[Met Performance] CID:100190
Die Ägyptische Helena {2} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 11/13/1928.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 13, 1928

Richard Strauss-Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Helena..................Maria Jeritza
Menelas.................Walter Kirchhoff
Aithra..................Editha Fleischer
Omniscient Mussel.......Marion Telva
Altair..................Gustav Schützendorf
Da-ud...................Jane Carroll
Aithra's Maid...........Philine Falco
Aithra's Maid...........Ina Bourskaya
Elves: Ina Bourskaya, Louise Lerch, Charlotte Ryan, Henriette Wakefield

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Review of Samuel L. Lacair in the Philadelphia Public Ledger


Composer Evokes Orchestral Marvels, but Libretto Proves Flat - Jeritza Stars


The second recent operatic work of Richard Strauss had a local premiere in the Academy of Music last evening, the performance being that of "die Aegyptische Helena" by the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York.

While comparisons are odious, and perhaps especially so in operatic matters, nevertheless, "Helen in Egypt," the latest work of Strauss in the operatic form, so closely following "Ariadne auf Naxos' here, forces the conviction that Strauss suffered materially from having two weak libretti. Von Hofmannstahl's "stories" may be very inspirational to the composer, but they certainly lack an important feature for opera - the dramatic element. Consequently, there is little stage action.

Score Shows Old Cunning

Strauss has written some exceedingly beautiful music in 'Helen in Egypt," Two especially fine numbers are Helen's scene when she and Menelaus appear in the [first] act, and the beautiful solo for French horn in what might be called the "transformation" of Helen, later in the same act.

There also are many pages of the score which show Strauss has by no means lost his cunning in composing music exactly to fit a given situation, while his amazing knowledge and mastery of the resources of the modern orchestra - in which respect he stands in the first half dozen of all composers - has seldom been more strikingly revealed. The sinister music at the death of Da-ud was a conspicuous example.

At the same time, "Helen in Egypt" will not add, probably, to the permanent fame of Strauss from any standpoint, because in it he has struck no important new note. There is much reminiscent music, especially from his own early works, in addition to the unusual feature of leaning rather heavily on the dependable crutch of Wagner.

Vocal Parts Difficult

The music, especially the vocal parts, is extremely difficult. A considerable amount of it is written in tonalities foreign to that of the accompaniment and, while the composer has apparently attempted to write melodically and succeeded in many instances, still the vocal demands on the principals in places are incredibly great.

The performance was magnificent in every detail. Mme. Jeritza took the title role most effectively, her great dramatic talents standing her in good stead in view of the comparative paucity of the theatrical possibilities of the role.

Walther Kirchhoff as Menelaus, sang well and gave a generally good characterization of a rather anemic personage. Editha Fleischer was splendid as Aithra in voice, action and stage presence and in some respects did the best work of the performance.

Gustav Schützendorf had another ungrateful role as Altair, of which he made the most possible. Jane Carroll, who made her local debut with the Metropolitan as Da-ud, showed a fine voice in the few notes which the role requires, a charming stage presence and an utter lack of self-consciousness.

The stage setting, the scenery and the costumes were magnificent, even for the Metropolitan, and indicated the vast amount of time, care and money expended.

Mme. Jeritza's uncannily skillful management of her trailing clouds of sartorial glory during the backward ascension of the stairs in the first act held the breathless admiration of many feminine spectators.

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