[Met Performance] CID:164800
Die Walküre {372} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/4/1954.

(Debut: Mariquita Moll

Metropolitan Opera House
February 4, 1954


Brünnhilde..............Margaret Harshaw
Siegmund................Set Svanholm
Sieglinde...............Astrid Varnay
Wotan...................Ferdinand Frantz
Fricka..................Blanche Thebom
Hunding.................Hans Hotter
Gerhilde................Thelma Votipka
Grimgerde...............Martha Lipton
Helmwige................Lucine Amara
Ortlinde................Heidi Krall
Rossweisse..............Sandra Warfield
Schwertleite............Jean Madeira
Siegrune................Hertha Glaz
Waltraute...............Mariquita Moll [Debut]

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

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

Review of Olin Downes in The New York Times

The performance of "Die Walküre" last night at the Metropolitan Opera House included the most imaginative and moving interpretation that the second act of this opera has received in this theatre in seasons.

In this act the singing of the principal artists of the first act had materially improved, and Mr. Stiedry's conducting was better integrated and timed and more unfailingly dramatic than it had been earlier. And in this act the two commanding impersonations of the performance were exceptionally impressive. We mean Miss Harshaw's Brünnhilde and Mr. Frantz' Wotan, accompanied by the well-sung Fricka of Miss Thebom.

It now seems evident that the greater the Wagnerian role the more remarkable Miss Harshaw proves to be in it. We have had reason to praise her Elisabeth for its sincerity and eloquence. The Brünnhilde part is for her much more fulfilling, calling into play all her resources of song and dramatic delivery. Her vocal range is unconditionally that of the dramatic soprano and her high B's came clear and true. But that is a detail. What was wonderful was the tenderness, the depth and subtlety of her scene with Wotan and the sweeping drama of the ensuing passage with Siegmund.

We speak comparing her performances with those, for instance of the Flagstads and Traubels of the past. In neither of these interpretations was there such a wealth of feeling and significance of statement, such dramatic communication, coupled on occasion, with intimacy and depth of feeling. We do not speak of the strength and durability of the voice, of which Miss Harshaw should take care not to be too prodigal.

And for once there was imagination and excellent taste in the lighting of the scene when the Walkyrei appears in an unearthly glow like a figure from another world-the apparition that, for a man to see, was for him to die.

The exchanges here between Brünnhilde and Siegmund, in one of the greatest scenes in all Wagnerian music drama, and Mr. Stiedry's direction of the orchestra in this passage, will long endure in the memory. Then came the thrilling moment when the Walkyrie, moved beyond herself and Wotan's commands by the heroism of the fated Volsung, promised him her protection in the mortal fight.

Mr. Frantz' Wotan is superbly done and, within the resources of the admirably trained and commanding voice, of rare nobility and eloquence. The hour forbids more detailed comment on this exciting performance. If it continued the crescendo of excellence it had undergone in the first two acts through the third, then the final passages of Brünnhilde and Wotan and the Fire Music-as we are informed by an authoritative listener, must have been of superlative eloquence and beauty, hence adequate to the grandeurs of Wagner's music.

From the review of Robert Bagar in the World Telegram and Sun

The Metropolitan's first performance of "Die Walkuere" this season took place last night before a large and happy throng. This work, "Tannhaeuser" and "Parisfal" constitute the Wagnerian repertory for the present musical year. Verdi is the repertory kingpin with six of his operas as scheduled. Five have al- ready been shown. Coming up is "Simon Boccanegra."

Majority interest focused last night on Margaret Harshaw, who sang her first Bruennhilde ever at the Met. In a word. the lady did herself-as well as Wagner-proud. She had voice and more voice to pour into the sensuous lines of Wagner. She had a figure almost svelte (in comparison to the one she had put on exhibition for Elisabeth), and she sang ever with warmth and often great
Intensity. Moreover, she sprang about with something approaching the graceful in the department of acting.

Soul of Refinement

Companioning her beautifully, I thought, was Ferdinand Frantz, the Wotan, who brought back memories of the late Friedrich Schorr in his palmier days. Mr. Frantz is an artist of the first rank, if his singing and expressive ability may be judged by last night's impersonation. In the scenes with the daughter and, in fact, everywhere else he was the soul of musical refinement.

Very good, too, was Hans Hotter in his first local assumption of the role of Hunding. There was majesty in his tones, a dark and evil majesty, of course, and his tall, ominous presence added much to the convincing characterization.

Astrid Varnay, as Sieglinde, sang wonderfully when she had full control of her voice. Otherwise there were unpleasant spots in the sound. Set Svanholm, who almost took a header in the second act, delivered Siegmund as per usual. The Fricka of Blanche Thebom deserved much praise for the regal disdain with which it was endowed. Lucine Amara, Heide Krall, Sandra Warfield and Mariquita Moll (making her Met debut) were first-time Valkyrs hereabouts, and right in the picture, too.

Sections of Grandeur.

There were sections of true grandeur in last night's showing. Also there were others of ordinary effect. The orchestra, under Fritz Stiedry's direction, performed unevenly, though it did manage to rise to heights more often than not.

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical America

'Die Walküre' revived After Three Years; Six Singers Heard in New Roles

Given on Feb. 4, the season's first performance of Wagner's "Die Walküre," which had not been heard at the Metropolitan since the '50-'51 season, was one of the most inspired that has been given there in many years. Six members of the cast sang their roles at the Metropolitan for the first time, and one of them, Mariquita Moll, made her debut with the company. Fritz Stiedry and the orchestra gave one of the warmest, most tonally beautiful interpretations of the score imaginable and the singers uniformly gave of their best.

Margaret Harshaw was heard for the first time at the Metropolitan as Brünnhilde. She had obviously studied the role carefully, not only from the vocal but from the dramatic point of view. Her voice sounded fresh and vital, and her acting, especially in the second and third acts, was commendably expressive. To the more heroic aspects of the role and to some of the soaring phrases she could have brought more vocal weight and dramatic authority; but repeated performances will help her in achieving these. In such passages as the Todesverkündigung she was at her best, communicating the implications of Wagner's word as well as of his music, something that more hardened Wagnerian singers sometimes fail to do. Both Mr. Stiedry and Herbert Graf, the stage director, must have been pleased with her intelligence and eagerness to create a character instead of memorizing the series of threadbare mannerisms that sometimes passes for Wagnerian tradition.

Hans Hotter, always an impressive stage figure, was heard as Hunding for the first time at the Metropolitan. In spite of an unbecoming costume, he conveyed the sinister qualities of the character. Hunding is one of Wagner's most successful minor figures, not a villain exactly, but a thoroughly hateful personality, for all his courage and brutal forthrightness. Much can be done with the mime and music, as Mr. Hotter showed us.

As far as one could judge from the limited amount that she had to do, Miss Moll was excellent. A more extensive role than the Waltraute in Die Walküre will be needed to reveal her talents on the Metropolitan stage to a degree calling for detailed criticism. Other singers heard for the first time in their roles were Lucine Amara, as Helmwige, Heidi Krall, as Ortlinde, and Sandra Warfield, as Rossweisse. The Valkyries in this performance, who also included Thelma Votipka as Gerhilde, Martha Lipton as Grimgerde, Herta Glaz as Siegrune, and Jean Madeira as Schwertleite, sang much more euphoniously than have many of their predecessors at the Metropolitan. Had those artists with the heavier voices held them in slightly, in order not to overbalance the lighter voices, the ensembles would have sounded even better.

Ferdinand Frantz made his first appearance this season, in the role of Wotan. He sang with notable emotional fervor and care for dramatic detail. One could have wished for greater volume and power in certain top phrases of the role, but this was an eloquent performance, which properly reached its peak in the Farewell. Set Svanholm returned to the opera house to give one of the finest performances as Siegmund that he has ever offered us. His voice was warmer, sturdier and more flexible than of yore, and the love music in the first act sounded really ardent. Astrid Varnay, one of the most distinguished Wagnerian sopranos of our time, was in her best form as Sieglinde, except for a few pinched top tones. Her acting may seem old-fashioned to fledgling Wagnerians, but it is based upon valid tradition and it is always closely related to the music and text. Especially fine was the close of the first act, where both Miss Varnay and Mr. Svanholm made the music seem so incandescent that one understood why the Empress of Germany never entered the Royal Box until this scene was over.

Blanche Thebom was an imposingly implacable Fricka, and her sumptuous voice kept its bloom most of the time. Occasionally at the extremes of the range, Miss Thebom scraped it off for a few measures by forcing or leaving the tones unsupported, but she always quickly recovered its luminous fullness. She made the dispute with Wotan dramatically vital and her treatment of the text was unfailingly perceptive.

The huge audience was obviously happy to hear a Ring opera again, although it committed the unpardonable rudeness of applauding before every final chord at the ends of the acts, so that some of Wagner's most beautiful measures were drowned out. But at least its ill-bred conduct was caused by heartfelt enthusiasm.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).