[Met Performance] CID:127100
Die Walküre {310} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/6/1939.

(Debut: Eyvind Laholm

Metropolitan Opera House
December 6, 1939


Brünnhilde..............Marjorie Lawrence
Siegmund................Eyvind Laholm [Debut]
Sieglinde...............Lotte Lehmann
Wotan...................Julius Huehn
Fricka..................Risë Stevens
Hunding.................Norman Cordon
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...............Erich Leinsdorf

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

Die Walküre received ten performances this season.

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times


First Offering of the Season for Opera Shows Injection of American Talent


Miss Lawrence Sings the Role of Bruennhilde -- Lotte Lehmann Is Sieglinde

No doubt with the laudable intention of injecting new and young blood Into its Wagnerian casts and giving due opportunity to Americans of talent, the Metropolitan Opera Company, last night, recast almost completely its first "Walkuere" of the season The principal exceptions to this arrangement were Lotte Lehmann's Sieglinde and Marjorie Lawrence's Brunnhilde, foreign artists in familiar parts. There was one American debut, that of Eyvind Laholm, the tenor of Swedish-American parentage, whose actual name is Edwin Johnson, while his professional designation is that of the Swedish town where his parents lived before they came over-seas. The results of this arrangement were in the main creditable without being exciting, and without presenting Wagner's opera at its full stature.

Sang with Philharmonic

Mr. Laholm had been heard in this city last spring when he appeared in the performance of Wagnerian excerpts with the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. He has proved an earnest and gifted student of his art and this under circumstances not customary in the lives of operatic tenors. For Mr. Laholm, after singing lessons in his early years, enlisted in the United States Navy; then, following his discharge, pursued vocal and dramatic studies here and in Europe before obtaining the position of leading tenor at the Essen opera, and singing in other German cities, such as Wiesbaden, Stuttgart, and Berlin, finally returning with the prestige of a European reputation to his own country. He showed his intelligence and conscientiousness last night, but it must be said that he did not provide a highly distinguished or dramatic performance.

The voice is a little small for the reaches of the Metropolitan Opera House. It does not appear to be a genuine "heldentenor," for which a tone of more strength and mettle is required. In lyrical passages which did not make too strenuous demands there was warm and pleasant quality, particularly in the upper register. Lower down the tone was rougher, and not so clear.

Acting Is Discussed

Probably in a smaller theatre this voice would more fully realize its possibilities, and produce more variety of tone-color and effect. As an actor there is much for Mr. Laholm to acquire. He is a personable figure on the stage, but he is not very free or authoritative in stage business, or was not on this occasion.

To continue with the Americans: We cannot, with all the will in the world, see eye to eye with Mr. Huehn's Wotan. The voice has not enough weight and power, nor has the impersonation the majesty and the tragic grandeur demanded by a character as great as any in Sophocles. And why the enormous cut in Wotan's narrative, of which there was heard the beginning and the end, and little more. The rest of the opera was uncut. Very little time was saved by the excision. Or was it the intention to spare the singer? The thing that characterized this Wotan held true also, in a measure of Mr. Cordon's Hunding. It had the physical stature, well enough, but not the vocal impact, and by no means the sinister menace of the black warrior.

Miss Stevens, on the other hand, needed principally stature to make of her Fricka a highly expressive achievement. She sang with fine intelligence and diction. The upper tones could be fuller and stronger for this role, too, for there is no gainsaying the fact that the Wagner parts are in every way tremendous, and in every way make immense demands upon singers who either have or have not the various resources needed to meet them. This, however, was one of the secondary parts which carried a measure of the feeling and conviction essential to make them live.

Miss Lawrence Is Bruenhilde

As for the artists of international fame who took the principal women's roles, Miss Lawrence, who found it not so easy to climb up to Bruenhilde's "B'' on her entrance call, gave on the whole a very vivid and moving portrayal of the role. Mme. Lehmann, unfortunately, saw fit to indulge in mannerisms and exaggerations which cheapened the effect of her Sieglinde, a part in which she had given performances of seldom unparalleled expressiveness at the Metropolitan on other occasions.

No Hunding, even one already filled with suspicions of the gentleman whom he found his wife entertaining cozily in his absence, would have waited until the next morning to bash in the head of a guest in whom his marital partner showed such undisguised and anticipative interest. Sieglinde made no secret of being in a hurry for developments. Thanks to her plain gestures, Siegmund could have found the sword in the tree much sooner than he was supposed to, and all the explanations of him to her and her to him were superfluous, long before they were made. And why should Mme. Lehmann squirm about, and force upper tones, and become guttural in lower ones, and otherwise belie the native quality of her art?

Mr. Leinsdorf's conducting, on this occasion, somewhat disappointed us. His tendency to a hurried tempo seemed more evident than before, Turns of phrase, the gruppetto of one of the love motives, for example, were made a little trivial instead of nobly ornamental.

The dialogue between Siegmund and the Valkyrie lost much of its impressiveness because of the hurried manner in which the mysterious announcement of the fate motive was made and a need of that subdued mystical color that is inherent in one of the most fateful and poetical passages in the whole "Ring." In loud places there was too often coarseness, and only a partial realization of the color that is there in the score.

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