[Met Performance] CID:131510
Lohengrin {444} Metropolitan Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/4/1941.


Boston, Massachusetts
April 4, 1941


Lohengrin...............Lauritz Melchior
Elsa....................Kirsten Flagstad
Ortrud..................Kerstin Thorborg
Telramund...............Julius Huehn
King Heinrich...........Norman Cordon
Herald..................Leonard Warren

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

Review of Edward Downes in the Boston Transcript


Leinsdorf Leads a Vivid Performance With Flagstad and Melchior in the Leading Roles

As with the Metropolitan "Lohengrin" a year ago at the Boston Opera House, the news of last night's performance in the Metropolitan Theater comes not from the stage, but from the orchestra pit. Though that illustrious Wagnerian couple, Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior held the stage, it was the propulsive power of Erich Leinsdorf's baton which gave the performance its drive and passion. This is a heartening sign of the times. It is mentioned by no means in belittlement of Flagstad or Melchior, whose starry radiance was in fact the brighter for the whip hand which Mr. Leinsdorf held over the entire ensemble.

There are many details on which one may disagree with Mr. Leinsdorf. His tempi were frequently too fast, as in Elsa's Dream, the final ensemble of Act I, the Wedding Procession of Act II and the part of the duet between Ortrud and Telramund. At a slower tempo, too, there are inner voices of the orchestra which could emerge with infinitely more dramatic effect. And Mr. Leinsdorf has apparently yet to feel the intensity and excitement to be achieved through a slow allargando, instead of using a feverish accelerando to force a climax.

But these were not the salient facts of his performance. They were the growing body and technique of the orchestra he commands, and the immense vitality of his own interpretation. He moulds the score with sweeping strokes, he hews to the broad line, and the result is a spacious musical architecture - not a series of pretty moments, however beguiling, here and there. Never did he betray indifference to a single bar of the music. Each phrase had a clear-cut profile and urgent emotion behind it. His grasp upon the stage and the orchestra was firm and authoritative.

The Drama

Would there had been someone in charge of the stage action and scenic effects to give us a visual realization of what Mr. Leinsdorf so masterfully suggested with Wagner's music. Where was the stage director when Lohengrin approached the banks of the River Scheidt, and the incredulous surprise of the multitude swells to a tidal wave of excitement which breaks with the shattering climax of Lohengrin's arrival? These things were in the music. On the stage there was a mere flutter of confusion, some posturing, a few semaphoric gestures and Mr. Melchior coasted in to a dead anti-climax.

Where was the stage director while the pomp of a great medieval wedding procession, the entire Brabantine court, advanced majestically toward the portals of the minister in the second act? The gathering momentum of this train, the dramatic conflict of its two interruptions, and the surge of triumph with which it finally flows into the cathedral can build up to one of the most impressive scenes in all opera. But only with a stage director of imagination. There were enough costumes and enough people on the stage yesterday to have achieved an overwhelming dynamic picture. And only in this frame do the recriminations and accusations of Ortrud and Telramind produce their full effect.

The Leading Roles

Kirsten Flagstad's Elsa is familiar here. Though she was not in her best voice last night, she sang with such opulence and brilliance of tone that one easily forgot the occasional harsh or forced notes. She looks the part to perfection the sweetness and simplicity of her bearing, her radiant face, complemented beautifully the intelligence of her not very intense acting.

Lauritz Melchior was in his second best voice as Lohengrin. He acted authoritatively if without much imagination. His most ardent admirer would hardly say he looked the part.

Julius Huehn has grown rapidly in the part of Telramund. It still puts a slight strain on his voice, but he always sang it well. His conception of the role has deepened. He makes of Telramund not a villain, but the tragically deceived, self-tortured and probably quite honest fellow that Wagner intended.

Ortrud is the villain of the piece and Kerstin Thorborg's portrayal was a masterpiece of malignant power. At times her voice had a distressing edge, but she used it skillfully, suggestively. Her gestures expressed vividly her sinister power over Telramund, hypocritical humility to Elsa, or the envisioned triumph of her pagan gods. The concentration of hate which she can express with her eyes alone is something startling to behold.

Norman Cordon was an adequate King Henry, with promise of developing into a better one, and Leonard Warren was an excellent Herald.

In spite of the few serious drawbacks mentioned, this performance had a thrust and vitality, and a musical eloquence, which roused the audience to ovations for all the principals and a cordial one before the third act for Mr. Leinsdorf and the orchestra.

Review of Cyrus Durgan in the Boston Globe

"Barber of Seville" Given a Remarkably Comic Performance

It all depends on how it's done. With a merely adequate cast who fumble through stage business learned by rote, "The Barber of Seville" is just an operatic centenarian. But if, as was true of the Metropolitan's performance yesterday afternoon, there are first-rank singing actors for Bartolo and Basilio, and lively singers in the other three principal roles, "The Barber" is a superlatively funny show.

The afternoon really belonged to Mr. Baccaloni and Mr. Pinza, who romped through Beaumarchais' involved action, and Rossini's effervescent music with what you might call creative comedy. Creative because it was about as far from mechanical acting as could be imagined. Neither missed a trick. Their patter songs were deliciously rhythmic, every comic inflection of the music was mirrored on the stage by gesture or movement. And although the performance went along at high speed there was no sacrifice of style.

Mr. Pinza, it is refreshing to note, does not make up or act Don Basilio like a weird clown. The nose is pointed, not huge; the face eccentric, not grotesque. Genuine artistry governs his characterization, because the music master was not a buffoon, but an uncommonly acute individual. Mr. Baccaloni goes in for low comedy with his Dr. Bartolo and at the same time surrounds the fat old sharper with essential elegance and down-the-nose superiority. As for singing, both Mr. Pinza and Mr. Baccaloni deserved bravissimas in abundance.

If Miss Tuminia continues to perfect her technic, she ought to be a notable coloratura. That she began the "Una voce poco fa" slightly below pitch was not a serious matter. Miss Tuminia's vocal foundation seems to be quite sound, increased volume of tone and technical ease should come with further experience. She will also learn to act with more assurance. She is now a talented and promising young artist.

One always thinks of irreproachable singing style in connection with Tito Schipa. His voice has lost some of its freedom and strength, yet he employs it with all his familiar skill and taste. As an actor he was pleasantly competent, in fact a good deal better than most tenors who essay Almaviva.

Figaro is no role for an Anglo-Saxon, though Mr. Thomas sang the ubiquitous barber's music well enough . Dramatically, Figaro requires a Latin nimbleness and temperament Mr. Thomas did not muster. Miss Petina does more with Berta, both musically and from the comic point of view than any other singer within memory. Mr. Papi was an alert conductor.

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