[Met Performance] CID:155230
Tristan und Isolde {342} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/1/1950.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 1, 1950


Tristan.................Ramon Vinay
Isolde..................Helen Traubel
Kurwenal................Paul Schöffler
Brangäne................Blanche Thebom
King Marke..............Sven Nilsson
Melot...................Hugh Thompson
Sailor's Voice..........Emery Darcy
Shepherd................Leslie Chabay
Steersman...............Lawrence Davidson

Conductor...............Fritz Reiner

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

[Traubel's costumes were designed by Adrian.]

Tristan und Isolde received ten performances this season.

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical America

Not only was this Fritz Reiner's first Tristan at the Metropolitan, but no fewer than five members of the cast were heard for the first time in their roles. Ramon Vinay sang his first Tristan in New York; Paul Schoeffler, Kurvenal; Sven Nilsson, King Marke; Hugh
Thompson, Melot; and Lawrence Davidson, The Steersman. In familiar roles were Helen Traubel, as Isolde; Blanche Thebom, as Brangaene; and Leslie Chabay, as the Shepherd, Emery Darcy replaced the indisposed Thomas Hayward, who was to have sung the part of the sailor's voice for the first time.

Mr. Reiner's conducting of Tristan revealed him at his best. It was poetic, emotionally varied, considerate of the singers, and exquisite in color and instrumental detail. We have enjoyed several fine interpretations of this opera in recent years; Mr. Reiner's ranks with those of Sir Thomas Beecham and Fritz Busch as one of the most distinguished. Everything in the score sounded; there was none of the feverish haste and carelessness that lesser conductors tend to fall into. The music always kept moving, yet one had time to absorb the full impact, even of such tumultuous passages as the greeting of the lovers in the second act, and Tristan's delirium in the third act. Mr. Reiner took loving care of the incredibly beautiful orchestration of the second act, and the men played for him with heart and soul. The crowning glory of the evening, however, was the third act, always controlled in pace and balance, yet overwhelming in its urgency of phrase and boiling intensity.

Mr. Vinay's Tristan revealed his powers as a singing actor far more profoundly than anything else he has done here. His German diction was still somewhat Latin, but he knew what he was singing about every moment. His Tristan was noble, courtly, passionate, and metaphysically subtle, by turns. He made the anguish of the dying knight in the third act almost unbearably keen. As far as possible, he sang the part lyrically, with a legato line that brought out the consummate beauty of Wagner's phrases. His voice was not entirely steady and smooth in the love duet in the second act, but even there the conception was right. And his third act was superb, from beginning to end. The more exigent the music, the better he sang it. Mr. Vinay's Tristan is so intelligently conceived and executed that the Metropolitan should give him plentiful opportunities to ripen it in performance. Even if his voice is not ideal for the role, he can sing it beautifully, which is what counts most.

Both Mr. Schoeffler's Kurvenal and Mr. Nilsson's King Marke offered a vocal feast throughout the evening. They had the weight of tone, the flexibility and dramatic emphasis to take full advantage of their roles. Dramatically, they were sometimes a bit extrovert in their movement and inflections, but in all other respects their performances were nearly ideal. Mr. Thompson's voice was light for the role of Melot, but he sang it with proper style and bearing, and Mr. Davidson filled his assignment creditably.

Miss Traubel has never sung more eloquently as Isolde. Her voice is one of the most gorgeous in warmth, richness of texture, and color, on the lyric stage today, and she immersed herself in the emotional compulsion of the role perhaps more completely than ever before. Granted that she did not achieve all the top tones, her performance would be very hard to match or to excel in sheer loveliness of sound and range of vocal coloring. Miss Thebom was also in best form; her voice poured out in sumptuous plenitude in the Warning.

Dino Yannopoulos has changed the business of Tristan's death greatly to its improvement. Tristan falls backward across the couch towards the front of the stage, thus enabling Isolde to face his dead body and the audience at the same time. The arrangement is both functionally and artistically very sensible.

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