[Met Performance] CID:88370
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {151} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/1/1924.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 1, 1924


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {151}

Hans Sachs..............Clarence Whitehill
Eva.....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Walther von Stolzing....Rudolf Laubenthal
Magdalene...............Marion Telva
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...................Max Altglass
Eisslinger..............Giordano Paltrinieri
Foltz...................James Wolfe
Schwarz.................William Gustafson
Night Watchman..........Arnold Gabor

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Tribune

"Die Meistersinger" Again at the Opera; Mr. Whitehill's Hans Sachs

Last night's "Meistersinger," the second of the season, was a less robust one than the memorable matinee performance of November 15. This was chiefly due to the fact that Clarence Whitehill replaced Mr. Bender as Hans Sachs.

Mr. Whitehill is a fine and scrupulous artist, and everything that he does is intelligent and worthy of respect. But is he not in danger of attenuating the role of Sachs by his growing tendency to refine and subdue it? Sachs was a tragic figure to be sure, and a poet; but he was also a jovial, hearty soul, and a good cobbler. The scene in which he merrily torments the serenading Beckmesser was quite obviously intended by Wagner to be comic; and Mr. Bender at the first performance of the opera this season filled it full of the right spirit of rollicking humor and horseplay. After all, Hans Sachs is having the time of his life in getting even with Beckmesser here; but one would hardly suspect it from watching and listening to Mr. Whitehill's reading of the scene, which is kept to so low a key that it just misses falling flat. It is possible to overemphasize the gentleness and sweetness of Sachs; and it looks as if Mr. Whitehill were headed in that direction. The texture of Sach's soul was a mixture of silk and homespun. Mr. Whitehill makes it seem 100 percent silk.

The other principals in the cast were as before. Miss Rethberg as Eva, Marion Telva as Magdalene, Mr. Laubenthal as Walther, Mr. Bender as Pogner, Mr. Schützendorf as Beckmesser, Mr. Meader as David. Miss Rethberg is a vocally delectable Eva, and a perfect picture of a sixteenth century Nuremberg flapper. Mr. Laubenthal was, as before, a rather lymphatic Walther. The rest were in their customary form. Mr. Bodanzky conducted. The house, as usual when Mr. Gatti puts on a masterpiece, was of moderate size.

We could not help remembering last night, as we listened to the often eloquent and communicative performance, what Wagner himself wrote about "Die Meistersinger" to Mathilde Wesendonck sixty-two years ago, long before he had completed the music. "It has become clear to me," he told her, "that this work will be my most consummate masterpiece." It was not the first time he had thought that about a score upon which he was engaged. Whether he was right about "Die Meistersinger" can scarcely be determined with that airy dogmatism, which is the usual critical reaction to such a challenge. It has become rather the mode of late years to exalt "Die Meistersinger" above Wagner's other works, or to use it as a stick wherewith to beat the recreant lovers who sing late into the night upon King Mark's park bench. Some have seen there an opportunity to oppose the "sweet and sane" against the "sensuous and hectic."

It is hard to imagine a less profitable occupation. You may agree with Mr. Runcimen that "as a piece of music, delectable from the opera, the Overture transcends every other work of Wagner's'; that "Die Meistersinger" as a whole is "as nearly perfect as ever opera is likely to be"; or you may cast lingering backward glances at the music of "Tristan." Which certainly has its points, or at "Götterdämmerung," or at the much abused, but still surviving, "Parsifal." But you will perhaps return to "Die Meistersinger" with the realization that here, at all events, is something the like of which is not elsewhere to be found among the legacies of the human spirit - this marvelous blend of gravity and sweetness, tenderness and humor, delicacy and strength; this music that is warm with humanity, yet drenched in poetry and magic, and of such enchanting beauty that you are inclined to suspect the advantage of a Comic Spirit whose gestures are of so supreme a grace.



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