[Met Performance] CID:3900
Lohengrin {23} Boston Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/9/1885.


Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Theatre
April 9, 1885


Lohengrin...............Anton Schott
Elsa....................Anna Slach
Ortrud..................Marianne Brandt
Telramund...............Adolf Robinson
King Heinrich...........Josef Staudigl
Herald..................Joseph Miller

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

Unsigned review in the Boston Transcript

We remember hearing a great artist, Erminia Rudersdorff, once say, in speaking of Meyerbeer's "Huguenots": "[t]hroughout the music of the first three acts, no matter what its general or specific character may be, one feels the presence of an undercurrent of anxiety, disquiet and dread foreboding. One feels that there is a thunder cloud on the horizon." We were reminded of this last evening by Frl. Brandt's acting in the first act of "Lohengrin." During the whole of the act Ortrud is on the stage, prominently before the eyes of the audience; but she is virtually a mute personage; she has not a word to say until the ensemble of the finale, and even then her part has no conspicuousness. According to ordinary operatic cannons, she has nothing whatever to do in this act, except bring presents to the king. scene. Neither have any of the other characters anything to do with her; she takes no part in the action, and does nothing to make her husband even aware of her presence. There is hardly a note to the music that bears any reference, direct or indirect, to her. Her spirit does not pervade the orchestra until the second act. Yet Ortrud is really the mainspring of the whole action of the drama; she is the evil power that brings it all about; the initiative is hers, and it is she who has raised the "thunder-cloud on the horizon." Now Frl. Brandt made you feel this, from the beginning, with a cogency of conviction that was irresistible. Her by-play was unintermittent, but never for a moment obtrusive; saving her one moment of wild despair at Telramund's defeat, and a few indications of interest and curiosity, rather than dismay, at Lohengrin's arrival, not a single violent gesture escaped her. Her bearing was in general marked by a certain princely haughtiness and repose; her changes of facial expression were infinitely subtle, but were marked by little obtrusive play of feature. Whatever she did was done with extreme outward moderation. Yet, by her intrinsic dramatic genius, aided by a consummate histrionic skill, she made Ortrud's full personality pervade the whole act; there was not a moment at which her influence was not keenly felt. You saw at once that she had made Telramund completely her tool. Indeed, she carried the whole nodus and catastrophe of the drama in her very face; she was, in a word, diabolic! A more pervasive exhibition of personal force we have never witnessed on any stage; it was stupendous. In the following acts her acting was equally strong, and guided by the same fine artistic intelligence; only here she had but the ordinary task of an actress to perform, to carry out the idea plainly set forth by the poet and composer - no mean task, indeed, and one to which only a few great artists are fully grown. She did it superbly; but the first act she evolved, so to speak, entirely out of her own brain. Her singing was grand throughout. One little criticism on a point which gains prominence only by contrast with the perfection of the rest of her performance: in her wild sarcastic "ha, ha" called forth by Friedrich's "[a]ll heavenly powers on his side are ranged!" (Act II, Scene 1), she held the second note too long; the exclamation should explode like two cracks of a revolver. Ah, what a small spot on the man's face! Frl. Brandt is the queen of Ortruds. Herr Schott's Lohengrin is admirable in its heroic grandeur of conception. The dignity, spiritual loftiness and tenderness of the character are finely embodied. Perhaps Herr Schott lets it lose a little of its poetic and romantic flavor, and one misses that veil of mystery which should encompass the heaven-sent champion. Herr Schott impersonates Lohengrin with an infinite stateliness, refinement and sensibility; but he is a little downright and human; one feels him to belong rather to the Round Table than to the Holy Grail. His singing of the music, saving an occasional tendency to clip the end of a phrase, was extremely beautiful. In the "Legend of the Grail" and the final farewell to Elsa he rose to a sublime height, now of inspired ecstasy, now of human pathos. Frl. Slach seemingly has little capacity for conceiving the ideal and romantic side of Elsa's character; she acts with intelligence, but with little more. Her singing is excellent, and often expressive; her voice, at once strong and agreeable, overrides chorus and orchestra in ensemble passages with an easy power. We have rarely heard Elsa's part in the first finale given with such commanding effectiveness. Throughout the opera Frl. Slach, if not great, was more than acceptable. All she lacks is a certain spiritual sensibility. Herr Robinson was excellent as Telramund, acting and singing with fine dramatic vigor. Herr Staudigl made a nobly impressive king. The chorus did surprisingly well, and the orchestra was adequate. Mr. Damrosch has a good notion, in using some of the instruments to keep the voices up to pitch in thickish places. Such "dodges" are always excusable if they are necessary; and last evening they were generally very cleverly done. We fancy that very few of the audience noticed that the singers were bolstered up with trombones in the "unaccompanied" quintet in the first finale. Mr. Damrosch is highly to be complimented upon his intelligently moderate tempo in the closing allegro of this finale. In spite of Wagner's indignant protests, there have been few conductors, either in or out of Germany, willing to condescend to take this movement as the composer meant it to go. The cut made in this allegro is traditional, but bad. And, while we are once more on this subject of cuts, let us say frankly than, in all probability, Mr. Damrosch is not personally responsible for them; he merely conducts operas as they are mounted before he came.

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