[Met Performance] CID:127200
Der Fliegende Holländer {41} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/14/1939.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 14, 1939


Dutchman................Friedrich Schorr
Senta...................Kirsten Flagstad
Erik....................René Maison
Daland..................Emanuel List
Mary....................Kerstin Thorborg
Steersman...............Karl Laufkötter

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

Director................Leopold Sachse
Designer................Serge Soudeikine

Der Fliegende Holländer received four performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

"Der Fliegende Hollander," the earliest of Wagner's stage works to figure intermittently in the American operatic repertoire, returned to the Metropolitan on Thursday evening," Dec. 9. The cast was largely that of the last previous performance on March 17, 1937, with Kirsten Flagstad, Friedrich Schorr, Rene Maison and Emanuel List in the chief roles. There was, however, a new conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, on whose shoulders the burdens of preparing this revival fell, with the death of Artur Bodanzky.

As this was Mr. Leinsdorf's first "Holländer" it was scarcely to be expected that his achievement of it would have all of the authority and the surety of an experience in conducting that had been repeated many times. Nor did it have. The playing was clear and euphonious. The conductor had his forces well in hand. But although the performance could scarcely be described as tentative, it lacked thrust and energy. So little vitalized was the overture that this storm-tossed exordium served to recall the remark of one of the "Old Guard" critics who once referred to a particularly tepid performance as being more nearly that of Mendelssohn's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage." What Mr. Leinsdorf will do with this music when he has had time to get it in his blood, so to speak, remains to be seen.

Miss Flagstad's Senta retains its considerable measure of personal appeal. She began the Ballad stiffly, but warmed with each strophe as she carried it forward to a dramatic conclusion. By the time Erik had made his entreaty in this act (the cavatine of the last act was among the "cuts") she was precipitating into the house tones of impressive volume and stirring quality. This reviewer has never heard parts of Senta's music sung as Mme. Flagstad sings them.

Metropolitan Sentas Few

For Metropolitan subscribers there are not many Sentas with whom comparison may be made. Johanna Gadski and Maria Jeritza are the ones most likely to be mentioned. It is rather curious to note that Jeritza and Flagstad between them have sung in nearly half the representations of "The Flying Dutchman" in the house, the total at this writing being only thirty-one. Of course, the opera had representations elsewhere in New York in its early years, but it never gained the popularity that would make Senta a role like Elsa or Elisabeth, to be essayed sooner or later by every well-equipped soprano.

The gloomy Dutchman remains one of Mr. Schorr's best parts, irrespective of his difficulty in coping with its demand for notes above the staff. He had little tone for these at the revival, particularly in the last act. But he delivered the air, 'Die Frist ist um' with a telling command of its dramatic force and there was much that was gripping in his treatment of the duet scene with Senta in the second act. If his impersonation does not possess all the demonic inner fire that is associated with the character, it is still an exceedingly well-composed study in the darker moods. Happily, he seemed completely unaware of the mounting amusement of members of the audience over the dust clouds that were visible whenever he swirled his long black cloak.

Mr. Maison's Erik was a robust one, both in voice and his manner of treating the action. His very un-German production gave a curious tang to his words, but that is not a new story. The Daland of List appropriately stopped short of the broad comedy which mars some portrayals of the old sea dog. Mr. Laufkoetter did what he could with the song of the steersman, but his was scarcely the lyric production to make the audience feel as he may have felt about "mein Maedel" and the South wind's blow.

Chorus Well Prepared

The chorus had been well prepared by Konrad Neuger and Serge Soudeikine's scenery had the same effectiveness it had when first exposed to the eye in the so-called "Jeritza revival" of 1931. Mr. Sachse saw to it that the Dutchman's ship arrived on time with no such contretemps as that related by David Bispham of a performance in London when it was necessary for the head stage carpenter to place a plank at the disposal of Bispham so that he could get to the shore and begin 'The term is past'.

Curiously enough, two of the absences of this work from the Metropolitan repertory were precisely seven years each-the term that the Dutchman was required to sail the seas between visits to terra firma. He entered port at this revival after a lapse of only two full seasons, but in the meantime there had been a distinct improvement in the matter of moving clouds. No attempt was made to show the sinking ship at the end of the opera or Senta and the Dutchman arising from the sea in their embrace. Instead, there was the familiar crimson sky.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).