[Met Performance] CID:61340
Der Rosenkavalier {19} Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 12/14/1915.

(Review)


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 14, 1915


DER ROSENKAVALIER {19}

Octavian.....................Margarete Ober
Princess von Werdenberg......Frieda Hempel
Baron Ochs...................Otto Goritz
Sophie.......................Edith Mason
Orphan.......................Sophie Braslau
Faninal......................Hermann Weil
Annina.......................Marie Mattfeld
Valzacchi....................Albert Reiss
Italian Singer...............Paul Althouse
Marianne.....................Rita Fornia
Mahomet......................Gloria Dubinsky
Princess' Major-domo.........Pietro Audisio
Orphan.......................Louise Cox
Orphan.......................Rosina Van Dyck
Orphan.......................Sophie Braslau
Milliner.....................Frieda Martin
Animal Vendor................Alfred Sappio
Notary.......................Basil Ruysdael
Leopold......................Ludwig Burgstaller
Faninal's Major-domo.........Max Bloch
Innkeeper....................Julius Bayer
Police Commissioner..........Carl Schlegel

Conductor....................Artur Bodanzky

Review signed F. L. W. in the Philadelphia Public Ledger

"DER ROSENKAVALIER" AT METROPOLITAN

First Philadelphia Performance of Strauss Opera With Ober in Title Role

"Der Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss had its first Philadelphia hearing at the Metropolitan last evening. It made a profound impression that rested chiefly upon the Viennese life and melodious swing of the score, the passionate conducting of Artur Bodanzky, the comic genius of Otto Goritz as Baron Ochs, the charm of Frieda Hempel's Princess, the sprightly figure of the versatile Margaret Ober in the name-part, and the inspired care of others given to the elaboration of the detail of minor roles.

It is a hard opera to sing: the effort lavished on the production has made it easy to hear. Last night's large and distinguished audience found it a wholly different matter from the premieres of "Salome" or "Elektra." Only at the start, in the instrumental prelude, was there a hint of those challenging acrid dissonances that keep on waiting in suspense for their retarted resolution.

The amusingly complicated argument proceeds to an overflowing measure of lively and lovely music. The score is haunted by bewitching waltz-tunes that tantalize and promise and suggest, and then are abruptly sundered by a quick caprice of the score. The music does not remind one of other writers: most of time it does not remind one of Richard Strauss. It does not look into the future with Schoenberg, neither is it built upon the lines of classical convention. It modulates and twists and turns continually, is alive with glancing light and shade, with stresses and pulsations, demanding just such a subtle, nervous, sensitive vigilance as Artur Bodanzky at all times gave to the reading.

The Prelude Is Brief

The instrumental prelude is short, requires about three minutes, giving little more than time for the strings to mount to a weltering frenzy that quickly falls away to languor and opens the curtain upon the lovesick Octavian kneeling at the feet of the Princess, who half reclines upon a sofa with his arms about her. In the first act especially, the orchestra surcharges the emotional background with strains reminiscent of the Viennese ballroom and a continued tantalizing fragmentary invitation to the dance. The orchestra, augmented by celesta, harps, saxophone and other instruments, is kept on tenterhooks. The composer demands much of the voices, but the tax is not so much on the range as on the sense of absolute pitch. There are sudden pitfalls for the unwary, and any effect of lyric abandon is only achieved by unsparing rehearsal. The composer offsets sophistication with simplicity at times. The duet of Sophie and Octavian in the last act is an example.

The long roster of principals exacts the utmost finesse even in the least of the roles. Nobody comes on the stage to stand like a thorn bush: everybody is a vivid shred of a plastic and sentinent picture. In the first act the room of the Princess is most picturesquely invaded by a crowd of solicitors of trade or charity: three orphans in black, with their anxious mother, a hairdresser and the apparatus of his profession, a vendor with fluffy dog and parrot and caged monkey, an attorney and his clerk with a goose quill in his perruque and a vast portfolio, these periwigs and goggles, three portly paunches and pale starvelings, might have stepped out of a Hogarth engraving.

But in the whole motley array the opera presented, the outstanding figure is patently that of Otto Goritz's superbly comic assumption of the ogling, leering, befuddled out gull, the amorist Baron. The Falstaffian figure he made at his entrance brought a climax of uproarious fun in the duel scene, where he rolled from the improvised couch, or in spasms of agony gripped his pillow and kicked it away; and again in the distraught interview with the supposed "Mariandel" when the absence of his wig is matched by the desertion of all his wits at once.

The role for pure comedy outdoes Goritz's delightful Birdcatcher in "The Magic Flute." It is round his participation that the brisk action of the music-drama is chiefly built. Yet for all the boisterous fun he did not neglect his duty as a singer. In the confusion that usually attends his entrances and his exile one might not notice that repeatedly he is called upon to strike a note across a difficult interval, poising upon it as exactly and for as instantly as a bee lights on flowers.

Margaret Ober seems to have caught exactly the spirit of the part of Octavian, the "Rose Cavalier." She darts about the stage, impudent or coy, brazen or reluctant, mischievous or abashed, in just the mercurial temper of the scene. In the latter part of the closing act, just as one begins to fear an anti-climax after all the liveliness, there comes a trio of the utmost beauty - in the second act there is an extended rapturous duet with Sophie - and in these episodes Miss Ober was particularly effective.

That trio was glorious: the house was entranced by it, but here, as elsewhere, no pace was allowed in the close-knit texture of the score for applause. The trio, of course, was with Edith Mason's Sophie and Frieda Hempel's Princess, and then came a delicious little duet with Sophie, na´ve and demure as any folk song.

There are not many arias as such. Generally the principals performed in association, and Frieda Hempel's soliloquies as the Princess did not allow the audience enough of one of the loveliest of voices. Her pensive reflection upon the passage of time and the death of love and beauty in the first act and her solitary singing at the outset of the trio were particularly delectable.

As she presages her fate of loneliness, the violins and the woodwind seem to share the tears in her voice. Basil Ruysdael's Notary with but one broken song to sing, was a wonderful bit of intelligent pantomime; Paul Althouse as the Singer had a delightful and typically Italian lyric for his sole contribution, and this was delivered superbly well.

There were salient examples of the fine work done in the smaller roles.

Hermann Weil's von Faninal sung resonantly and resolutely against the odds of the confusion due to the Baron's duel-wound. The Sophie of Edith Mason was an appealing figure of girlish ingenuousness, and one of the most sympathetic in the cast, though the voice in the upper register was inclined to stridency. Rita Fornia as Marianne, Albert Reiss as Valzacchi, Marie Mattfild as Annina (with a captivating waltz-refrain to sing to), were excellent, and the Little Negro of Goldie Dubini was a picturesque interpolation indeed. The re-entering of that fitting turbaned figure, Japser in hand, searching end to end in the darkened room for the missing handkerchief, is a charmingly original coda to an opera in all ways unusual.



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