[Met Performance] CID:92000
Tristan und Isolde {167} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/16/1926.


Metropolitan Opera House
January 16, 1926 Matinee


Tristan.................Rudolf Laubenthal
Isolde..................Nanny Larsén-Todsen
Kurwenal................Clarence Whitehill
Brangäne................Karin Branzell
King Marke..............William Gustafson
Melot...................Arnold Gabor
Sailor's Voice..........Max Bloch
Shepherd................George Meader
Steersman...............James Wolfe

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

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Mathilde Castel-Bert

Tristan und Isolde received five performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

Heedful of last season's tribulations over the rôle of Tristan, when there was but one tenor available for it (and that one pursued mercilessly by indispositions and accidents), the opera management doubtless breathes easier now that Laubenthal has added the part to his repertory. His appearance as Tristan at the Saturday matinee was his first on any stage. Viewed in this light, it was a highly creditable impersonation, and one which, with certain details modified or given further stress, can readily be made the best the Metropolitan has had since the music drama was recalled from exile five seasons ago.

This is not to say that one need ever expect an ideal Tristan from him, or one which approximates that ideal. The combination of voice, dramatic ability, knightly appearance and poetic spirit which is here demanded, is almost beyond the hope of the most sanguine of Wagnerians. It may be questioned whether Jean de Reszke, redivivus, would fully meet the requirements of a rôle more difficult of realization than any of Wagner's other heroes.

But Laubenthal's Tristan was physically personable, sturdy, if not always chivalric of bearing, and its dramatic and vocal aspects of a competence that caused fewer regrets than other Tristans of recent memory. His voice was of good metal, and he sang rather than shouted his music. It was possible, therefore, to follow the melodic line of Tristan's last act agonies-something of a unique experience in these times of barking Tristans. His tendency to drop below pitch on softer tones was not overcome, but many of these tones were of good quality. His acting was well considered and reasonably convincing. In the first act he permitted Tristan's sorrowing to abase him too much-there is no need here, or elsewhere, for head-hanging. His treatment of the death scene was the most affecting, as it was also the most restrained, of recent memory. For one thing, he costumed it intelligently and tastefully. Gone was the white smock or nightshirt of too vivid recollections and in its place a dark robe that conformed far better with the illusion of the scene, whatever the traditions of the part may seem to demand. All things considered, Tristan must be counted one of Laubenthal's best achievements since coming to America.

Mme. Larsen-Todsen sang with less fire than she did when her admirable Isolde was first revealed to American audiences a year ago, but there was much in her restraint that was welcome, especially since it is when her tone is driven too energetically that it takes on a disturbing shake. The impersonation remained an absorbing and highly vitalized one, particularly successful in the trying first act, where rage, pride, grief and desire so beset the character with tumultuous emotions that only an actress of much resourcefulness can contrive to distinguish between them. This the Swedish soprano did, in a manner to eclipse all Isoldes of a lustrum, save her own of last season. Vocally she was never disaffecting, and sometimes she was tonally as well as dramatically eloquent. In appearance she, alone of recent Isoldes, conveyed illusion and vraisemblance.

Karin Branzell's Brangäne merited all praise. Though her lower notes at times lacked the strength and resonance to match her upper and middle voice, she sang with rich and essentially musical tone. The Potion Scene was as well contrived as we have seen it done. The Warning Call was a feast for the ears. Pictorially, she was unfailingly effective.

Of the others in the cast, little need be said. William Gustafson, substituting for Michael Bohnen as König Marcke, was overweighted by his music, but did it no harm. George Meader's Shepherd was, as ever, well sung. Clarence Whitehill labored under the handicap of a cold as Kurvenal, but this did not take from the characterization its familiar ruggedness and sympathy. Arnold Gabor was Melot, James Wolfe the Steersman and Max Bloch the Sailor. Arthur Bodanzky conducted, and his orchestra sounded better than it has sounded in any other Wagner performance the reviewer has heard this season. It had fervor, sonority, and-what at times has been noticeably lacking-surety. Not as much can be said of the stage management. Surely, Mr. Thewman, if he witnessed it, was ashamed of the sorry botch that was made of the combat in the last act. To describe it would be a cruelty and the temptation to do so will be foregone.

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