[Met Performance] CID:197100
Lohengrin {518} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/1/1964., Broadcast


Metropolitan Opera House
February 1, 1964 Matinee Broadcast


Lohengrin...............Sándor Kónya
Elsa....................Régine Crespin
Ortrud..................Nell Rankin
Telramund...............Walter Cassel
King Heinrich...........Ernst Wiemann
Herald..................Calvin Marsh
Noble...................William Stanz
Noble...................Arnold Kirschberg
Noble...................John Trehy
Noble...................Vladimir Chistiakov

Conductor...............Joseph Rosenstock

Director................Nathaniel Merrill
Set designer............Charles Elson

Lohengrin received eight performances this season.

Rebroadcast on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

Review of Irving Kolodin in the February 15, 1964 issue of the Saturday Review

Kónya's "Lohengrin"

In the time since he first (and last) sang Lohengrin at his Metropolitan Opera debut in November 1961, Sándor Konya has brought his total of performances of Wagner's Swan Knight very close to an even 200 in a sequence that started in 1958. This could mean much or little, depending on where and with whom they have been sung. Fortunately, enough of them have been at Bayreuth for a real Wagnerian discipline to prevail, which means that the Lohengrin he sang lately is the best that has been heard at the Metropolitan in a decade at least.

As noted at his debut, his is a voice of quality as well as volume, freely produced in the area of A and B, where even the better Wagner tenors tend to become constricted. The gratifying signs of improvement this time were not so much what has been added, but what has been eliminated - a tendency to the sob, the catch in the throat that is sometimes confused (primarily by those who employ it) with "emotion." It is easily overdone in Italian roles, and it has no place at all in the German. Somehow, in some circumstance, Kónya has been persuaded that his Lohengrin can very well do without it, and the surgery has left the patient much better off than before.

Thus, this was a fluent, beautifully controlled vocal effort, from the open*ing thanks to the closing farewell to the swan, with the Narrative as a proper climax after an elegantly sung love duet. As he delivered it, one felt the full impact of the text in the recitation of his origins, making it in truth the narration it was meant to be rather than merely an exercise in vocal production. With so excellent a protagonist to build around, the long-wanted new production of "Lohengrin" at the Metropolitan should become a priority project, if only to resolve the "misalliance" of costuming that prevailed on this occasion, with Kónya in a blinding Bayreuth gold, and the others wearing whatever they had brought along. As for the "nobles" of Brabant, they were clearly an underprivileged lot.

For such a new production, Kónya has a strong ally in conductor Joseph Rosenstock, who kept order among orchestra and chorus while forging steadily through the sea of troubles that are ever present in a Wagner opera. Here they tended to concern Régine Crespin's Elsa more than anything else, especially in the "a cappella" quintet near the end of Act I, where she had a leading, off-pitch part. This is, on the whole, an equivocal role for her, as her natural disposition to a driving, dramatic production has to be constantly held in check to suit the lyrically limpid music Wagner wrote for his dream-wracked character. She made the effort with all conscience and didn't overproduce, either for the "Dream" in Act I or "Euch lüften" in Act II; but the sound tended to be under supported and thus fade from hearing. Once past the middle of Act II, Crespin's solid virtues, including an ability to dominate the strongest ensemble, made for very much better results. On the whole, her Wagnerian future would seem to be toward Elisabeth and Isolde rather than the lighter Elsa.

As the quibbling couple, Walter Cassel (Telramund) and Nell Rankin (Ortrud) gave little cause for regret that Wagner's fate for them was lethal. Each gets the text out, in time and on pitch, but the vocal sound adds little to the ear appeal of what they are doing. This did not deter some overwrought enthusiast from a hoarse "Bravo" after Miss Rankin's shrill delivery of her invocation to the gods in Act II. Ernest Weimann is short both of the top and the bottom for Henry's music, which left him a rather middle-class king. Little wonder, then, that in such company Kónya sounded more than ordinarily like a visitor from a distant land.

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