[Met Performance] CID:42130
Parsifal {46} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/26/1908.

(Debut: Herbert Witherspoon
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 26, 1908 Matinee


PARSIFAL {46}
Wagner-Wagner

Parsifal................Erik Schmedes
Kundry..................Olive Fremstad
Amfortas................Fritz Feinhals
Gurnemanz...............Allen Hinckley
Klingsor................Otto Goritz
Titurel.................Herbert Witherspoon [Debut]
Voice...................Maria Ranzow
Esquire.................Rita Fornia
Esquire.................Henriette Wakefield
Esquire.................Albert Reiss
Esquire.................Willy Harden
Knight..................Julius Bayer
Knight..................Adolph Mühlmann
Flowermaiden............Lenora Sparkes
Flowermaiden............Rita Fornia
Flowermaiden............Rosina Van Dyck
Flowermaiden............Isabelle L'Huillier
Flowermaiden............Marie Mattfeld
Flowermaiden............Henriette Wakefield

Conductor...............Alfred Hertz

Director................Anton Schertel
Set Designer............Leopold Rothaug
Set Designer............Burghart & Co.
Costume Designer........Blaschke & Cie

Parsifal receieved six performances this season

Photograph of Olive Fremstad as Kundry in Parsifal by Herman Mishkin.


Review of Reginald de Koven in the World

WAGNER'S 'PARSIFAL' VERY WELL GIVEN

Famous Music Drama in Bill at Metropolitan Thanksgiving Matinee

No thanks are due to the management of Opera Milanese for one of the most, in many respects, impressive musical performances ever given in New York, that of Wagner's "Parsifal," which was the bill at the Metropolitan holiday matinee yesterday, for the production was the same as that given by Mr. Conried save where changes in the cast tended to weaken the general effect.

Van Rooy was certainly a better Amfortas than Feinhals; Blass as Gurnemanz certainly did not bore one as did Hinckley yesterday, and while Burgstaller's Parsifal might not have been ideal, it was so vastly superior to that of Schmedes that comparison is futile.

I never see a performance of "Parsifal" without thinking of the remark made to me by an unmusical English friend, during a Bayreuth performance some years ago, to the effect that "it would have been very pretty if they only hadn't sung." And after hearing the flower scene practically ruined by Schmedes's general inefficiency and lack of dramatic power and vocal force, I felt there was more truth than poetry in the remark.

If Wagner's music can be sung as Fremstad as Kundry sang it yesterday, with a beauty of phrase and diction, a quality of tone which was neither a bleat nor a bellow in usual German fashion, and a finished method of production, which made it entirely vocal and entirely delightful, why in heaven's name cannot other singers do the same? Are we ever to be subjected to the abominable German method of declamatory singing which, for example, made Feinhals as Amfortas unable to accomplish a vocal phrase or even hold a tone without wavering and wobbling? Yes, it would, indeed have been prettier if most of the principals in the cast except Fremstad, whose Kundry is a singularly impressive, poetic and dramatic impersonation, and Goritz, who, as Klingsor, was admirable, "hadn't sung."

But in spite of defects like these, the beauty and completeness of the scenic production, the superb orchestra, conducted by Hertz, with marked reverence and knowledge of every detail of effect and a reserve and continence so admirable as to merit the highest praise, combined with the excellence of the ensemble effects, to make the performance enjoyable and on the whole worthy of the most majestic work ever penned by a musician.

It is as well I think for such a work, which is more a solemn quasi religious production than a musical piece of any operatic type to be given at a matinee rather than in the evening, as some kind of atmosphere appropriate to the occasion may be maintained. And yet, for all its real solemnity and sincerity, I can never get rid of the instinctive feeling of repulsion at the references to the Christ in placing the Eucharist on the stage, and the biblical symbolism of the washing of the feet of the Savior by the repentant Magdalen as typified by Kundry. "Parsifal" is so mystic, so symbolic that even reverently as it was done yesterday and so accepted by the audience as shown by the most reserved applause, it seemed out of place at a Thanksgiving matinee. Surely Good Friday would be a more appropriate day.

All the small roles were adequately filled. Mmes. Fornia, Wakefield and MM. Reiss and Harden were entirely efficient and as the esquires and MM Bayer and Muhlmann equally successful as the knights. Miss Sparkes as the First Flower Maiden of the first group, and Miss L'Huillier, as that of the second, in voice and appearance were unusually attractive, while the other principal flower maidens, Mmes. Fornia, Van Dyck, Mattfeld and Wakefield all lent effective aid to the really delightful singing of the "Flower" music. The programm informed me that on this occasion the orchestra consisted of 135 men, and I can quite believe it, as there was a richness and sonority to the orchestral tone which was simply superb. But although the choruses in the dome were exceptionally well sung both on and off the stage, I can hardly believe information, from the same source, that told me that there was a boy's chorus present, as I heard nothing of the kind. Possibly Mr. Gerry or the Mayor intervened to prevent. If the rather small if sweet voice of Herbert Witherspoon may be taken as an indication Titurel must have been so old as to be almost inaudible, though the orchestra was tempered to a minimum for hi,.

The scenery, especially the transformation scenes, was on a scale of beauty and completeness which threw the 'Aida" effort of the present management completely in the shade, and had it not been for Schmedes's very ineffective Parsifal, who neither in appearance, voice nor action, approached the role in any way, the performance might have been characterized as wholly admirable. It was indeed a better one than one is likely to see at Bayreuth these days, as in certain respects, and notably in the Flower Girls scene, the picture was much more effective. After all, we may have cause to regret even Mr. Conried yet. The performance went on schedule time, but I wish I could have curtailed the interminable "longueurs" of Amfortas, Gurnemanz, though Hinckley's voice at least sounded well.




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