[Met Tour] CID:168280

Tristan und Isolde
Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, March 15, 1955

Tristan und Isolde (360)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Set Svanholm

Astrid Varnay

Josef Metternich

Martha Lipton

King Marke
Jerome Hines

James McCracken

Sailor's Voice
Albert Da Costa

Paul Franke

Calvin Marsh

Rudolf Kempe

Review 1:

Max de Schauensee in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
“Tristan” Sung By Met Opera At Academy

The penultimate performance of the season by the Metropolitan Opera Association at the Academy of Music took place last night before a large and enthusiastic audience.

The opera was Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," and the event made one conscious that Wagnerian opera has been all too rarely heard of late.

That the audience enjoyed this greatest of all love music-dramas was made evident by the applause that greeted conductor Rudolfe Kempe and the fine cast between the acts and especially at the opera's close.

"Tristan" was last brought here by the Metropolitan on December 6, 1949, a period that was still deep in the shadow of recent war. Helen Traubel, Lauritz Melchior and other singers no longer connected with the Metropolitan were involved on that occasion.

Last night not only brought us a most communicative performance but several new elements.

Fine Conducting

Mr. Kempe, previously heard here in "Arabella," seemed rather leisurely warming up during the Vorspiel, but he is a conductor who favors a long, slow buildup, who can generate plenty of passion and excitement when he reaches the climax. He was especially fine during the sublime music of the last act, and substantiated the excellent impression he made a few weeks ago.

Astrid Varnay as Isolde, Martha Lipton as Brangäne, Jerome Hines as King Mark and Josef Metternich as Kurvenal were all new in their roles here, and in the case of Mr. Metternich it was a Philadelphia debut. Set Svanholm, the Tristan, was the only one of the principals who had been heard in this opera on an earlier occasion.

Mme. Varnay's Isolde has been forged in the white heat of many Bayreuth performances and now emerges as a compelling and authoritative performance. This singer has not one of the most beautiful voices ever heard in Wagnerian music, but she is ever expressive and fully equal to all demands, which is saying a great deal.

Mme. Varnay was especially effective in the first act Narrative and Curse, and in the final Liebestod, where her tones broadened to phrases of genuine volume.

Wealth of Detail

The soprano companions her awareness of text and situation with a wealth of visual detail, which holds the spectator's interest. Her Isolde is a fluent, graceful, believable figure, and her success was well deserved.

Mr. Svanholm rose to superb heights in the final act, presenting Tristan's delirium with a sensitivity and an imagination which riveted one's attention. He was little stiff in the second act, and both he and Mme. Varnay didn't seem quite equal to the torrential outpourings after the extinguishing of the torch, Nevertheless, Mr. Svanholm's Tristan is a cherishable one.

Miss Lipton needs more appearances as Brangäne. She is handsome and sings much of the music agreeably in a voice which sounded somewhat on the light side. Mr. Metternich did some superb singing as Kurvenal; so did Mr. Hines as King Mark. Here was real sonority and fine vocal emission. Both parts have been acted with more thrust and poignancy by others, but as singers these deep-voiced gentlemen were exceptional.

James McCracken was well cast as Melot, and Paul Franke had his effective moments as the shepherd. The scenery, while old and slightly shabby, is effective and can still please.


Dino Yannopoulos, the stage director, added several new and often felicitous touches, as in the drinking of the potion and the emotions that follow this tremendous moment.

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