[Met Performance] CID:183800
Der Fliegende Holländer {53} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/13/1960.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 13, 1960


Dutchman................George London
Senta...................Leonie Rysanek
Erik....................Karl Liebl
Daland..................Giorgio Tozzi
Mary....................Belén Amparan
Steersman...............William Olvis

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Robert Edmond Jones
Set designer............Charles Elson
Costume designer........Mary Percy Schenck

Der Fliegende Holländer received eight performances this season.

Review of Irving Kolodin in Saturday Review of January 30, 1960
When the "Fliegende Holländer" overture was last exciting patrons a the Metropolitan Opera under the direction of Fritz Reiner, the moments that followed the curtain rise seemed something of a letdown. In the current revival, for which Thomas Schippers is the conductor, this did not occur. The letdown occurred before the curtain was raised as the prelude alternately stormed and stumbled, plodded and raced to its conclusion. So inept a conception of a vital piece of music is rarely experienced in a presumably professional theatre. If the orchestra performed as if it didn't care, it could hardly be blamed.

Once the curtain was up, and George London appeared to sing his Bayreuth-bred Dutchman, the center of gravity shifted from pit to stage with a settling effect all around. And Schippers's command of his responsibility was more secure, his expenditure of effort better mated to judgment. He managed to get from here to there faster than most of his predecessors, which is one way, if not the best, of dealing with Wagner's impulsive, uneven, but inimitable score.

A particularly able, good-looking and strong-sounding cast had the central characterization of London as it axis. He towered over his first, second, and third mates in artistic stature as he did in physical height, dispensing that indispensable "aura" without which a Dutchman is but a bearded man in dark clothes. In etching an impersonation which belongs with his Amfortas and Wolfram, his Mandryka in "Arabella." London performed the music not only with a steady sense of purpose, but with a weary resignation (touched occasionally with unfulfilled hope) which gives the whole work its dramatic motivation. The other men were equally good and equally in the picture-Giorgio Tozzi as Daland without the gruffness associated with Germanic bassos and a flicker of humor eminently appealing, Karl Liebl as an uncommonly persuasive Erik, and the young American William Olvis as a steersman with a dramatic voice marked for bigger things.

Equally contributory to the total effect was the youthfully fervent Senta of Leonie Rysanek, who absorbed the eye with her romantically convincing appearance whether or not she always charmed the ear with her singing. In what has become somewhat of a vocal pattern with her, this Senta was alternately excellent and untidy. In full voice, the tones ring out impressively, and she commands a beautiful pianissimo. But in the middle register, at middle power, the sound is apt to be cloudy, poorly supported. For a woman so richly endowed with musicianship, temperament, and good looks to settle for "yes, but," when so much more is within her grasp, would be a pity. The audience response she generates with her searing full voice may be deception if it lulls her into complacency about her present limitations.

As for Schippers: the continuing trial by fire should be mated with music of more modest merits than Wagner if, the management is not to be convicted of indifference to its survival, or to his. That this was "Dutchman" with distinctions was due to an excellent cast, able stage direction by Herbert Graf, and careful use of the scenic designs descended from the Jones-Elson production of 1950, rather than to qualified musical direction. Indeed, Kurt Adler's chorus showed a better indoctrination in the spirit of the music than did the hard-driven orchestra.

Photographs of George London as the Dutchman and Leonie Rysanek as Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer by Louis Mélançon/Metropolitan Opera.

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