[Met Performance] CID:87060
Tristan und Isolde {163} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/4/1924.


Metropolitan Opera House
April 4, 1924


Tristan.................Curt Taucher
Isolde..................Florence Easton
Kurwenal................Friedrich Schorr
Brangäne................Karin Branzell
King Marke..............Michael Bohnen
Melot...................Arnold Gabor
Sailor's Voice..........Angelo Badà
Shepherd................George Meader
Steersman...............Louis D'Angelo

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

'Tristan' at the Metropolitan With the Missing Scene Restored to the Third Act

"Tristan und Isolde" had its second performance of the season last night at the Metropolitan Opera House, with the same cast of principals that sang it on March 5 - Mme. Easton as Isolde, Mme. Branzell as Brangäne, Mr. Taucher as Tristan, Mr. Schorr as Kurwenal, and Mr. Bohnen as King Mark. There was a new Shepherd, Mr. Meader, who acquitted himself admirably in this small, but essential, rôle.

Mr. Bodanzky conducted, and this time he did not make the inexpert and needlessly disastrous cut in the third act, of which we have complained in these columns. Last night he permitted the frenzied and despairing Tristan, in the person of Mr. Taucher, to pronounce the terrible curse on love in which, as Wagner has told us, lies the crux of the rôle of the act, of the drama and of the music. This passage is, in Wagner's words, "the apex of the pyramid;" and Mr. Bodanzky permitted us to see that pyramid in all its soaring majesty of line. For this the few surviving Wagnerites were warmly grateful, and they applauded Mr. Bodanzky for the restoration, and for his impassioned and moving interpretation of the score.

Wagner's music for this tremendous act, by its resistless and cumulative progress from the slow consciousness of sorrow to the last limits of agonized longing and despair, subdues and terrifies the sympathetic hearer - as if Wagner had deliberately set out to make "A staircase of the frightened breasts of men." For some, this scene is not only, as Wagner said of it, "the apex of the pyramid" of his dramatic and musical structure, but the apex of the pyramid of musical art - the last word in that search for an increasingly poignant utterance of emotion which the makers of the world's music have been engaged upon for three centuries.

Florence Easton's Isolde again seemed to us a sensitive and right conception, heedfully avoiding a tempestuousness become shrill and a dignity become marmoreal. And how skillfully, how intelligently she sings and acts; how sure her restraint and her repose, even in the expression of vehement or ecstatic passion! Once more Mr. Bohnen made Mark a touching and human figure, and he delivered the beautiful music of the King's reproachful monologue with extraordinary eloquence. Mr. Schorr sings Kurwenal with exquisite art, but his acting of the part is stiff and unindicative; and again we must entreat him to keep his eyes in the boat. Surely it is possible for an artist like Mr. Schorr to know his music so well that he does not have to keep turning his head toward the conductor every three or four seconds to get his cue. And this applies to Miss Branzell, also; for her excellent Brangäne is marred by the same flaw.

The chief weakness of the performance was, as before, the Tristan of Mr. Taucher. Mr. Taucher is not of the stuff of which fine Tristans are made. He lacks the voice, the vocal art, the histrionic skill, the temperament, the imaginative perception and the physical presence that are necessary to a successful embodiment of Wagner's great lover. He is worse than mediocre and negative, for he is in active conflict at almost every point with Wagner's projection of the character through his text and music. He indisposes one by his awkwardness and inexpressiveness as an actor, by his shouting of passages which were intended to be sung, by the prosaic and insensitive tone of his whole conception,

Perhaps the disheartening truth of this matter is that the emergence of the superman who is necessary for Tristan is a vain thing to hope for. There is no rôle in all opera that requires such a blend of great qualities: a superlative singer with a voice of gold, a voice of bronze, a voice of honey; a consummate poet and tragedian; a person heroic and Apollonian; a fusion of Lancelot and Siegfried and Hamlet. Is it any wonder that in thirty years New York has known only one Tristan who was equal to the demands of the music and of the drama? This, of course, was the unrivaled Jean de Reszke, whose Tristan was a familiar but never ceasing wonder to Metropolitan opera-goers for six years - between the season of 1895- 1896, when he sang the rôle for the first time anywhere, until the season of 1900-1901, when he made his last appearance in New York.

But it is twenty-three years since Jean de Reszke's Tristan last pronounced his curse upon love, "with an agony of demoniac intensity," as Mr. Krehbiel wrote of it then, "which sends a shudder through the audience almost as violent as that caused by his frantic exposure of his wound." Since that distant day, many Tristans have cursed love and have exposed their wounds, from Ernest Van Dyck to Kurt Taucher; but never have we been moved to say of any one of them, "There, again, speaks Tristan!"

It is doubtless for this reason that the last act of "Tristan und Isolde" has come to seem for many, within the last twenty years, a tedious and unrewarding thing without a Tristan of histrionic power to act it, without a Tristan of voice and art and endurance to sing it, how could the drama or the music make their way into the ears and hearts of those who are unable to hear their music through their eyes, as is the eccentric privilege of those for whom a page of printed notes is some reminder, at least, of the ideal interpretation which they may once have heard, or of which they dream?

Let us, therefore, blow a summoning trumpet, like the Herald in "Lohengrin," for the Knight who shall come to do battle for beauty in distress; and let us await the arrival of a Tristan of genius, who will restore the masterpiece of Wagner to its old predominance, when it was both sung and acted, and listened to and loved.

Review of W. J. Henderson in the New York Sun:

When the first spring colors break upon the well groomed slopes of Central Park and the perambulators come out from under the lee of Grant's Tomb and look the mind in the eye, the season at the Metropolitan Opera House is in the yellow leaf and the knowing look to see a slump in the artistic market. The performance of 'Tristan and Isolde" last evening might have belonged to the first week of the season, for it was alive, temperamental and musically intense.

An observer journeying through the world with a perpetual acidity in his moods might have found a good deal to annoy him. For example, why does Mr. Taucher refuse to forget his reputation as a mighty hero long enough to look a. little tenderly at Isolde after she has intoxicated him not only with a love potion but with a melting glance more sensuous and more bewitching than the one she describes to Brangane! Any man who was a man would look hungrily at such a vision of loveliness as Mme. Easton in the role of Isolde.

But after all Mr. Taucher is an honest and well meaning Tristan, and it is not his fault that the gods did not make him poetical. He sang his music in tune and with intelligence. Mme. Easton sang hers very beautifully. There were moments when her voice seemed somewhat overstrained, but she more than atoned for this by the consistency of her impersonation. Hers is an Isolde of womanly warmth and tenderness, not formidable nor alarming, as the Princess is sometimes made, but alluring and melting. It is a very captivating version of a part which admits of varied readings.

Mme. Karin Branzell's Brangane is already known here. A large limbed, full voiced and full blooded Brangane is this, Vital with force and passion, a splendid foil to the Isolde of last night. Mr. Schorr's Kurvenal belongs in the same picture, but the baritone's voice was not at its best last evening. Mr. Bohnen as King Marke was paternal, understanding and forgiving. The orchestral contribution to the evening's pleasure was commendable, if not distinguished, and Mr. Bodanzky held all the forces under a firm guidance.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).