[Met Performance] CID:3880
Tannhäuser {14} Boston Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/7/1885.

(Review)


Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Theatre
April 7, 1885


TANNHÄUSER {14}

Tannhäuser..............Anton Schott
Elisabeth...............Amalie Materna
Wolfram.................Adolf Robinson
Venus...................Anna Slach
Hermann.................Joseph Kögel
Walther.................Otto Kemlitz
Heinrich................Martin Paché
Biterolf................Joseph Miller
Reinmar.................Ludwig Wolf
Shepherd................Anna Stern

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

Unsigned review in the Boston Evening Transcript

The overture, admirably conducted by Mr. Damrosch, was well played; the orchestra is not large enough to give it its full effect, but to those listeners who had the good luck to sit on the left side of the house, near the strings, and were able to abstract their attention from the engrossing conversation which went on round them, it sounded superbly. Mr. Damrosch uses the original version of the first two scenes, but the one made by Wagner for Paris. This is quite wise, for the company wholly lacks the means for staging the newer and more extended Bacchanal, and we must own to preferring the conciser original second scene to the more elaborate Paris version. When Wagner prepared the latter, he had already written "Tristan" and seemed no longer to find himself quite at home in the older style of "Tannhäuser." As it was, the staging of the first scene was ridiculous enough, and no attempt was made even to begin to carry out the composer's idea. The short siren choruses were far better sung than we have yet heard them here, but the bacchanalian revel of the nymphs and satyrs was not even hinted at. One should, however, not find too much fault with this. With the exception of the "Rheingold," "Tannhäuser" presents greater scenic difficulties than any other of Wagner's operas, and this first scene requires more than can reasonably be expected of a travelling company. The second scene was excellently sung by Herr Schott and Frl. Slach; the latter artist has a good, clear, musical voice, she sings true and with excellent artistic intelligence. She made Venus's music tell strongly. Herr Schott sang Tannhäuser's song (omitting the second stanza, as they say in church) grandly. There was an odd hitch in the should-be sudden transformation to the third scene. Venus stood faithfully over her trap, but the trap would not take her down; so she had to walk off up the valley, and get back into her Hörselberg as best she could. We fear sorely that she never did get back there, for when she reappeared in the third act it was not in the bowels of the mountain, but again in the middle of the valley outside. Poor goddess! Tramping about alone like a vagrant through Thuringia in the midst of an unsympathizing thirteenth century! Frl. Stern sang the shepherd's song grievously out of tune; so much so as to frighten Tannhäuser off the stage, instead of his remaining "motionless, with upraised arms and countenance through the whole first part of the scene," as Wagner directs. The pilgrims began their chorus a little flat, and ended it heaven knows where. When the Landgrave and singers came on in the fourth scene, the good singing began once more. Herr Robinson especially distinguished himself both by his acting and singing; his delivery of dramatic recitative is admirable, and in Wolfram's "cantilena" "War's Zauber, war is reine Macht" he sang with great expressiveness, albeit he should be a little on his guard against "bellowing" in such passages. Herr Schott's acting in this scene was fine, although the severe cutting in the closing allegro robbed him of much of his singing. Upon the whole, the great septet was given very effectively, but not always in tune, nor very smoothly. Herr Kemlitz, for instance, sang flat with terrible persistency. Frau Materna's delivery of the first two scenes in the second act was exquisite. Here is an artist, who, both in song and action, knows the value of finish in details. Her impersonation of Elisabeth is at once heroic and delicate. Herr Schott bore his part in the duet well. Herr Kögel sang the ensuing scene well enough and the grand march and chorus was given with considerable brilliancy. The scenery was hideous enough, but the stage management of this scene (which, together with the singing contest, was given in its entirety) was admirable, and worthy of all praise. The singing contest was excellently well done and made a superb climax of excitement. Herr Robinson sang Wolfram's two songs almost to perfection, and Herr Schott sang with contagious fire. Herr Kemlitz made Walther's song rather lame, and Herr Miller did not seem quite up to one's ideal of the fiery Biterolf, but Herr Schott's admirable byplay during his opponent's songs kept up the excitement, and his final outburst into the song in praise of Venus was overwhelming - although he missed the last climax at the words, "Zieht in den Berg der Venus ein!" The concerted movement of the finale proved too much for the singers, and were, to say the truth, rather butchered. They were also tremendously spent, especially the concluding allegro, which was indeed to ludicrously insignificant proportions. Herr Schott's acting in this scene - he has not much to sing - was excellent. But Materna! Both in song and action, she was simply transcendent. For exquisite finish, poignancy of expression without violence, depth of tragic sentiment - in a word, for absolute mastery, this artist seems incomparable. It was utterly superb. Herr Robinson sang the opening arioso part of the third act, and later on, the "Abendstern" song very beautifully in spite of the difficult part being cut. Frau Materna's acting in this scene was wonderfully beautiful as ever, and her singing of the prayer (also cut, however,) absolutely beggars praise. Herr Schott rose to his highest pitch of power in "Tannhäuser's narrative," singing and acting with immense effectiveness. The trio between Tannhäuser, Wolfram and Venus went very well indeed, Frau Slach singing Venus's solos very finely. The last pilgrim's chorus, together with the announcement of the miracle of the pope's staff putting forth shoots of fresh green, was omitted altogether. So we fear that poor Tannhäuser has, by this time, got beyond the power of salvation after all! The orchestra played excellently throughout.



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