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Subject: Re: Met Broadcasts We Wish We Had
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Mon, 11 Sep 2017 09:29:37 -0400

text/plain (99 lines)

I know the Met had to pick and choose which operas it broadcast during 
the earlier years of it  “broadcast season,” but sometimes the choices left 
me perplexed, particularly in those seasons long before my time.

The 1938/39 season sounded like a dream to me, how some operas were 
left off the list is beyond my comprehension.  Broadcasts that season – 
including TWO of Tristan included, Mignon, Lucia, Hansel, Pagliacci, 
Rosenkavalier, Don Giovani, Simon Boccanegra, Louise, Aida, Boheme, 
Manon, Rigoletto, Trovatore and Barbiere.  What did not receive broadcasts 
was a list nearly as long, including Thais, Boris Godunov, Parsifal, all four 
Ring operas, Meistersinger, Salome, and most egregious – in my opinion, 
Elektra, with Rose Pauly in one of her few Met appearances, not 
inconsequentially, all of them as Elektra.  (NOTE:  As was the custom, 
shorter works like Salome, Elektra, etc., frequently got “tagged on” 
performances of other shorter works; in this season’s case, Elektra was 
partnered with Menotti’s charming “Amelia Goes to the Ball.”)

It's an even particularly more noteworthy gaff when one reads the 
reviews.  Here is Lawrence Gilman’s for the Herald Tribune (he also 
praised, highly, Menotti’s opera).

“Richard Strauss's prodigious "Elektra," which was heard at the 
Metropolitan last night for the first time this season, retains its stature as a 
masterpiece - as one of the outstanding lyric-dramas composed since 
Wagner's death.

Probably the work will continue to seem anomalous to the tender-minded. 
And it is true that Hofmannsthal and Strauss have given us here something 
startlingly different from the conventionally imagined replicas of antique 
Greek tragedy. Elektra, the very type and image of incarnate hate - a 
ragged, glaring, disheveled … shrieking her exhortations, snarling in the 
shadows, dwelling among the dogs in the courtyard like a hunted and 
degraded demon; Klytemestra, a loathsome apparition with her ghastly 
pallor and her somnambulistic tread, the symbol of an unimaginable 
depravity - the dark door, as Elektra cries out of which she, her daughter 
crawled into the world's light; these conceptions seem remote indeed from 
what we choose to think of as their classic prototypes.

Yet the heart and essence of the ancient tale are embodied in the music-
drama of Hofmannsthal and Strauss. The dramatist and the musician have 
not forgotten that the flame which purifies the tragedy is Elektra's 
unquenchable and agonizing grief and her consuming passion for 
retribution; that this agony and grief have made her the living instrument 
of a holy cause; and that her degradation and her rags are worn as the 
spotless raiment of princess who is still the daughter of a king.

We have heard in New York a number of different Elektras since the work 
was first performed here at Mr. Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera House 
almost thirty years ago; but none of them save the latest, the 
Metropolitan's Rose Pauly, has succeeded in lifting the character of the 
heroine in the imaginative and spiritual level upon which its authors 
intended it to move. Mme. Pauly does this, and does it with transfiguring 
intensity and truth, so that the grandeur and nobility of Elektra's spirit fill 
the drama and its music with the exaltation of its sublimating tenderness 
and grief.

Mme. Pauly was never more compelling in her exertion of this transmuting 
power than she was last night; and her acting and singing at the great 
moment of the Recognition Scene was a prime example of the ability of a 
supreme interpreter to give a new significance and beauty in thrice-familiar 
works of art. Various Elektras had sung the rising two-note phrase (B flat-E 
flat) in which Elektra voices her incredulous repetitions of Orestes' name' 
but none other had ever charged it with so revealing a poignancy of 
achievement. Mme. Pauly heightened the beauty and significance of a 
great role and of the masterpiece whose meaning it conveys.

Mme. Pauly's principal companions in the cast had taken part in last 
season's performances of "Elektra." Chief among them was Kerstin 
Thorborg's embodiment of the pathological and monstrous Klytemnestra, 
bloated and heavy-lidded, corrupt and horrible, in her scarlet dress 
bedecked with precious stones and amulets, complaining of her broken 
sleep and her tormented dreams, shaking with terror and superstitious 
dread. The Orestes of Mr. Schorr was an eloquent contribution to the effect 
of the overmastering scene with Eklektra, perhaps the noblest and most 
moving in Strauss's works.

Mr. Bodanzky's direction of the exacting score could scarcely be over-
praised, and the orchestra played better than at any recent performances 
that I have heard. In those pages wherein the music compasses a lofty 
pathos and a releasing grief, the fervor and devotion of the conductor and 
his men were irresistible.”

Talk about a missed opportunity!


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