[Met Performance] CID:27870
Lohengrin {183} Matinee ed. Los Angeles, California: 11/9/1901.

(Review)


Los Angeles, California
Hazard's Pavilion
November 9, 1901 Matinee


LOHENGRIN {183}

Lohengrin...............Andreas Dippel
Elsa....................Marcella Sembrich
Ortrud..................Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Telramund...............David Bispham
King Heinrich...........Robert Blass
Herald..................Adolph Mühlmann

Conductor...............Walter Damrosch

Review of E. F. Kubel in the Los Angeles Herald

BRILLIANT ENDING OF THE OPERA SEASON

A Superb Production of 'Lohengrin' was the Triumph of the Three Productions

It was altogether a different affair from the rather depressing performance of "Carmen" when Mr. Damrosch swung his baton before the eyes of his forces in "Lohengrin." The young leader is magnetic, forceful and of a vigorous and decided individuality, and he swayed and held his people in a way that was full of the breath of life.

The underlying idea of "Lohengrin" is that the woman who does not trust implicitly and unquestioningly merits punishment. It is fortunate that Wagner made his heroine attach her faith to a demi-god or something like it, for if he had been an ordinary mortal and the rule held good in mundane affairs, it is an open question if there would have been enough penance in the world to make good the breaches of absolute confidence. However, the moral is that if Elsa had kept her wits about her and held the insinuating Ortrud at a distance, knowing full well what a week reed the sorceress was to lean on, she would have lived happily ever after. The ordinary mortal, however, there is a poser in Ortrud's hint that Elsa did not even know what to call her husband. So, "the Doubt" is easily implanted, and the "Mystery of the Name" becomes a serious matter, for a husband without a name would appall any ordinary wife, and Elsa, simple soul, does not appear to have been much above the average in point of intellect. Some of her apologists take it that she was afraid of losing her Heaven-sent lover, for the wily Ortrud had hinted that if he came mysteriously, he might go again in the same way, and that this temporarily unhinged her mind. That her love worked her woe, and her curiosity, is the contention of those advocates. But whatever it was it is to be noted that it gives Wagner the best opportunity for expressing deep pathos and human misery, in the entire range of his operas. When Lohengrin announces his name, he covers himself and Elsa with a pall of woe; the end is inexpressibly sad, for there is no hope, only gloom, and the episode of the restoration of Godfrey to life, is only a fitful gleam in the darkness.

The theme of "Lohengrin" deals with the supernatural in the person of the Swan Knight, and his power for good is contrasted with and combats the element of evil represented by Ortrud, in the outcome of which the Good triumphs. On the whole the opera is romantic, and thus, necessarily, to some extent, spectacular, but Wagner first showed his theory of what an art-work should be in this opera. It is the first of his works in which he forsook the Italian plan, and adopted the "continuous melody," in which the music fits the text and exploits faithfully its suggestions. So "Lohengrin" is more convincing that "Tannhäuser." And in the beginning of the second act, in the scene of the bitter recrimination of Ortrud and Telramund, the departure from the sweetness of the melody is sharply marked. The genius of Wagner shows in this scene, as nowhere else in the opera, what he meant by a perfect union between music and the text, scene and action of the dramatic situation. The gloom, the bitterness, and hate, are voiced in the musical accompaniment as they had never been shown before during the development of "The Muse of the Future." Wagner's later music-dramas display more fully his theory of organic unity between poetry and music, but in this, the most popular of his operas, we have the first exploitation.

A Memorable Rendition

In the performance of "Lohengrin" yesterday afternoon the characters were interpreted by some of the greatest singers of the day. Herr Dippel, in the title-role, gave last year's reading again; with a voice rich, smooth and sonorous, a declaration that was faultless, and enunciation that was clear and beautiful, a reading that was exquisite, and a presence that was superbly dominant, this great tenor gave us an ideal Swan Knight.

The interest of many of the audience lay, however, in the interpreter of the part of Elsa, Mme. Sembrich, the most eminent living exponent of the old Italian art of singing, usually called "bel canto." She is an absolute master of polished legato singing, while her work in the operas of Mozart and others, in which brilliancy and sympathy are demanded, have found her the greatest florid dramatic artist of the lighter class of modern times. Her voice is a pure, high soprano of exquisite color, which ranged from the C below the treble clef to F in alt. Doubtless the greatest of living artists in her own field, it was a matter of some curiosity with may persons to see how this famous colorature singer would demean herself and how she would proclaim herself in the heavier Wagnerian music.

Sembrich's Triumph

The feeling was heightened by the fact that Mme. Gadski, a trained Wagnerian singer, was placed in the cast of the Meyerbeer opera, while Mme. Sembrich was given the former's legitimate place in "Lohengrin." Then there was the irresistible desire to institute comparison with Nordica, last year's Elsa, who had been accepted as the greatest interpreter of the role ever seen with us. But a great artist, a singer who possesses the fine taste and eminent abilities of Mme. Sembrich, quickly sweeps away such thoughts. Her art, her individuality, her force, triumph over all doubts, and while she may not meet the ideal of many in her presentation of the role of Elsa, it is not to be gainsaid that in the flowing music of the part she rose superior to her surroundings and sang, as a neighbor of mine expressed it audibly, "with the voice of an angel."

Like Nordica, Mme. Sembrich seems to be drawing away from florid parts and adopting the broad and impressive style which is in contrast with the role that calls mainly for vocal agility. As contrasted with Nordica it is doubtful if she will ever achieve the potent impressiveness which marks the American singer. Yet, in the duet of the second act she rose nobly to the trying occasion with so magnificent a singer as Schumann-Heink, and it is improbable that for years will be heard so royal, so complete and so thoroughly interpretive a second act of this opera as was given by the present company.

Schumann-Heink's Great Art

The act is Ortrud's, but never before in the operatic experience of the people of this city has this fact been brought home so gloriously as by the magnificent singing and acting of Schumann-Heink. This great artist impressed by her vocal eminence as well as by her dramatic intensity and power, and she, Sembrich, Bispham, Dippel and Blass were richly entitled to the repeated recalls an almost hysterical audience insisted upon. Mr. Bispham, in the role of Telramund, displayed a noble voice and marked histrionic talent. Mr. Blass, the King, while below the rank of De Reszke or Plançon, is possessed of a good voice land presented his part with discretion. Mr. Muhlmann, the Telramund of last year, made an imposing Herald.

In the matter of costuming and ceremonial, this performance of "Lohengrin" eclipses any hitherto had, and Mr. Damrosch seemed at times inspired and developed the resources of his orchestra to the fullest extent. The chorus was also highly effective, so that, all things considered, yesterday's "Lohengrin" is, by all odds, the most notable ever witnessed here.



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