by Mary Hammann, violist
I know I am not the only one who’s sorry that Downton Abbey is over for the season. Personally, I will miss Maggie Smith’s quips and monologues the most, but I feast on the show’s unflagging attention to historical detail.
Spelunking in my own historical workplace, with the help of Chief Librarian, Bob Sutherland, I came across some historical detail on the first trumpet part of Rigoletto. Almost the entire first page is covered with a hand-written list of performances of that opera. Coincidentally, the range of dates coincides with the first five seasons of Downton Abbey, from April 1912 to Christmas 1924. My attention was particularly drawn to the “Atlanta…April 27, 1912” entry inked in the top left box, with the singers’ names: Gluck, Gilly, and Segurola.
Intrigued, I dug deeper into the Met’s vast historical treasures, aided by Met archivist John Penino. He unearthed the program from that date in Atlanta. In it, there’s a beautiful photo of soprano Alma Gluck who sang the role of Gilda. Also performing were Dinh Gilly in the title role, Andreas de Segurola as Sparafucile, and none other than Enrico Caruso as the Duke. Back in our own Downton Abbey period, the Met toured annually throughout the United States.
Perhaps Lord Grantham’s cousin and son, who both went down with the Titanic, had tickets for the Met debut of Tales of Hoffmann. Who knows? One hundred three years later, we’re still playing Tales of Hoffmann. Some things stand the test of time.