[Met Performance] CID:143080
Tristan und Isolde {318} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/20/1946.

(Debut: Dezsö Ernster
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 20, 1946


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {318}
Wagner-Wagner

Tristan.................Set Svanholm
Isolde..................Helen Traubel
Kurwenal................Joel Berglund
Brangäne................Margaret Harshaw
King Marke..............Dezsö Ernster [Debut]
Melot...................Emery Darcy
Sailor's Voice..........John Garris
Shepherd................John Garris
Steersman...............Gerhard Pechner

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

Director................Dino Yannopoulos
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Tristan und Isolde received seven performances this season.

[Traubel's costumes were designed by Adrian.]

Review of John Ball Jr. in the Brooklyn Eagle

Set Svanholm, Swedish Tenor, Sings His First Tristan at Met

For some years Lauritz Melchior has been for all practical purposes the indispensable Wagnerian tenor of the Metropolitan Opera. This season Set Svanholm has arrived from Sweden to take over some of the burden. He sang his first Metropolitan Tristan yesterday afternoon.

Like Melchior, Svanholm was once a baritone. To the ears of a good many listeners, Melchior's voice, while admittedly magnificent, still sounds like a baritone with an upper register. The transition to the higher voice has apparently been a simpler matter for Svanholm. His tones fall well within the tenor range without giving the sometimes uncomfortable feeling that he is straining in order to meet the requirements of the score.

Physically the new tenor is somewhat smaller than one usually finds in the heldentenor roles. His voice, while not booming, is adequate in volume and generally well produced. Histrionically he has a distinct tendency to be jerky, an inclination which, if extended further, could result in a less that convincing performance. Fortunately this extreme was avoided, leaving a believable Tristan and one who made a good appearance on the stage.

The Isolde of the afternoon was, as would be expected, Helen Traubel. She was in full command of her rich, powerful voice and sang splendidly. While of heroic stature, she carried herself so well that any contrast to Mr. Svanholm's somewhat slighter build was for the most part unnoticed.

Margaret Harshaw, the Brangäne, also sang well and assumed her role with assurance. A recent addition to the roster, Miss Harshaw has been appearing for some time in major oratorio roles and has won much praise.

As Kurvenal, Joel Berglund sang powerfully and convincingly. Deszo Ernster's performance as the weary King Marke was in sharp contrast to his comedy role in the "Abduction from the Seraglio" on Friday evening. He was in considerably better voice and presented a good reading of the somewhat brief part.

Fritz Busch conducted with a sure and experienced hand. As is the case in practically all Wagnerian opera, the role of the orchestra in "Tristan" takes precedence a good part of the time over the action, if any, on the stage. In particular, the orchestra is called on to declare the magic of the love potion when it is unwittingly drunk by two principals. During the rapture of their brief happiness together, the lovers sit quietly while the orchestra unfolds the shimmering, sensuous music which tells of the blind rapture that has seized them.

Throughout the pages of the opera, it is the orchestra which repeatedly supplies the narrative picture in terms too elusive to be sung or spoken. There is not emotion or depth of feeling which Wagner could not transpose into orchestral music. To conduct such a score calls for an acute and expert understanding of all of the tonal magic is to be realized.

Busch's performance was an admirable one. He was in sympathy with the singers and they with him. The high point of their collaboration was reached in the celebrated "Liebestod." Miss Traubel sang this difficult music with exceptional tonal beauty while the orchestra lent her admirable support.



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