Cher Public

A prima donna is born

On this day in 1883 the Metropolitan Opera presented its very first Traviata with Marcella Sembrich as Violetta. 

The New York Times:

Mme. Marcella Sembrich’s Violetta is likely to become a more popular impersonation than even her Lucia. The performance of Verdi’s opera at the Metropolitan Opera House last night revealed the Hungarian [sic] prima donna in a new light. She had previously displayed her marvelous vocal resources, the rare beauty of her voice, and her admirable technique; last evening she came forward as an actress of no uncertain rank and presented an embodiment of the Lady of the Camellias conceived with excellent taste and well carried out to the end. Mme. Sembrich’s singing of Verdi’s music was, as might have been expected, more than satisfactory. Certain portions of the work seem to be better adapted to the peculiar quality of her voice than the music of either Donizetti or Bellini, which she had hitherto sung here, and without lapsing at any point from the dramatic situation she sang the passionate arias of Violetta with extraordinary facility of execution, which alone would have made the performance a popular success. Her success, however, was of a more substantial sort than that. The “Ah fors e lui” and the succeeding “Sempre libera” were rendered with capital effect, the contrast between the sadness of the [first] strains of this elaborate scena and the reckless abandon of the finale being excellently conceived. In the trying scena with Germont and Alfredo (Act II), and in the later portions of the opera she was pathetic without overstraining the character, and her part in the duet with Alfredo, “Parigi, o cara,” and the demonstrative “Ah, gran Dio” were given a dramatic significance which many former Violettas have failed to impart to them.

On this day in 1958 Gian Carlo Menotti‘s elusive opera Maria Golovin premiered on Broadway for five performances.