[Met Performance] CID:124120
Tannhäuser {304} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/1/1938.

(Debuts: George Chaffee, Doris Neal, Ruth Harris

Metropolitan Opera House
December 1, 1938


Tannhäuser..............Carl Hartmann
Elisabeth...............Lotte Lehmann
Wolfram.................Hans Hermann Nissen
Venus...................Kerstin Thorborg
Hermann.................Emanuel List
Walther.................Erich Witte
Heinrich................Max Altglass
Biterolf................Adolf Vogel
Reinmar.................Louis D'Angelo
Shepherd................Marita Farell

Act I - Bacchanale
Felia Dubrovska, Ruth Chanova, Grant Mouradoff, George Chaffee [Debut], Corps de Ballet
Three Graces: Beatrice Weinberger, Doris Neal [Debut], Ruth Harris [Debut]

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Hans Kautsky
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Boris Romanoff

Tannhäuser received nine performances this season.

Review of Samuel Chotzinoff in the New York Post


Only Lotte Lehmann Performs According to Hoyle and Wagner

"Tannhäuser" was the opera at the Metropolitan last night, with the Messrs. Hartmann, Nissen, Erich Witte (debut in the small part of Walther), Vogel, List and the Mesdames Lehmann, Thorborg and Farell. Mr. Leinsdorf conducted.

Wagner's early music-drama is still potent with the public and the standees were thick last night. However "Tannhäuser," because it is early Wagner, is less easy to produce successfully than the operas which followed it. Though the composer's personality is stamped on it, it still leans heavily on its immediate predecessors in France, Germany and Italy. It is, in short, a melodic opera, and it poses vocal problems that were never again to appear in the works of Wagner. It also poses new dramatic problems as the result of Wagner's revolutionary rapprochement between music and drama.

The Metropolitan "Tannhauser" last night did not quite measure up to the demands of the spectacle as a music-drama. Carl Hartmann, the Tannhäuser, was in poor voice and struggled vainly with the music, while his deportment as the erring knight was stereotyped rather than spontaneous. Hans Herrman Nissen, the new German baritone, sang well and negotiated easily the high notes of the part, but his Wolfram was not exactly affecting. Miss Farell's singing of the Young Shepherd was but a dubious adventure in the art of song, and Miss Thorborg was a chaste Venus. It seemed to me that Miss Lotte Lehmann alone possessed the fervor appropriate to the opera. Her Elizabeth, after a timid start with "Dich Theure Halle," was a tender and passionate characterization, the very person of the music and the story.

Mr. Leinsdorf was having his first try at "Tannhäuser." It seemed to me a juvenile interpretation, all surface and little depth. The overture sounded as if played by a small orchestra with a preponderance of brass and percussion. And the young conductor either did not know or had forgotten that Wagner desired his recitative to be sung strictly in time. I think there must be more in "Tannhaäuser" than is dreamt of in Mr. Leinsdorf's Wagnerian philosophy.

Review of Howard Taubman in The New York Times

The first "Tannhäuser" of the season, presented at the Metropolitan Opera House last night, provided further proof that the management really means it when it says it is working to jack up the stand-bys of the repertory. Here was a production that was tightened and strengthened in places where it had been loose and weak. The ensemble, because it was integrated, was dominant.

Inevitably, however, some singers stand out over their colleagues, not deliberately, but because of the concentration of their art. Lotte Lehmann's Elisabeth stood out in this fashion last night. Her characterization had the just blend of piteousness and purity in action and in song. Her voice was in its best estate and her singing was profoundly affecting. One forgot that this was an opera singer; one beheld Elisabeth, trusting and grieving, and, thanks to a searching art, pathetically artless.

Kerstin Thorborg was a Venus who was eminently credible in appearance and passionate in song. Carl Hartmann, who was making his first appearance of the season, sought to fit into the picture, and in the second act achieved a fair measure of success; his voice, however, was white and constricted at times. Hans Hermann Nissen was a smooth-voiced, traditional Wolfram, and Emanuel List gave dignity and weight to the Landgraf.

The managements' regard for ensemble was exemplified with special emphasis in the choice of singers like Erich Witte and Adolf Vogel for secondary roles. Mr. Witte, who was making his American debut, sang with a full, resonant tenor. His part is, of course, in concerted passages; there will be later opportunities to assay his full capacities. Max Altglass, Louis D'Angelo and Marita Farell dealt effectively with their roles.

Erich Leinsdorf, the young conductor of the Metropolitan, directed with a firm and knowing hand. He brought out the poetry and pathos as well as the panoplied grandeur of the score. Give a last-but-not-least credit to Boris Romanoff, new ballet master and choreographer, who designed a "Bacchanalle" that had a sense of the bacchanalian. The design was good, and as the young dancers of the ballet corps work into it, they will impart its full value.

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