Fritz Busch
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
26 November 1945
Metropolitan Opera New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Heinrich der VoglerNorman Cordon
LohengrinTorsten Ralf
Elsa von BrabantHelen Traubel
Friedrich von TelramundHerbert Janssen
OrtrudKerstin Thorborg
Der Heerrufer des KönigsHugh Thompson
Vier brabantische Edle?
The New York Sun

Of the two shows that went on under the Metropolitan’s roof as the opera season opened last night there is no question that the one which went on in the corridors and lobbies was gayer, brighter, and more entertaining than the one on the stage. Uniforms were once more conspicuous, but instead of the khaki and navy blue of recent years it was the uniform of polite society-black and white for the men, the spectrum for the ladies.

There was, inescapably, an opera-Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” heard not only by the 3,000-odd in the antiquated theater, but as many millions as cared to turn a switch to hear the first national broadcast of a Metropolitan opening. And whether one was numbered among the thousands or the millions, the “Lohengrin” one heard was, in at least two respects, superior to those we have been hearing for most of this generation.

The good word today is that the Metropolitan has acquired, in the Swedish Torsten Ralf, a tenor better suited to the lyric Wagner roles than any singer heard here in a score of years. Ralf’s voice does not ravish the ear with its beauty, but it is both audible and flexible, with enough strength to surmount a Wagnerian climax. Considering what we have been enduring, in that time, when the performer of the evening was not Melchior, for these blessings we give thanks.

Ralf inclines to the butter-ball in physique, but he moves with authority if not grace, and does not fuss with unnecessary actions. He has the dignity to remember that a tenor can also be a musician, and an opera singer something of an actor. In all, if Ralf has nothing else to do for the next ten years, he can call New York his home. I hope he has an apartment.

The other advantage stemmed from the presence in the pit of Fritz Busch, a distinguished figure in European musical life for nearly three decades, since the early 1930’s a self-dictated wanderer from the Hitler scourge. He need be a wanderer no more-the Metropolitan has need of a conductor of his experience and integrity.

One may wish for a little more poetry and resilience than Busch revealed, but one could not remember a recent “Lohengrin” in which so much of the orchestral score was heard in which the singers were treated as valued friends and not as intruders on the conductor’s personal dealings with the orchestra. Busch still has a good deal to learn about the acoustics of the house, but I don’t see how else he can learn them save by performing there.

The conductor labored mightily to make an ensemble of the varied elements he inherited for this performance, but that will take a little more time. Helen Traubel’s Elsa is not nearly her best role, and her sound vocailzation of the part did not disquise the fact that physically and temperamentally it is alien for her. Herbert Janssen made an eloquent plea for us to overlook the absurdities inherent in the role of Telramund, while Kirsten Thorborg seems to revel in those of Ortrud. Hugh Thompson was a resonant, alert Herald for the King, which as interpreted by Norman Cordon was more aged in voice than his appearance suggested. One hopes that the vocal condition which marked Cordon’s voice is only temporary.

Irving Kolodin

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Matinee broadcast
A production by Samuel Thewman (1921)