[Met Performance] CID:123600
Tristan und Isolde {261} Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/5/1938.

(Review)


Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 1938


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {261}

Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Kirsten Flagstad
Kurwenal................Julius Huehn
Brangäne................Karin Branzell
King Marke..............Emanuel List
Melot...................Arnold Gabor
Sailor's Voice..........Karl Laufkötter
Shepherd................Karl Laufkötter
Steersman...............Louis D'Angelo

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

Review of Henry Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

FLAGSTAD SCORES ARTISTIC VICTORY

Soprano and Melchior Give Thrilling Performances

"Tristan und Isolde" was performed by the Metropolitan at Public Hall last night with the same strong cast which made such a memorable experience of the Wagnerian masterpiece when it was given last year. That remarkable pair, Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior, impersonated the immortal lovers, Emanuel List sang the part of King Marke. Karin Branzell was the Brangäne; Julius Huehn, the Kurvenal. The conductor was Artur Bodanzky.

With this unbeatable assemblage of talent the Metropolitan settled into a stride which is likely to carry the six-day opera festival to an artistic triumph as exceptional as its present attendance record.

Some of the thousands present will undoubtedly someday be telling their grandchildren about the good old days when there were real Wagnerian sopranos like Flagstad. They will be proud of having heard her. And the memory of her performance of Isolde will be a criterion for future generations.

Power Undiminished

Not only is there no diminishing of power in this phenomenal voice, but it seems to soar with greater ease than ever. One is left just a little stupefied by the grandeur of such a vocal organ, and no superlatives seem too extravagant in describing it. If there is any change in Flagstad's interpretation of the part it would seem to be in the direction of deepening and intensifying her understanding of it.

Her actions seemed better timed, and her whole bearing was of such supreme dignity and naturalness that she seemed to transcend the part and make herself one with it, voicing the pathos and tenderness and passion of Wagner's music in accents that could have been only a joy to the composer himself, whose very definite ideas about interpretation were by no means easy to live up to.

Melchior's tenor, of course, has the robust ring appropriate to the heroic style, and few indeed are the singers who can encompass the difficulties of his role with the impressive mastery he exhibits. The only weakness was when he sang a few soft tones in a falsetto that was really too thin to carry the tender feeling essential to the passage. But this was but a slight blemish in an otherwise imposing delivery.

Earnest words of praise are due to both List and Branzell. The latter give such a complete and sympathetic expression to the part of Isolde's maidservant that this part takes on its full significance. And we become aware of Brangäne's utter loneliness in her selfless devotion to her mistress as her voice comes to us from afar while she keeps watch for the lovers during the enchanted fateful night.

Another role which took on exceptional vividness was that of King Marke as sung by List. The heartbreaking pathos expressed by this character when he finds how basely his fatherly affection for Tristan has been repaid is one of the most poignant moments of the whole drama, and List brings it home with a truthfulness that is extremely moving, and with a purity of diction that is equally gratifying to the ear.

The carrying power of his softest tones was remarkable. And this was not the result of electrical amplification. According to the authorities, the artificial sound projection which added so much to the clarity and audibility of Monday night's performance was not used at all last night. I thought I detected it in one part of the first act. But I was evidently mistaken, as were several other listeners to whom I talked. And this may be taken as an illustration of the skill with which the device is being applied.

Used discretely enough, it should not prove detrimental to the quality of the voices at least for those whose distance from the stage would not permit them to get the full benefit of the quality even under normal circumstances.

Conductor Bodanzky should come in for a large share of the credit for making the performance what it was, a notably rounded and gratifying projection of the Wagnerian drama from its languorous and sultry prelude to the last glorious strands of Isolde's "Love Death." Julius Huehn was thoroughly competent as Tristan's servant Kurvenal. And minor parts were taken care of by Arnold Gabor, as Melot, Karl Laufkötter and Louis D'Angelo.



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