[Met Performance] CID:79180
Tristan und Isolde {152} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/28/1921.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 28, 1921


Tristan.................Johannes Sembach
Isolde..................Margarete Matzenauer
Kurwenal................Clarence Whitehill
Brangäne................Jeanne Gordon
King Marke..............Robert Blass
Melot...................Robert Leonhardt
Sailor's Voice..........Angelo Badà
Shepherd................George Meader
Steersman...............Louis D'Angelo

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Tristan und Isolde received four performances this season.

Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun

'Tristan' With Familiar Cast is Sung at the Metropolitan

Wagnerian Opera Once More Given in German - Mme. Matzenauer as Isolde Reveals Several Voices

Tristan kept his annual tryst with the Metropolitan Opera House last night. For the first time this season the great Wagnerian love drama, "Tristan und Isolde" was sung there. The cast was identical with last year's; the news centered only on the change of languages. "Tristan" has come back in its native German. Which gives a little more reason for understanding a little less of its singing.

"Tristan" was revived last season after a keenly felt absence from the war days. Discretion being the better part of love, the management thought it wiser to make out its preliminary papers in English - so the translation was made, and opera in English, that great battle hack of the "Fratres Minores;" had its year of trial. "Parsifal" and "Lohengrin" were tried even longer, and even now continue in our own tongue - mainly, so the frank statement runs, because their large choruses cannot be readily retaught. "Tristan" and the coming "Walküre" are to be switched back into their original for the equally frank reasons that they sound better, certainly more Wagnerian, and that their audiences evidently prefer them so. Nobody seems to have, pretended that German opera in English was more than a stopgap - a way of having Wagner at any lingual cost. So the Old Guard surrenders - without stopping its ears!

Not that it makes a great operatic difference. Wagner mounts to ecstasies and plunges to tragedies of spirit which either Greek or Chinese would express as well or as weakly. He made of "Tristan" so supreme a story, such ineffable music, that it would pound the heart, make throb the throat, if it were sheerest pantomime. In the passionate sweep of it all else of love in other operas is crushed or driven off into little puddles of cool speculation. "Pelléas" more wistful, more exquisite in its meaningful pauses - but "Pelléas" is seen through a gauze, sweetly if not darkly. "Tristan" is seen, heard, felt face to face, the breath of it scorching all senses, the anguish and delirium, shame and exultation of it climbing to frustrations unmistakably as physical, terrible, superb as the epical struggle of a Signorelli fresco. Mr. Bodanzky conducted it a good deal like that. He struck the big, dramatic notes.

"Tristan und Isolde," in the indistinct German of last night, had this cast - practically no new one to the present dynasty: Johanes Sembach as Tristan, Robert. Blass as King Marke, Margarete Matzenatuer as Isolde, Clarence Whitehill as Kurvenal, Robert Leonhardt as Melot, Jeanne Gordon as Brangäne, George Meader as a Shepherd, Louis D'Angelo as the Steersman, and Angelo Bada, A Sailor's voice. Mr. Meader was new to his picturesque little share of the third act, but handled it with good skill.

Sembach was able (thanks, perhaps, to the return to his own more familiar tongue) to give a more satisfactory performance than he did in the title role of "Lohengrin." He is to the "Tristan" manner trained and knows and uses the style of it. His voice carried neither ring nor rose, however; it was full of so much of the inevitable bleat that one could be afraid the shepherd would think him a strayed member of the flock. Mr., Whitehill was, as he always is a magnificent, stoic Kurvenal. Mr. Blass as "Old King Marke" (quoting Old Pop Flaccus), struck an attitude and sang for half an hour without any fatigue - to himself. He performed his part well as the eternal husband.

Mme. Matzenauer, an Isolde of some dimensions if not of godly size, and of voluptuous stage beauty, sang in several voices most which were full of her old warmth and velvet. The upper reaches were heinous and thrust some fearful exclamation points upon the poetry she could attain. Mme. Gordon, so like her in voice, was beautiful again and sang well and with good feeling for her subsidiary part.

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