[Met Performance] CID:128640
Götterdämmerung {142} Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts: 04/5/1940.


Boston, Massachusetts
April 5, 1940


Brünnhilde..............Kirsten Flagstad
Siegfried...............Lauritz Melchior
Gunther.................Friedrich Schorr
Gutrune.................Irene Jessner
Hagen...................Emanuel List
Waltraute...............Karin Branzell
Alberich................Walter Olitzki
First Norn..............Anna Kaskas
Second Norn.............Irra Petina
Third Norn..............Thelma Votipka
Woglinde................Thelma Votipka
Wellgunde...............Edith Herlick
Flosshilde..............Helen Olheim
Vassal..................Wilfred Engelman
Vassal..................Anthony Marlowe

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

Review of Warren Storey Smith in the Boston Post

Her Brünnhilde Is the High Spot of Great Performance

No matter what happens at the Opera House this afternoon and evening, it is quite safe to say that last night's performance of "Götterdämmerung" was the climax of the Metropolitan Company's visit. A superb performance of a stupendous opera, final drama of "The Nibelung's Ring," the mighty fourth chapter of what has been called the greatest single achievement in the whole realm of art.


One gets tired of harping on this string, but it must be said again, that nowhere else in the world would "Götterdämmerung" receive a cast superior to, or even comparable to, the one assembled last evening. And on this occasion there is little or no need for reservations. Everyone excelled. Possibly the high spot was Mme Flagstad's Brünnhilde, but the Siegfried of Mr. Melchior and the Hagen of Mr. List were not far behind it. To come to the slightly less important parts there was the remarkable Gunther of Mr. Schorr, Miss Jessner's charming Gurtrune, Mr. Olitzki's uncannily effective Alberich. And not in some time have we heard Waltraute's music sung as well as Mme. Branzell sang it.

To continue, there was a delicious trio of Rhinemaidens, Mmes Votipka, Petina and Olheim; while the first two, together with Miss Kaskas, set the key for the whole production by an admirable scene for the three Norns. The perfect Wagnerites object to the chorus of vassals in the second act, deeming it a lapse from music drama into grand opera, but those of us who seek the opera house not for the exemplification of theories but to be stirred, moved and illuded could rejoice last evening in the lusty singing of these primitive gentlemen with their wooden clubs and stone axes.

Flagstad at Her Best

Not before had Mr. Leinsdorf conducted a performance of "The Dusk of the Gods" in Boston. Not until this season, in fact, had he conducted the work anywhere and even his admirers had reason to wonder whether this tremendous assignment would prove a little too much for him. It did not. From the first solemn chord the intrepid young leader had everything well in hand. It was not his fault if a horn or a trumpet player made a slip. Nor was it his fault that the orchestra was insufficiently large in the matter of strings and that the full splendor or Wagner's instrumentation was seldom revealed. Considering what he had to work with Mr. Leinsdorf played his part in making this performance the impressive thing that it was.

And to return to Mme. Flagstad, if this should be her last season in America, and let us hope that it will not so prove, she was heard last evening at the very peak of her remarkable powers. No one knows how long we might have to wait for another Brünnhilde such as hers.

Given virtually, or entirely without cuts, this reviewer is not in a position to say which, last evening's performance was a very long affair, yet the audience gave no hint of restlessness and did give plenty of evidence of being deeply affected and greatly excited by the whole proceedings.

Review of Edward Downes in the Boston Transcript


Concluding Drama of Wagner's 'Ring' Has Uneven Performance at Boston Opera House

The greatest Wagnerian lovers of our day, Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior, appeared last night at the Boston Opera House as Brünnhilde and Siegfried in the music drama that is the climax and end of Wagner's great tetralogy, "Der Ring des Niebelungen." Erich Leinsdorf conducted the incredibly rich fabric of this score in which all the thematic strands of the preceding three music dramas run together. This is the culmination of a work which had occupied Wagner's immensely fertile mind during a quarter of a century. What a span of evolution it embraces: from the original conception of "Siegfried's Death," a legendary opera much like "Lohengrin" in which Brünnhilde takes Siegfried up to Walhalla and they all live happily ever after, though the conception of Siegfried as the ideal revolutionist and savior of the world through the Purely Human and the rule of love to the Schopenhaurian pessimism of the final catastrophe as it now stands - a catastrophe whose philosophical significance remains unexplained, whose meaning was dark, even to Wagner himself. Here the composer took refuge in legend, his original point of departure.

Bernard Shaw, once a brilliant young music critic, asserted that Wagner went back musically as well as intellectually - that he wanted to Lohengrinize again, that the choruses of the Gibichung vassals and the conspirator's trio at the end of the second act are just the old operatic Adam braking out in Wagner again. Certainly "Götterdämmerung" has it weaknesses, its redundancies, its inconsistencies. It is easy to ridicule, it lends itself to facile condemnation by the oh-so-clever modernists from Stravinsky down. But one page from that glowing score is enough to silence the smart-alec detractors and a performance of the whole opera sill leaves us speechless with admiration.

Few Cuts

It was very nearly the whole opera that was presented last night, for Mr. Leinsdorf has had the good sense to open up many of the irritating cuts that had become customary at the Metropolitan. This listener detected only two deletions last night; the short altercation between Brünnhilde and Gurtrune in the Immolation Scene and some 58 measures of Brünnhilde's lines to Waltraute in the first act. Very possibly these cuts were made out of regard for Mme. Flagstad who found her role more taxing yesterday than is often the case.

She left out the high C at the end of her duet with Siegfried (the first time we had ever had that climatic note omitted.) She lost her place for a brief passage in the second act and was dramatically as well as vocally somewhat below the high standard she had set for herself in other performances of this work. However, even when she is not at her best Flagstad's voice is so thrilling in its power and brilliance that one is disposed to forget everything else. It is more than probable that members of last night's audience will never hear another soprano who can peal forth, "Fliegt heim, ihr Raben!" in the last lap of the Immolation Scene with the same silver clarion strength with which she took leave of Siegfried in the Prologue. The simplicity and nobility of Flagstad's bearing, the wonderful breadth of her musical line and her unparalleled vocal resources make her final scene a thing once heard, always to be remembered.

Lauritz Melchior as Siegfried was as usual in resplendent voice but he too lost his place once and wittingly or unwittingly took liberties with Wagner's text. If Mr. Melchior conveyed the illusion physically or dramatically that he does with his voice, he would be a well-high ideal Siegried.

An Eloquent Orchestra

In spite of the fact that the first horn player was ill and thus all the horn parts were by players unfamiliar with them, the rest of the orchestra played with incomparably more precision and attention to detail than has been the case in "Götterdämmerung" for many years. In cleaning up the sloppy passages and trimming loose ends in the orchestra, Mr. Leinsdorf has found it necessary to adapt a beat that has something of the metronomic about it. A more elastic response to the musical phrase, to dramatic and vocal happenings on the stage can be developed with time. His broad tempi in the Siegfried Funeral Music and in the Immolation Scene were happily conceived.

Emanuel List as Hagen was evil personified. Friedrich Schorr has made the role of Gunther particularly his own, though his voice now is losing some of its mellow quality. Karin Branzell gave her fateful scene with Brünnhilde its full dramatic and musical significance and Irene Jessner was an acceptable Gurtrune. Walther Olitzki was appropriately sinister as Alberich.

The stage direction of this production is particularly sloppy in its disregard of Wagner's directions. The settings for all scenes are among the most ancient and dilapidated in the Metropolitan's vast repertory, and the final catastrophe is a parody of the stage requirements.

That in spite of this, the final scene makes its effect is a tribute to the genius of Wagner, to Mr. Leinsdorf's conscientiousness and the imagination of the audience. Boston Wagnerites accorded all the principals of the performance, including Mr. Leinsdorf and his orchestra, enthusiastic and oft repeated ovations.

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