[Met Performance] CID:86880
New production
Der Freischütz {7} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/22/1924.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 22, 1924 Matinee
New production


DER FREISCHÜTZ {7}
C. M. Weber-Kind

Max.....................Curt Taucher
Agathe..................Elisabeth Rethberg
Caspar..................Michael Bohnen
Ännchen.................Queena Mario
Ottokar.................Gustav Schützendorf
Hermit..................Léon Rothier
Kilian..................Arnold Gabor
Cuno....................Carl Schlegel
Samiel..................James Wolfe
Bridesmaid..............Louise Hunter
Bridesmaid..............Charlotte Ryan
Bridesmaid..............Nannette Guilford
Dance...................Rosina Galli
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert
Choreographer...........Rosina Galli
Choreographer...........August Berger

[The recitatives were composed by Bodanzky.
During Act III, Sc. 2, the ballet performed to Weber's Invitation to the Dance.]

Der Freischütz received four performances this season.

Review of O. O. H. in the Musical Courier

METROPOLITAN OPERA REVIVES DER FREISCHÜTZ

Weber's Delightful Music Finds New Yorkers Responsive Despite the Poor Book and the Lapse of Fourteen Years Since It was Last Performed on Broadway - Elizabeth Rethberg, Queena Mario, and Michael Bohnen the Stars.

Once in so often that German classic of the early nineteenth century, "Der Freischütz," still throws off the bonds of approaching desuetude and struggles back into the repertory of every leading opera house, postponing for a while the inevitable hour when it will he seen and heard no more outside of der Vaterland. And what brings it back (outside of Germany, where its stuffed figures are still more or less national characters) is not its extraordinarily impossible book, but the fact that Weber wrote some extraordinarily good music for it - not the saccharine "Leise, Lease," or the other barrel-organ tunes, but such passages as that which accompany the first appearance of Samiel and the entire music of the Wolf Glen scene, beginning with the weirdly, mysterious chorus outside (which, by the way, can be made much more blood-curdling than it was at the Metropolitan the other day). In scenes like this, Weber, with means small indeed compared to those at the resources of the composer of today, has written some truly dramatic and impressive music, accomplishing large results by the use of small means, always the test of true genius.

It is fourteen years since New York last saw Der Freischütz at the Metropolitan, though the late Wagnerian Opera Company gave it a lone performance last season at the Lexington. In 1910 the Metropolitan cast included Gadski (now domiciled in Berlin, though recently here for a farewell recital), Jadlowker (singing in operetta in Berlin), Bella Alten and Robert Blass, with Alfred Hertz (now leading the San Francisco Symphony) as conductor.

With this present revival Artur Bodanzky takes the helm. Not only that, but the opera is sung in a version specially prepared by him. Like his stage arrangement of "Oberon," it is excellent. In place of the spoken dialogue he has prepared recitatives, never too long and always so much in the Weberian idiom that one would never think of their having been made by another hand. He conducted, too, with his usual care and precision, though seemingly afflicted from time to time with just a touch of what Wagner called "Andante arm." A lot of the Weberian music is very dull to any except German ears today and taking things a bit slowly makes it still duller.

A GOOD PERFORMANCE.

In reviving it last Saturday afternoon, Mr. Gatti-Casazza did excellently by the old opera. He gave it the best cast he could select from his company and spared no expense on the production. Samuel Thewman laid out good enough stage business, which, since the opera was produced just over a century ago, is largely traditional. It was not his fault that the exigencies of Mr. Urban's scenery made it necessary, for instance, for Agathe to stand at the extreme back of the scene while singing her big aria, but stylistically it is all wrong for an opera of 1821, when the principal purpose of the footlights was to warn the singers that they could not get any nearer the audience without falling off the stage.

THE CAST.

The honors of the day were divided among Elizabeth Rethberg, Queena Mario and Michael Bohnen. Mme. Rethberg, as Agathe, did some of the best singing that has been heard on the Metropolitan stage this winter. She has a voice which, in its purity and flexibility, combined with strength, is particularly adapted to Weber's music. Her singing of the principal aria, "Leise, Leise," was an example of vocal art at its best, Most of the final section is a violin tune, not at all adapted for singing, but Mme. Rethberg coped with its difficulties with notable competency. She made a sympathetic figure of the character, too. One really felt interest in her affair with Max, despite the obvious artificiality of the whole. And of Queena Mario, as Agathe's cousin and companion, Aennchen, the same may be said as regards her vocal performance. It was exceedingly good and the florid twists and turns of Weber's tunes presented no difficulties which she did not readily overcome. By volatility and sprightly acting she did her best to conceal the fact that Aennchen is merely lugged into the book because one lone soprano could not do all the work, and that she succeeded to such a degree is greatly to her credit.

Michael Bohnen, as Caspar, the bad, wicked forest ranger, did not hesitate to cut loose on every occasion and be as bad and wicked as he could. If his gestures and action were oftentimes extravagant, they fitted clearly into the extravagant character he was enacting. His drinking song in the first act, and his long aria at the end of it, were two of the hits of the afternoon. Especially in the last did he mould his big voice to an amazing flexibility and, as for his dancing, that was a revelation which won repeated rounds of applause. Curt Taucher, as Max, sang competently enough, but he was a sadly unromantic figure. Louise Hunter, Charlotte Ryan and Nanette Guilford were charming and sweet-voiced little bridesmaids in the famously fatuous scene.

NEW SCENERY.

It remains to tell of the scenery. Joseph Urban did it. The first and last acts were two delightful autumn pictures in warm browns and yellows. The hall in the chief ranger's house looked more like a cabaret in Berlin, with typically German decorations. The Wolf's Glen was an effectively imposing picture, though not so spooky as many a German opera house has produced at one-tenth of the expense.

The chorus had a lot to do and did it very well indeed. The male choruses in the last act were particularly good. There was a bright spot, too, in the introduction of a ballet in the final scene, to the music of Weber's "Invitation to the Dance." It was old fashioned ballet, arranged by August Berger, which fitted the old fashioned picture and the old fashioned music. Rosnia Galli designed and danced the incidental solos and was at her charming best.

The audience, though it did not seem to receive the whole work with very fervid enthusiasm, was warmly responsive to any little bits that pleased it. Mr. Bohnen was recalled repeatedly after his aria and the same is true of Mmes. Rethberg and Mario.
And if somebody will only jazz the Wolf Glen scene up a little bit, the whole opera will take on life. There should be a steady crescendo from the time Caspar begins to cast the first magic bullet until he gets to the seventh, and when he shouts "Sieben" it's time to "shoot the works," the expressive phrase of the day has it. But nobody shoots the works at the Metropolitan; just a bit more Fourth of July, if you please, gentlemen!

It must have taken heroic determination on the part of Agathe to warm up to a lover like that. One felt rather sorry in the last act that Max's bullet had not actually killed her, so that she could be saved from dragging out a long, dull and dreary life with him. The small parts were competently taken care of as a whole. James Wolf looked very ghastly as Samiel, the wild huntsman, and shouted his lines effectively. Arnold Gabor contributed a well done little bit at the very beginning as Killian and Schuetzendorf, Schlegel and Rothier respectively as King Ottokar, Cumo and the Hermit, were three very serious basses indeed.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).