Further Debuts at the Italian Opera

Tchaikovsky Research

Further Debuts at the Italian Opera (Ещё дебюты в итальянской опере) [1] (TH 292 ; ČW 557) was Tchaikovsky's twenty-seventh music-review article for the Moscow journal Russian Register (Русские ведомости), in which it was published on 26 September 1874 [O.S.].

This short article contains a sympathetic and objective assessment of the performances of some new members of the Italian Opera Company in a staging of Gounod's Faust, an opera of which Tchaikovsky was very fond (see TH 271)


Completed by 26 September/8 October 1874 (date of publication). Reviewing the Italian Opera Company's production of Gounod's Faust at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on 18/30 September 1874.

English translation

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Following Halévy's La Juive, the Italian Opera Company has staged yet another French opera: Gounod's Faust. This production featured M. Jamet, whom we were already familiar with from his successful Moscow début in La Juive, as well as some singers who are quite new to audiences here: Madames Smeroski and Talaszcy, and Signor Vizzani. Madame Smeroski achieved a great success. In addition to a very attractive stage presence, this singer also has a young, fresh, and sufficiently strong soprano voice, as well as a quite decent coloratura technique. Unless I am sorely mistaken, Madame Smeroski has a very successful season to look forward to in Moscow, thanks above all to that indefinable combination of individual qualities and characteristics which people generally refer to as charisma.

She does not have the phenomenally beautiful voice of La Patti, nor the passionate energy of Gabrielle Krauss [2], nor the exquisite dramatic flair of Christine Nilsson [3]—instead of all that, Madame Smeroski is gifted with enchanting gracefulness in her gestures, warmth of timbre in her voice, and, most preciously of all, with the charm of blossoming youth, and all these qualities taken together are the surest guarantee of a lasting success.

The tenor, Signor Vizzani, sings quite well, and his phrasing is elegant. However, his voice is not very big and his intonation is not at all consistent. The mezzo-soprano Madame Talaszcy is a mediocrity in the truest sense of the word: her voice may be powerful, but it is quite charmless, and her acting is very much mechanical. Both these artists did not achieve any success whatsoever, and at the following performance of Faust Signor Vizzani, who kept singing out of tune in some places, was subjected to quite a strong barrage of catcalls. Such a delicate expression of disapproval from the spectators in the gallery can hardly be regarded as appropriate. For it is very likely that Signor Vizzani, after recovering from this first failure and taking heart again, will go on to prove a useful member of the company, since, I repeat, he most definitely does have skill and taste.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'Some More Debuts at the Italian Opera' in ČW.
  2. See TH 291 for more observations by Tchaikovsky on this famous Austrian soprano.
  3. See TH 271 for an enthusiastic tribute to the great Swedish soprano's "ideal" interpretation of the role of Marguerite in Gounod's Faust.