[Met Performance] CID:122110
Tannhäuser {296} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/9/1937.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 9, 1937


TANNHÄUSER {296}
Wagner-Wagner

Tannhäuser..............Carl Hartmann
Elisabeth...............Lotte Lehmann
Wolfram.................Friedrich Schorr
Venus...................Kerstin Thorborg
Hermann.................Emanuel List
Walther.................Hans Clemens
Heinrich................Max Altglass
Biterolf................Arnold Gabor
Reinmar.................Louis D'Angelo
Shepherd................Marita Farell

Act I Bacchanale - Arranged by George Balanchine
Rabana Hasburgh, Charles Laskey, American Ballet Ensembel
Three Graces: Kathryn Mullowny, Daphne Vane, Elise Reiman

Conductor...............Maurice Abravanel

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Hans Kautsky
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........George Balanchine

Tannhäuser received eight performances this season.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Tribune

Season's First "Tannhäuser" at Metropolitan

Hartmann Sings Title Role in Wagner Opera; Lotte Lehmann as Elisaabeth

Mme. Thorborg as Venus

Schorr Sings Wolfram and List Appears as Landgraf

Following Mr. Hartmann's felicitous impersonation of Siegfried on the occasion of his first appearance on this stage last Friday evening, his delineation of Tannhäuser had been awaited. The music Wagner composed for this part makes demands quite as arduous as those of the young Siegfried, although it is of an entirely different kind. Its melodic contours are so constructed that they present almost insuperable problems to most singers not possessing flawless technical equipment. Tenors who can successfully voice this music are rare in any age, and ours is not one richly endowed with great dramatic tenors.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Hartmann's assumption of the amorous knight who repented his fleshly love for Venus and won redemption had much to commend it. If his is not a voice of much sensuous beauty, he employs it for the most part with intelligence and with an attempt at achieving a vocal line. That he does not always accomplish his objective must be attributed to the fact that natural flexibility is rarely encountered in a "Heldentenor." Once he had passed the treacherous [first] lines, with their cruelly high tessitura, and embarked on the second stanza of his hymn to Venus, his singing gained in freedom of utterance, and much of it was tellingly expressive. He is a capable actor and there was a youthfully winning impetuosity to his embodiment of the Tournament of Song episode. His costumes were admirable in design and color.

The oftener one hears Mme. Lehmann as Elisabeth the stronger grows one's conviction that this is her greatest characterization. No other soprano of the time conveys the conflicting emotions of the sorely tried maid so movingly and with such complete conviction. Superb as Mme. Lehmann has seemed in the part in the past, she surpassed herself on this occasion in the intensity and imaginativeness of her histrionism and in her interpretation of the music. No one who heard her "Heinrich, Heinrich, vas thatet irh mich an?" will soon forget the poignancy with which the phrase was imbued.

As Venus, Mme. Thorborg, too, disclosed a remarkable growth, both vocally and dramatically, since she had last been heard here as the spurned seductress of Tannhäuser, She sang with a fullness and richness of texture which one had hitherto not thought her capable of, and coupled her impassioned conception of the music with equally impressive, plastically moulded action.

It would be a pleasure to relate that Mr. Schorr's Wolfram gave undiluted pleasure, but fine artist that he is and compelling as he still can be when he enacts the parts of Wotan and the Wanderer in "The Ring" dramas, the essentially lyric nature of the Minnesinger's music requires a more appealing, assuaging timbre than is now at Mr. Schorr's command, and a range which will permit the easy and round emission of top tones such as are no longer his to project. Nor could one find consistent satisfaction in Mr. List's stentorian account of the Landgraf's music; only in his [initial] scene with Elisabeth, where he employed his huge voice discretely, could he be listened to with unmarred felicity. Miss. Farell, although she sang with purer intonation and more steadily that had been the case in "Siegfried," none the less forced her tones most injudiciously.

The stage direction left much to be desired. The lighting of the Venusburg scene was far too bright for one thing, and it would be within the possibilities of the Metropolitan Opera Company to find horses for the second scene of the first act which bear less resemblance to Rosinante. The opera is greatly in need of the vitalizing touch of a regisseur gifted with vision and insight into Wagner's ideational world. Mr. Abravanel's conducting was as it had been last season, heavy-handed and wholly wanting in subtlety and fantasy. The audience was large and demonstrative.



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