[Met Performance] CID:146700
New production
Die Walküre {355}
Ring Cycle [77] Uncut
. Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/13/1948.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 13, 1948 Matinee
New production


DIE WALKÜRE {355}
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [77] Uncut
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Helen Traubel
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Rose Bampton
Wotan...................Herbert Janssen
Fricka..................Kerstin Thorborg
Hunding.................Mihály Székely
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Martha Lipton
Helmwige................Regina Resnik
Ortlinde................Irene Jessner
Rossweisse..............Lucielle Browning
Schwertleite............Margaret Harshaw
Siegrune................Hertha Glaz
Waltraute...............Jeanne Palmer

Conductor...............Fritz Stiedry

Director................Herbert Graf
Set designer............Lee Simonson
Costume designer........Mary Percy Schenck
Lighting designer.......Lee Simonson

Die Walküre received five performances this season.

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Tribune

Costumes and Simonson's Sets Give "Die Walküre" New Look

The cast which was heard in "Walküre" at the Metropolitan Opera House, given as the second performance in the complete presentation of the "Ring" cycle yesterday afternoon, was a familiar one; but there was the just-completed scenery by Lee Simonson and the costumes by Mary Percy Schenck to give a "new look" to Wagner's music drama. Quite startling was the setting of Hunding's abode when compared with others seen both here and abroad. The huge base of a tree trunk occupies the entire left half of the stage, instead of the center, as is described in the libretto by Wagner, and, moreover, Wagner's wishes are further disregarded; for no suggestion of the branches and foliage which supposedly penetrate and cover the roof of the dwelling is in evidence. Nestled in its roots are other tree stumps which replaced the customary rude-hewn table and seats. However, neatly carpentered steps cut into the tree's trunk made it convenient for Siegmund to pull out the imbedded sword without climbing onto the table, a feat which must have been most precarious for the stalwart tenors of former days.

To the right was (what proved to be when the lights became bright enough to discern its outlines) a rock upon which, close to the boards of the house, are logs, which strangely enough burst into flame as Siegmund sings about the gleam of the fire on the trunk of the ash tree without even the faintest preliminary glimmer or spark. The fireplace and chimney requested by Wagner are missing. Evidently Hunding had constructed his dwelling of asbestos; since the burning embers are in direct contact with its walls; or perhaps he was well insured.

At least as astonishing is the lighting of this scene; for when the doors fly open at "Keiner ging, doch einer kam," the forest without remains dark, but the moonlight enters via a spotlight from above the dwelling's interior to illuminate the scene. There are miracles which Wagner in his highest imaginative flights never pictured. There remain other peculiar details of structure and lighting which limitations of space prevent describing at this time.

Less need be said of the second-and third-act scenes which follow lines utilized in "Rheingold" and already discussed by Mr. Thomson. The third act, however, which makes partial use of second-act material, strongly resembles a promontory in Fort Tryon Park. One wonders whether the Valkyries were sufficiently accomplished as masons to build such perfect steps as those leading up to the farthest protruding ledge. Perhaps they occupied their time in masonry between carrying slain heroes to Valhalla.

There was much good singing during the course of the afternoon along with some that was less persuasive. As Sieglinde, Miss Bampton was comely to gaze upon, aside from a shoddy, inappropriate costume, and sang her music expressively and with poignantly moving effect in the second act as Sieglinde enters in hysterical fear fleeing with Siegmund from the pursuing, vengeful Hunding. Here, too, her tones achieved the pointed brilliancy which had been missing in the ecstatic flights of the first act.

After a delivery of the "Ho-yo-to-ho" which was largely off pitch and unsteady, Miss Traubel gained complete control of her vocal resources and sang with full-bodied, luminous tones which reflected the meaning of the text discerningly. Like the remaining Valkyries, Miss Traubel wore a gray skirt topped with a black, jersey bodice, adorned with two silver stripes, hardly convincing as armor, over which was placed a vermilion cape which Miss Schenck, its designer, evidently found preferable to the blue which Wagner preferred for Brünnhilde. A helmet from which high black and bright red plumes protruded capped this costuming, revue fashion, of the dignified "Wunsch Maid" envisaged by Wagner. Mr. Melchior, although less well disposed than he had been at the recent "Tristan" performance, nevertheless sang much of his music impressively.

While admiring Miss Thorborg's stylistic assurance in singing Fricka's music, the listener's ears could not help protesting at the strident sounds she projected. Mr. Janssen, whose voice. grew warmer and freer as he progressed, was at his best in the third act, and he sang Wotan's Farewell affectingly. His embodiment of the role was as convincing dramatically as it was vocally. Mr. Szekely's enormous bass voice was purposefully employed as Hunding and the Valkyries provided an uncommonly well integrated ensemble.

Stiedry's discourse of the orchestral score grew in effectiveness as the performance unfolded. His pacing of the first act was too slow and its rapturous pages emerged divested of incandescence. After a rather tepid beginning, the second act gained in momentum and by the third act the conductor was fully in his stride, achieving some stirring moments.



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