[Met Performance] CID:125300
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {219} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/27/1939.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 27, 1939


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {219}

Hans Sachs..............Friedrich Schorr
Eva.....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Walther von Stolzing....René Maison
Magdalene...............Karin Branzell
David...................Karl Laufkötter
Beckmesser..............Adolf Vogel
Pogner..................Herbert Alsen
Kothner.................Herbert Janssen
Vogelgesang.............Erich Witte
Nachtigall..............Louis D'Angelo
Ortel...................Arnold Gabor
Zorn....................Nicholas Massue
Moser...................Max Altglass
Eisslinger..............Giordano Paltrinieri
Foltz...................James Wolfe
Schwarz.................John Gurney
Night Watchman..........George Cehanovsky

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

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

"MEISTERSINGER" IS OPERA OFFERING

Schorr Appears in the Role of Sachs, With Miss Rethberg in Part of Eva

MAISON SINGS WALTHER

Assembling of Singers in the First Act is Described as Dutch Master's Painting

The first and only "Meistersinger" performance of the current Metropolitan Opera season was given last night, and it was a performance of exceptional excellence. We refer not only to the wonderful Sachs of Mr. Schorr and the exposition of other principal roles, such as Mr. Maison's Walther, Miss Rethberg's uncommonly fine singing of Eva's music; the Magdalene of Miss Branzell, who showed how admirably a distinguished artist can take a secondary role; Mr. Laufkötter's David - and more, among them Mr. Alsen's Pogner and Mr. Janssen's Kothner. These are parts which require individual interpretation of the utmost authority and understanding. Still more do they require the most thoughtful and finished adjustment of the individual roles to the grand plan of the ensemble.

"Meistersinger" is an ensemble opera, and a very difficult one in this as in other respects. In New York we have come to take too much for granted the remarkably finished and expressive stage business that the Metropolitan regularly achieves when this opera is given. Particularly we refer to the first and the last acts - in the latter instance, of course, to the final scene, which, if comparisons between masterpieces are ever permissible, is perhaps the greatest finale known to the musico-dramatic art.

Finale Is Praised

This finale, to go ahead of our story, is superbly accomplished on the Metropolitan stage, where it comes off with singular brilliance and festivity, and in a manner calculated fully to convey the symbol Wagner intended - that of the creative power of the individual artist who can only reach his full height when his genius is supported and nourished by that of his people.

Therefore it is not only when the excellent buffoonery of Beckmesser is observed, and the lovely melody of Walther and the noble address of Sachs fall on the ear, that the throat tightens; it is, if anything, a greater movement when the choral wells from the heart of the rejoicing throng, and when that same picturesque assembly takes the melody of the Prize Song from Walther's and carries it to its complete consummation that the listener can sense something of what the master Wagner received as he held out both hands to life and renewed his own spirit in the greater spirit and consciousness of humanity. That is the significance of the finale of "Die Meistersinger," and it was fully realized yesterday evening.

First Act Interpreted

Then there is the assembling of the mastersingers in the first act (a series of faces and figures that might have come out of a painting of some old Dutch master), and the roll-call, the discussion of the mastersinger's art, the bewildering and excited comment of the group upon Walther's test song. It is all fully worked out and done so smoothly as hardly to be noticed by the casual operagoers.

The riot scene at the end of the second act could probably have more virtuosity on the part of those who must fight as well as sing and appear not to be standing stock still on a tumultuous night watching for their cue from the conductor. But this scene is considerably better than it used to be, and as a whole the opera is masterfully presented.

Mr. Maison, always an artist of unusual intelligence and dramatic instinct, was wholly in Walther's part. He looks properly youthful and distinguished in the role. He treats text and music with the utmost intelligence. The same could be said in a varying degree of Miss Rethberg, the impetuous daughter of Pogner to the life, who sang with conspicuous beauty of tone and style. Miss Branzell looked young, as Magdalena should, and not as an old shrew who had tripped a husband into his bargain.

Sachs in Center of Drama

The center of the drama, of course, is Sachs. It was not Mr. Schorr's fault that, in this role, he absorbed so much of the audience's enthusiasm. There are few, if any, finer characterizations to be seen on the operatic stage than this Sachs, with his mellow wisdom, tenderness and magnanimity. Mr. Schorr was in unusually good voice. As an actor he was equally eloquent. Sachs's manful attempt to conceal his heartache when he hands Eva to Walther; Sachs's dry and ironical dialogues with Beckmesser; Sachs's constant affection and willingness always to interpose himself between greed or guile are revealed, and unforgettably limned by the artist.

Mr. Vogel's Beckmesser has thought-out stage business, which is not a copy. He can also sing well, almost too well for this embittered and savagely ironical person. Mr. Alsen's Pogner had all the dignity of style and tone required for an adequate impersonation. Mr. Laufkötter's David was one of the joys of the evening, in characterizations as in action and song.

Mr. Bodanzky conducted and controlled the entire performance, shading it here, stimulating it there. He was signaled out for a special ovation at the beginning of the third act. The theater was packed with very enthusiastic listeners.



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