[Met Performance] CID:128520
Die Walküre {317} Eastman Theater, Rochester, New York: 03/25/1940.

(Debut: Winifred Heidt

Rochester, New York
March 25, 1940


Brünnhilde..............Marjorie Lawrence
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Helen Traubel
Wotan...................Friedrich Schorr
Fricka..................Kerstin Thorborg
Hunding.................Norman Cordon
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Winifred Heidt [Debut]
Helmwige................Dorothee Manski
Ortlinde................Irene Jessner
Rossweisse..............Lucielle Browning
Schwertleite............Doris Doe
Siegrune................Helen Olheim
Waltraute...............Maxine Stellman

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf

Review of A. J. Warner in the Rochester Times-Union


Although "Die Walküre" is one of the most frequently given of all the works in the Metropolitan Opera's repertory it has, if memory is correct, never before been presented in Rochester.

And although New York may have grown used to the splendors which characterized last evening's performance in the Eastman Theater, those of us who have to be content with a singe presentation, once a year, by the illustrious organization that has long since become a symbol of operatic supremacy throughout world - if we don't hear and see it elsewhere - will feel that we were privileged to have one of those great imaginative experiences that take on the light of some extraordinary artistic revelation, so electrifying was the proclamation of Wagner's imperishable masterpiece.

Cast Draws Praise

The cast of principals, drawn from the Metropolitan's Wagnerian hierarchy, was perhaps the finest that has even been chosen for the company's annual appearance here. It included Lauritz
Melchior as Siegmund, Helen Traubel as Sieglinde, Marjorie Lawrence as Brünnhilde, Kerstin Thorborg as Fricka, Friedrich Schorr was Wotan and Norman Cordon as Hunding. The performance was directed by the 27-year old leader, Erich Leinsdorf, who received his promotion to first-conductorship at the Metropolitan early last season, and who was the dominating figure of the evening to a degree that is not often encountered in an opera house. It may be recorded at once that the qualities he revealed are those that belong to true musical genius.

The late Lawrence Gilman, who was so passionate a Wagnerite, once remarked that the voice of Wagner's symphonic orchestra is, after all, the essential one in all his most important scores, and that if that voice does not speak with constant beauty and power and dramatic eloquence, the entire structure of the work is undermined, no matter how accomplished are the singers before the footlights. This fact was magnificently illustrated throughout the long performance, as Mr. Leinsdorf, with an infallible technical mastery, held together the whole incredible tonal texture that is the score of this music drama, giving it an ebb and flow like the waves of the sea, and never for a moment allowing the melodic line to sag.

Thus not only was it as if one were listening to some wonderful symphony concert, but also as if one were almost hearing the opera for the first time, so perfect was the symmetry achieved, so alive and vital did every moment seem. Mr. Leinsdorf's musical taste is on a par with his intuition and temperament, and the result of his efforts was a fusion of the voice part and the orchestral into an operatic fabric of glorious flexibility. The whole complex drama vibrated with color and line and life, and while the entire company contributed to the fullest extent towards an unforgettable aesthetic opportunity the ultimate consummation of that opportunity was due to Mr. Leinsdorf and his brilliantly authoritative conducting.

Sieglinde Called Superb

Helen Traubel, the Sieglinde, has a superb voice which, in timbre, is the very essence of what is meant by a Wagnerian soprano. Miss Traubel sang like an inspired goddess, but she has yet to master the intricacies of posture and gesture, and her costume seemed unnecessarily trying. Miss Lawrence's Brüennhilde holds illusion for the eye as well as for the ear, and she not only sang the role dramatically and with much loveliness of tone, but she stood forth as a youthful, heroic and magnetic figure in her Valkyr's armor. The Australian soprano has temperament and exceptional individuality, and her impersonation was ardent, compelling and attractive. Kerstin Thorborg, as Fricka, delivered her lines with spirited effectiveness and sang very beautifully, while she gave definite histrionic character to a role that is shrewish in type, showing, as it does, Wagner's idea of the hen-pecking wife in the realm of his gods and goddesses.

The Wotan of Mr. Schorr lived up to its fame as a sovereign portrayal, with its majesty of tone and gesture, and in the lonely, unapproachable finale, the scene of Brüennhilde's pleading and of Wotan's farewell, he scaled the heights of operatic histrionism. Mr. Melchior, as Siegmund, was in superlative voice and in the first act dazzled his hearers with his prolonged pleas to "Wälse" and his unbelievably sustained tones. Mr. Cordon sang well and looked well as the Hunding.

The scenic effects, especially in the "Fire Music" scene, likewise come in for a share of praise. Although many people who planned to attend the opera from cities and towns in the vicinity of Rochester were snowbound and unable to combat the unprecedented weather conditions, the audience was large and enthusiastic.

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