[Met Performance] CID:118620
Das Rheingold {73}
Ring Cycle [57] Uncut
. Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/6/1936.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 6, 1936 Matinee


DAS RHEINGOLD {73}
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [57] Uncut
Wagner-Wagner

Wotan...................Friedrich Schorr
Fricka..................Gertrude Kappel
Alberich................Eduard Habich
Loge....................René Maison
Erda....................Karin Branzell
Fasolt..................Ludwig Hofmann
Fafner..................Emanuel List
Freia...................Dorothee Manski
Froh....................Hans Clemens
Donner..................Julius Huehn
Mime....................Marek Windheim
Woglinde................Editha Fleischer
Wellgunde...............Irra Petina
Flosshilde..............Doris Doe

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

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Hans Kautsky

Das Rheingold received two performances this season.

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Herald Tribune

"Das Rheingold" Begins the Metropolitan's Wagner Cycle Before a Throng

Sixty years ago, a musical lunatic of genius invited the public to visit an uncomfortable theater that he had built in a remote, provincial German town, where the lodgings were primitive, the food poor, the prices high, They were asked to sit in a totally darkened auditorium, on penitential wooden seats, and listen to a gigantic four-part musical drama lasting thirteen hours in actual performance and traversing four days. Amazingly enough, the most distinguished public that had ever gathered for a premiere flocked to hear the preposterous entertainment - kings and emperors and princes and diplomats and artists and musicians and critics from the ends of the earth; and after it was all over, they acclaimed the impossible lunatic who had devised it as the creator of a new and epoch-making art.

Opera-going had for centuries been a pastime, at which the box-holders played cards or ate ices when they were bored. Wagner turned it into a religion of beauty and philosophy. Operatic audiences had always enjoyed the excitement of interrupting a performance with applause and encores. Wagner prohibited applause, and made encores inconceivable. He taught an international public how to listen to great music - in silence and with respect. He made over the mental and social habits of opera-goers throughout the world, so that today we take it as a matter of course that a great work of musico-dramatic art can be one of the loftiest and most exalting of all experiences, as it was with the ancient Greeks.

Thursday afternoon at the Metropolitan, as in so many previous winters, this miracle of artistic and social regeneration was commemorated once again, within half a year of the sixtieth anniversary of its earliest accomplishment. An assemblage of music-lovers which is like no other in America listened in silence, without applause or interruption, to the single tremendous act of the Prologue of the "Ring," which runs for two and a half hours without pause, taking us in its deliberate, marvelous course from the twilit depths of the primordial river to the tragical, deceptive sunset that brightens the faces of the doomed, unknowing gods upon the heights, with Valhalla gleaming in the dawn across the valley. And through it and about it all is music of fire and clouds and winds and hills and subterranean gloom, and the never-ending wonder of a cosmic imagination that could hold all nature, and all humanity, all dominions and principalities and powers, in the secret depths of its creative will.

The premiere of the "Ring" at Bayreuth almost sixty years ago - the most momentous opening in the records of the lyric stage - was reviewed in the "New York Tribune" by its music critic. He wrote a twelve column serial article about it. The critic's name was John R. G. Hassard, and he should not be forgotten; for Hassard was one of the earliest and most discerning appreciators of Wagner's stupefying art, "There is nothing like this work," he declared, "in all music or in all the history of stage. It is a mine that grows deeper and richer the more it is explored; and whoever has studied the score is tempted to drop it in despair of fathoming this wonderful genius."

I thought of those words of Hassard's Thursday afternoon as I sat listening to "Das Rheingold" in the darkened auditorium of the Metropolitan, and I wished that Hassard might have been there to see the capacity house and observe the intent, unbroken silence, and the truly devout performance on the stage. For Hassard was one of the few critics of his time who realized the immensity of Wagner's genius, and insisted on proclaiming it. He would have liked to know how Wagner, through more than half a century, has prevailed, and how great today his triumph is. For Wagner has become the most beloved of all composers in the opera house.

Thursday's performance of "Rheingold" was often justly and movingly accomplished. In general, it had the qualities of its predecessors in the Metropolitan's recent cycles. Mr. Schorr's superb Wotan with its noble security and poise; Mme. Kappel's Fricka, which conveys so much of the essential beauty and dignity and sovereign pathos of the role through a vocal expressiveness and a plasticity of pose and gesture which would be hard to over praise; Mme. Branzell's authentic Erda; Mr. Windheim's amazingly skillful evocation of the nature and aspect of Mime - these embodiments we have repeatedly observed and praised.

Well paired with them was Mr. Rene Maison's Loge, a far happier assumption than his Walther of Monday evening's "Meistersinger." Mr. Julius Huhen, the young American who also disconcerted us in "Die Meistersinger" by his curious misconception of the role of Kothner, gave us, on Thursday, a finely imagined Donner, eloquently sung. The new Alberich of Eduard Habich was a conscientious and workmanlike performance - but it left us regretting once again the absence of Mr. Schützendorf, whose Alberich remains an unforgettable incarnation of insensate ferocity and malignant hate.

The problems involved in the staging of the difficult work were smoothly handled: and Mr. Bodanzky's reading of the score yielded us many moments of beauty and illusion. He seems to feel with special sensibility the characterizing freshness and, loveliness and exhilaration of this music, its blend of natural magic and Olympian serenity and, through and over it, the falling shadow of the cosmic tragedy and its distant, solacing, predestined close.



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