[Met Performance] CID:139640
Tristan und Isolde {314} Milwaukee Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 04/24/1945.

(Review)


Milwaukee, Wisconsin
April 24, 1945


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {314}

Tristan.................Arthur Carron
Isolde..................Astrid Varnay
Kurwenal................Herbert Janssen
Brangäne................Kerstin Thorborg
King Marke..............Emanuel List
Melot...................Hugh Thompson
Sailor's Voice..........John Garris
Shepherd................John Garris
Steersman...............Gerhard Pechner

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

Review of Richard S. Davis in the Milwaukee Journal

"Tristan" Fails to Reach Top

Miss Varnay and Kerstin Thorborg Score, but Flaws Appear

When the Metropolitan comes to Milwaukee it undeniably is an event and the town should be grateful, but in this report on "Tristan und Isolde" which was sung Tuesday night in the Auditorium, there is certain to appear a note of reproachfulness and discontent.

In the first place, it was not wise to give this city "Tristan" along with "Die Walküre" - the latter is billed for Sunday night - when last year the work was "Tannhäuser." Surely the Metropolitan management has no right to assume that Milwaukee friends of the opera are devoted to Wagner to the exclusion of all other composers. After all, there is considerable affection here abouts for the Italian and the French.

And if because of the transparent reasoning that led to the choice of more Wagner, "Tristan" had to be nominated, it was clearly unfair to offer a less than superior cast. Only the best of the Wagnerian singers can give life to this stupendous music drama and the best of the Metropolitan's people were not on the Auditorium stage Tuesday night.

What with one thing and another - further speculation on causes would now be idle - the audience for "Tristan" was notably light. Whereas "Tannhäuser" was welcomed by a sold-out house last season, the big hall seemed no better than half filled, and this in itself had a dampening effect on the entire work.

It must be noted, however, that the absence of Helen Traubel, who had been announced for the role of Isolde, was not cause for dismay. Astrid Varney, the Swedish dramatic soprano, who sang in Miss Traubel's place, was in no sense an inferior substitute. In point of truth, it was Miss Varnay, heroic of voice and well routined, who gave the opera its most dramatic and beautiful moments.

Arthur Carron, the English tenor, was palpably not in form to do Tristan. Although he has been singing Wagner all his professional life, Mr. Carron spent his voice too lavishly early in the work and soon turned hoarse. The tremendous duet of the second act suffered because of this weakness and the great moments of the third act were similarly marred.

Nothing but praise should be offered in comment on the singing of Kerstin Thorborg as Brangäne. Her voice, like Miss Varnay's, was not only adequate in size but handsome in its color and rich and smooth in its texture. The mezzo blended notably well with the soprano, the two roles were acted convincingly enough, and altogether the heroine and her companion were the dominant force of the cast.

Herbert Janssen was the Kurvenal. Like the tenor, the baritone sang himself into a fog and in the third act his voice was often smothered by the orchestra. Mr. Janssen does, however, own a masterful voice for robust song and when in better trim would doubtless shake the rafters.

The role of King Marke was in the confident keeping of the veteran Emanuel List, who gave it dignity and depth. The basso's voice is beginning to reveal the wavering that inevitably come to Wagnerian singers, but it retains its sonority and power and in the declamations of the forgiving king is most effective.

Hugh Thompson was the Melot, and John Garris the shepherd and no fault could be found with that.

More than merely decent gratitude can be summoned for discussion of the orchestra and the strikingly able conductor, Erich Leinsdorf. Mr. Leinsdorf not only brought out the magnificence of the orchestral score, but kept the work in motion astonishingly well. To end "Tristan und Isolde" in a strange house before curfew is evidence of a firm hand.

Perhaps it is heresy to repeat such stuff, but all the same the conviction persists that, if a way could be found to give the orchestra a larger share in "Tristan" and the singers considerably less, all concerned would be the gainer. In any case, the "Liebestod" music was again the outstanding virtue of the opera Tuesday night and it was the orchestra that made it so.
As noted, "Die Walküre" is the work for Sunday night. Chances are there will be a happier occasion to report.



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