[Met Performance] CID:121650

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, May 19, 1937

Debut : Dimitri Onofrei, Agnes Davis, Ernst Fischer

Lohengrin (417)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Dimitri Onofrei [Debut] [Debut and only performance]

Agnes Davis [Debut] [Debut and only performance]

Margaret Halstead [Last performance]

Ernst Fischer [Debut] [Debut and only performance]

King Heinrich
Norman Cordon

George Cehanovsky

Karl Riedel

Review 1:

Review of Noel Straus in The New York Times


Three Singers Make New York Debuts in Leading Parts of Wagner Opera


Dimitri Onofrei Takes the Title Role and Ernst Fischer Is the Telramund

An ill-advised attempt to present Wagner's "Lohengrin" last night at the Metropolitan with a cast of singers unequal to the heavy task imposed upon them was foredoomed to come to grief. Three of the chief roles in the opera were assumed by vocalists who were making their

debuts at the house in parts which none of them was able to fill in adequate measure, though doing their utmost to conquer the difficulties that lay in their path. These three newcomers were Agnes Davis, the Elsa of the performance; Dimitri Onofrei, the Lohengrin, and Ernst Fischer, who sang Telramund's music.

Miss Davis was the youngest of these three artists and her experience on the operatic stage was considerably more limited than that of her colleagues making their initial bow in the Broadway surroundings. Vocally she proved the most satisfactory of them, so far as quality and tonal expressiveness was concerned. But her voice was not heavy enough in texture to make her singing impressive. Her tones, though generally true to pitch, unblemished and carefully produced, sounded thin and wanting in amplitude even in the more subdued of Elsa's outpourings, such as the "Zephyr" aria of the second act.

And if she was pleasingly youthful and fair to look upon, her acting lacked spontaneity and power. She was at her best in the early moments of the opera before Lohengrin's appearance, where she succeeded in conveying the rapt mood of confident expectation needed at that point quite successfully. But as the drama gained in impetus, her grasp on its demands weakened until at the scene at the cathedral door she became swamped in an ensemble of which she was but one of the ineffectual members.

Seldom is this great scene so utterly wanting in sweep and dramatic intensity as at this presentation, where not any of the principals seemed able to bring a spark of life to what can be one of the most thrilling climaxes to be found in opera.

In the name part Dimitri Onofrei, who has given a fine account of himself in this work previously here in other surroundings, made little headway at this debut. His voice sounded throaty, and his tones were invariably uncovered. There was almost nothing of light and shade in his unimaginative interpretation, which never for an instant suggested the spiritual nature of Wagner's knight of the Grail.

Ernst Fischer was a noisy but ineffectual Telramund, who used his tones' full power when not indulging in parlando. A great deal of energy went to waste in his strenuous but vain attempts to bring the role to life.

As Ortrud, Margaret Halstead's portrayal was similarly unstable vocally and without eloquence. Norman Cordon found the King's measures too deep for his range and he had not enough weightiness of tone for them. But his excellent diction was worthy of comment. The personnel was completed by George Cehanovsky, who was the King's Herald.

On occasion Karl Riedel has provided Metropolitan audiences with a far better reading of the score than was forthcoming under his baton last night. The orchestral support was as uninspiring as the proceedings on stage, where the unaccompanied quintet of the "Prayer" became a shambles in which the amateurish interpretation reached its lowest ebb.

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