[Met Performance] CID:168370
Parsifal {193} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/23/1955.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 23, 1955


PARSIFAL {193}
Wagner-Wagner

Parsifal................Bernd Aldenhoff
Kundry..................Astrid Varnay
Amfortas................Josef Metternich
Gurnemanz...............Dezs÷ Ernster
Klingsor................Lawrence Davidson
Titurel.................Nicola Moscona
Voice...................Jean Madeira
First Esquire...........Vilma Georgiou
Second Esquire..........Rosalind Elias
Third Esquire...........Paul Franke
Fourth Esquire..........Gabor Carelli
First Knight............Albert Da Costa
Second Knight...........Osie Hawkins
Flower Maidens: Laurel Hurley, Maria Leone, Hertha Glaz,
Heidi Krall, Jean Fenn, Margaret Roggero

Conductor...............Fritz Stiedry

Director................Herbert Graf
Designer................Joseph Urban

Parsifal received two performances this season.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday Review

Of the several eyesores still masquerading as productions worthy of the Metropolitan stage, there is little doubt that "Parsifal" is the most offensive. Not merely in seniority - there are one or two others that are also in the fourth decade of service - but in poverty of illusion it calls for a kindly "coup de grace" and decent burial. For that matter, if the musical obligations are no better honored than they were at the season's first performance, it is rather cynical of Rudolf Bing to give "Parsifal."

It was, in fact, no consistent "Parsifal," at all, rather to be described as good, bad, or indifferent according to whether the performer of the moment was Astrid Varnay, Kundry, Bernd Aldenhoff as Parsifal or one of others, in the lengthy cast. Fritz Stiedry waved a steady baton from first to last as though to dispel the less pleasant waves of sound that were coming from the stage and somehow disperse the good orchestral performance through the theatre; but it was all mostly laborious, not least of all for the listener.

Easily the most disaffecting member of the cast was Aldenhoff, who is fast making a place for himself among the classic list of Metropolitan singers who, in W. S. Gilbert's phrase, "never would be missed." A bulky "youth" to begin with, Aldenhoff is all earnestness and ineptitude. He has developed an interesting new approach to Wagner's music, or - if the truth be told - gone back to a very old one. The words are barked out in time and with rhythmic precision, but with very little tonal projection or resonance. Indeed, if Aldenhoff were paid per note for those he actually sang he might end up owing the management money. After sampling his first and second acts, I admit to sparing myself the third. There is a limit, after all, even to duty.

Varnay's Kundry had her familiar virtues of drama style and musical assurance; with an acceptable Parsifal to work with, she might indeed, have struck vocal fire. But there was no spark to threaten the static atmosphere. Somewhat surprising in quality was the vocal performance of Deszo Ernster as Gurnemanz. He has not been heard, to my knowledge, for weeks here, and by threading his way carefully through the mammoth part cushioned his experienced declamatory style with some nicely resonant phrases. Josef Metternich is an Amfortas valid for any surroundings, and superior in these.

Penance, of course, has its place in the theatre as in any aspect of life, and the asperities of "Parsifal," its ascetic denial of calculated high notes, applause, and easy dramatic effects are good - in a purgative sense - for all who participate. But if the sacrificial purpose is to be served fully, one of the things the Metropolitan might give up for Lent is "Parsifal" itself.



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