[Met Performance] CID:144800
Lohengrin {478} Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas: 05/2/1947.


Dallas, Texas
May 2, 1947


Lohengrin...............Torsten Ralf
Elsa....................Helen Traubel
Ortrud..................Margaret Harshaw
Telramund...............Herbert Janssen
King Heinrich...........Dezsö Ernster
Herald..................Hugh Thompson

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

Review of John Rosenfeld in the Dallas, Texas News

Mighty "Lohengrin" With Busch Conducting

Add Friday night's "Lohengrin" to the small list of performances that actually distilled the essence of a composer's magic.

Not that "Lohengrin" was impeccably played or sung. In the pit, however, was a man singularly gifted for acting as genius' agent. He was Fritz Busch, famed director of the Dresden Opera in it pre-Nazi heyday, through whom flowed the might convictions of Weimar and Bayreuth of almost a century ago.

Wagner takes a lot of believing nowadays. The vehicles, once thought dramatic poetry of Shakespearean virtues, have begun to creak. And always there is conceited Richard's fear that he must say a thing not twice or thrice but incessantly to make us dullards understand.

But a great deal of the Wagner magic, theatrical as well as musical, was recaptured Friday evening by the man who knows and still adores. The score was treated not as an accompaniment, the vice of so much contemporary Wagner, but as a vast tone poem into which solo and ensemble voices were drawn not only for coloring but for literacy message as well. The audience, though, was freed of the literalness of the literary. The drama unfolded in the appeal to the aural senses with its pure and shining religious mysticism, it sinister and heathen villainies, the tapestried sound of its pageantry and its cozy, practically domestic, tenderness.

From first to last, Mr. Busch's proportioning of effects was sheer revelation. And they flowed, one number into another, with organic vitality. Everything had Wagner's all-out character, for Wagner never hints. Mr. Busch organized moments of magnificent melodramatic excitement, as for the arrival of Lohengrin's swan boat and the march to the Munster.

The two vorspiels, for once, served their dramatic purpose. The first with its ethereal effects on the divided strings, grew with almost unbearable intensity into the blinding radiance of the grail. No stage picture could have matched this for the eyes. The third-act vorsspiel, also a favorite concert number, set the festive mood with unwonted delicacy.

As for Mr. Busch's control of both stage and pit forces, one need not discourse. His performance was far beyond executant efficiency and high in the heaven of interpretive virtuosity.

While the Dallas audience was not exactly unfamiliar with Wagner in the opera house, when before had it heard Wagner under a great Wagnerian conductor? Not in twenty years, or since Emil Cooper (to conduct Saturday's "Boris") wielded the baton for a Chicago Opera "Walküre."

Helen Traubel, the noble-voiced, American soprano, made her Dallas operatic debut as Elsa, which is not her best role.

Miss Traubel's exceptional vocal endowment is more thrilling in the heroic fortes of Isolde and the three Brünnhildes. Elsa's music caged her talents. Soft passages in the lower register, were often marred by vibrato. The lyricism of the Dream and "Euch Lueften, Die Mein Klagen" lacked grace and temperament.

Miss Traubel, however, has one of the historic voices of our century and no appearance of hers could be without interest or quality. While hardly the frail and naïve maiden in appearance, she enacted Elsa with dignified accuracy.

Torsten Ralf as Lohengrin sang excellently throughout the evening, giving tonal warmth and an easy cantabile style to the farewell to the swan, the love duet and the narrative, "In Fernem Land," all sung with that Italianate smoothness that Wagner craved and seldom got.

Margaret Harshaw, one of the Metropolitan's younger mezzo-sopranos, promised to be one of the better Ortruds of the day, once she has mastered certain vocal and dramatic refinements. Her performance, however, gave great pleasure. She encompassed the soprano range of Ortrud's music with dark opulence that contrasted with Miss Traubel's lighter timbre. Her "invocation" to the pagan gods, "Entweihte Goetter," was an outpouring of rich stentorian tone.

Herbert Janssen made up in artistry what he lacked in the peculiar gruff quality that best serves Telramund's complaints. Deszo Ernster, was a towering King Henry with a pleasant smile. His singing was well-routined and, like most bassos, he had some difficulties with the range. Hugh Thompson, one is overjoyed to relate, sang instead of shouted the heralds proclamations.

"Lohengrin" was, on the whole, an eye-filling stage picture. Perhaps the swan itself should be turned in on a new model, but maybe the transportation shortages apply here too.

Attendance was clocked at 4,473, well above normal Auditorium capacity, and slightly larger than Thursday night's patronage.

The audience was enthusiastic as it had to be. There were many recalls at the end with a bouquet of flowers for Miss Traubel from one of Dallas' Apollo choirboys. But Mr. Busch never did appear during the demonstration that he, more than any other, had caused.

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