[Met Concert/Gala] CID:140910
Gala Performance. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/17/1946.

(Lauritz Melchior's 20th Anniversary

Metropolitan Opera House
February 17, 1946
Benefit for the production funds
In celebration of Lauritz Melchior's twentieth anniversary with the company


Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act I Prelude

Die Walküre: Act I Conclusion
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Lotte Lehmann [Last appearance]

Set designer............Jonel Jorgulesco

Tristan und Isolde: Act II Love Duet
Tristan.................Lauritz Melchior
Isolde..................Astrid Varnay
Brangäne................Kerstin Thorborg

Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Lohengrin: Act III
Lohengrin...............Lauritz Melchior
Elsa....................Irene Jessner
Ortrud..................Astrid Varnay
King Heinrich...........Nicola Moscona

Designer................Joseph Urban
Director................Lothar Wallerstein

Conductor...............Fritz Busch

Review of Howard Taubman in The New York Times


'Pillar of the Wagnerian Wing' Sings Scenes From, 3 Operas in Gala Fete at Metropolitan


Versatile Heldentenor-Crooner Whom Marion Talley Outshone in '26 Debut, Receives Gifts

Lauritz Melchior, probably the most eminent Wagnerian tenor of our generation, observed his twentieth anniversary as a member of the Metropolitan Opera company last night. To commemorate the occasion in the only appropriate way for an opera singer, Mr. Melchior sang, with the cooperation of other artists, scenes from three Wagner works-"Die Walkuere," "Tristan and Isolde" and "Lohengrin."

At the end of each excerpt he and his colleagues were greeted with thunderous applause and bravos, and when Mr. Melchior appeared for solo curtain calls his admirers really let go with their hosannas. At the end he made a graceful little curtain speech in which he pleaded for a helping hand for young American artists in a time when a ravaged world looks to the United States for leadership in opera.

Backstage after the last curtain went down, Mr. Melchior, his wife, whom everyone knows as Kleinschen, or the little one, members of the management and board of directors, leading singers and members of the chorus, stage crew, wardrobe department and other elements of the Metropolitan Opera company gathered for another ceremony.

He Receives Gifts

Speaking for the management and board of directors, Edward Johnson, general manager, called Mr. Melchior a national and international figure and a pillar of strength in the Wagnerian wing. He presented the tenor with a silver bowl and plate, the gift of the management and the board.

Astrid Varnay, young American soprano, spoke for Mr. Melchior's colleagues in presenting him with a gold plaque and a book of autographs from his fellow-artists.

The tenor himself, still in his silver costume and red wig of Lohengrin, responded. He said that each theatre has its atmosphere, and for him the atmosphere of the Metropolitan, as well as the friends the theatre had brought him, was among the most cherished mementos of his life.

Before these ceremonies Mr. Melchior spoke for himself as only a singing artist can-by singing in roles he has made famous. He will be 56 on March 20, but his voice has not lost its fullness or power. His bulk has not diminished either, but a heldentenor needs weight to cope with a Wagnerian orchestra. He sang out last night with a freshness that would do credit to a neophyte and with a knowledge and tradition that only a veteran -and a gifted one-could project.
The evening began with the festive Prelude to "Die Meistersinger," conducted spaciously by Fritz Busch, who was the enkindling conductor of the entire program. Then, Mr. Melchior, with Lotte Lehmann as the Sieglinde, did the final scene from the first act of "Die Walkuere." Miss Lehmann has not sung at the Metropolitan this season, and it was good to have her back if only in a fragment of one of her great roles.

Overshadowed by Marion Talley

The love duet from the second act of "Tristan" followed, with Varnay as an effective Isolde and Kerstin Thorborg, as a rich-voiced Brangaene. The performance ended with the final act of "Lohengrin," with Irene Jessner as Elsa, Miss Varnay as Ortrud, Nicola Moscona as King Henry and the full chorus in its accustomed place. The date for this observance was set a year ago when Mr. and Mrs. Melchior told the management that Feb. 17, 1946, would be his twentieth anniversary here. The proceeds of the occasion will be turned over to the Metropolitan Opera Production Fund.

When Mr. Melchior made his debut here twenty years ago in the title role of "Tannhaeuser," it was in a matinee performance. That, evening Marion Talley made her first appearance at the Metropolitan, and in the furor over her debut, Mr. Melchior's advent was somewhat neglected. In the years that have gone by, the public has made amends. It has taken the tenor to its heart as its favorite Tannhaeuser, Lohengrin, Siegmund, Siegfried, Tristan and Parsifal. During this period the Wagner operas reached unprecedented popularity, and Mr. Melchior has been one of the bulwarks of that vogue.

Lately he has conquered in new fields-as a radio and movie singer and comedian. He has even proved that a Heldentenor can croon, and since crooners cannot function as Heldentenors he has established that he is unique. If it weren't for the money, he needn't have gone to the trouble. As a Wagnerian tenor, he is in a class by himself anyway,

Review (unsigned) and account in the Herald Tribune

Melchior Marks Twenty Years in Metropolitan

Sings Excerpts of Three Wagner Roles at Special Anniversary Performance

The twentieth anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera debut of Lauritz Melchior, Wagnerian tenor,
was celebrated last night by five of the company's stars, by the entire chorus and orchestra and by Mr. Melchior himself, who sang excerpts from three of his most familiar roles in a special performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, Broadway and Thirty-Ninth Street. Mr. Melchior, whose first appearance at the Metropolitan was in "Tannhäuser," appeared last night as Siegmund in a portion of Act I of "Die Walküre;" as Tristan in an excerpt from Act II of "Tristan and Isolde," and as Lohengrin in the entire third act of "Lohengrin."

Sieglinde was sung by Lotte Lehmann, Isolde by Astrid Varnay, Brangäne by Kerstin Thorborg, Elsa by Irene Jessner, Ortrud by Miss Varnay, and King Henry by Nicola Moscona. In addition, the orchestra, under the direction of Fritz Busch, presented the prelude to "Die Meistersinger." The entire performance was for the benefit of the Metropolitan Opera Production Fund.

Acknowledging the enthusiastic applause which followed the last notes of "Lohengrin," Mr. Melchior made a brief curtain speech, thanking the audience and asking in particular for the encouragement of young singers in America.

"In the midst of the destruction of the art centers of Europe," he said, "America is left to carry on. We have good young singers in America, but if they do not have places to use their voices, and for you to come and listen to them, they are no good." "By giving these youngsters experience and encouragement America will one day be the leading country of art in the world."

Critics recalled last night that Mr. Melchior's debut was made on the afternoon of Feb. 17, 1926, and that the same evening Miss Marion Talley made her debut as Gilda in "Rigoletto." Preceded by a surge of advance publicity which had turned the nineteen-year-old Kansas City girl into a singing Cinderella, Miss Talley's debut caused 10,000 persons to storm the opera, house and brought forth front-page stories in the morning papers.

Overshadowed by this hullabaloo, Mr. Melchior's debut received comparatively little notice. Writing in The New York Herald Tribune of Feb. 18, 1926, Lawrence Gilman admitted that Mr. Melchior had "genuine power," but complained that he "lacked a natural instinct for the stage."

"When Mr. Melchior does not imagine that he is a tenor tuba he dispenses a tone that is often pleasurable," Mr. Gilman wrote, mentioning, however, that the young tenor had sung "entire passages off key." As a seeming afterthought, he added that "Mr. Melchior is not unlikely to prove an asset to the Metropolitan."

Last night, with a full and enthusiastic house present at the anniversary celebration, it seemed that the afterthought was right.

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