[Met Performance] CID:127480

Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 5, 1940 Matinee

Debut : Alexander Kipnis

Parsifal (145)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Lauritz Melchior

Kirsten Flagstad

Friedrich Schorr

Alexander Kipnis [Debut]

Walter Olitzki

Norman Cordon

Voice/Flower Maiden
Doris Doe

First Esquire
Natalie Bodanya

Third Esquire
Karl Laufkötter

Fourth Esquire
Lodovico Oliviero

First Knight
George Cehanovsky

Second Knight
Mack Harrell

Flower Maiden
Irene Jessner

Flower Maiden
Irra Petina

Second Esquire/Flower Maiden
Helen Olheim

Flower Maiden
Hilda Burke

Flower Maiden
Thelma Votipka

Erich Leinsdorf

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


The season's second "Parsifal," given yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House for the benefit of the Girl Scout Federation of New York, presented Alexander Kipnis, basso, who then made his first appearance with the Metropolitan Opera Association as Gurnemanz.

Mr. Kipnis immediately won the favor of his audience. He invested the role with the utmost significance. The richness of the voice made one of several fine attributes of the singer and the dramatic interpreter. The text was admirably delivered; the treatment of the melodic line was that of a true musician. The character developed with a noble consistency. The tenderness and wisdom exemplified by the later scenes were the continuation of one of the most authoritative and sympathetic representations of the character that the Metropolitan stage has seen in recent years.

Again the Parsifal was Melchior and the Kundry, Flagstad. Parsifal sang in a manner prevailingly eloquent and after tradition, but became impatient in the first act with the scene which is supposed to be enacted for his benefit, so that, instead of standing through the first temple scene as the wondering looker, he strayed on and off the stage, apparently somewhat bored by the spectacle. Some might have sympathized with this attitude on the part of a singer who must stand long and motionless if he obeys the stage directions and carries out the plain meaning of the composer-librettist. But Wagner would not have been pleased, and there were even some objecting purists in the audience.

Quality of Flagstad's Voice

Mme. Flagstad's Kundry is now the ripened and rounded impersonation that it was not when she first took the role at the Metropolitan. It has not, perhaps, the subtlety and innate complexity of a character which is one of the most difficult that the lyrical stage offers a great interpreter. But it was and it is admirably sung, thoughtfully composed as regards stage business and plastic - though again the voice was not edgeless.

The Klingsor was Walter Olitzki, who did not have much dramatic force, or, despite cleanness of diction, vocal distinction. Friedrich Schorr's Amfortas was authoritative and moving as ever. Mr. Leinsdorf does not seem to have penetrated deeply to the essence of the score, nor was the orchestral performance, on the technical side, faultless. For all that the opera was heard with absorbed attention and, save for the end of the second act, without applause.

Review 2:

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Trbune

The Gurnemanz of Mr. Kipnis in "Parsifal" is one of the most impressive disclosed here in many a day. For not only did the Russian-American bass reveal a vocal plentitude and tonal richness which was not much in evidence in his recent appearances on the concert platform, but he invested his music with the wealth of nuance and depth of sentiment which are essential to a full realization of the composer's intentions.

Too often has Gurnemanz been dubbed a garrulous bore, not because of any want on Wagner's part to lend the character life, but because too few singers are able to envisage the various facets of the role and vivify them. Equal distinction was present in Mr. Kipnis's delineation from the dramatic aspect. As was Wagner's desire and as one too seldom sees, Mr. Kipnis's Gurnemanz is a man in his middle years in the first act, full of gentleness and tenderness, yet thoroughly capable of decisive action and an occasional outburst of temper. In the last act, he is a truly aged man bent with the passing of time and grief over Titurel's death, but resigned, understanding and forgiving. All of this, Mr. Kipnis suggested with gestures which emanated ineluctably from the music and with a variegated beauty of facial expression seldom encountered on the operatic stage.

The other new impersonation of the presentation, Mr. Olitzki's Klingsror was considerably less effective. His declamation was tinged with accents as alike as two peas with those he employs as Beckmesser, so that instead of a nefarious magician he presented a cackling pedant. The remaining portrayals were in familiar hands. Both Mme. Flagstad and Mr. Melchior were in far better voice than at the previous "Parsifal" several weeks ago. The Norwegian soprano has seldom excelled her delivery of Kundry's exacting music, and the Danish tenor, while not happy in softer passages, made much of Parsifal's more dramatic utterances. Mr. Schorr's Amfortas was again poignantly moving. The flower maidens, too, contributed some admirable singing.

It was hardly to be expected that Mr. Leinsdorf's conception of the score should have matured materially since last unfolded here. The chief weakness remains its lack of intensity and certain unjustifiable tempi, which divest the music of its immanent noble breadths and stupendous emotional climaxes. At its best, in the Good Friday scene, it is imbued with genuine feeling. The orchestra played well, excepting for occasional but serious errors in the brass section.

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