[Met Performance] CID:124130
Tristan und Isolde {263} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/2/1938.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 2, 1938 Matinee


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

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

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

[Urban was not credited as set designer, though the scenery was his, repainted by Joseph Novak.]

Tristan und Isolde received twelve performances this season.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Tribune

"Tristan" Is Sung With Flagstad and Melchior

Metropolitan Offers Wagner Opera for First Time This Season; Thorborg Heard in Role of Brangäne

The season's first presentation of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" given at the Metropolitan Opera House as a benefit for the Manhattan School of Music at a matinee yesterday with Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad in the title parts, was a most impressive one. The remainder of the cast listed Kerstin Thorborg, as Brangäne; Julius Huehn, as Kurvenal; Emanuel List, as King Marke; Arnold Gabor, as Melot; Karl Laufkötter, as the Shepherd; Louis D'Angelo, as the Steersman, and Erich Witte, as the Sailor's Voice.

Mme. Flagstad, who earlier in the week had been compelled to cancel her engagement with the Chicago Opera Company, because of a cold, was in magnificent form and has never sung Isolde's arduous music in any of the many performances of the music-drama which I have attended, with greater ease or freshness of voice.

It was with renewed amazement that I listened to the Norwegian soprano's incomparable voice being poured forth, now lambently, and again as the music demanded it, with incandescent radiance, yet at all times with flawless purity.

The frequenter of out foremost opera house are perhaps beginning to regard the accomplishments of Mme. Flagstad a bit too complacently for while there was no want of enthusiasm in the reception accorded her, there were numerous vacant seats and the number of standees was considerably smaller that it has been in past seasons at "Tristan" performances, in which she has participated. No other singer of our time brings to her delineation of these Wagner heroine comparable gifts of voice and musicianship. Such artistry is rare in any time and in our day, when good singing, not to speak of great singing, is all too rarely encountered, it should not be too lightly appraised.

Plasticity of Gesture

Nor was Mme. Flagstad's impersonation of the Irish princess exceptional only for its tonal loveliness. Her conception has grown in plasticity of gesture in its insight into the complex emotional and psychological facets of the character and in the ability to reflect these qualities in illuminating tonal nuances.

The Tristan of Mr. Melchior remains his most compelling characterization. One cannot, of course, praise his voicing of the taxing music unreservedly. The huskiness which has from the first been noticeable in his half-voice singing does not lessen with the passing years and therefore, such parts of the score as "Wuhan nun Tristan Schneider," and the quiet portions of the second act love-duet, although movingly and expressively delivered, suffer accordingly. But whenever he can employ the full strength of his resonant voice, especially in the anguished outbursts of the third act, one realizes anew that with all his voice imperfections, the Danish tenor is still without a peer among his contemporaries in this role.

Miss Thorborg as Brangäne

As Brangäne, Mme. Thorborg again won admiration for her intelligent envisaging of one of the most trying of all Wagnerian parts. Great interpreters of this music have been few, and while Mme. Thorborg's voice has not the sensuous appeal that some contraltos of former years have brought to the utterance of Isolde's companion, it does not want for power. From the tonal aspect, her most arresting work was the enumeration of the warning-call from the tower. Here there was a roundness which had not been perceptible in her singing of the high-lying measures of the first act.

Young Mr. Huehn did some excellent singing as the devoted old servitor of Tristan and his acting, too, has grown more poised and convincing. Mr. List sang King Marke's questioning complaint nobly and affectingly. The remaining parts, excepting for Mr. Witte's delivery of the Sailor's song, which was more than a little impure in intonation, were acceptably handled.

Artur Bodanzky, very much in the vein, conducted the uncompanioned score with the utmost devotion to the composer's intentions, attaining an uncommonly enthralling realization thereof.

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