[Met Performance] CID:152280
Die Walküre {365} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/21/1949.

(Debut: Helena Braun

Metropolitan Opera House
December 21, 1949


Brünnhilde..............Helena Braun [Debut and only performance]
Siegmund................Lauritz Melchior
Sieglinde...............Regina Resnik
Wotan...................Ferdinand Frantz
Fricka..................Margaret Harshaw
Hunding.................Mihály Székely
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Claramae Turner
Helmwige................Maxine Stellman
Ortlinde................Irene Jessner
Rossweisse..............Lucielle Browning
Schwertleite............Jean Madeira
Siegrune................Thelma Altman
Waltraute...............Jeanne Palmer

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

Review of James Hinton, Jr. in Musical America

That this performance of "Die Walküre" came off at all is certain evidence of the existence of guardian angels; that it came off as well as it did is a tribute both to the toughness of Wagner's score and to the resourcefulness of the musical staff at the Metropolitan.

As the audience filed into the opera house, it was confronted with an unfamiliar name chalked on the fluorescent blackboards used to announce changes in cast-Helena Braun, as Brünnhilde-together with those of Regina Resnik, as Sieglinde, and Maxine Stellman, as Helmwige.

Shortly before noon on the day of the performance, it became known that Polyna Stoska, the scheduled Sieglinde, was indisposed; and Miss Resnik, who had never sung the role here, but who had sung it in seasons past with the San Francisco Opera Company and in Mexico, consented to take over, with Miss Stellman moving into her scheduled Valkyr part. With Miss Resnik safely embarked on costume fittings, piano rehearsals, and other necessary details, the management breathed more easily.

Then the blow fell. Helen Traubel, who was scheduled to sing Brünnhilde, had laryngitis. Only four hours before curtain time, Die Walküre was without a Brünnhilde. The logical replacement, Astrid Varnay, was in the midst of rehearsals for the New York Philharmonic Symphony's concert performances of Elektra, and was unable to appear. Then someone remembered that Ferdinand Frantz, who had made his Metropolitan debut as Wotan on Dec. 12, and was scheduled to make his second appearance that night, had been accompanied to this country by his wife, Helena Braun, who had sung Brünnhilde extensively in Europe, most prominently in Vienna and Munich. She had sung her latest performance in Munich in October, before coming to New York for a brief rest and to be present at her husband's debut, and had not expected to sing here at all.

Max Rudolf, of the Metropolitan musical staff, called the Frantz apartment. Miss Braun answered the telephone, and the conversation is reported to have gone something like this:
"Are you sitting down?" asked Mr. Rudolf.
"Such a question!" said Miss Braun, in German.
"Are you feeling well?" asked Mr. Rudolf, trying a different tack. "Ganz gut," said the singer.
"Would you like to sing Brünnhilde tonight?"

After hurried sessions with the costume maker; the wig maker; Herbert Graf, the stage director; and Fritz Stiedry, the conductor, Miss Braun was ready. A hasty arrangement of membership in the American Guild of Musical Artists completed the preliminaries. It was the first time in the history of the Metropolitan that a husband and wife had sung Wotan and Brünnhilde together.

In her-to say the least-unpremeditated debut, it is to Miss Braun's credit that she gave so thoroughly routine and secure a performance. She moved confidently through the unfamiliar settings, and betrayed no hint of dramatic or musical uncertainty throughout her taxing part. She acted with dignity and reserve, and did her best singing in the more lyric portions of the score, where she used her substantial voice with constant awareness of the text, and colored her phrases affectingly enough: In passages that required the use of full voice, however, her production was marred by a prevailing lack of focus, and, in high phrases, by an unremitting and violent tremolo.

Miss Resnik's Sieglinde was in many ways her finest achievement in a role of comparable dimensions at the Metropolitan. She seemed completely at home in the part, and her voice was rich and warm, particularly in the middle and lower registers. She delivered her intensely emotional music with great warmth and with a spacious sense of line.

As Siegmund, Lauritz Melchior, in less than his best vocal estate, sang vigorously, but with note values of his own devising. As Wotan, Mr. Frantz gave a competent performance. Mihaly Szekely was a marvelously resonant and commanding Hunding. Margaret Harshaw was the Fricka; and the Valkyries included Thelma Votipka, Irene Jessner, Lucielle Browning, Claramae Turner, Jeanne Palmer, Thelma Altman, and Jean Madeira.

Fritz Stiedry conducted, and did a monumental job of controlling and integrating the forces assembled for him from afar.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).