• U.S.

Music: Noble Gurnemanz

2 minute read

In 1923 an operatic road company from Germany visited the U. S. The German Opera’s productions were not up to top Metropolitan standards, but some of its singers were—particularly a stocky Russian bass named Alexander Kipnis. Kipnis made such a hit singing Pogner in a Manhattan performance of Wagner’s Meistersinger that U. S. critics immediately hailed him as one of the greatest basses of his time.

Basso Kipnis decided to become a U. S. citizen and marry a U. S. woman, settled in Chicago. During the Chicago Opera’s peak years under Impresario Mary Garden, Kipnis was one of its brightest stars. When the Chicago Opera folded in 1932, opera fans thought New York’s Metropolitan would salvage Basso Kipnis from the wreck. Nearly every European opera house (including Bayreuth and the Salzburg Festival) rushed to sign up Kipnis, but the Met did not join the rush.

Last week world-famed, 48-year-old Basso Kipnis finally made his Metropolitan debut. Bearded and berobed in the usually boresome part of Holy-Grailer Gurnemanz in Wagner’s lengthy Parsifal, Kipnis stole the show from Soprano Kirsten Flagstad, acted not only with his face and hands but with his voice as well. When Basso Kipnis was through with him, Gurnemanz had passed from muscle-bound youth to tottering old age without missing a footstep, and critics assured one another that a finer Gurnemanz had not been seen in a generation.

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