[Met Performance] CID:127040
Tannhäuser {313} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/1/1939.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 1, 1939 Matinee


TANNHÄUSER {313}
Wagner-Wagner

Tannhäuser..............Lauritz Melchior
Elisabeth...............Lotte Lehmann
Wolfram.................Lawrence Tibbett
Venus...................Dorothee Manski
Hermann.................Emanuel List
Walther.................Karl Laufkötter
Heinrich................Giordano Paltrinieri
Biterolf................George Cehanovsky
Reinmar.................John Gurney
Shepherd................Maxine Stellman
Dance...................Ruthanna Boris
Dance...................Monna Montes
Dance...................Lillian Moore
Dance...................Beatrice Weinberger
Dance...................Doris Neal
Dance...................Ruth Harris
Dance...................Grant Mouradoff
Dance...................George Chaffee

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

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

Tannhäuser received seven performances this season.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Tribune

"Tannhäuser" Presented With Lotte Lehmann

Melchior Sings Title Role at Metropolitan; Tibbett and List Also Appear

Had Richard Wagner been present to witness this presentation, there can be little doubt that he would have been impelled to rename his opera "Elisabeth." For it was Mme. Lehmann's matchless delineation of the work's central female figure which lent distinction to an otherwise often tedious afternoon. M. Melchior's impersonation of the title part has never been one of most impressive, either from the vocal or dramatic aspects. On this occasion it was apparent from his first utterance that he was not well disposed. These first phrases, addressed to Venus, are notoriously difficult, because they lie high, and must be sung softly. But Mr. Melchior's half-voice singing has always been husky and his efforts to project these [first] measures, which he attempted to simplify by hurrying, did not auger well for what was to come. Seldom was the tenor's voice produced in anything but a constricted manner so that his tones emerged brassy in texture. As Venus, Mme. Manski's allure consisted largely of wobbly, unfocused appeals to Tannhäuser; under the circumstances he could hardly be blamed for wishing to quit the Venusberg.

As Wolfram, Mr. Tibbett exhibited the intelligence which is always to be observed in his characterizations. But this music demands a more tender approach. Wolfram is no blustering knight, but a sentimental, self-effacing lover. Mr. Tibbett, who not to the benefit of his music, sang in a more open manner than he ordinarily does, changed his makeup for the part and supplied himself with a strange false nose which he would do well to discard speedily.

Mme. Lehmann's Elisabeth remains the most moving portrayal of this character to be seen anywhere today. The soprano was in good voice, the momentary uncertainly noticeable in the culminating high "B" of "Dich teure Halle" did not mar her otherwise admirable publication of the aria. But it was in the subsequent scenes with Tannhäuser, and above all in her defense of the erring knight,
"Zurueck von ihm," that she did her most affecting, thrilling work. Her ability to convey the meaning of every word of the text and to submerge herself in every facet of Elisabeth's nature, and to reflect the womanliness and spirituality of Wagner's creation remains one of the finest things to be experienced on the operatic stage. Aside from Mme. Lehmann's superlative achievement, the best singing of the afternoon was vouchsafed by Miss Stellman in the Shepherd's joyous greeting to May.

Mr. Leinsdorf's contribution was an uneven one. Last season his tendency was to drag the tempi throughout the opera. Yesterday, his pacing was now too slow, as in all of Wolfram's music, and again as in the "Entrance of the Guests into the Wartburg," too fast, so that the chorus could not keep pace therewith. But despite these restrictions, there was much in his interpretation of the score that was genuinely dramatic and telling. There was a large audience present and the participants, especially Mme. Lehmann, were fervently applauded.



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