[Met Performance] CID:131600
Die Walküre {325} Cleveland, Ohio: 04/17/1941.

(Review)


Cleveland, Ohio
April 17, 1941


DIE WALKÜRE {325}

Brünnhilde..............Kirsten Flagstad
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Rose Bampton
Wotan...................Julius Huehn
Fricka..................Kerstin Thorborg
Hunding.................Emanuel List
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Irra Petina
Helmwige................Maxine Stellman
Ortlinde................Irene Jessner
Rossweisse..............Lucielle Browning
Schwertleite............Anna Kaskas
Siegrune................Helen Olheim
Waltraute...............Doris Doe

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

Review of Herbert Elwell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

VALKRY FLAGSTAD IS OPERA MARVEL

Met Audience Is Dazzled by Miracles of Song

The lightning flashed and the thunder rolled ominously last night upon the stage of Public Hall, where a capacity crowd heard the battle cries of the legendary Valkyries and saw both gods and mortals work out their tragic destinies according to the musical and philosophical patterns of Richard Wagner. Among the warrior maidens, whose duty is to escort fallen heroes to Valhalla, was Kirsten Flagstad, goddess of them all when it comes to singing the lofty creations of the Bayreuth sage.

What her presence in the cast did for the Metropolitan's production of "Die Walküre" is inestimable. Last night was the first time a Cleveland audience had heard her in the role of Brünnhilde, as she had heretofore taken the part of Sieglinde in this music drama. It was therefore a new and exciting experience to see and hear her interpret the role of Wotan's affectionate but willful daughter.

In this part she was radiantly beautiful, and she moved about the fateful mountain summit with the dignity and grace of true divinity, investing the role also with all its youthful fervor and human appeal, but if her acting evoked an illusion of her supernatural, her singing, as usual, came close to something really miraculous.

How a voice can be apparently relaxed and at the same time so vibrantly expressive is more than the ordinary mortal can fathom. And another major mystery is the ease and evenness with which she sailed over the incredible intervallic hurdles which bestrew this music in its effort to suggest flight. There is something like familiarity with infinity in the suggestion of limitless space induced by her tracing of the vaulting melodic line.

Seldom does one hear every note allotted to Brünnhilde. Some of them are usually covered by the turgid exuberance of orchestral sonority. More surprising, then, than the ringing brilliance of her high tones was the rich body of her low notes, which floated out with amazing clarity no matter how thick the orchestral background. To hear everything in the part so distinctly articulated, so beautifully conceived and flexibly molded, was a revelation long to be remembered.

The luminous light shed by Flagstad could well throw the rest of the cast behind a shadow were its members not of exceptional merit. It is fortunate therefore that the Metropolitan has singers as capable as Melchior, Emanuel List, Julius Huehn, Rose Bampton and Kerstin Thorborg to support so outstanding an artist as Flagstad.

In some ways Melchior is a better Siegmund than a Tristan, though in both cases his love-making has cloying effusiveness that lends a suspicion of fraudulence to his heroic attitudes. Yet he knows the Wagner tradition backwards and forwards and can be counted on to time every movement in a way that could not be more correct if he used Wagner's own stop-watch. His extraordinary lung power was as imposing as ever in the enormous stretches of sustained sound he has to cover as Siegmund.

Bampton added cubits to her vocal stature as we have known it by a Sieglinde of rare beauty. Thorborg's efficiently organized intensity in projecting Fricka struck home with its customary vigor. List, with his still roundly sonorous bass, was an impressive Hunding. And Julius Huehn gave us an excellent Wotan, shaped with deep feeling and understanding.

The conductor was Erich Leinsdorf, and for the first time in Public Hall he rearranged the seating of the Metropolitan's orchestra in a manner that placed the horns and Wagner tubas at his left, the other brass instruments to the extreme right as usual. This seating arrangement produced some rather interesting antiphonal effects, as the two brass contingents occasionally answered each other, though with the contrabasses behind the horns to the extreme left and very far from the cellos there was some loss in cohesiveness of ensemble. Had the pit been wider, he would probably have placed them nearer the cellos, as he did for the first time in New York recently, conducting "Parsifal."

Beat Incisive

Leinsdorf's vigorous and incisive beat held the instrumental and vocal forces in admirable control and his exceptionally clear insight obtained a performance continuously vital and arresting.

The appearance of Brünnhilde's sisters, the other Valkyries, in the third act does much to people the stage and provide it with a little more movement than the long dialogues of the other acts afford. By the time we have followed the destinies of the principal characters, seen Siegmund flee Hunding's hut with Sieglinde, witnessed his and Hunding's death at the hand of Wotan, who does the job after Brünnhilde fumbles it, it is rather nice to find some other persons about who are still alive to keep the drama going for another act.

Honorable mention goes to the following singers for their able work as the Valkyries: Maxine Stellman, Thelma Votipka, Irene Jessner, Lucielle Browning, Irra Petina, Doris Doe, Helen Olheim and Anna Kaskas.



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