[Met Performance] CID:98850
Fidelio {52} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/14/1928.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 14, 1928


FIDELIO {52}
Beethoven-Sonnleithner/Breuning/Treitschke

Leonore.................Gertrude Kappel
Florestan...............Rudolf Laubenthal
Don Pizarro.............Friedrich Schorr
Rocco...................Michael Bohnen
Marzelline..............Editha Fleischer
Jaquino.................George Meader
Don Fernando............Gustav Schützendorf
First Prisoner..........Max Bloch
Second Prisoner.........Arnold Gabor

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

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Designer................Joseph Urban

Fidelio received two performances this season.

[The dialogue was performed in recitatives composed by Bodanzky.]

Review of Pitts Sanborn in the New York Telegram

Beethoven's Unique Opera Attracts Large Throng

'Fidelio' is Given with Kappel, Bohnen, Schorr and Laubenthal

Twelve days shy of the 100th anniversary of Beethoven's death, "Fidelio" reappeared in the Metropolitan repertory yesterday evening. This return was an effective reply to those who had predicted no more "Fidelio" at all after that revival of last spring. Again it was agreeable to observe the sight of the audience as well as the sight of seventeen parterre boxes occupied before the first note of the overture had sounded. Evidently there is still a public in New York for opera as an art. May Handel, Gluck and Mozart take heart.

Reviewing a performance of "Fidelio" in Boston years ago, the late William Foster Apthrop said some important things as cogently as they are likely ever to be said. "In listening to "Fidelio" we could not help thinking what an absurd form of art the opera in general is. And also (luckily) how infinitely little some sort of absurdity affect our enjoyment of art. It would seem as if only a Frenchman could rest eternally content with logic in art. What could seem more absurd, on general principles, that that alternation of talking and singing which we find in "Fidelio!" And yet it was an absolute delight to listen to the spoken dialogue, no less a delight to listen to the music. The change from one to the other did not jar upon us in the least nor wound our aesthetic sensibilities. Each one of the two forms seemed so beautifully suited to the matter to which it was applied."

Those Unlucky Recitatives.

The performance in question was unclouded by the incongruous recitatives which at the Metropolitan were added to the first act of "Fidelio" a year ago with the purpose of curing the supposed objection to the spoken word in so large a house. The cure, however, has turned out worse than the ailment. Good as the intention was, these recitatives and the additional "melodramas" in the prison scene having received a fair trial, ought now to be scrapped.

Another satisfaction of "Fidelio" was dwelt on eloquently by Apthrop. "...then, what a delight it is to hear a work that does not have to be cut! You get the whole of it as it was written, and in all its coherence. 'Fidelio' is [...] enough to enjoy to the top of one's bent, even in the evening of a busy day."

Last night Rocco's air was cut out, as it had been a year ago - an omission the more regrettable because of the general excellence, vocal as well as dramatic, of Mr. Bohnen's impersonation of the wise and kindly jailer. The [beginning] chorus of the final scene was also omitted. And the division of the first act into two tableaux (an inheritance from Gustav Mahler), with the march of the guards as an intermezzo, scarcely made for the "coherence" which Apthorp praised. Then, between the two tableaux of the second act, the third "Leonore" overture was introduced as a further intermezzo.

I know that this interpolation has become a widespread fashion and that it never fails to evoke applause. Yet artistically it is a mistake. What has the overture, great as it is in itself, to communicate after the pistol scene? And the frenetic excitement of that scene and the duet of relief and exultation, "O namenlose Freude!" should lead immediately, by an instantaneous change, to the celestial chortlings of the finale.

Fine Impersonations.

Yesterday's performance could boast first rate elements. Besides Mr. Bohnen, so delightful as Rocco, there was Mr. Schorr, utterly magnificent as the villainous Don Pizarro. The Mme. Fleischer as Marzelline and Mr. Meader as Jacquino could hardly have been improved upon. Mr. Bodanzky, moreover, conducted the first act with discretion and control, if in the second neither so favorably. The choral singing was commendable. Unfortunately, the Leonore and the Florestan, though commanding respect by reason of the earnestness and dignity of their efforts, fell short of requirements. Mr. Laubenthal a year ago distinguished himself through an exceptionally capable delivery of Florestan's all but superhuman air. Last night he made a sorry mess of it.

Mme. Kappel exhibited neither the voice nor the technic for an adequate account of Leonore's inexorably exacting music. Her "Abscheulicher!" was a weak and wavering affair, and though in the pistol quartet she did rather better than might have been feared, her part in "O namenlose Freude!" fared badly. The elaborate scenery of last March was again on view. The lighting of the dungeon scene was at fault. Florestan addressed his awakening "Gott, e welch, Dunkel hier" to a hanging lamp!

Still, thanks be to Gatti for giving us even as good a 'Fidelio" as he did!



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