22 MAY 1926, Page 11


Tun decision of the London Opera Syndicate to open the Covent Garden Season on May 10th in spite of the strike was supported by a brave and spirited first night audience. The opera then was Figaro's Hochzeit. My portion of space does not allow detailed criticism here. I shall therefore give a surface impression of each production for the moment, and next week, perhaps, follow a more inductive process. Figaro was coloured throughout by the medium of the German language, and Herr. Bruno Walter knew what he was about when he checked the quickening pulse of the music from time to time. Fria Lotte Lehmann as the Countess, and Fraulein Elisabeth Schumann as Susanna gave performances full of musical grace and stage intelligence.

Das Rheingold was produced on the second night ; save for the usual scenic absurdities, which long ago have benumbed our sense of propriety, the production made deep impression. There should be no pre-eininent performance in this work, but only perfect inter-play between singer and singer, and again between singers and orchestra. Herr Walter obtained this almost stealthily, it seemed ; certainly not by wild display. The Ring cycle demands not so much a sensitive conductor as a conductor who once was sensitive, and can recall the bright fire of his first Wagnerian experiences in quietude. Only so can a rightful balance be secured. The singers on this occasion were of the same calibre as the con- ductor. Maria Olczewska gave again that fine conception of Fricka, which makes Wotan's wife a far more dignified and human figure than the performances of former times.

Hans Clemens was Loge. If I remember rightly, he has been promoted to that part from the insignificant role of Froh. His stage presence was a real delight—so sure, so alert. The singing was full of character, although he inclined to be too nasal in the more lyrical passages. Herr Eduard Erhard as Wotan has been criticized for lacking vocal power. For my part I was enchanted by his every phrase, and by his steady refusal to impair the rare beauty of his tone by temperamental caprice or a desire to measure his strength against the orches- tral surge. Those who did not like this Wotan have con- demned themselves. How rare are tact and fine taste in operatic singing ! Herr Erhard's Wotan was both a singer and a gentleman ; what better attributes for a god ! Her: Habich (Alberich) and Herr Reiss (Mime) again won admiration by their command over dramatic expression.

It was heartening to see the names of two Old Vic singers in the cast. They fully justified their inclusion.

Die Meistersinger on May 12th was a good sound perfor- mance, and produced some especially fine orchestral playing. Tristan on May 13th was a personal triumph for Madame Leider, whose Isolda is one of the very finest within memory. The setting for the first Act (" a pavilion erected on the deck of a ship, richly hung with tapestry ") was also a triumph—a triumph of crass stupidity. Year after year we sit through the Prelude, feverishly wondering what is in store for us behind that heavy pall. Year after year it rises to disclose that same involved permutation of sackcloth and ashes. And what more inspiring thing could there be for a scene designer than the deck of a noble ship ?