Flagstad Isolde, first at the Metropolitan Opera

Google

Flagstad Isolde - A first - and an unexpected triumph!

A New and Excelling Isolde Is Heard for the First Time at the Metropolitan

Flagstad Isolde - a historic debut 1935

Last night’s performance of “Tristan” at the Metropolitan was made unforgettable for its hearers by a transcendently beautiful and moving impersonation of Isolde - an embodiment so sensitively musical, so fine-grained in its imaginative and intellectual texture, so lofty in its pathos and simplicity, of so memorable a loveliness, that experienced opera-goers sought among their memories of legendary days to find its like.

They did not find it. For one of the characteristics of Mme. Kirsten Flagstad’s performance is that it is wholly individual. This remarkable Norwegian artist, whose Sieglinde won such instant admiration in last Saturday’s “Walkure,” patterns after no model or tradition in her conception of the role. She has her own vision of the character, one which finds its origin in the music and the poetry of Wagner’s drama; and she gives it complete validity and persuasive truth. Mme. Flagstad is no whirlwind Irish princess.

She seems to have been impressed with the undeniable fact that Isolde must be, as Mr. George Moore once observed, “a woman that a man could be in love with - and that is not the impact and shriek of a gale from the southwest.” And she reminds us of another fact, imperfectly realized, that Wagner’s Irish Princess is also an “Irische Maid” - that there is no reason implicit in Wagner’s text or music why she should be represented as an elderly and semaphoric Hausfrau in a red wig.

This is a young woman of royal dignity and grace, comely and girlish and grave, made desperate by the tragic passion that has enmeshed her. Afterward, she is an incarnation of poignant loveliness and ardor as the woman rapturously possessed and possessing; and finally she is the death-devoted and mystical celebrant, no longer of this earth, a creature of disembodied ecstasy.

This process of spiritual unfolding is exquisitely indicated by Mme. Flagstad, with a simplicity as subtle and restrained in method as it is irresistibly moving in effect. From the First Act to the Second, and from the Second to the Third, the texture of this Isolde’s voice is as subtly altered as her gestures and her steps. It is not easy to recall another impersonator of the role who has been able to imbue the “Lass mich sterben!” with so piercing a sense of transfigured consecration, with a communicated emotion that is to deepen into the profound appeasement and the visionary rapture of the Liebestod.

Flagstad Isolde
And always throughout, Mme. Flagstad is the finely musical artist who knows the significance of the words she sings, and the shape and rhythm of the musical phrases that enclose them, and the quality of the tones they need for their conveyance.

Always the voice itself is pure and noble and expressive, of a beauty that is often ravishing to the ear, and a power and clarity that are equal to every demand that is made upon it by the music.

This is not a review of a performance of “Tristan and Isolde”; it is a hurried note upon a new Isolde, one of the rarest, perhaps the rarest, of our time: an embodiment so deeply sensitive in its imaginative truth, of so exalted and enamoring a beauty, that the function of the critic becomes, in its presence, a mere opportunity to exercise his highest privilege - what Swinburne called “the noble pleasure of praising “

- Lawrence Gilman, New York Herald Tribune, February 7, 1935


Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

Premium Photographic Print
Dorsey, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com

Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

Premium Photographic Print
Dorsey, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com


Flagstad sings "Mild und Leise"

Flagstad Isolde