[Met Performance] CID:127600
Lohengrin {435} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/13/1940.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 13, 1940


Lohengrin...............Lauritz Melchior
Elsa....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Ortrud..................Karin Branzell
Telramund...............Julius Huehn
King Heinrich...........Norman Cordon
Herald..................Leonard Warren

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

Review signed R. L. in the Herald Tribune

Melchior Heard With Rethberg In "Lohengrin"

Huehn, Warren Reappear, With Karin Branzell as Ortrud, Cordon as King

A splendid performance of Wagner's "Lohengrin," within present limits of scenic investiture and conducting, was presented last night at the Metropolitan Opera House. Lauritz Melchior and Julius Huehn, already heard this season as the Swan Knight, and Friedrich Telramund, respectively, reappeared in their familiar roles, and Leonard Warren again functioned as the King's Herald. Elisabeth Rethberg sang Elsa, and two further changes in cast from an earlier performance brought Karin Branzell as Ortrud and Norman Cordon as the King.

Mr. Melchior was in superlative voice, impressing his listeners anew with his deep emotional understanding of the role and the beauty of his singing. Mr. Huehn, too, was well disposed and repeated his sterling characterization of Telramund. He might profit, however, by a new costume and less youthful make-up. Leonard Warren offered a Herald that was far above the average.

Not for many months has Elisabeth Rethberg been in such consistently admirable voice as during last night's performance. Starting hesitantly, she soon warmed to her task and, throughout the second act, achieved singing of a high order. Her balcony scene, in particular, might well rank among the finest recently heard in the opera house - but the climax of her performance was to be found in the bridal chamber scene. The noted soprano's fine transition in this scene from a meltingly lyric mezza-voce to dramatic tones of ringing power caused one to regret that she was obviously harried by Mr. Leinsdorf's precipitate tempi. At one point, she instinctively raised her arms as if to stop the blistering rhythms emerging from the orchestra pit.

As Elsa's evil temptress, Mme. Branzell demonstrated that she is the best available Ortrud. Singing her music with appropriate malevolence and stirring power, she made much of what is perhaps the most interesting role in "Lohengrin." Her acting was sometimes on the extravagant side and her crown of rhinestones in the second act was more operatic than medieval. Nevertheless she impressed with the sincerity and directness of her approach.

It was a pleasure to see and hear Norman Cordon, talented American basso, rescuing the role of King Henry from the disrepute into which it has fallen during the last few years. All of his top tones were solidly taken, and the music in general was compellingly sung. Dignity and sympathy marked his acting, and he was less to be blamed that his collaborators in the quintet at the conclusion of the King's prayer ended embarrassingly off pitch.

Scenically, the Metropolitan "Lohengrin" is urgently in need of refurbishing. Last night the tumultuous third act interlude, which is intended to accompany the entrance of King Henry and his vassals of Brabant, was played before a drawn curtain, raised only when the king was seated on his throne. Such inaccuracies avail Wagner and the Metropolitan but little.

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