[Met Performance] CID:193180
Tristan und Isolde {382} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/8/1963.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 8, 1963


TRISTAN UND ISOLDE {382}
Wagner-Wagner

Tristan.................Karl Liebl
Isolde..................Birgit Nilsson
Kurwenal................Walter Cassel
Brangäne................Irene Dalis
King Marke..............Jerome Hines
Melot...................Calvin Marsh
Sailor's Voice..........George Shirley
Shepherd................Paul Franke
Steersman...............Louis Sgarro

Conductor...............Georg Solti

Director................Herbert Graf
Staged by...............Ralph Herbert
Designer................Teo Otto

Tristan und Isolde received five performances this season.

Review of Everett Helm in the February 15, 1963 issue of Musical America

The first performance this season (February 8) at the Metropolitan Opera of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" was, on the one hand, a great, on the other, a harrowing, experience. On the very afternoon of the evening performance it was not certain whether Karl Liebl, suffering from a bad cold, would be able to sing at all in the part of Tristan. It is to Liebl's enormous credit that he appeared, for no other Tristan was available either in America or Europe.

Whether he was wise in so doing is a matter for speculation, for obviously he was suffering from ill health that affected his singing, Liebl is a fine singer and equally important, a fine artist. In his portrayal of Tristan he scrupulously avoided any posturing and theatrical gestures. In his whole attitude he was dignified and convincing. By husbanding his vocal resources he was able to finish out the evening. In the softer passages, notably in the duet "O sink hernieder" in Act II he gave a glimpse of what he can do when he is not ill.

Birgit Nilsson as Isolde gave a performance which words are inadequate to describe. She sang the taxing role with perfect ease and complete mastery, achieving perfection of line and phrasing and filling every note with meaning. Her understanding of the musical, dramatic and psychological implications of the part has in recent years deepened to such an extent that we have no hesitancy in comparing her to Flagstad in her prime. It may seem like quibbling if we suggest that she desist from the scarf-waving immediately preceding Tristan's entrance in Act II. If this is so, we choose to quibble, for this bit of "stage business" only detracts. We might also suggest that the lighting during this entire act is hideous-as is the stage set. But apparently no amount of protesting will alter the Met's "tradition" of staging-a very bad tradition indeed.

The important part of Brangäne was in the excellent hands (and vocal chords) of Irene Dalis, who sang superbly and "acted" just a bit too much. One had the feeling that she was playing and not living the role. In her long dialogue with Isolde in Act I she displayed remarkable musicianship, and her invisible "Einsam wachend" in Act II could scarcely have been more impressive.

The ungrateful role of the injured King Marke is often a weak link in the chain. Not so as sung by Jerome Hines, whose fine voice and bearing made the part entirely convincing. Walter Cassel was a satisfactory Kurvenal, and the remaining roles were adequately cast.

George Solti provided an eminently well integrated and flexible reading of the score. Under his expert baton the orchestra outdid itself in accuracy and responsiveness.




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