[Met Performance] CID:133520
Lohengrin {454} Cleveland Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio: 04/7/1942.


Cleveland, Ohio
April 7, 1942


Lohengrin...............Lauritz Melchior
Elsa....................Astrid Varnay
Ortrud..................Kerstin Thorborg
Telramund...............Julius Huehn
King Heinrich...........Norman Cordon
Herald..................Leonard Warren
Noble...................Emery Darcy
Noble...................John Dudley
Noble...................Wilfred Engelman
Noble...................Gerhard Pechner

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

Review in unnamed Cleveland newspaper by Elmore Bacon


Replacing Kirsten Flagstad, held by many to be the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the present day, was the assignment undertaken by Astrid Varnay, buxom Swedish singer, last night at Public Hall. And while comparisons were unavoidable and the young woman was definitely no Flagstad, she scored an undoubted triumph as Elsa in "Lohengrin." Hers is a vocal and histrionic artistry that seems bound to make its Met Opera mark.

Another near-capacity audience was thrilled by the fine performance of this familiar Wagnerian music drama given under the inspired baton of Erich Leinsdorf. The entire cast was excellent. Lauritz Melchior making his only appearance of the Cleveland season, Julius Huehn being the Telramund, Kerstin Thorborg the Ortrud and two of the newer Met stars, Norman Cordon as the King and Leonard Warren as the Herald, turning in fine performances.

The whole performance of this legend of the Knight of the Holy Grail led by a swan to deliver Elsa of Brabant from the wily Telramund and his wife, Ortrud, gained added inspiration though Leindsorf's commanding direction. He scored, too, with the orchestra in the beautiful prelude to the first act and the famous wedding march. He fairly lifted the male chorus in the first act though an effective dramatic episode and put spirit and inspiration into the dramatic scene closing the second act when Lohengrin overcomes the machinations of Telramund and Ortrud and leads Elsa into the church. Director Leinsdorf maintained through all the dramatic stress of this Wagnerian drama the spirit of mystery and the religious atmosphere surrounding this revelation of the power of good to overcome evil.

Miss Varnay at 23 has risen far in the Metropolitan ranks. She possesses a dramatic soprano that has the Wagnerian power, that is smooth and flexible and that even under the forcing that is necessary to lift it above the orchestral clamor, retains its golden quality. But again, it does not have the power nor the richness though all the range as does the Flagstad voice. The "Elsa's Dream" was Miss Varnay's best bit of vocalizing. Her scene in the third act when she demands that Lohengrin reveal his name was her best dramatic display, a superb performance. All through the opera, too, she revealed definite histrionic ability.

Miss Varnay is what one might call pleasingly plump. No more than that. And she is beautiful. In the arms of Melchior she seemed rather small, but only by comparison. She could almost put her arms around him, too. So much has been said about Melchior and his Wagnerian triumphs that little is left to be said. His is the authentic Lohengrin. He has the Wagnerian power plus, sings with ease born of long Wagnerian experience, reveals a gratifying richness of tone and soft pliable head tones which sometimes are uneven.


The Ortrud of Kerstin Thorborg is something to remember - a superb gem of artistry. Her opulent voice has power and she uses it with great skill. And the Telramund of Julius Huehn, too, was an inspired performance, although a bit of roughness crops up in his powerful voice. Leonard Warren made the part of the Herald stand out, a fine bit of acting as well as singing. Norman Cordon was excellent as King Henry, but his voice lacked somewhat of authority. The four noblemen were Emery Darcy, John Dudley, Wilfred Engelman and Gerhard Pechner.

The chorus was most effective in the second act scene in the courtyard and in the bridal music. The costuming was colorful and the scenery adequate. If we remember rightly Lohengrin is supposed to be attired in shining armor when he arrives on the banks of the Scheldt. Melchior, perhaps as a gesture to the present metals conversation, wore a shining suit of silver silk.

The thrill and drama of this Wagnerian music stirred the big audience to enthusiasm again and again. And all of the principals were required to take repeated bows. Those later comers had a long wait - 53 minutes. Tonight, with "Carmen," the first act consumes 46 minutes, so you better be there at 8.

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