[Met Performance] CID:128190

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, February 28, 1940 Matinee

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (227)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Hans Sachs
Friedrich Schorr

Elisabeth Rethberg

Walther von Stolzing
René Maison

Karin Branzell

Karl Laufkötter

Walter Olitzki

Emanuel List

Julius Huehn

Anthony Marlowe

Louis D'Angelo

Nicholas Massue

Lodovico Oliviero

Giordano Paltrinieri

Douglas Beattie

John Gurney

Night Watchman/Ortel
George Cehanovsky

Erich Leinsdorf

Review 1:

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


Friedrich Schorr Appears in the Impersonation of the Part of Hans Sachs


Karin Branzell Is Heard as Magdalene--Eva Is Sung by Miss Rethberg

The special "Meistersinger" matinee yesterday afternoon in the Metropolitan Opera House proved once more the unwaning popularity of Richard Wagner and the prestige that the Metropolitan performances of his operas have acquired. There were distinguished artists in the cast. The American public will probably persist in believing that great singers are necessary for great performances of great music. But it seems evident that the audience came not from mere curiosity concerning the personalities of famous singers, as it might have come twenty-five years ago, but to hear the opera, paying handsomely and willingly for the privilege.

Its reward was the music and a performance which had most of the customary Metropolitan virtues and some deficiencies. Among the admirable impersonations of the afternoon, dramatically speaking, was Mr. Schorr's famous Sachs, now weak on the vocal side; the excellent Magdalene of Karin Branzell; Mr. Maison's youthful, impetuous and well-schooled Walther; Karl Laufkötter's first rate David, presented by one of the competent artists that the Metropolitan has on its roster.

Olitzki Work Praised

Mr. Olitzki's Beckmesser is amusing and well enunciated, though he should beware of overdoing its comedy. Miss Rethberg's Eva, now a familiar interpretation, is fully in character, and much more her part than others which she has taken at the Metropolitan. Some frequently fine singing was marred yesterday by some bad intonation, in the quintet especially, when some of her colleagues caught the infection, and, distant from the murmuring orchestra, wandered indeterminately after her in their endeavor to find the true pitch.

It might be asked whether a singer with more sonority than Mr. Schorr had at command yesterday would recompense for his wonderfully finished, noble, eloquent interpretation of Sach's part. It was unfortunate that so fine an artist as Mr. Maison forced his tone, thus becoming, in places, strident. Mr. List, exceptionally endowed as a singer, changed slightly the notation of his part, and suffered, through no fault of his own, by a substantial cut of his music.

There are other cuts, and some pretty sad ones, in this score. The cuts of verses of Walther's Prize Song, both in the rehearsal with Hans Sachs, and the performance of the same on the banks of the Pegnitz, are eminently advisable; otherwise we certainly should become surfeited with the repetitions of the famous melody. But the cut of the major part of Sach's final address is unfortunate and surely unnecessary.

Mood and Spirit in Opera

The performance as a whole had mood and spirit. The first act is a superb ensemble, from beginning to end. Is there a good reason why the finale of the second act, the riot scene, cannot be given much more motion and verisimilitude? The action is now confined to a middle group, while others stand about as if they had nothing in particular to do with the disturbance and felt but a mild concern at Beckmesser's polishing off. In Bayreuth, an assistant conductor or chorus man is on the stage, one to each four or five singers, to enable those singers, while rushing about in accordance with Wagner's directions, to be absolutely sure of their notes and their entrances in the complicated fugal writing. As for the finale of Act III, "the greatest finale," Mr. Gatti-Casazza used to say, "in all music," it is becoming fussed in detail, therefore less brilliant than years ago. And Mr. Leinsdorf's reading of the score has gained in authority and contrast of mood between the different acts. He has precedent for taking the Prelude as fast as he does. We have beard Arturo Toscanini berate a Salzburg orchestra for not finding the laughter in Wagner's music. Karl Muck used to take the Prelude very fast, holding that, in common with the entire opera, it was comedy music and should have the requisite animation.

Nevertheless, a breakneck pace is not necessarily synonymous with humor. The proclamation of the Meistersinger theme toward the end of the Prelude, after the fugue, can lose considerable of its impressiveness by being hurried over. There were other places in the score where, less debatably, Mr. Leinsdorf hurried, to the music's disadvantage and also, very possibly, to that of singers with whom yesterday, he was again chary of cues. The interest of his reading was not confined to these details. It is nevertheless the fact that a number of details, in sum, can do much to dim the luster of a deserving performance.

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