weidt is a native of Vienna. Her
voice was discovered when, at the age of six-
teen, she sang an aria from ' * Aida " at a musi-
cale given at her father's house. She made

330 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

such an impression on her audience that she
was advised to make a serious study of singing.
She went to Jean de Reszke and made her debut
when only nineteen at the Imperial Opera in
Vienna, as Elizabeth in " Tannhauser. " After
three years she was appointed court singer.
In private life Miss Weidt is the Baroness
von Urmenyi.

Inga Oerner is a Norwegian soprano who
joined the Metropolitan forces in 1911. Her
musical career extends over some six or seven
years. Her father was a friend of Edouard
Grieg, and she studied music under the noted
Norwegian composer. She mastered some
forty operatic roles, and was a favorite singer
at the concerts held in the Royal Castle, Chris-
tiania. In the summer of 1911 Miss Oerner sang
at Covent Garden. She had also had an oper-
atic career in her native land.

The most important acquisition to the Met-
ropolitan Opera Company in the season of 1911-
1912 was Margarete Matzenaur, who made her
debut as Amneris in " Aida " in November.

Madame Matzenaur is of Hungarian birth,
her father was an orchestral conductor and her
mother an opera singer, so she received an ex-
cellent musical education while still a child.

The Metropolitan Opera-House 331

She plays the piano well and has never had a
repetiteur in studying her parts. When she
was young she thought that she would be an
actress, but her voice developed and made sing-
ing more essential. Her debut was made at
Strassburg, as Puck in " Oberon," after which
she remained in that theatre for three years
and sang many other contralto roles. After
that engagement she went to the Hofoper in
Munich and remained a member of that house
until coming to America, though she had made
various " guest " tours. At Munich she suc-
ceeded Olive Fremstadt, and she cherishes the
ambition to become, like Miss Fremstadt, a
dramatic soprano, in fact Miss Fremstadt is
said to have left Munich in order to get away
from contralto roles.

Madame Matzenaur has sung Herodias in
" Salome," Klytemnestra in " Elektra," and
has learned the part of the Marschallin, in
" Der Rosenkavalier."

At Bayreuth Madame Matzenaur appeared
as Walt route, one of the Rhine Daughters, and
as one of the Norns in " Gotterdammerung, "
and she expected to be engaged to sing Kundry
in 1912. But another was selected, and Ma-
dame Matzenaur, by singing the part at the Met-

332 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

ropolitan Opera-House in an emergency, prac-
tically severed her connection with Bayreuth.
The reason given at Bayreuth for not engag-
ing her was " lack of time for rehearsal,"
but this excuse was proved absurd by the
fact that Madame Matzenaur, taking Miss
Fremstadt's place, sang the part without an
orchestral rehearsal, and did it with an
intelligence that proclaimed her a very great
artist, and what is also quite remarkable, she
pronounced every word so that it was
distinctly understood. Madame Matzenaur
is, in fact, distinguished for mastery of
languages. She speaks English without a trace
of continental accent, just as a cultivated Eng-
lish woman speaks, although she has never
spent much time in studying it, and has spent
only a few weeks in England. She also speaks
Italian fluently and French, besides Hungarian.

At the end of the Metropolitan season in 1912
she went to the Stadt Theatre at Hamburg, but
was engaged for a portion of each of the two
following seasons for America.

During her American engagement Madame
Matzenaur distinguished herself not only by
her singing of Kundry, but also by her inter-
pretation of the parts of Brunnhilde in " Wai-

Copyright by Mishkiu Studio, New York


The Metropolitan Opera-House 333

kiire," as Orfeo in Gluck's opera, and as Bran-
gaene, on which occasion one of the papers de-
clared: " Madame Matzenaur made her hearers
realize that for the first time since the days of
Marianne Brandt, the Metropolitan had a
Brangaene worthy of that role. A tragic ac-
tress of intense force and passion, Madame
Matzenaur possesses in addition, a voice so
rich and sonorous, and capable of such infinite
gradations of color and emotional depiction
that the combination forms an irresistible whole
and casts a magic spell over her hearers. She
is the greatest contralto heard in New York
opera since Madame Schumann - Heink left
Broadway for wider fields in concert."

In Munich Madame Matzenaur married Ernst
Preuse in 1902. Preuse had been one of her
teachers, and her divorce from him was one of
the reasons why she left Munich and came to
America. In July, 1912, an announcement was
made of her engagement to Signer Fontana-
Ferrari, an Italian tenor, of La Scala.

Heinrich Hensel, who was a newcomer at the
Metropolitan Opera-House in 1911, began his
operatic career in 1907 as a lyric tenor, but his
voice developed into a dramatic tenor, after
which he went to the Court Theatre at Wies-

334 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

baden and became an object of especial interest
to the Emperor of Germany.

Hensel is the son of a wealthy manufacturer,
and was destined to enter the army as an officer
after he had finished his term of service in the
cavalry at Carlsruhe. He was educated at his
father's home in Pfalz. After singing in vari-
ous amateur affairs he became seriously inter-
ested and placed himself under the tuition of
Gustav Walter, a former tenor of the Vienna
opera. He then took further lessons under Her-
man Rosenberg, and finally he studied with
Emmerich in Milan. He made his debut at
Freiburg, Baden, as Stradella in 1897, and ob-
tained a three years' contract at that theatre.
For six years he sang operas of the old school,
and then entered by degrees into the modern
works, taking such parts as Turiddu in ' ( Caval-
leria Eusticana ty and Canio in "II Pagli-
acci. ' '

After an engagement at Frankfort he went
to Wiesbaden where he entered upon the heroic
repertory, singing Siegmun-d and Siegfried,
Lohengrin, and Walter von Stolzing.

Hensel was chosen by Siegfried Wagner,
while singing at Carlsruhe, to create the tenor
part in his opera " Bandietrich, " and as a re-

The Metropolitan Opera-House 335

suit of that engagement he sang Parsifal at

Mr. Hensel made his American debut at the
Metropolitan Opera-House early in 1912, when
he appeared as Lohengrin. " In appearance
Mr. Hensel is one of the most impressive
Lohengrins seen at the Metropolitan in some
time," says one account. " He is tall, hand-
some and well built, and it did not require the
words of the other personages in the drama to
convince one that the knight was a really heroic
individual. . . . His acting pleased, though the
full extent of his histrionic ability remains to
be determined. . . . Mr. Hensel 's voice, a pure
tenor, is distinguished especially by its youth-
ful freshness and purity of quality. Strangely
enough, it impresses one as of a lyric rather
than a truly dramatic cast. ... He has no
need to force his tones for they are resonant
and well produced and will consequently carry
to perfection when normally emitted. . . . One
of the most delightful features of Mr. HensePs
work is the beautiful clarity of his enunciation,
which makes every word thoroughly compre-
hensible even to the most distant listener."

Shortly afterwards Mr. Hensel made an ap-
pearance as Siegfried, as substitute for Carl

336 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

Burrian, who was indisposed. On this occa-
sion also his efforts were crowned with success.
The following account appeared in one of the
papers :

" From his first appearance to the final note
of the love scene between Siegfried and the
awakened Brunnhilde at the close of the opera,
it might truthfully be said, and this, too, with
all due respect to the whole cast, that Heinrich
Hensel dominated the stage and quickly brought
the audience to realize that in voice and ap-
pearance one of the greatest Siegfrieds known
to New York opera habitues was on the boards.

" This was Mr. Hensel 's initial Siegfried
appearance here, and let it be recorded that
another triumph has been added to his list at
the Metropolitan Opera-House. At the close of
each act the audience insisted upon bringing the
magnificent artist before the curtain many times
to bow acknowledgment to the plaudits.

" Every scene was invested with its full de-
gree of significance, and not a light or shade
was missed by Hensel, who seemed to be the
very embodiment of the forest hero. The song
at the forge was delivered with stirring elo-
quence; the encounter with Fafner, as the
dragon, was a masterpiece of dramatic delivery

The Metropolitan Opera-House 337

and acting; the scene with Wotan in the last
act, and the final love episode with Brunnhilde
were impressive in the extreme. The present
writer overheard a veteran opera attendant re-
mark enthusiastically after Hensel had been
called before the curtain about a dozen times
following the first act : * The greatest and hand-
somest Siegfried since Alvary. ' "

Lambert Murphy, a tenor who began his
operatic experience at the Metropolitan Opera-
House in the season of 1911-1912, is a native of
Springfield, Mass. As a boy he was a church
singer, and he continued in that work until he
secured his engagement at the Metropolitan
Opera-House. In 1904 he entered Harvard
University, and was at that time a member of
the quartet of the Park St. Congregational
church in Boston. Each year he was sought
by other churches and eventually he sang in
the New Old South church, from which place he
went to St. Bartholomew's in New York.
During his college career he was a member of
all the musical organizations, and was in de-
mand for concert engagements. He coached
for oratorio under Emil Mollenhaur.

Mr. Murphy had no idea of entering the musi-
cal profession until the end of his college career.

338 The Grand Opera Singers of To-day

He had simply studied singing under Thomas
L. Cushman, a teacher of Springfield and Bos-

Mr. Murphy has a pure tenor voice of beauti-
ful quality. He has never had to seek profes-
sional engagements, they have been urged
upon him. He was asked by Biccardo Martin,
who met him at a mutual friend 's house, to sing
for Mr. Gatti-Casazza, and he became a mem-
ber of the company without any preliminary
operatic experience, and without leaving the
United States for study or training of any kind.
He takes small parts in the opera and has, so
far, been warmly commended for his work.

Herman Weil, who also came to the Metro-
politan Opera-House in 1911, is a young man in
his early prime. He is said to have been dis-
covered by Siegfried Wagner, who first heard
him as Hans Sachs at the Royal Opera-House
in Stuttgart in 1910. Weil's whole life has been
passed in Stuttgart, where he had been a stu-
dent at the Conservatory. His striking quali-
ties as an artist are the power of his delivery
and the rich amplitude of his voice. During his
student days Weil fell in love with a fellow
student and married her shortly after making
his debut.

The Metropolitan Opera-House 339

Putnam Griswold was born in Minneapolis,
spent the early part of his life in California,
and, aided by some Californian friends, went
abroad to study singing. His first engagement
was at the Municipal Opera at Frankfurt-on-
the-Main. Six months later he began a tour in
America singing the part of Gurnemanz in
Henry M. Savage's production of " Parsifal."
During this tour he sang that role one hundred
and sixteen times, and his success was so great
that he secured a contract at the Berlin Royal
Opera as principal basso, for six years.

At the Metropolitan Opera-House Mr. Gris-
wold has distinguished himself in Wagnerian
roles. His King Mark was called a magnificent
presentation, physically and vocally. He made
every moment of the usually tedious second act
finale resolve itself into real music drama.

As Wotan the following account was given
of him :

" Putnam Griswold was a stately Wotan,
and his glorious bass voice rolled out over the
big audience with organ-like resonance. Not
only is Mr. Griswold a superb vocalist, but he

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryHenry Charles LaheeThe grand opera singers of to-day; an account of the leading operatic stars who have sung during recent years, together with a sketch of the chief operatic enterprises → online text (page 17 of 28)