[Met Performance] CID:101000
Götterdämmerung {102} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/12/1929.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 12, 1929 Matinee


GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG {102}
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Gertrude Kappel
Siegfried...............Rudolf Laubenthal
Gunther.................Friedrich Schorr
Gutrune.................Editha Fleischer
Hagen...................Michael Bohnen
Waltraute...............Karin Branzell
Alberich................Gustav Schützendorf
First Norn..............Merle Alcock
Second Norn.............Phradie Wells
Third Norn..............Dorothee Manski
Woglinde................Editha Fleischer
Wellgunde...............Phradie Wells
Flosshilde..............Marion Telva
Vassal..................Max Bloch
Vassal..................Arnold Gabor

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Hans Kautsky

Götterdämmerung received two performances this season.

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Herald Tribune

'Götterdämmerung' at the Opera for the First Time This Season

There are so many fine things in the Metropolitan's production of "Götterdämmerung," so many potentialities for artistic good, that it is always difficult to reconcile one's self to the things in it that are inferior and disappointing. The quintet of principals, for example, is for the most part of exceptional quality. It would be difficult to find in Europe a better singing-actor for Hagen than Mr. Bohnen, a better Gunther that Mr. Schorr. Is there in Europe a Brünnhilde who can sing the Immolation Scene with more touching beauty than Mme. Kappel? - even though she has not quite the tragic sweep of temperament, the histrionic power and the sheer vocal magnitude that are called for by the terrifying role. As for Miss Fleischer, she is surely one of the best available Gutrunes. Into the distressing question of the current supply of Wagner tenors we need not go at present, but there is no ungraciousness, rather, a true compliment in the observation that there are many worse Siegfrieds than Mr. Laubenthal - some of them high in favor with European publics of assumed distinction.

Yet for some reason, these artists do not yield us all that they should in "Götterdämmerung." Mme. Kappel, for example, needs either better stage direction than Mr. von Wymetal can provide, or, perhaps, she needs to be let alone. Some one should tell her, for instance, that when Brünnhilde strides furiously through the ring of vassals and tears from Hangen's outstretched spear the hand of (as she thinks) the falsely swearing Siegfried, she must not push Siegfried petulantly away as if he were interfering with her egress from a crowded subway car. She should sweep him aside as if she were - as for the moment she is - an outraged goddess. It is not a matter of physical strength, but of line and gesture heroically conceived. And why must Mme. Kappel keep her gaze so obviously on Mr. Bodanzky? There are other ways of heeding a conductor's clues than by starring him out of countenance.

As for Mr. Laubenthal, he quite spoiled the scene of his arrival at the Hall of the Gibichungs in the First Act by his ill-timed and continued amusement over some private jest - shared apparently, only by himself, Gutrune, and the horse. And Mr. Laubenthal still prefers to make nonsense of the scene of the disguised Siegfried by ignoring Wagner's direction that he "appear in Gunther's form." Was it Mr. von Wymental's idea, or Mr. Bohnen's, to make up Hagen in the likeness of a barbaric Amfortas? Hagen has been variously characterized for the eye, but we can scarcely conceive of him as a despondent religious mystic.

Such things as these are disruptive of illusion. And Wagner's dramas, with their exorbitant demands upon the co-operative imagination of the spectator, need all the help they can get from the singing-actors and the stage director. The sort of aesthetic anarchy that seems occasionally to reign in the Metropolitan's performance indicates either laxness of control, or a kind of direction that decidedly has not its eye on the object.

Mr. Bodanzky, who, as conductor, necessarily stands at the vital center of Wagner's conception, again caused one to wonder how an artist of his taste and musicianship could so often feel the music of this score with a deep and unassailable rectitude, and at other times so grievously misconceive it. It is, for example, an old and, alas!, all too familiar aberration of Mr. Bodanzky's to mar the beauty and impressiveness of the dawn scene in the Prologue by taking it at a headlong tempo that works havoc with the poetic and musical mood.

If Mr. Bodanzky is indifferent to the poetic mood of the episode that begins with the long cello passage over the dominant seventh trombone chord, one would suppose him to be sensitive enough as a musician to shrink from playing this passage up to the entrance of the violins in E flat, not, as Wagner directs, "Sehr ruhig, ohne zu schleppen," but as an Allegro. Season after season, Mr. Bodanzky sees fit thus to ruin the effect of one of Wagner's loveliest pages.

Yet, he is able to feel so justly, so sensitively, so movingly, the character of Waltraute's marvelous narration of the god's distress, for instance, and the comparable marvel of Brünnhilde's transfiguring "Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott" in the Finale (two and the half dozen outstanding examples of sublimity in music), that one never ceases to wonder over this striking anomaly among conductors - an artist at once so sensitive and so obtuse, so devoted and so wayward.

Nevertheless and notwithstanding, there were unforgettable moments in yesterday's "Götterdämmerung" - the deeply affecting Waltraute scene, as realized by Mme. Branzell and Mr. Bodanzky; the dignity and power of Mr. Schorr's fine Gunther; Mme. Kappel's Immolation Scene, with its pathos and exaltation, its tenderness that often overwhelmed; and always there was the grandeur and might and loveliness of the titanic score itself - surely the paramount example of blended beauty and tremendousness in musical art.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).