1920s footnotes

Forgot to say, in yesterday’s post about the Met in the 1920s, that they did more than 40 operas every year. In 1924-25, they did 44 operas (plus Petrushka, as a ballet) in 24 weeks. Some weeks had eight performances, other weeks had nine. All of which might help to explain why the quality wasn’t very high. 

And when I said that Mozart wasn’t a large part of the repertoire, I should have been more specific. Three 1929 performances of Don Giovanni were the first since 1908. (But then, thanks to Ezio Pinza in the title role, it was done every year in the 1930s.) Figaro wasn’t done at all between 1917 and 1940. Die Zauberflöte showed up in 1926, and then not again till 1941. 

Cosi, curiously, was the most often performed Mozart opera at the Met in the ’20s, having received not just its Met premiere, but its first performance anywhere in the US, in 1922. After 1928, it disappeared until its triumphant revival, in English, in 1951.

Some choice Irving Kolodin (see yesterday’s post), about two useful tenors:

[Raoul] Jobin was rarely the best member of a cast in which he appeared, never its worst, a mean of ability which assured him Metropolitan prominence despite a colorless sound and little personality.

[Frederick] Jagel’s career as a tenor of all work was typified by his first season, which began with Radames,…and continued with Pinkerton, Pollione…Filippo Mara in Madonna Imperia, and Cavaradossi. None of these roles was sung with sensuous tone, but it would be unfair to say one was worse than another. Whether for Rodolfo, Herod in Salomé, or Peter Grimes, Jagel was both willing and able for a quarter-century. 

[Madonna Imperia was a one-act opera by Alfano, premiered in 1928, “a melancholy waste of drab dullness,” according to the W. H Henderson, the leading critic of the time.]
I don’t mean to imply that Kolodin is always negative. He’s often forced to be, because of what the Met put on. But when he has something to rave about, like Flagstad’s debut, he pulls out all the stops, and rejoices at great length, with a mass of fascinating detail.

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