[Met Performance] CID:120000
Die Walküre {282} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/21/1936.

(Opening Night {52}
Edward Johnson, General Manager
Debuts: Kerstin Thorborg, Irene Jessner
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 21, 1936
Opening Night {52}

Edward Johnson, General Manager


DIE WALKÜRE {282}
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Kirsten Flagstad
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Elisabeth Rethberg
Wotan...................Friedrich Schorr
Fricka..................Kerstin Thorborg [Debut]
Hunding.................Emanuel List
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Irra Petina
Helmwige................Dorothee Manski
Ortlinde................Irene Jessner [Debut]
Rossweisse..............Lucielle Browning
Schwertleite............Anna Kaskas
Siegrune................Helen Olheim
Waltraute...............Doris Doe

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

Director................Leopold Sachse
Set designer............Jonel Jorgulesco

Die Walküre received ten performances this season.


Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

METROPOLITAN PACKED TO DOORS AS 52d OPERA SEASON OPENS WITH ALL ITS OLDTIME BRILLIANCE

'Die Walkure' First German Work to Lift Curtain in 35 Years, Has Kirsten Flagstad in Performance in Response to Popular Demand

The extraordinary audience that nearly swamped the patient Metropolitan last night by its size and eagerness assembled in the auditorium to an unusual accompaniment. At 8 o'clock as the lights were dimmed and the highly decorative ladies and their brave cavaliers were ushered to their places, Mr. Bodanzky and his orchestra greeted their arrival with recurrent shocks of instrumental rain and wind and the roaring of a prehistoric storm though the tree-tops in some nameless, legendary forest of the Sagas.

For this was the brief but tremendous prelude that depicts the storm which sweeps through the Spring woods and beats upon the fugitive Siegmund as he makes his way (behind the curtain) to Hunding's forest dwelling. This, in short, was the momentous beginning of 'Die Walkure" for the Metropolitan had chosen to open its fifty-second season amid the epic tumults and immensities of nothing less that a full-fledged Wagner music-drama - something that had not happened at the opera house, historians have reminded us, in thirty-five years. It may have seemed to the unreflective an odd choice for an occasion of social and spectacular festivity, but it was undoubtedly made in response to an astonishing but unmistakable public demand for the greatest things in the art of the lyric theater, and as such it was shrewd and realistic and enlightened.

One advantage at least that "Die Walkure" might be said to possess from the point of view of an Opening Night opera is that its principal character, the Walkure herself - in this case the Metropolitan's most powerful magnet, the idolized Kirsten Flagstad - does not appear until the second act. This made it possible last night for any dilatory debutante who wished to dine in comparative leisure, without missing any moment of Flagstad's singing to do so with ease. She could dine in civilized tranquility at 8 o'clock, step from her motor a little after 9 at Thirty-ninth Street and Broadway and be in her place by the time the curtain rose to Act Two, with Flagstad as the Valkyrian Wish-Maiden standing above Wotan on the heights ready to break into the jocund opening measures of Brunnhilde's "Ho-jo-to-ho."

And so it worked out last evening. When the curtain parted on the Second Act at a quarter after nine the boxes and parquet appeared to an observer in Row D of the stalls to be more than adequately adorned with maidens, matrons, and the necessary, but negligible, backlogs in black and white, while upon the stage garbed in shining mail and armed with a spear and shield, her dark hair flowing from beneath her helmet stood the greatest opera singer in the world, embodying with matchless vividness and vitality a dead genius's preposterous dream of beauty and sublimity.

When the sovereign voice pealed forth with its incredible familiar, effortless ease and splendor and mountain purity leaping upward to the high Bs and Cs and ending (after the warning to Wotan of the approach of Fricka) on a radiant climax of buoyant mockery and high spirits, we knew that Wagner was once more to be greatly served - as so often in the recent past since this unrivalled artist came among us. Meanwhile, of course, the whole First Act of "Die Walkure" had been traversed. Those dilatory ones who missed it last evening had best not be reminded, perhaps, that in this Act (though "Die Walkure" was the earliest of Wagner's major works) there is music of god-like stature and power, music that is magically charged with the sense of springtime mystery and freshness and the wonder and ecstasy of recreated life.

The essential quality of the First Act music of "Die Walkure" is its vernal and elemental rapture, its passionate eagerness and directness. This is music of the dayspring of the earth, of long-forgotten dawns and nights and the primal loveliness of far-off things. It is as tender as the bourgeoning green of boughs and earth; as terrible in its beauty as wind and flame and water. If it is not realized with something of that warm exuberance and sensuous beauty and abundance, it fails of its complete effect. Often it was sung with that effect last night by Mr. Melchior, and occasionally by Mme. Rethberg in certain quieter moments when she was at her best. For in truth the eminent blonde soprano did not always do herself full justice.

Yet how magnificently Wagner's music and his drama drive onward to their conquest at the close of this prodigious Act with Sigmund's triumphant plucking of Wotan's buried sword from the ash-tree's stem while the music shouts and blazes with exultant passion and Sieglinde sinks with a cry into Siegmund's arms. Wagner's orchestra goes mad with ecstasy as the curtain falls.. None too soon! As the irreverent used to say upon an Act that has not its parallel in opera and last night much of its overwhelming power caught up the hearers into the immensity and fervor of its utterance and drew from them an exceptional warmth of response.

The major debut of the evening occurred in the second act. This was the first appearance in America as Fricka of the Swedish contralto Kerstin Thorborg, who created something of a sensation in London's spring season of opera at Covent Garden seven months ago by her performance in this role. Mme. Thorborg is a woman of regal and distinguished beauty, stately in bearing, slender and tall and straight. She knows the significance of what she is called upon to say and do. She is clearly an actress of intelligence and skill and power. She fills and holds the eye. The voice is not or did not seem last night of even beauty and expressiveness throughout its range, though it will be fairer to wait until after Wednesday's 'Tristan" to speak of that with conviction. But of Mme. Thorborg's power and subtlety and effectiveness in the embodiment of character there was little question



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