[Met Performance] CID:85170
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {144} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/19/1923.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 19, 1923


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {144}

Hans Sachs..............Clarence Whitehill
Eva.....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Walther von Stolzing....Rudolf Laubenthal
Magdalene...............Kathleen Howard
David...................George Meader
Beckmesser..............Gustav Schützendorf
Pogner..................Paul Bender
Kothner.................Carl Schlegel
Vogelgesang.............Max Bloch
Nachtigall..............Louis D'Angelo
Ortel...................Paolo Ananian
Zorn....................Angelo Badà
Moser...................Pietro Audisio
Eisslinger..............Giordano Paltrinieri
Foltz...................James Wolfe
Schwarz.................William Gustafson
Night Watchman..........Arnold Gabor

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


Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Tribune

"Die Meistersinger" Performed Again, With a New Eva in the Cast

The irreverent young knight, Sir Walter von Stolzing, went again to St. Katherine's-on-Broadway last evening to resume his indecorous flirtation with Miss Eva Pogner during the service - though one had supposed that the affair was settled ten days ago at their public betrothal in the last scene of "Die Meistersinger." But no, there he was again carrying on deplorably from behind his pillar in the Metropolitan's Katherinekirche, as Mr. Bodanzky finished the prelude and the saffron curtains opened on Professor Kautsky's version of sixteenth century Nuremberg, with the congregation singing its chorales and the scent of the linden trees and elder blossoms drifting in on the orchestral air. And there once more was Eva in the Pogner family pew, "sweetly smiling, drooping her eyes" in due accordance with Wagner's stage directions - and also "ashamed," as well she might be.

But lo! It was another Eva. For the Metropolitan, rich this year in stars, rejoices in the possession of two Evas, and last night, for the first time here, in the season's second performance of "Die Meistersinger,." Eva was Elisabeth Rethberg. The cast was otherwise that of the first performance in the [first] week, with Mr. Whitehill as Sachs, Mr. Laubenthal as Walter, Mr. Schützendorf as Beckmesser, Miss Howard as Magdalene, Mr. Meader as David and Mr. Bender as Pogner.

We expressed last week our candid, if wholly ungallant, opinion of Wagner's Eva; we said that she seemed to us the reverse of engrossing - one of the least magnetic of Wagner's lyric ladies. She has some enchantingly lovely music to sing, and we should miss her dreadfully if she went away and never came back - and after all she is more interesting than Gounod's Marguerite. But Wagner has not made her a salient figure dramatically, and there are ways of playing her which make her seem almost unendurably insipid.

Miss Easton avoided these pitfalls, after her own fashion, at the first performance. Miss Rethberg, after a quite different fashion, did so last night. We should say that Miss Easton's Eva is the more subtle and intense, and perhaps the more rewarding to diligent and continuous observation, but we fancy that Miss Rethberg's is nearer to Wagner's not very complex or profound conception.

The German soprano shows us an Eva who, to begin with, has charm; and that in itself, elementary as it seems, is an achievement worthy of loud hosannahs; for how many German Evas can one recall of whom this could truthfully be said? Also, she is alert and intelligently responsive to the flow of circumstance and emotion that surrounds and reacts upon her. In her interview with Sachs in the second act she leaves you no doubt whatever concerning her motives and desires; and her acting throughout is adroitly planned and graphically expressive. Furthermore, she sings her music delightfully. We have heard Eva memorably sung in New York - by the Emma Eames of a generation ago, by the Easton of today, and by half a dozen others in between. But we have not often heard the exquisite lyric contours of Eva's music more sensitively traced than they were last night in Miss Rethberg's singing; and the limpid youthfulness of her voice was a continual refreshment to the ear. But Miss Rethberg distressed us by the exhibition of a wig such as never was on land or sea. Must all Evas be so flagrantly, so blatantly, flaxen? We await the Eva who shall be courageous enough to grant her Walter the incomparable satisfaction of falling in love with a brunette.

But it is necessary to say that the Hans Sachs of Mr. Whitehill again seemed the chief glory of this production. Its mellow sweetness, its wise and gentle tolerance, its deep fountains of humor and benignity have evidently sprung from a singularly loving and intimate comprehension of Wagner's wonderful score. And this fine understanding of the essential spirit of the work was again and again made manifest last night - in the singing and acting of the principals, in the playing of the orchestra and in the poetic and eloquent reading of the score by Mr. Bodanzky. Here, indeed, was the veritable Nuremberg of Wagner's transporting vision, with "its thousand gardens, its ancient customs, its processions of the guilds and crafts, its watchman with his horn and lantern, and quaint loveliness by day and its magic of soft summer nights."



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