[Met Performance] CID:119370
Tristan und Isolde {240} Lyric Theater, Baltimore, Maryland: 04/3/1936.

(Review)


Baltimore, Maryland
April 3, 1936


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {240}

Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Kirsten Flagstad
Kurwenal................Julius Huehn
Brangäne................Karin Branzell
King Marke..............Emanuel List
Melot...................Arnold Gabor
Sailor's Voice..........Marek Windheim
Shepherd................Marek Windheim
Steersman...............James Wolfe

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

Review of Robert B. Cochrane in the Baltimore Evening Sun

3,640 Acclaim Flagstad in 'Tristan und Isolde'

Metropolitan Opera Concludes Lyric Performances With 'Carmen' Tonight

Richard Wagner's music, with its fusion of tragic drama which lifted opera to heights never scaled before or since by operatic composers, rang through the Lyric Theater last night with something of the power he must have conceived in its creation, as the Metropolitan Opera Company presented "Tristan und Isolde" as the second of its three Baltimore performances.

The performance was possibly the last by a cast which this season has brought "Tristan" from the status of a favorite only among the deeply music conscious to that of the Metropolitan's best box-office attraction.

Flagstad Wins Praise

A great part of the opera's success, of course, is attributable to the Isolde of Kirsten Flagstad, celebrated Norwegian soprano, who showed clearly last night that her acclaim rests upon her superb vocalization and her dramatic powers alike.

Lauritz Melchior, as Tristan, gave the last act of the opera a dramatic fire and fury such as it has seldom seen before. Young Julius Huehn as Kurvenal, Karin Branzell as Brangäne and Emmanuel List as King Marke completed the list of major roles, and all shared to a degree in the triumph of the principals.

3,640 in Audience

Wagner once wrote to Franz Liszt lamenting that he "could hear music that no orchestra could play" and that something of the glory of his conception and creation was subtracted by the limitations of orchestras and casts available to him.

His last complaint might never have been made had he heard the Lyric performance last night, even had he been among the 640 persons who stood at the rear of the auditorium, so potent was the music's grip. And there were 3,000 persons seated for the performance.

Story and Old One

The love story of the Cornish Knight and the Irish Lady has been a favorite theme since the days of the Minnesingers, symbolic of the purest and highest emotions. Tristan, cured of a grievous wound by the ministrations of an Irish princess, returns to his native Cornwall to tell of her great beauty. King Marke determines that he must possess the princess, arranges a marriage of state, and sends Tristan to bring back his bride. The story of the opera begins near the end of this return journey.

Dissembling their regard for each other, Tristan and Isolde remain aloof through most of the voyage. Then a love potion taken by mistake forces to the surface their yearning for each other.

Second-Act Music

After she is King Marke's bride, Isolde has a tryst with her lover - and the second act in which this occurs offers opportunity for some of the most exquisite singing in all operatic literature - until both are discovered and Tristan, chided by the King for his faithlessness, draws his sword but is mortally wounded.

The last act takes place at Tristan's castle in Brittany. Tristan, lying on a fur-covered couch, to which he has been transported by Kurvenal, his vassal, has been given a scene as powerful as any that Wagner ever wrote. He, of course, dies; Isolde dies of a broken heart; and Kurvenal is killed, providing sufficient tragedy even for the heavy, brooding music of the "Liebestod" and Finale.

Mme. Flagstad's vocalization throughout was superb. Possessed of a voice perfectly focused and placed, she was audible in every soaring note over the entire orchestra. Wagner made the orchestra as integral a part of the whole structure as the cast, and in the more moving passages the instruments never have to tone down for the singers.

But even with the orchestra playing "fortissimo," Mme. Flagstad was not at a disadvantage, and she displayed a gift for acting as well as singing.



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