[Met Performance] CID:128210
Tristan und Isolde {280} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/29/1940.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 29, 1940


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {280}

Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Kirsten Flagstad
Kurwenal................Herbert Janssen
Brangäne................Kerstin Thorborg
King Marke..............Alexander Kipnis
Melot...................George Cehanovsky
Sailor's Voice..........Anthony Marlowe
Shepherd................Karl Laufkötter
Steersman...............Douglas Beattie

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

Review of Francis D. Perkins in the Herald Tribune

"Tristan" Given; Kipnis Has Role of King Marke

Sings Part for First Time; Flagstad and Melchior in Metropolitan Cast

Alexander Kipnis, whose Gurnemanz and Baron Ochs have been applauded during the last two months as exceptionally distinguished impersonations, sang King Marke for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House last night in the season's fifth performance of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad, as before, sang the title roles, and those who had hoped to gain admission considerably outnumbered the seating capacity and standing room of the theater.
Mr. Kipnis had sung the role of the tragic king of Cornwall here long ago with the Wagnerian company which visited the Manhattan Opera House in the winter of 1923, but his Marke in those days was not the mature, impressive and deeply eloquent characterization which it has become today. "That sorrowful monologue of tender reproach and lofty grief which has not its like in music," as Lawrence Gilman once described Marke's music in the second act, frequently impresses its hearer with a sense of length rather than with a realization of its profound emotional qualities.

Mr. Kipnis had sung few notes before his hearers were conscious of the fact that here was a singing artist who thoroughly understood the character, who, in vocal coin and inflection as well as in mien and gesture, could convey vividly the sudden, uncomprehending disillusionment, the heartfelt, anguished grief of Marke as he asks "Mir dies" Dies, Tristan, mir?" The fervor of the applause bestowed upon Mr. Kipnis at the end of the act vied with that of the acclaim for Mme. Flagstad and Mr. Melchior.

Of the vocal and dramatic intensity of Mme. Flagstad's Isolde, much could be said, although encomiums of her singing and of her emotional insight into the character have long been a familiar feature of comments upon performance of "Tristan" at the Metropolitan. But the qualities of her interpretation are realized with fresh impressiveness and admiration at each manifestation. Her voice was generally at its best, and the relatively few moments when it was not seemed unimportant in relation to greatness of her performance considered as a whole.

Mr. Melchior, whose voice was often, but not invariably, in its best estate, gave an expressive impersonation of Tristan. Kerstin Thorborg's Brangäne was dramatically laudable, and her singing was to be praised except when the music carried it above its most effective range. The exigencies of the journalist's time table prevented an appraisal of Herbert Janssen's Kurvenal in the third act, apart from an auspicious performance early in this scene. Messrs. Cehanovsky, Laufkötter, Beattie and Marlowe completed the cast.

Erich Leinsdorf's direction of "Tristan" has gained considerably in intensity, as compared with the season's first representation of this work under his leadership. The [very first] measures of the second act helped some of their essential atmosphere of concentrated expectations and occasional nuances of tempi elsewhere might have been regarded as debatable, but yet the conductor gave the impression of understanding the power and greatness of the music drama as a whole. He retained the usually omitted measures of Marke's monologue in the second act, and this, with Mr. Kipnis singing in the role, was welcome.



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