[Met Performance] CID:138080
Tristan und Isolde {308} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/4/1944.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 4, 1944


Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Helen Traubel
Kurwenal................Herbert Janssen
Brangäne................Kerstin Thorborg
King Marke..............Norman Cordon
Melot...................Emery Darcy
Sailor's Voice..........John Garris
Shepherd................John Garris
Steersman...............Gerhard Pechner

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

Review of Quaintance Eaton in the December 25, 1944 issue of Musical America

An exceptionally fine performance of "Tristan und Isolde" rewarded the capacity audience on Dec. 4, a night made gala by two news factors and many musical ones. The new was the return of Erich Leinsdorf after a year's absence spent mostly in the Army, and the 200th assumption of the role of Tristan by Lauritz Melchior. It is good to report that so much deeper and maturer is the conductor's art that on this occasion the orchestra was, as it should be, the most compelling and persuasive element of the performance, without which even the vocal splendor from the stage would have fallen into a vacuum. In pace, in intensity and well-judged climaxes, in beauty of tone, and above all, in the cohesive texture of the orchestral web, this was an exciting embodiment of the marvelous score, the best Mr. Leinsdorf has ever given us.

Mr. Melchior's portrayal is not news, but that his 200th Tristan should find him in such good estate is cause for rejoicing. He sang the love music with an unusually open tone, and his delineation of the third act, both musically and dramatically, is unrivalled today. He received ovations, and in an intermission, Edward Johnson presented him with a book autographed by members of the cast.

Helen Traubel's Isolde was truly magnificent. Her grasp of the inner significance of the role is firmer and more sensitive than ever before. The warmth of her voice, both in the glorious outpouring of mightier measures and in the tender nuance of quieter moments, was like a benison to the ears and sensibilities. Altogether hers is a portrayal of a fine and mature artist, and such details as an unfortunate first act costume and her omission of the high C's in the second art are negligible in the picture.

Norman Cordon sang King Marke's music with sympathy and a mellowness of voice which made an absorbing quarter-hour in a spot which sometimes goes dead. Herbert Janssen's Kurwenal was also in the vein, moving and expressive in both voice and action. Kerstin Thorborg's Brangäne is another familiar figure, but on this occasion she was not up to vocal par, and forced her voice with some unfortunate results. Emery Darcy made Melot a believable character and sang his few measures well, as did John Garris as the Shepherd and the Sailor's voice. Gerhard Pechner was the Steersman. The staging remains substantially as before, and the darkening of the second act scene during the love music is a commendable idea, although the effect is somewhat spoiled later by spotlighting the two lovers.

Applause breaking in at times not countenanced by Wagner devotees marked the presence of the "new" audience and there was some indignant shushing before the old-timers could settle back to revel in a wonderful evening.

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