[Met Performance] CID:149690
Siegfried {211} American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 02/1/1949.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 1, 1949


Siegfried...............Set Svanholm
Brünnhilde..............Helen Traubel
Wanderer................Joel Berglund
Erda....................Margaret Harshaw
Mime....................John Garris
Alberich................Gerhard Pechner
Fafner..................Luben Vichey
Forest Bird.............Paula Lenchner

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

Review of Max de Schauensee in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Metropolitan Performs "Siegfried"

Richard Wagner's "Siegfried" was presented by the Metropolitan Opera Association last night at the Academy of Music before an enthusiastic audience.

Once again the horn of the Son of the Woods rang through the primeval forest; Wotan summoned the dreaming Erda, and the flame-encircled Brünnhilde was awakened by a kiss.

There is nothing else in the entire range of theater in the least like this third music-drama of Wagner's gigantic trilogy.

Lee Simonson's new scenery for the opera was on exhibition for the first time in Philadelphia. The first two acts were by far the most successful we have seen of this scenic artist's "Ring" setting, but the third act cliff, which turned out to be a diaphanous curtain, through which flames were clearly visible, is an obvious move in the direction of economy and hardly worthy of a company like the Metropolitan.

The final scene with its reiterated references to light and sun and air, was far too twilit. The incense of the morning is radiantly present in Wagner's every bar, but there was little feeling of morning in what looked like a sorrowful sunset glow. Nor was this ruddy light beating down on the heads of the singers anything but trying for the faces of Brünnhilde and Siegfried.

Fritz Stiedry conducted with marked enthusiasm, though he paced the final duet in exceedingly slow tempo.

Vocal honors went to Joel Berglund, whose singing of the music of the Wanderer was altogether magnificent. Such splendor and breadth of tone as Mr. Berglund lavished on the music in the gorge scene has been all too rare of late.

This Wotan was indeed a god and his utterances had all the required majesty.

Set Svanholm's Siegfried, seen here two years ago, is an exceedingly convincing performance. It has excellent physical attributes and a fresh, metallic voice which makes its effect in the Forging of the Sword and the final duet. Mr. Svanholm's impersonation is a carefully calculated one rather than a matter of spontaneous inspiration, but it is among the best seen here in late years.

New was the Brünnhilde of Helen Traubel. This role is a cruel and trying test for this distinguished American soprano. The character, as she presents it, has little of the impetuosity and exultation of the awakened Valkyr; it is rather a matter of overwhelming dignity and care.

The music is too high for Mme. Traubel, and she omitted the two high C's and even had her troubles with the B's. Otherwise the soprano's beautiful voice and mature vocalism were placed at the service of a role that does not fundamentally suit her. The result was some very sonorous singing.

Other features were John Garris' excellent Mime, Margaret Harshaw's fine Erda, and Gerhard Pechner's properly violent Alberich. Paula Lenchner was the Forest Bird and Lubomir Vichegonov (his debut here) the voice of the dragon, Fafner.

As for Mr. Simonson's dragon, it had a benevolent and coy look, despite occasional smoke belching and tongue waving. One felt rather sorry for the demise of this amiable animal that looked not unlike one of Mexico's gila monsters.

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