[Met Performance] CID:125800
Tannhäuser {312} Matinee ed. Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas: 04/12/1939.


Dallas, Texas
April 12, 1939 Matinee


Tannhäuser..............Lauritz Melchior
Elisabeth...............Elisabeth Rethberg
Wolfram.................Herbert Janssen
Venus...................Kerstin Thorborg
Hermann.................Norman Cordon
Walther.................Erich Witte
Heinrich................Max Altglass
Biterolf................Arnold Gabor
Reinmar.................Louis D'Angelo
Shepherd................Maxine Stellman

Act I - Bacchanale
Monna Montes, Lillian Moore, Grant Mouradoff, George Chaffee, Corps de Ballet
Three Graces: Beatrice Weinberger, Doris Neal, Ruth Harris

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

Review of John Rosenfield in the Dallas Morning News

Revitalized "Tannhäuser"

Famous German Wing Presented

Melchior and Rethberg in Wagnerian Leads

Wagner's "Tannhäuser" and Puccini's "La Bohème" closed the feverishly exciting first visit of the Metropolitan Opera Company in matinee and evening performances Wednesday. Again the Fair Park Auditorium appeared to be filled from wall to wall except in the rearmost side seats. Having enjoyed a coming-out party Monday night and to a lesser degree Tuesday, social Dallas was generally music-minded Wednesday and, of course, handsomely rewarded for the interest.

As the Metropolitan Gives Them

Neither "Tannhäuser" nor "La Bohème" was an operatic stranger but it can be said that the city never really heard either before the Metropolitan proffered its full resources. The little San Carlo troupe's "Tannhäuser" was exigent if admirable on a twenty-four-piece orchestra, with tiny chorus and a strange assortment of secondary singers. Even the recent Chicago Opera's "Tannhäuser"s were played by reduced orchestras and chorus.

The Metropolitan's "Tannhäuser" had among other things a densely populated second act to say nothing of the full symphonic complement in the pit.

Even in the early day of "Tannhäuser," Wagner wrote enormous, impractical operas, and it takes a company like the Metropolitan to realize the prodigious whims and the appalling complications of the detailed Wagnerian stage directions.

More important, though, was our opportunity to hear the Metropolitan's celebrated German wing, an aggregation of probably the finest Wagnerian voices and talent in the world. And on the podium was that interesting young conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, who hasn't conducted "Tannhäuser" so often that he is bored with it.

Melchior as Tannhäuser

Lauritz Melchior, the towering Dane, sang the title role with lusty, thrilling top voice, refined taste and unerring musianship. There is something white and bleating in the voices of all Baltic tenors, but the blight on Melchior's is the least we have known. The first heroic tenor of this Wagnerian day was in excellent condition and won all the plaudits possible for the ungrateful part.

That well-nigh perfect soprano Elisabeth Rethberg, was a bounteous heroine by the same name. Operatic duties invest her personality with that variety so sadly missing in her song recital here six years ago. Excepting her rapturous entrance into the hall of song, Elisabeth's behavior is placid dignity, and this Madame Rethberg has in abundance.

As for singing, there was one of the loveliest voices and the perfect schooling of the generation. Especially appealing was her unforced "Dich Teure Halle" and the preservation of musical line against the giddy agitations of the moment. The prayer of the last act was, of course, something no other soprano can sing better that she.

Herbert Janssen, the newest recruit of the Metropolitan roster, was a Wolfram with the authority that comes from years of European experience. Herr Janssen's voice lacks something in suavity, but it is tastefully handled within its limits. His own contribution to the song festival and the infallible "Ode to the Evening Star" were sung to everybody's satisfaction.

Quite impressive was the Landgraf of Norman Cordon, a North Carolinian in his twenties. The voice is developed on the "cantante" side, and Mr. Cordon's lower notes taper off, but the upper register is a joy to hear in its full power and lyric freedom.

Kerstin Thorborg, the Venus, is probably the only mezzo-soprano of prima donna rank who can wear a diaphanous robe and get away with it. The Swedish beauty was physically as classical as Venus di Milo, and she had the advantage of two lovely arms. Vocally she was an acceptable Wagnerian goddess, more indignant than seductive.

Maxine Stellman sang the Shepherd's ditty prettily and the singing knights were Messrs. Witte, Gabor, Altglass and D'Angelo.

Leinsdorf and the Score

The spirit of the performance flowed from Mr. Leinsdorf's baton. Enthusiasm for his opportunities was reflected in the sharpened accents, the broadened and carefully wrought harmonic structure, the adroit building of the famous overture. It was an incandescent reading of a score by no means even in quality.

The choral work, a dynamic plot element, was mighty, stirring and balanced both in the march of the pilgrims and hair-raising entry of the nobles. Leopold Sachse's stage direction arranged pleasing pictures and a significant integration of the mob with stage action.

"Tannhäuser" gave us our first view of the Metropolitan ballet, which did its level best to realize Wagner's over-sexed Bacchanal. The new ballet master, and choreographer, Boris Romanoff, almost hit in a frenzied corps movement. If the "Tannhäuser" ballet on the whole again seemed tepid against Wagner's lascivious music, it always has seemed so.

The "Tannhäuser" scenery is among the oldest in the Metropolitan's stock. The aged devices of lowering cloud curtains and visions through a scrim are just as Wagner conceived them for a theatre well behind today's in the resources of illusion.

The Hall of the Wartburg, painted by the eminent Hans Kautsky of Vienna, was antique splendor in some need of retouching.

But who are we to cavil? The Metropolitan gave us tolerable spectacle with magnificent singing and playing. Our only regret is that the season's Wagner was not "Lohengrin" or something else.

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