Tristan und Isolde

Erich Leinsdorf
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
6 February 1943
Metropolitan Opera New York
Recording Type
  live   studio
  live compilation   live and studio
Tristan Lauritz Melchior
Isolde Helen Traubel
Brangäne Kerstin Thorborg
Kurwenal Julius Huehn
König Marke Alexander Kipnis
Melot Emery Darcy
Ein junger Seemann John Garris
Ein Hirt Karl Laufkötter
Steuermann John Gurney
Jonathan Brown

Like the 1941 recording, this one is superior to the forlorn 1940 recording, and brings us Helen Traubel’s Isolde for the first time (Flagstad had sailed from New York to join her husband in Nonvay). Traubel’s voice is lighter than Flagstad’s, not as steady and dark-hued, but this has its advantages. It makes the veteran Brangline, Kerstin Thorborg, sound suitably mature and matronly as she advises Isolde on how to resolve her woes. And with her narrower tone, she appears more tense and more furious than Flagstad in pursuing .1 risian: she assaults him at a different level. She is superb at some tender phrases (“Er soh’ mir in die Auge”), and her curse (“Tod tins Beiden!”) is every bit as merciless as Flagstad’s, and has a deeply affecting twist of despair at Beiden.

In Act Two the contrast between the cautious Brangane and the wayward Isolde works particularly well. But once caution is thrown to the winds and ‘Frisian leaps on to the scene, Traubel avoids some high notes in the bewildering frenzy that follows. Thereafter the prompter can be heard at work. Alexander Kipnis is superb again as a most noble and deeply affecting King Marke, overcome by shame.

There is some “drop out” in the Prelude to Act Three and some serious surface noise, like a wind storm, which ‘disturbs its tranquillity. The beautifully plangent car anglats is disturbed, yet again, by a dark ocean of coughing from the auditorium. Karl Laufkoetter makes his last appearance as the Shepherd, singing his “Od rind leer dos. Meer” with a delicate, trembling voice suggesting how much he dreads reporting his vision of a barren, empty sea. Melchior sounds utterly broken after cursing the drink (“Verflucht, wer dick) gebraut?’). Whether feigned or real, this is the last we hear of him in a live performance. Leinsdorf adds one more cut to his usual three cuts to this Act, to spare Isolde for her Liebestod.

Jonathan Brown | Tristan und Isolde on Record

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Naxos, Arkadia, Line, OOA
Technical Specifications
546 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 656 MByte (flac)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Joseph Urban (1920)
There are cuts in the performance the same as those in the 23 March 1940 performance, with the addition of a further cut in Act 3, Scene 2, from “Gebrochen der Blick!” to “Nur einmal noch!” (Isolde). [Jonathan Brown]