[Met Performance] CID:197710

Parsifal: Act III, Scene 1
Verdi Requiem Mass
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, March 27, 1964

Parsifal: Act III, Scene 1
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Jess Thomas

Jerome Hines

Marcia Baldwin

George Solti

Verdi Requiem Mass (34)
Giuseppe Verdi
Leontyne Price

Rosalind Elias

Carlo Bergonzi

Cesare Siepi

Georg Solti

There were two performances of the Verdi Requiem Mass this season.

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday

Thomas's "Parsifal"

For those to whom the Easter season is incomplete without "Parsifal," this Easter, musically, was only slightly less incomplete than one without any "Parsifal" at all. For its observance of the Holy Week, the Metropolitan combined a tribute to the memory of the late John F. Kennedy with a token of its long tradition by presenting the lengthy first scene of Act III of "Parsifal" in a concert version as preface to the Verdi Requiem, both directed by Georg Solti.

The reason for the Metropolitan presently being "Parsifal"-less is well known (desire to defer the needed new production until the new theater at Lincoln Center is available). Thus there was promise for the future as well as pleasure for the present in the appearance of Jess Thomas as the wanderer returned to the domain guarded by Gurnemanz (Jerome Hines). His vocal assurance and intellectual command of mood and style were expressive not only of aptitude but also of experience in German theaters. Combined with them were a physical presence that would contribute to a more youthful Parsifal than has been seen here in some time. Let it be hoped that the few years that must elapse before Thomas can be seen as well as heard here in "Parsifal" will add weight to the voice but not to the body.

The Gurnemanz of Hines is no less authoritative in white tie and tails than it is in white mantle and beard. He probes, year by year, closer to the heart of a role whose emotional range is infinite, especially in those moments of exaltation in which Wagner permits him to be a figure of the drama rather than merely its narrator. Looking back to the year (1950) when Hines ventured this massive task for the first time, one can only congratulate him for an effort that has enabled him to add so much in meaning without loss in beauty of sound. This concert version included the luxury of a Kundry (Marcia Baldwin) to pronounce the only two words of a part that is otherwise wholly mime: "Dienen, dienen." They were well pronounced.

So far as could be determined from this much of it, Solti's feeling for the idiom of "Parsifal" is strong, his sense of its sonorous texture acute. But, as in the Requiem that followed, one had to project something from the will that was lacking in the deed: an orchestra on the stage of the Metropolitan has always been at a disadvantage, especially when there are problems of vocal balance to be considered. Brilliance was minimal, the overtones that give vibrance to musical sound smothered before they reached the ear.

This was a Requiem distinguished primarily for the beauty of its solo singing, especially by Leontyne Price, who led the quartet both in artistry and in range, and Carlo Bergonzi, whose beautifully even tenor sound enables him to sing an "Ingemisco" beyond contemporary compare. Cesare Siepi's bass is not so securely supported as it once was, but he has learned the patrician way of singing this music, which, for all her vibrant flow, is still to be found by Rosalind Elias. Whether through acoustical circumstances or otherwise, this was a Requiem more memorable for its lyric temper, in the "Lacrymosa" and "Benedictus," than for dramatic impact, in the "Dies Irae." Certainly, however, it has a base on which Solti can build.

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