[Met Performance] CID:135380
Tristan und Isolde {299} Chicago Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois: 03/31/1943.


Chicago, Illinois
March 31, 1943


Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Helen Traubel
Kurwenal................Julius Huehn
Brangäne................Kerstin Thorborg
King Marke..............Alexander Kipnis
Melot...................Emery Darcy
Sailor's Voice..........Emery Darcy
Shepherd................John Garris
Steersman...............John Gurney

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

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune


Excitement bubbled at the Civic Opera house last night when the Metropolitan Opera presented Wagner's Tristan and Isolde" with Helen Traubel a new Isolde and Erich Leinsdorf, the eloquent young conductor, happily confirming the news that he had just been appointed director of the Cleveland Orchestra, to succeed Artur Rodzinski. Add to this brilliant pair the incomparable Lauritz Melchior as Tristan, the magnificent Kipnis as King Marke, and the presence of Kerstin Thorborg as a new Brangaene, and you got the kind of opera that deserved the sometimes outsize description, grand.

Miss Traubel, as you know, is six feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. Gowned in bright green with linings of purple and magenta, she is a towering Isolde, but the point is that she is an Isolde. A few years ago I wouldn't have believed that, because I heard her sing Wagner's "Traume" and it lacked the texture of dreams that haunts the song and the opera. But last night, though her voice was as big as ever, soaring with superb impact over the great orchestra, it also was a voice of mobility and nobility, pulsating with life and sensitive to the full Wagnerian keyboard of inflection. Although she is relatively new to the role, taking it over only after Flagstad's departure, she had it at her fingertips, and she sang it incandescently.

Mr. Melchior's Tristan remains one of opera's irreplaceable treasures, a heroic conception, knightly in bearing and blessed with a matchless tenor that can ride triumphantly on a great wave of song, or can haunt the dusk of the love duet with a faint huskiness almost like the feel of deep piled velvet rubbed the wrong way. He and Miss Traubel made a team to rival memories of Melchior and Flagstad.

Magnificently on their level was Alexander Kipnis' King Marke, a role he had not sung here since 1931, and in which he stands unchallenged in opera today. The grandeur of his utterance gave climactic stature to the great second act. Miss Thorborg was a good Brangaene, in that she was competent and vocally adequate. I prefer a more voluminous voice of darker timbre, particularly for the lovely offstage warning. Mr. Huehn was a burly Kurvenal, and the chorus had better than average luck with the sailors' song of the first act-staged, of course, in the Chicago Opera's stately ship with painted sails.

No good "Tristan" is possible without something more than ordinary work in the pit, and young Mr. Leinsdorf made a resoundingly successful debut. He has a strong feeling for the score's poetry and its passion, and he understands the dramatic timing that makes it ebb and flow like some irresistible tide of melody that threatens to inundate the listener. If that is his customary pace, Cleveland is a lucky city.

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