[Met Performance] CID:137640
Parsifal {162} Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois: 04/25/1944.

(Review)


Chicago, Illinois
April 25, 1944


PARSIFAL {162}

Parsifal................Lauritz Melchior
Kundry..................Kerstin Thorborg
Amfortas................Herbert Janssen
Gurnemanz...............Alexander Kipnis
Klingsor................Walter Olitzki
Titurel.................Nicola Moscona
Voice...................Margaret Harshaw
First Esquire...........Marita Farell
Second Esquire..........Lucielle Browning
Third Esquire...........John Garris
Fourth Esquire..........John Dudley
First Knight............Emery Darcy
Second Knight...........Osie Hawkins
Flower Maidens: Lucielle Browning, Christina Carroll, Marita Farell,
Patrice Munsel, Mona Paulee, Maxine Stellman

Conductor...............Emil Cooper

Review of Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune

Met's 'Parsifal' Gives Chicago Fine Experience

It was good to have "Parsifal" again after 12 long years. Altho the Metropolitan's production at the Civic Opera house last night was less than full realization of the mystical masterpiece that is the culmination of Wagner, it was an absorbing performance that overcame many of the almost superhuman difficulties imposed by a man who saw more visions than the stage has yet learned to compass and dreamed more wonders of sound that the human voice has yet surmounted. It was well cast, carefully lighted, and conducted by Emil Cooper with throbbing warmth that captured much of the passionate beauty, tho not always the faded mysticism, the deep reverence of a unique score. All in all, it was a memorable experience to remind us what we lose when we neglect the treasure house of music drama.

In this, as in other performances of "Parsifal" where he has sung Gurnemanz, Alexander Kipnis was the dominating figure. He has the nobility of style and presence, the grandeur of voice, the very meaning of wisdom in a long and taxing role which he sings as effortlessly as if he lived on Monsalvat and waited, sometimes with brusque impatience, for the guileless fool who alone can banish the powers of darkness.

Mr. Melchior's Parsifal heard for the first time in Chicago is an almost incredibly unselfconscious performance. He makes the youth who unwittingly violates the bird sanctuary a simple good natured giant, utterly unaware of his great destiny. Yet out of that simplicity the true stature of Parsifal grows in unforced splendor, matched by one of the few great voices of our time, a voice which has the texture of Wagnerian dreams, the imagination of Wagnerian visions.

Kirsten Thorborg's Kundry was interesting, tho not completely convincing. She had the ravaged beauty for the enchantress, and her voice was often magnificent, tho strained by a role more often sung by dramatic than mezzo soprano. Her chief difficulties came in the scenes of seduction when she and Mr. Melchior looked more uncomfortable than alluring. Herbert Janssen's Amfortas lacked the voice to be heard over the orchestra, but in softer passages he used it admirably, and he had an exceptionally interesting makeup as the grievously wounded knight, wearing what was almost the tortured mask of the crucified Christ. Nicola Moscona sang well as Titurel and Walter Olitzki was a malignant Klingsor, a commanding sorcerer with a voice that crawled with evil and hands that were swooping bats in the dusk.

Most of the minor roles were well sung tho sometimes clumsily staged. The flower maidens got in a falling tangle, and the sacred spear was a not very workable contrivance on a high wire - too high for even the giant Melchior to reach. But the scene of the Holy Grail was lighted with reassuring precision, tho I find it more effective when the chalice of the Last Supper gleams alone in a shaft of light piercing darkness. No matter, that scene in the temple is one of the noblest treasures of the stage. We should see it more often.



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