[Met Performance] CID:117410
Parsifal {130} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/17/1935.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
April 17, 1935


PARSIFAL {130}

Parsifal................Lauritz Melchior
Kundry..................Kirsten Flagstad
Amfortas................Friedrich Schorr
Gurnemanz...............Emanuel List
Klingsor................Gustav Schützendorf
Titurel.................James Wolfe
Voice...................Doris Doe
First Esquire...........Helen Gleason
Second Esquire..........Philine Falco
Third Esquire...........Marek Windheim
Fourth Esquire..........Max Altglass
First Knight............George Cehanovsky
Second Knight...........Louis D'Angelo
Flower Maidens: Queena Mario, Irra Petina, Phradie Wells,
Lillian Clark, , Doris Doe, Dorothea Flexer

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

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

FLAGSTAD TRIUMPHS IN 'PARSIFAL' DEBUT

Soprano Receives a Rousing Ovation as Kundry at the Metropolitan

MELCHIOR IN TITLE ROLE

Audience Thunders Approval of Sumptuous Performance at End of Second Act

In at least a decade there has been no such demonstration at a "Parsifal" performance as the applause and the cheers that called Kirsten Flagstad before the curtain last night after the second act in the Metropolitan Opera House. The audience had observed the tradition now established at this theatre, a rather amusing tradition, but one which carries. That is, that there may not be applause after the first and last acts-the "sacred" episodes-but there may be applause after the "profane" spectacles of Kundry oppressed by Klingsor and Kundry, the unsuccessful seductress of Parsifal. Those not acquainted with the tradition began to applaud after the first act, but were suppressed. The second act gave them their opportunity and bore testimony to the astonishing effect of Mme. Flagstad's performance.

Astonishing if only for the reason that Mme. Flagatad took this, the most enigmatic of Wagnerian women's parts, for the first time on any stage, and presented it with a distinction, an eloquence of gesture and song and a conviction which would have implied long acquaintance with the role. There have been at least two other great Kundrys at the Metropolitan in past years, well known to us of later generations by their repute-Milka Ternina and Olive Fremstad. But, in the last decade in New York, no Kundry has approached in significance and glory of song the interpretation of last night.

The result was gained by the most artistic and legitimate means. Mine. Flagstad did not attempt a new and unheard-of treatment of the character or try to conceal and palliate her inexperience by any far-fetched devices. She followed Wagner's text and Wagner's directions implicitly, carrying them out in spirit and in letter. The fact that she sang the part with the same superb wealth of resource and ease of execution as she has sung the other big Wagnerian rôles was one of the features of the occasion. Another was that she not only sang magnificently, but characterized by the color as well as the quality of the tone. In the first act the demoniac element was projected by tone-quality as well as gesture and action. No one will forget the hard and bright quality of the laconic rejoinder to Gurnemanz: "Zu End' ihr Gram: seine Mutter ist todt" -- the mockery and bitterness in the voice, and then the dulling of the tone, the weariness and longing for rest: "Nie thu' ich Gutes; nur Ruhe will ich "

For sheer virtuosity, little could exceed the complete transformation from the weary-visaged hag of the first act to the sumptuous magic of the second. Now the song was lovely, sensuous in the extreme, eloquent with subtle inflections and shading or brilliant with menace or defiance. How few Kundrys could thus allure with the sheer spell of the voice! It seemed that if the music had been ugly it would have become beautiful and a feast to the ear under such circumstances. And nothing can be substituted for this supreme vocal appeal in opera.

Then there was the plasticity of the acting and the subtlety of the conception, at one with the composer's. The wiles of the enchantress are given certain shadings by Wagner which would arrest the attention of a modern psychoanalyst. Here is the apotheosis of the Venus of "Tannhaeuser," with new overtones and sophistication. Simple as Mme. Flagstad is, always unpretending in her directness and sincere as an actress, she caught these overtones, and developed her second act to a wonderful climax.

Of course, many of her sisters of the operatic stage can envy her with reason for the voice and the vocal power which makes possible these achievements. But another great factor in the success of this Kundry needs emphasis, namely, that Mme. Flagstad has done every kind of a rôle in opera; has, in fact, acted in her native city of Oslo in something of the capacity of a stock actress who plays all parts. Her experience in many rôles, her long years of good and careful cultivation of her voice and supreme musicianship, enabled her to appear as Kundry last night with only the occasional suggestion that she was taking the part for the first, instead of the tenth, time. Add to this an uncommonly personable appearance, a Kundry credibly attractive and potent for good or evil.

As usual on a number of occasions when Mme. Flagstad has taken a Wagnerian rôle for the first time here, and with Lauritz Melchior as her opposite, the major attention in this column has been given the new soprano. This is inevitable and right. But very much could be written about the finely eloquent Parsifal of Mr. Melchior. This achievement alone would put him in the front rank of Wagnerian tenors of today, in the role which was one of the first that he mastered at Baireuth and is now second nature with him. New Yorkers are indeed fortunate in the presence of these two artists in their midst.

Much, too, could be said in praise of Emmanuel List's Gurnemanz, which adds to the fine sonority of the voice a rapidly growing conception of the part. Mr. Schorr's Amfortas and Mr. Sehuetzendorf's Klingsor must also be dismissed with a mere appreciative word. The performance as a unit, admirably timed and coordinated, with much excellent choral singing and with Mr. Bodanzky directing expressively an orchestra which, aside from bells singularly out of tune, was on its better behavior, constituted one of the monuments to Mr. Gatti's regime.



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