[Met Performance] CID:114930
Ring Cycle  Uncut. Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/2/1934.
Metropolitan Opera House
March 2, 1934 Matinee
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle  Uncut
Forest Bird.............Editha Fleischer
Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune
'Siegfried' Given in the Cycle Performance at the Metropolitan
Yesterday's "Siegfried," given as part of the Metropolitan's unabridged "Ring" cycle, was heard by an immense audience that listened with impressive quiet and absorbed attention to a performance that lasted from 1 o'clock until ten minutes past 5. It was an audience that had quite evidently come to hear and enjoy a disclosure of Wagner at his most bountiful - an audience that did not appear to resent his "lengths." Perhaps it was aware of them not as lengths, but as the full and prodigious development of a vast imaginative design, a web of drama and poetry and tones so huge yet so engrossing that time and fatigue cease to be factors in one's reaction. The imagination released and exalted, lives for a while its own intense and re-creative life.
This, at least, is so when these titanic works of Wagner are given under the only conditions that are suited to their character: before a specially gathered audience, prepared and expectant and attuned, knowing what is to be offered them, and willing to endure the exactions imposed by an art of superhuman greatness and elevation. Yesterday's audience was of this character. There is no other such opera audience in America as that which gathers at the Metropolitan for these special Wagner performances - none so single-minded in its relation to the artistic experience that draws and holds it; none so responsive and cultivated and alert. To sit among it is a privilege. To appear before it should be regarded by any artist as an even greater privilege.
That the participants in yesterday's "Siegfried" felt something of the quality of the occasion was made manifest by their evident devotion to their tasks, their attitude of dedication to the marvelous work in hand. To play such a role as that of the Brünnhilde of "Siegfried," as the Wanderer, as Erda, as Siegfried himself - to feel one's self so crucial a part in the unfolding of. Wagner's gigantic plan as each of these great roles represents - is an undertaking that can find its deeper compensation only in the response of a sensitive and quickened audience.
That response was given yesterday without reserve to the admirable artists who held in their hands the destinies of these impersonations-to Mme. Leider, whose Brünnhilde had never seemed more nobly exalted in conception: to Mr. Schorr, whose Wanderer exemplifies the grand style of the Wagnerian epos in its perfection; to Mme. Olszewska as Erda; and to Mr. Melchior as Siegfried - a Siegfried buoyant in action and brilliantly sung, if not always an ideal figure of epic poetry and valor. To these major activities, Mr. Windheim as Mime, Mr. Schützendorf as Alberich, Miss Fleischer as the gossiping Forest Bird, and Mr. List as Fafner added their lesser but essential contributions.
Mr. Bodanzky, who conducted with the dominating power that never fails him, seemed, at times, to be in a hurry. Certain of the restored portions of the scene between Siegfried and the Wanderer were regrettably hastened - especially some of the remarkable passages that contain the "Vaterfreude" motif whose development occupies half a dozen of the earlier pages of this scene Yet often his treatment of pace was movingly right and illuminating, as in the exquisite three measures for the strings which follow Siegfried's words ". . . schlief die minnige nur?"- a passage, brief but treasurous, which is often damagingly slighted.
In "Siegfried," as always in his works, Wagner turns everything into music. It is the music that releases his imagination, and our own. Wagner the tone-poet invariably prevails, after all. He is better than his theories, better than his philosophy, better than his drama - moving and mighty as those often are. For what seizes us and takes us captive here, what we remember and return to again and again with anticipation and delight, is the greatness of the music which this tone-poet has made the vehicle for all that he has to say to us. Knowing his powers as he did, he relied on his music to commend to us whatever he set upon his stage; and this reliance was well founded.
Tolstoi, in his thick-fingered way, made fun of the spectacle of the Wanderer in the first act of "Siegfried" - that inquisitorial visitor with his wide-brimmed hat and his "silly attitudes" (as Tolstoi called them), who calls so inopportunely upon Mime. But all that finally matters about the Wanderer in this scene is the image of him that is evoked by Wagner's music - those great chords for the brass that are always, no matter how often we hear them, cloaked in strangeness and mystery, That apparition of "the old, gray-bearded figure in his cloak colored like deep night, the terrible god that the old Scandinavians believed was wont to bestride the earth, who might enter at any moment their homesteads" - this sorrowful and majestic figure, touched with the somber mystery and power of the sages, is realized in the music that Wagner has written for him a thousand times more vividly than he could be through any combination of acting, costuming. lighting, or stage direction.
There is scene after scene in "Siegfried," episode after episode, the essentials of which have similarly been realized in the music, achieving a completeness and eloquence of implication which make our concern with their visual correspondence on the stage a relatively negligible thing. The musician touches scene or character or situation, a moment of prophecy or fulfillment, with his magical power of transubstantiation; and we see life under a new aspect, in a new dimension, newly vitalized and creative. And we know that a miracle has been accomplished.
Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times
Wagnerites Turn Out in Full Force for Uncut Matinee Performance of 'Siegfried.'
The high excellence of the cast and the glowing music of "Siegfried" made an eminently successful occasion when Wagner's opera was performed yesterday in the Metropolitan Opera House as one of the leading features of the special cycle of his music-dramas, presented in unexpurgated form. That is, without cuts. It was patent by the attendance and by the attitude of the audience that whatever may be said for or against uncut Wagner, the public of this city likes the operas of the "Ring" given in that way. At least, enough of the public so prefers its Wagner as to furnish the Metropolitan with a packed theatre when his compositions are given in their entirety outside the regular subscription series. It appears, also, as if this Wagner matinee audience were becoming educated to the full significance of the music, since very few leave before the end of the opera - a procedure that a few years ago was a regular custom. Or perhaps the audience is so largely composed of perfect Wagnerites that it is unnecessary for them to be told to respect the concluding moments of every one of his music-dramas.
At any rate, there is an audience for Wagner in New York so large that his works appear on the average to lead in popularity in the repertory. This is due primarily, of course, to the plain and inescapable fact of the expressive power and splendor - the perennial miracle -of Wagner's music. The hardened operagoer, the cynical man who has outlived youthful enthusiasms and who knows that the only permanent thing in the universe is change, may point to Wagner's languours and solecisms of the theatre, and certain of his formulae which obviously are such, and ask if all this is eternally to be taken seriously. The answer is "Yes," since, thanks to the conviction and genius that act upon us, we cannot help ourselves, Wagner continues to make the world listen, and to outlive changes of musical taste.
The performance yesterday afternoon, which presented a cast of high excellence, was not particularly different from other admirable presentations of "Siegfried" which the Metropolitan has provided in late seasons. It did not have to be! There was much pleasure in hearing Mr. Schorr, who has been absent from the casts of this Wagner cycle, as the Wanderer, for he sings the music with a golden sonority that matches the noble spirit of his interpretation. Mme. Olszewska's Erda commanded attention. It displayed the rich and emotional voice and the beauty and dignity of the postulant, though it had not that grand and mystical quality which the ominous moment of Erda's appeal asks of the interpreter, and which is implicit in Wagner's music.
Mme. Lieder's Brünnhilde, if it cannot climb to the quite impossible heights that Wagner the librettist demands of his valkyrie-become-woman, is, notwithstanding, a very finely and eloquently composed interpretation. The revelations in gesture and facial expression, as well as tone, required from one who has wakened from the long sleep to love and the glory of the world, are rather more than one woman, isolated on an immense stage, may hope fully to compass. And it is a pity that the Wagner tradition apparently forbids two singers, supposed to be ecstatically cognizant of their affinity, to stand within arm's distance of each other, while lovemaking. This could be changed, one imagines, without alarming exactitude, and it would not make the moment less thrilling, climactic, Wagnerian. But it is a long, long time before things happen, and some seventeen measures, if memory is correct, for the kiss; and one must be indeed a solemn Wagnerian to resist a grin or a chortle when Siegfried, having carefully undone Brünnhilde's helmet, shield and much other paraphernalia of the transmuted goddess exclaims, "This is no man!" We can be thrilled by the epic passion of the great duet and its tumultuous sunlit finale and still wish to see something on the stage which would remind us that now the Nibelungen drama is treating of a man and a woman and not dwarfs and gods.
By the side of Mme. Leider's very thoughtfully and beautifully constructed Brünnhilde role was Mr. Melchior, rated today as the leading tenor in several Wagnerian roles, yet dangerously taxing the resources of his voice. In the early scenes, especially that of the forging of the sword, Mr. Melchior has shown his remarkable development as an artist. His interpretation is none too glamorous to the eye, but eloquent of the philosophy of the drama and the composer's purpose. Mr. Schützendorf's Alberich, Mr. Windheim's Mime and Miss Fleischer's obliging Bird, took their customary and generally excellent place in the scheme of things. Mr. Bodanzky was applauded with particular warmth when he came out for the third act, in recognition of his reading.