[Met Performance] CID:49600
Tristan und Isolde {106} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/4/1911.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 4, 1911


Tristan.................Carl Burrian
Isolde..................Olive Fremstad
Kurwenal................Walter Soomer
Brangäne................Louise Homer
King Marke..............Allen Hinckley
Melot...................William Hinshaw
Sailor's Voice..........Glenn Hall
Shepherd................Albert Reiss
Steersman...............Julius Bayer

Conductor...............Arturo Toscanini

Director................Anton Schertel
Set Designer............Mariano Fortuny
Set Designer............Antonio Rovescalli
Set Designer............Mario Sala
Set Designer............Angelo Parravicini
Set Designer............Vittorio Rota
Costume Designer........Maison Chiappa

Tristan und Isolde received four performances this season.

Review from unknown newspaper and reviewer


Toscanini Inspires Both the Orchestra and Singers


Carl Burrian and Olive Fremstad in Principal Parts - Louise Homer as Brangaene

Before an audience that listened in rapt silence to a message of genius unsurpassed and after every curtain fell expressed its pent-up enthusiasm tumultuously, the Metropolitan Opera Company last night presented for the first time this season one of the greatest productions in its repertory - Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." It was no new achievement, to be sure, which thus held a large audience enthralled through almost four hours. For Arturo Toscanini's interpretation of the greatest drama of love the lyric stage has ever known was introduced to New Yorkers two years ago. But the inspired powers of this great Italian - powers that have no national limitations - illuminate the pages of Wagner's wonderful score with such a profusion of emotional lights that the ordinary mind cannot retain the full impression from one hearing to another and is overwhelmed at every experience as by a new revelation.

There is not a single flaw in Toscanini's reading of "Tristan und Isolde." There is not one tempo which even the most sensitive listener would ask to have faster or slower, not one accent which seems exaggerated or too subdued; not one nuance to heighten the poetic impression, which he fails to bring into prominence. Technically the performance of the orchestra, as trained and inspired by him is perfect in every detail of dynamics, rhythm, and phrasing. Yet with all the conductor's attention to every thread of a compass skein, with all the delicately elaborated refinement of his reading, the breath of a fiery temperament blows unceasingly over the surging musical web that the orchestra brings into tonal life under his hands.

With what consummate mastery Toscanini rears the tragic structure of the first act, bringing sharply into notice every significant phase and sustaining the dramatic movement with unfailing power! How tenderly he unfolds the lyric beauties of the second act - beauties too often neglected by conductors - while missing never a throb of passion! What a tremendous crescendo of emotional stress and strain his third act represents, halting momentarily in breathless hesitation, only to struggle forward again toward the overpowering culmination! How inexpressibly tense the note of tragedy and pathos which he concentrates into fearful poignancy how jubilant, how exultant, and yes how awful the joy of the ultimate goal - happiness and death! After such experiences it is impossible to write calmly. The achievement of this conductor defied careful analysis. His "Tristan" is one of the great interpretive deeds of the present age. Alas the Wagner himself could not hear it!

There have been greater impersonators of the title roles than those of last night. Admirable as Fremstad's Isolde is, she is not a Lilli Lehmann; finely though Burrian sings Tristan, he cannot make one forget Jean de Reszke. Walter Soomer, too, is not an ideal Kurwenal and makes one long for the inimitable portrayal of Van Rooy. Such consideration, however, are submerged in the one overpowering impression of an ensemble production such as New York has never before known, not even under Anton Seidl - a production that through the medium of Toscanini bears the impress of something almost superhuman.

The current of inspiration that flashed from the great director, who as usual carried out his tremendous task without the aid of a score, communicated itself to every man in the orchestra and to every singer on the stage. Mme. Olive Fremstad, who because of the unexpected illness of Mme. Lucy Weidt, undertook at short notice and most magnanimously to sing Isolde, which role had been allotted to the other soprano, showed evidence in the first act of not being perfectly prepared for her task. Yet she probably has never sung the part more eloquently, never came nearer to representing the character of Wagner's Heroine in her true majestic outlines. In the lyric passages of Wagner's music Mme. Fremstad is distinctly handicapped, for, after all, her voice is that of a mezzo-soprano. In the last few years, however, she has gained a remarkable command of mezzo-voce even in high positions, and it is quite astonishing what admirable results she can obtain in music which so taxes the resources of her art as that of the second act of "Tristan."

Admirably equipped vocally and musically Carl Burrian yet lacks some of the attributes which a perfect portrayal of Tristan demands. Toscanini has so extraordinary an influence on the Bohemian tenor, however, that by force of personality he includes into his performance many of the poetic refinements which that excellent artist himself lacks. To be sure, he cannot change Burrian's personal appearance, which lends itself poorly to romantic illusion, and the singer's attempt last night to improve upon his usual make-up, was hardly successful. However, a performance so deeply earnest, so impassioned, so intense and so musicianly at the same time, as Burrian gave last night, makes all but superficial observers forget more obvious shortcomings.

Louise Homer's Brangaene, one of her most beautiful portrayals - always delights, even when the contralto is not at her best vocally, which seemed to be the case last night. Soomer's Kurwenal would be more satisfactory if, instead of exaggerating superficially the inherent vigor and energy of that character, as he did last night, he were to suggest more subtly, both by music and histrionic means, the pathetic love and devotion of Tristan's faithful servant. Allen Hinckley repeated his familiar impersonation of King Marke, William Hinshaw was the Melot, Albert Reiss had the part of the Shepherd, Hayer that of the Helmsman and Glen Hall sang the measures of the Sailor.

The audience was a large one, though speculators were selling some tickets at reduced prices shortly before the beginning of the performance. After each act the singers were applauded enthusiastically. Fremstad's appearances before the curtain, however, after the second act, called forth the most vociferous demonstrations.

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