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  Grand Opera - Toti dal Monte's Success

"The Daughter of the Regiment" at Her Majesty's

Monday 9th July 1928

Signorina Toti dal Monte, the gay, lighthearted vivandiere to the life in her vivacity and charm, was the central figure in last night's opera "The daughter of the Regiment," at Her Majesty's. Naturally, there was a great welcome for her. Having captured the affections of the Sydney public when she first came here four years ago, she has strengthened her popularity at each of her appearances since that time. Last night her winsome graces and merry sense of comedy gave new life and interest to the role of Donizetti's heroine, Marie, the protege of the Swiss regiment of grenadiers, and her vocal brilliancy brought fresh distinction to this old opera, which had manifestly been chosen for the occasion, the second night of the season, because it furnishes a role for an artist who is at once an accomplished coloratura singer and a spirited comedy actress.

It needed the coquettish humour and polished vocal style of a Dal Monte to revive interest in a work of such slender harmonic values. Music has advanced since the days when Marie was a favourite role with Jenny Lind and Patti. Donizetti's lightly-scored pages are decidedly thin to ears accustomed to the robust polyphony of the Wagnerian school and the later Verdi. Yet they contain plenty of agreeable melody; and Commendatore Bavagnoli, who conducted last night's performance, imparted subtle charm to these melodic qualities by his fresh, spontaneous reading of the score. Toti dal Monte, on her part, sang the title-role in just the right spirit, and brightly carried the piece to a success which led to many recalls after each of the two acts.

One reason why Donizetti's harmonic design appeared so tenuous was that the opera was preceded by Beethoven's great "Leonora" Overture No. 3. This overture, distinguished by its imposing proportions and the marvellous breadth of its orchestration, was composed long before "The Daughter of the Regiment," yet it remains as vigorous and compelling to-day as if it belonged to the modern school. Commendatore Bavagnoli led a fine performance of this overture, his interpretation being notable for due restraint, judicious balance, and exceeding beauty of tone. He aimed at a perfectly-proportioned tonepicture, and thus secured a well-judged development of the working-out of the themes, and accordingly brought the powerful coda into proper relief. Wagner declared that this work, instead of being merely an overture to a music-drama, partook rather of the character of the music-drama itself, so dramatic is its design. Beethoven wrote four overtures for his "Fidelio." "Leonora" No. 2 was the one played at the first performance of the opera in Vienna. The opera was then revised, and at its further production on March 29, 1806, "Leonora" No. 3, a remodelled form of No. 2, was performed. In its new design it proved of much greater emotional value than the one which preceded it. Last night's interpretation developed this phase with stirring effect. The bold introduction, an adagio in C, was admirably enunciated; Florestan's aria was given due importance, and in the development of the melodious principal and second subjects the conductor led his forces in magnificent climaxes with the distant trumpet calls artistically delivered. The performance showed the high qualities of the orchestra as a concert organisation, and stimulated a desire to hear it in a full orchestral programme at some future date, before the season ends.

Signorina Toti dal Monte, coming on early in the first scene of the opera, captured the house by the beauty and finish of her singing in her first aria, "Apparvi alla luce," a coloratura theme in which the cadenza at the end was brilliantly vocalised. She entered into the spirit of the role with great vivacity, brightly acting in the exercise drill duet at this point with Signor Umberto de Lelio, who was admirable as Sergeant Sulpice, the gruff old veteran of the Grenadiers.

In the opening scene, a beautiful picture of a Tyrolean rustic scene, with the high peaks of the Alps in the distance beneath a blue sky, a company of peasants, as the curtain rose, was discovered deeply concerned in the fortunes of a battle proceeding not far away. Here there was a notable example ot the excellent training of the chorus, in the mezza voce "Silenzio" of the rustics grouped on the high pass in the middle distance, the defiant song of the stalwarts against the enemy, and the gentle prayers of the women, fearful of the approaching danger. News having been brought that the foe had been routed, all joined in an ensemble of rejoicing, given with fine spirit. When Marie, hailed by the old Sergeant as "the jewel and the glory of the famous Twentieth Regiment," tripped on by the high pass as the villagers dispersed, all attention was centred upon the brightness and animation of Toti dal Monte with Umberto de Lelio as her comrade in a sprightly interpretation of the "Rataplan" duet, as they paced up and down in their mock-ceremonial drill.

Tonio, hustled in at this stage by the soldiers, was impersonated by Signor de Muro Lomanto. The new tenor, youthful and of good presence, has a light voice of agreeable quality, and sang his music expressively, while proving himself a talented actor. Interest in this scene was enhanced by the tuneful "Song of the Regiment," delivered with rhythmical charm by Signorina dal Monte, who managed the mezza voce flights of vocalisation with the utmost grace, and at the end descended the scale from high A with perfectly even tone in a captivating climax. The charm of the artist's singing consisted in the fact that all this ornamental music was endowed, with such sympathetic quality aid warmth of colour. The melodious duet for the lovers, "A voi cosi ardente," was delightfully sung by Signorina dal Monte and Signor Lomanto.

The lyrical beauty of "Convien partir," so familiar on the concert platform, was another feature of the soprano's music. She sang this aria with exceeding conviction to a well- played obbligato of 'cello and flute, and the choral ensemble of the soldiers echoing her "addios" was excellent. Marie is obliged to leave her beloved Grenadiers to assume her proper position in society at the home of the Marchioness of Berkenfield, but her new surroundings prove irksome, and in the amusing singing lesson scene of the second act Signorina dal Monte fully proved her delightful gifts in comedy by the affected airs with which she imitated the severe Marchioness directing the rehearsal of her new song, exclaimed petulantly against her task, and suddenly broke in upon the melody of the lesson by taking up the strains of the "Song of the Regiment" and the "Rataplan" theme with Signor do Lelio, to the amazement and despair of the Marchioness, a role well played by Signorina Ida Mannarini. Signor Oreste Carozzi sang well as Ortensio, steward to the Marchioness, and Signor Satariano attracted attention by his admirable sense of comedy as the corporal of the Grenadiers. The orchestral introduction to the second act, a minuet theme was played delightfully.

The Attendance

The second night of the opera did not provide anything arresting in the way of dressing. The large audience seemed to regard the music as the only thing that mattered, and the interest of everyone was concentrated on it. In the upper circle there was the sound of leaves surreptitiously turned over as interested students followed the score. Hurried comments, muttered sotto voce, punctuated long spells of silence. In the dress circle, and stalls too, it seemed as if the music enthralled, for there was little conversation and not the exchange of greetings that usually occurs during the intervals. Lady de Chair was present with Miss de Chair, Mrs Busby, and Mrs. W. Mackay. Lady de Chair wore a black gown covered with a black and gold cloak. Mrs Busby and Miss de Chair were also in black, and Mrs W. Mackay wore a frock of petunia red georgette.

Francesco Merli, whose interpretation of "Radames" in Aida, gave such pleasure on Saturday night, occupied a box with his wife and son. Sir Joynton Smith and party had the opposite box.

Among the large audience were Dr. Nigel Smith, Mrs. Lane Mullens, Mr. and Mrs. Watts, Dr. and Mrs. Moran, Lady Rickard, the Misses Rirkard, Mrs Chas Danvors, Dr. and Mrs. Kater, Sir Mark and Lady Sheldon, Miss Owen, Miss Calahan, Mrs. W. A. Dettmou, Sir James and Lady Fairfax.

Mrs. H. Clayton, Mr. and Mrs. George Flannery, Mrs. H. E. Ross, Miss Marie Sussmilch, Mr D Sussmilch, Mr. and Mrs R. W. Chambers, Mrs. Eva Wunderlich, Mr. Bryan Judge and Mrs. Sly. Dr. Mary Booth, Miss Booth, Mrs. J. J. Rouse. Miss S. Russell, Mrs. Arthur Allen, Miss Marcia Allen, Mr. and Mrs. Lancley, Mrs. W. Foster, Mrs. Hartley Sargent, Miss A. Levy, Mr. and Mrs. N. Pope, Mrs. Florence Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Bourke, Mr. and Mrs. F. Davy.

Dr. and Mrs. Sinclair Gillies, Dr. C. Robertson, Mr. and Mrs. Justly Rawlings, Dr. Barrington., Sir John and Lady Vicars, Mr. and Mrs. Sep Levy, Mr. Justice and Mrs. James, Miss E. K. Wise, Dr. S. H. Harris, Mrs. Samuel Hordern, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Gordon, Miss Margaret Gordon, Miss Beth Gordon, and Miss Annis Parsons.

Review found in The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday July 10 1928

This is one of three reviews of the Melba - Williamson Tour of 1928 discovered under Dr.Byrnes surgery floor during renovations.

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