[Met Performance] CID:168150

Tristan und Isolde
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, March 3, 1955

Debut : Albert Da Costa

Tristan und Isolde (358)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Set Svanholm

Astrid Varnay

Josef Metternich

Blanche Thebom

King Marke
Jerome Hines

James McCracken

Sailor's Voice
Albert Da Costa [Debut]

Paul Franke

Calvin Marsh

Rudolf Kempe

Dino Yannopoulos

Set Designer
Joseph Urban

Costume Designer
Mathilde Castel-Bert

Tristan und Isolde received four performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Winthrop Sargeant in the New Yorker

Having heard Mr. von Karajan's version of the "Tristan" excerpts on Tuesday evening, I found myself at the Metropolitan Opera House on Thursday evening listening to the entire opera, under the baton of Rudolf Kempe. I did not think Mr. Kempe's mastery of architectural lines quite up to Mr. von Karajan's, but he provided a generally clear and lively rendition of the long, ponderously passionate work, which, as usual, had its moments of wonderful poetic eloquence and its moments of heavy tedium. From the vocal point of view, the evening was remarkable mainly for the excellence of the singers who undertook the lesser roles - notably Blanche Thebom, Jerome Hines, and Josef Metternich, who appeared as Brangäne, King Marke, and Kurvenal, respectively. Astrid Varnay sang the part of Isolde very energetically and with some beauty of tone, but without the simplicity and grandeur required for a really great performance. Set Svanholm's Tristan was, I thought, simply inadequate. He often resorted to shouting in an effort to make himself heard over the orchestral brass, and his rather strange dramatic impersonation suggested, somehow, that he was manfully staving off an attack of epilepsy.

It is perhaps unfair to recall, in connection with this presentation, what is beginning to look like a golden age of Wagnerian opera at the Metropolitan - the period, fifteen or so years ago, when singers like Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior and conductors like Artur Bodanzky made nearly every Wagner production an unforgettable experience. Such periods, of course, come and go in the history of the best opera houses. It may be that the present era is fairly poor in first-rank Wagnerian singers, or it may be that the Metropolitan's management, having deduced that Wagner is no longer as popular as he used to be, is picking and choosing its finest singers mainly with an eye to other parts of the repertory. In any case, the fact is that the Metropolitan's best current productions are operas by Mozart and Strauss, and certain items in the Italian and French categories, and that the Wagnerian music drama is no longer one of its strongest suits. I do not offer this observation as a complaint. I am by no means a starry-eyed Wagnerian. Still, I think that Wagner's greatest works - and "Tristan" is surely the greatest of them all - deserve a better break than they are getting at the moment. Perhaps we shall have to await a new generation of singers, or perhaps the trouble is that history is moving on, and that the herculean machinery of Wagnerian opera has fallen out of fashion.

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