[Met Performance] CID:91480
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg {158} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/9/1925.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 9, 1925


DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG {158}

Hans Sachs..............Clarence Whitehill
Eva.....................Elisabeth Rethberg
Walther von Stolzing....Curt Taucher
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 Herald Tribune

'Die Meistersinger' at the Opera for the Second Time This Season

There are so many good points in the Metropolitan's production of "Die Meistersinger" that on cannot but wish that its bad ones were less conspicuous. At a poorer performance - one as perfunctory and jaded in tone as the Metropolitan's "Parsifal," for example - one might give up in disheartenment. But there are delightful things in this "Meistersinger." There is Mr. Whitehill's deeply felt, richly tender Sachs, and Mr. Bender's veracious Pogner. There is Miss Rethberg's Eva - which we fancy Wagner would have liked for its charm and spontaneity and its seductive loveliness of voice - and Mr. Meader's daft and engaging David.

There is Mr. Schützendorf's capital Beckmesser, which is much closer to the comedy of the text and music than was Heinrich Scholtz's impersonation last summer at Bayreuth. For Mr. Schützendorf realizes that, though Beckmesser must not be turned into a buffoon, he is nevertheless and essentially a comedic character - one of the funniest indeed, in all opera and Mr. Schützendorf, by innumerable quiet strokes of humor, builds up the character of the Marker as he exists for us in Wagner's inexhaustible score. Wagner, in his earliest drafts of the comedy had exhibited the Marker as "Hanslick" with the final "k" of the name of his Viennese enemy changed to "h", but, given his bitter hatred of his arch critical foe, could not persuade him to turn the narrow-minded pedant of "Die Meistersinger" into a travesty of journalistic obscurantism.

So Beckmesser emerges as a not wholly unlikable figure. Some hints of the great golden laughter and compassionate humanity that sings though the marvelous music enfolds the grotesque figure of the Marker and saves him from mere heartless and vindictive caricature. Mr. Schützendorf, we suspect, is aware of this; at all events he succeeds in keeping his Beckmesser admirably in the true vein of the rôle.

It is a pleasure to be able to praise once more the choral singing. And the musicanly competence of Mr. Bodanzky's conducting is admirable, despite its occasional inflexibility and its deficiency of warmth and expansiveness.

The conspicuous defects of last night's performance, as of others during the last two seasons, with the same cast, were first, the indisposing Walther of Curt Taucher and secondly, the ineptitude of the stage direction in certain crucial episodes. It is doubtless a waste of time to discuss the various reasons why Mr. Taucher depresses any Wagner performance of which he is a feature. Since this tenor appears to be as permanent a fixture at the Metropolitan as the yellow brick walls of the temple itself, the sensible thing to do, obviously, is to adjust one's conceptions of voice and vocal art and dramatic temperament and histrionic skill to Mr. Taucher's. Yet, if Mr. Taucher is to persist in this rôle of Walther at the Metropolitan, one cannot but wish that there were some way of reverting to Wagner's original draft for certain scenes of the comedy in which Walther takes part.

As all faithful Wagnerites know, the tireless Richard's early sketches for the "Meistersinger" scenario were quite different from their ultimate form. In these preliminary sketches, for example, he had devised an ingenious expedient for broaching the subject of the future Prize Song in the second scene of the Third Act. Walther (he was called Konrad in that version) tells Sachs that, being unable to sleep, he has written a poem to his beloved. He hands it to Sachs, who reads it to himself; and Wagner intended that the orchestra should accompany Sachs' silent perusal with the melody of the song. We wished last night that this version of the scene might have survived. But, unfortunately for Mr. Taucher, Wagner afterward set the Prize Song to music and give it to Walther to sing; and as Mr. Taucher sings it, we must confess that it has ceased for us to be a thing of joy.

We referred to ineptitude on the stage direction of certain scenes. Is it not absurd that in the mêlée at the end of the second act, half of the presumable riotous citizens of Nuremberg should stand about in their medieval nighties, as decorously sedate as if they were angels in a primitive fresco? We know that another and a more illusive way of handling this scene is possible, and if Mr. Van Wymental has nothing better do in the summer off, he might drop in at Bayreuth and see how they do it there.

But nothing can seriously impair one's pleasure in the glorious work, which quite easily survives even unresourceful stage direction and pedestrian Walthers. Wagner once called this his "consummate masterpiece." And there are times when we are tempted to agree with him - until we hear some other one of these masterpieces of his which also are consummate and, for the moment, incomparable. For adventures among these masterpieces are shameless adventures in infidelity.



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