[Met Performance] CID:120750
Die Walküre {288}
Ring Cycle [59] Uncut
. Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/17/1937.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 17, 1937 Matinee


DIE WALKÜRE {288}
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [59] Uncut

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

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

A Great Performance of 'Die Walküre' in the "ring" Cycle

Yesterday afternoon at the Metropolitan a vast audience passed through one of those searching imaginative experiences which for a time make all things seem unreal, except that inner life of the receptive mind which some extraordinary revelation has quickened and restored. The occasion was a performance of "Die Walküre" in the special Matinee Cycle of the "Ring" which is crowding the Metropolitan with weekly gatherings of enthusiastic Wagnerians.

"Die Walküre" is one of the most frequently given of all the Metropolitan's repertory works. It had already been sung four times this season. It is shamefully popular. For the superficial and easily bored it is doubtless "old hat." But yesterday a miracle happened. A thrice familiar masterpiece that for almost sixty years has been a staple of the lyric theater in New York revealed itself afresh in all its incomparable beauty and sublimity, and left its hearers at the final curtain shaken and wordless. Again the fire leaped up and the light kindled, and an ancient certainty was found anew.

"They have not seen the west side of any mountain," wrote Thoreau once, in no special connection of nothing in particular. The remark was one of those cryptic but penetrative sayings which he liked to throw out. They are not to be dissected, but they are strangely luminous and releasing. There were many of us who saw yesterday, for long moments, the west side of a mountain of the gods. One never sees that side unless some great interpreter, or some inspired group of them, assist our vision and our steps. And these things happen unpredictably, "keeping no man knows what tryst with time." They happened yesterday afternoon. Among the artists concerned were some of the greatest of the Metropolitan's roster - Flagstad, Schorr, Melchior, with Bodanzky at the conductor's desk. They had taken part in other performances this season of "Die Walküre." Yet the effect of their cooperation yesterday was exceptional, agitating, not to be forgotten.

Perhaps one reason was that Wagner's tremendous score was given, in honor of its special cyclic presentation, without the usual cuts necessitated by a regular performance, and that the artist no less than their hearers, were carried above themselves on the pinions of that soaring flight of organized immensity which Wagner achieved in each of the major "Nibelung" dramas.

Certainly Mr. Schorr outdid himself in his shaping of Wotan's absorbing narration to Brünnhilde in the Second Act. From the intimacy and tragic quietness of the beginning which Mr. Schorr so skillfully achieved up to the terrible climax in which the fragments of Wotan's ruined cosmos shatter the god's despairing dream, he made us realize what Wagner meant by saying that this was the most important and momentous passage in the entire "Ring." Certainly, too, Mr. Melchior was at a new high, even for him, in the piercing sorrow of his lamentation in the Second Act over his betrayal by "him who had bestowed the sword" that would not protect the woman he loves.

And what can be written concerning such a performance as that yesterday by Mme. Flagstad and Mr. Schorr and Bodanzky's orchestra of the unapproachable finale of the work, the scene of Brünnhilde's pleading and of Wotan's Farewell? One could say little of such music and of such a performance as it had, that would not seem impertinent. For Wagner is at his most subduing in this music which utters all that a great and pitiful imagination had to say to us of the sorrow of eternal parting and immeasurable loss. Wotan holds Brünnhilde in a long embrace and takes his last farewell of her in music that, no matter how often we have heard it, still halts the breath and dims the eyes by reason of its depth of sorrowful sublimity. The pleading of Brünnhilde was sung and enacted by Mme. Flagstad with an inevitable rightness of tone and inflection, a poignant simplicity of gesture and expression, that even she has not surpassed, and Mr. Schorr, in the Abschied, made Wotan's renunciation of the cataclysmic, yet human tragedy that it is.

Mr. Bodanzky like certain other artists, has the capacity of rising to his highest levels at precisely those moments which make the largest demands upon his powers and his conducting of "Die Walküre" has long been distinguished by the nobility and breadth with which he delivers the culminating passages of the Finale. Yesterday he surpassed himself achieving the matchless climax of the scene with a largeness and intensity of tragic pathos which were almost unendurable.

Mme. Rethberg, as Sieglinde, contributed some specially expressive singing to the music of her scene with Siegmund in the Second Act. Karin Branzell, as Fricka, restored the indispensable cloak to the costume of that intransigent sovereign. Not only did she make it speak volumes in the course of her interview with Wotan, but she made it enhance considerably the effect of her exit.

And so the "Ring" proceeds in its vastness and its cumulative power. It towers increasingly among the products of the musico-dramatic mind - "a monument for the learned and the unlearned," as one of its earlier admirers once called it, "for the simple and the wise, for the wonder alike of the layman and the expert." Among those Himalayan altitudes we make our winter and our summer festivals, and many have found there a temple in which they can put aside the smallness of daily life. We know that though we cannot live permanently at such heights, we are the better for having breathed once and again, that rarified and other worldly air.



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