[Met Performance] CID:122650
Die Walküre {295} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/21/1938.

(Debut: Erich Leinsdorf

Metropolitan Opera House
January 21, 1938


Brünnhilde..............Kirsten Flagstad
Siegmund................Paul Althouse
Sieglinde...............Elisabeth Rethberg
Wotan...................Ludwig Hofmann
Fricka..................Kerstin Thorborg
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...............Karin Branzell

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf [Debut]

[Branzell's appearance as Waltraute is recorded only in the company paybook, not the signed program.]

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the Herald Tribune

It not often that a young man of twenty-five gets an opportunity to conduct one of Wagner's major operas before a subscription audience at the Metropolitan, with the greatest singer in the world at the head of the cast, and the critics holding watches on his tempi and comparing him with Maestro Bodanzky. Yet such was the opportunity given last night to the youthful Erich Leinsdorf, who conducted a performance of "Die Walküre" with Kirsten Flagstad heading the cast and a crowded audience observing narrowly the young director. For the Metropolitan audiences have their gods as well as their goddesses, and one of them is Artur Bodanzky, chief and beloved conductor of Wagner at the Metropolitan for almost a quarter of a century.

Mr. Bodanzky is exceptionally burdened this season with heavy and important duties at the Metropolitan. He directs not only seven of the most formidable Wagner works, with the annual matinee "Ring Cycle" impending, but he is responsible also for two huge scores by Richard Strauss, "Elektra" and "Der Rosenkavalier" revived this season as part of a lesser Richardian cycle. How he accomplishes what he does remains a mystery to his friends and admirers.

It had become obvious to the Metropolitan management, no doubt, that an able associate conductor for the Wagner works, if such a one could be found; was desirable. Hence the emergence last night of Mr. Leinsdorf. Mr. Leinsdorf. a Viennese, appears to have entered the picture in the following fashion: He has recently been assisting Mr. Toscanini in the preparation of operas at Salzburg. It is said that Mr. Toscanini, impressed by the young man's musicianship, which includes an astonishing musical memory, recommended him to the Metropolitan. Mr. Leinsdorf was secured, and last evening found him standing before the conductor's desk in the orchestra pit confronting the tremendous second drama of "Der Ring des Nibelungen," with the shades of Mottl, Mahler, and Seidl, and the living memory of Toscanini himself, present to the consciousness of those who watched Mr. Leinsdorf as he lifted his baton.

They saw an astonishingly boyish figure, short, small of build, graceful, with one or two of the familiar gestures of his great master, doubtless unconsciously adopted. He was unmistakably in command of himself (though he wiped his brow occasionally with his handkerchief). He soon made it evident that he was entirely at home in the great work before him, and that he possesses an exceptional gift for eliciting its substance from the players under his command. His beat was clear, firm, intelligible. He knew what he wanted from his orchestra, and how to get it. He was apparently without self-consciousness - wholly concerned with the music.

It was impossible to doubt that his ability was extraordinary, that he has musical feeling, taste, authority. He accomplished a vital, lucid, admirably rhythmed performance of the score- a performance remarkable for power, intensity and dramatic impulse. Some of his tempi were too fast. He does not yet realize, perhaps, how essential it is that Wagner's great phrases have time to speak, to breathe and unfold and culminate - that they cannot be hurried in the wrong places without being minimized to their damage. "Die Walküre" is a fathomless work. But Mr. Leinsdorf is young, and there is plenty of time. He is a very welcome acquaintance, an artist whom one must admire and - better yet - respect.

There is not time at present for further comment on a performance that did not end until almost midnight. The admirable cast was enthusiastically applauded. But the evening was Mr. Leinsdorf's.

Review of staff critic GWH in Musical America

`Die Walküre' Under a New Conductor

In the person of Erich Leinsdorf, the Metropolitan has a new conductor who is a valuable acquisition. This was proved abundantly by his first appearance there on the evening of Jan. 21, when he presided over a finely artistic presentation of the second work in the great 'Ring' Cycle of Richard Wagner. The rich variety and vast profundity of 'Die Walküre' constitute a tremendous task for any conductor, but it may be said at once that this young Viennese musician came through that ordeal with colors flying. Slight and short of build, very youthful in appearance (he is said to be only twenty-six years old), modest in demeanor, wholly non-spectacular, apparently unselfconscious, he devoted himself to the task in hand with complete absorption and also with full command of himself and of the forces under him. His beat was firm, sure, clear, imbued with a nervous sensitivity. At every moment throughout the long music-drama he knew just what he wanted from the musicians under him, and he got it-sometimes by eloquent, if urgent, persuasion, and anon by compelling command. It was obvious that he knew the score (he hardly appeared to look at it at any time), and he led the singers as well as the orchestra. Mr. Leinsdorf appears to be a born conductor.

There were some changes of cast from the last preceding performance, but Kirsten Flagstad repeated her superb impersonation of Brünnhilde-an impersonation that is incomparable in these days and that carries oldsters back in fond memory to the time of Nordica. Mme. Flagstad was in perfect voice. Indeed, she never sang more beautifully or imbued the character with greater nobility and pathos. From her first entry, with the Valkyr's "Cry" enunciated with amazing brilliance and ease, she kept to the heights both vocally and histrionically.

Playing up to her in a quite surprising way, Ludwig Hofmann as Wotan achieved the finest singing and acting he has put to his credit this season. His interpretation throughout was on a high artistic level. Elisabeth Rethberg was both a brave and a pathetic figure in the part of Sieglinde and sang the music in tune, though much of it is too heavy for her voice. Paul Althouse as Siegmund, while uneven vocally, yet gave a vigorous and appealing performance. Emanuel List's Hunding was thoroughly capable, if in a routine way. Kerstin Thorborg was a very shrewish Fricka who, nevertheless, sang excellently.

Even the lesser Valkyries seemed to be imbued with the electrifying exaltation of a Performance that, taken as a whole, was surcharged with high artistic endeavor and that glowed with lambent flame and in moments of climax soared to thrilling magnificence.

Photograph of conductor Erich Leinsdorf.

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