[Met Tour] CID:210170

War Memorial Auditorium, Manhattan, Boston, Massachusetts, Thu, April 20, 1967

Debut : Elisabeth Grümmer

Lohengrin (535)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Sándor Kónya

Elisabeth Grümmer [Debut]

Irene Dalis

Walter Cassel

King Heinrich
Bonaldo Giaiotti

Sherrill Milnes

Ron Bottcher

Gene Boucher

Gabor Carelli

Robert Schmorr

Joseph Rosenstock

Review 1:

Review of Michael Steinberg in the Boston Globe

Met's 'Lohengrin' A Cool Production

Wagner's grandson, Wieland, was to have staged this "Lohengrin" for the Metropolitan. He died last October, and since the production was in any event intended to be a transferal to New York of what he had done for the Vienna Opera, it became in a sense, a fairly simple matter for his assistant Peter Lehmann, to adopt the conception for the New York house.

Everyone interested in opera has read a lot about Wieland Wagner and the new Bayreuth style ever since the Wagner festivals were resumed in 1951, and it is therefore important to point out that what was shown at Boston Auditorium Thursday night was a Wieland Wagner production in which Wieland himself took no part at all, and that its physical proportions, a most sensitive matter and one also presupposing the exactest sort of execution, are misrepresented by the reduced touring set.

"Static" is the word that has been used to describe this "Lohengrin" production, and "oratorio-like," both pejoratively. It was Wieland Wagner's intention to simplify the physical acting of "Lohengrin" to the greatest feasible extent, to eliminate naturalism, to establish the focal role of the chorus in this work by setting it as an unmoving background, arranged on semicircular tiers. The music and the words speak for themselves and paint the pictures, too, supported primarily by a subtle and evocative orchestration with lights.

To bring this off presupposes conditions that did not obtain, among these, precise execution of designs and the absence of blunders like the ugly blue (with too much red in it) for the chorus tiers; lighting that produces the required range and intensity of colors, precisely timed; the matter of the scenery's physical proportions, already mentioned; and not least a disciplined chorus that is properly aligned and that is sufficiently disciplined, to stand still, restraining from aimless gazing about, excessive nose-wiping, and so forth.

What one actually saw then, was often shabby - enough so to be unfair to Wieland Wagner. Still, often one could read clearly enough the power of the simplicity of Wieland's conception. To use McLuhan's useful term, the production is cool; the audience, that is, has to work attentively to fill out imaginatively what the stage declines to spell out. I found this challenge a pleasure, and even given this or that distracting or irritating element in this performance, found myself very much gripped by a work that, thanks to Leinsdorf's performance at Tanglewood in 1965, I have learned to value highly.

The theme that love cannot survive suspicion, is intrinsically gripping. The music may be in four-four too much of the time and lapse into a few conventionalities, but it has fine harmonic energy and really impressive power of characterization. It also has an individual character that is unmistakably "Lohengrin," not just generalized Wagner.

As Lohengrin, Sandor Konya used a pleasant voice with reasonable sense and taste in the first two acts, declining a little thereafter, in vocal ease also. In appearance he is definitely a tenor, not a Knight of the Grail.

Elisabeth Grummer, better known in America from records than through actual performance, brought to the role of Elsa an appropriate radiance of person, a clear and bright soprano used with good reserves of power, a technical finesse and with intelligent sense of text, and exquisite musical art. It was a performance that would have been valuable and lovely under any circumstances; coming as it did, from a woman of 56, it was a remarkable one as well.

Irene Dalis was an effective Ortrud, both in Act II when she has a lot of singing to do, and in Act I, when she must often dominate the stage in silence. Walter Cassel was a conscientious and vigorous baritone, but not remotely a Telramund, nor for that matter, any character at all.

Finally, there was a special pleasure to be had from the work of the singers in the two "small" roles in "Lohengrin." Bonaldo Giaiotti sang the King with a richly sonorous bass voice and a grand cantabile style that, for once, made his rather stuffy part most agreeable to attend to. And the singing of Sherrill Milnes as the Herald was unalloyed vocal brilliance. Moreover, both young men brought an impressive quality of personal dignity to these parts.

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