[Met Performance] CID:139200
Fidelio {67} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/17/1945., Broadcast

(Debut: Kenneth Schon

Metropolitan Opera House
March 17, 1945 Matinee Broadcast
In English


Leonore.................Regina Resnik
Florestan...............Arthur Carron
Don Pizarro.............Kenneth Schon [Debut]
Rocco...................Lorenzo Alvary
Marzelline..............Frances Greer
Jaquino.................John Garris
Don Fernando............Hugh Thompson
First Prisoner..........Richard Manning
Second Prisoner.........John Gurney

Conductor...............Bruno Walter

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Joseph Urban

Translation by T. Baker

Fidelio received two performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


Metropolitan Scores Triumph with Beethoven's Opera - Cast Wins Plaudits

The performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio," sung in English yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House, will go down as one of the proudest records in the annals of the institution whose name that theatre bears. The interpretation reflected the highest credit upon the members of the cast, almost entirely of American singers, who performed under Bruno Walters' baton. The singers, most of them of the rising generation, were of astonishingly high quality and adequate both to the vocal and dramatic demands of Beethoven's creation. This is no slight thing to say of vocal parts which in certain instances make cruel demands upon the voice and a curious and imperfect libretto which often puts the singers in the most difficult situations.

The musical direction was supplemented by the admirable stage direction of Dr. Graf. And there was this almost incredible achievement: an admirable English translation. We understand that this translation was based upon the text of Theodore Baker, with the rhymes removed and with various emendations by Mrs. Drowne and by Mr. Walter. The result is exceptional for simplicity, dignity and dramatic meaning.

Audience Gained Much

Here was an example of an English translation that was unquestionably of aid to the audience in its understanding of plot and therefore of music. Fortunately, the Metropolitan has dispensed with the singing of the recitatives as they were arranged by a former interpreter. They are now spoken, as Beethoven intended. Perhaps the words do not carry to all the confines of the house as the singing tone does, but so far as the writer is concerned they were audible and effectively explanatory of the situations.

For a final touch of the excellent scenic treatment there was the moment when, with the trumpet call from above, signal of the rescuing host, the light streamed down in the black dungeon where Florestan was confined. As the delivered pair, husband and wife, staggered up the steps to freedom, the curtain slowly gathered and the first mysterious tones of the Third Leonore overture sounded from the orchestra as if from space. It was an unforgettable impression, summation of the drama which is the matrix of the incomparable overture, and an apotheosis only possible in the lyric theatre.

The cast had some excellent surprises. Regina. Resnik, who had done well in other parts, showed that she had the voice, the high intelligence and the dramatic sincerity required for Leonora's great role. That its tessitura is almost impossible was not an obstruction to Miss Resnik's achievement. Her highest tones had impact and emotion. The voice is of a warm color and stamina and resourcefulness through its range. She spoke her recitatives movingly. The fact that she looked more like Peter Pan than a heroic statue when she confronted the murderous Pizzaro did not lessen the tension of that instant or the excitement that she communicated by her gifts and personality.

Schon Makes Debut

Kenneth Schon made his debut as Pizzaro, with a dignity and dramatic power which neither cheapened nor flagged. He sings with a strong and manly resonance and with equally commendable diction. The fire of his delivery singing was made the more convincing by good taste and musicianship, so that the Pizzaro was a real figure on the stage and not a puppet of melodrama.

Mr. Carron sang Florestan's difficult air with full tone and with an effect so genuine and intense that the audience was stirred for the moment beyond demonstration. All this carried the dungeon scene ever more powerfully to its climax, only to be completely fulfilled by the wild hosannas of Beethoven's orchestra.

There were no weak links in the musico-dramatic chain. Mr. Alvary's Rocco was a first-class accomplishment in the timbre of the voice and its purposeful employment, in his capacity for attack and resonance in declamatory passages and, at the same time, his mastery of legato and of mezza voce when he wanted that for expressive purposes. These resources were remarkably utilized in the grave-digging episode. His English accent could be improved, which it is to be hoped will be done, but his dramatic distinctness and his sound comprehension of every detail of his role were obvious.

Other Roles Well Done

Then there were the first and second prisoners of Richard Manning and John Gurney and the unforgettable chorus of the trembling, helpless prisoners - their supplications, their gratitude and ecstasy in the light and the air.

Other parts were Mr. Thompson's Fernando and the competent Miss Greer's Marzelline. The synthesis of the whole occasion was Mr. Walter's. Not for nothing did the audience applaud him for minutes at the beginning of Act II. It seemed an occasion when most of the effects that a great and sincere musician aims at in an operatic performance actually came off, and to his pleasure. He had entire and invigorating control of all the factors on the stage and in the orchestra pit. His inspiration was unchecked as the performance progressed. And so, for a great rarity, did Beethoven's "Fidelio" come into its own.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the New York Herald Tribune

The revival of "Fidelio" after an absence of about four years from the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon will hardly occupy a place among the finest performances of Beethovan's great opera here. The performance, which was given for the first time in this auditorium in the clumsy English translation of Dr. Theodore Baker, by a cast that was at best barely able to cope with the arduous demands of the score, made this reviewer wonder whether it would not have been advisable to postpone the restoration of this work until vocalists of the kind essential to a satisfactory conveyence of its taxing music were again available. For even the presence of Bruno Walter in the conductor's chair was not sufficient to atone for the short-comings on the stage.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).