The legendary king of the opera Monte Carlo (part 2)
The opera premiered on February 24, 1910 and was greeted with delight. There is no place in this article to analyze this work of Massenet. For us, one thing is important: the ability of Gunsburg to initiate and implement interesting ideas, thanks to which the history of culture is enriched. By his indefatigability, he reminds Sergey Diaghilev. These two people lived in the same era, their paths could not help but intersect, and they crossed!
The first creative meeting of two prominent theatrical figures took place in 1911, when the Diaghilev ballet troupe first performed in Monte Carlo. That season Giselle, Scheherazade, Polovtsian Dances, Vision of the Rose and Narcissus were given with the participation of T. Karsavina, V. Nizhinsky, O. Preobrazhenskaya, A. Bolma and other outstanding dancers. So the names of such Diaghilev’s associates such as M. Fokin, L. Bakst, A. Benois entered the history of the theater.
Subsequently, the Diaghilev troupe repeatedly performed in Monaco, and in 1924-1929 even found a permanent haven there. Along with ballets Diaghilev occasionally staged operas. In 1924, in Monte Carlo, he performed a cycle of S. Gounod’s little-known works “The Dove”, “The Doctor Heced” and “Philemon and Bavkida”, as well as the opera “Lack of Education” by E. Chabrier (with recitations by D. Millau).
Separately, one can speak on the topic “Russians in Monte Carlo”. How many prominent Russian artists performed at Gunsburg! In the same 1905 in the “African” Meyerbeer (Celica’s party) Felia Litvin first spoke here. Later, she shone on this stage in the Wagner tetralogy (1909), was a participant in the world premiere of C. Sen-Sans’s opera The Dejanir (1911), in which the composer wrote the title part especially for the singer. From her book of memoirs “My Life and My Art” you can learn something interesting about Gunsburg, for example, that he was mayor of the town of Kormaten, where he owned an old castle in which Litvin lived for several days; the charming spouse of the impresario, who made a great impression on her; about the hospitality of the owner of the castle and scenes played directly in the garden from “Samson and Delilah”, which the residents of the district gathered to see.
Repeatedly sang in Monte Carlo and another famous Russian singer Maria Kuznetsova-Benoit, who participated in world premieres of the operas Massenet “Rome” and “Cleopatra”. The actress was a close friend of the composer’s family, and later married his nephew.
Benyamino Gigli March 25, 1909 in Monte Carlo, the premiere of “Mermaid” Dargomyzhsky, in which the brightest representatives of Russian vocal art F. Litvin (Natasha), F. Chaliapin (miller), Dmitry Smirnov (Prince) and Maria Davydova (Princess) met ) The great Russian tenor Leonid Sobinov also sang in the theater. In general, a trembling feeling is encompassed when you look at old photographs that depict scenes from performances in Monte Carlo. Here is Don Pasquale. Sobinov, Rosina Storkio, Titta Ruffo, Antonio Pini-Corsi sing. And here, for example, the “Seville Barber” of 1907. On the stage, Chaliapin, Storkio, Giuseppe De Luca, Ruffo, Pini-Corsi.
If we continue the list of outstanding artists who performed on this stage, it will be endlessly long – E. Calve, N. Melba, E. Caruso, B. Gigli, D. Farrar, R. Crespen and many others. The list of opera premieres is also long. We have already mentioned a number of them. It is necessary to say a few more. In 1917, at the height of the World War, the world premiere of “Swallows” by Giacomo Puccini took place in Monte Carlo. The main parts were performed by Gilda Dalla Rizza (Magda) and Tito Skipa (Ruggiero). This opera of the great composer, which he loved and called “poor“ Swallow ”(due to her not very happy fate), is now regaining its well-deserved popularity. Among the most important productions is also the opera-ballet of Maurice Ravel “Child and Magic” (1925). Ravel began to compose this thing in the years of the war, but then postponed the work begun. The fact that the composition was nevertheless written is a great merit of Gunsburg, who constantly reminded the composer of the need to complete the work. The premiere, led by the outstanding conductor Victor de Sabat and with the participation of the Diaghilev ballet, was a great success. * For the first time, a number of operas by S. Frank, P. Mascagni, G. Foret, A. Onegger were also staged in Monte Carlo. The theater quickly responded to everything new that was happening in the opera world. A typical example is the Turandot by Puccini.
Already in early 1927 (less than a year after the world premiere), the opera appeared in the repertoire of the theater. Choreographic scenes in this performance were staged by D. Balanchine.
The further history of the Monte Carlo Theater is of less interest for the development of opera. Günsburg was getting old; ballet occupied an increasing place in the theater. In 1932, the Frenchman R. Blum and the famous Russian impresario Colonel V. de Basil created the ballet troupe “Balle rus de Monte Carlo”, later on, however, divided into two parts. The last significant opera premiere of those years in Monte Carlo was the joint work of A.Onegger and J. Iber “The Eaglet” based on the famous drama by E. Rostan (1937).
Of course, in our days, the theater has been successfully operating, interesting productions are being carried out here (for example, “Hamlet” by A. Tom in 1992 with T. Hampson in the title role). Since 1973, for a number of years, the renowned Italian composer Renzo Rossellini (1908-1982), brother of the outstanding film director Roberto Rossellini, was the artistic director of the theater. But all this is another topic …
Bright and controversial personality was Raul Gunsburg. Paradoxically, it combined the qualities of a visionary and a practitioner, a crafty courtier and an enthusiastic creative person in the theater, a cunning director and a hospitable host. It coexisted with admiration for great artists and a desire to please the crowned persons. Everything superficial, however, is forgotten, but things remain. Let us pay tribute to his accomplishments, thanks to which the history of musical theater has been enriched.