[Met Performance] CID:173840
Die Walküre {376}
Ring Cycle [81]
Metropolitan Opera House: 01/22/1957.

(Debuts: Wolfgang Windgassen, Marianne Schech, Gloria Lind, Carlotta Ordassy

Metropolitan Opera House
January 22, 1957

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [81]

Brünnhilde..............Margaret Harshaw
Siegmund................Wolfgang Windgassen [Debut]
Sieglinde...............Marianne Schech [Debut]
Wotan...................Otto Edelmann
Fricka..................Blanche Thebom
Hunding.................Kurt Böhme
Gerhilde................Carlotta Ordassy [Debut]
Grimgerde...............Martha Lipton
Helmwige................Gloria Lind [Debut]
Ortlinde................Heidi Krall
Rossweisse..............Sandra Warfield
Schwertleite............Belén Amparan
Siegrune................Rosalind Elias
Waltraute...............Margaret Roggero

Conductor...............Dimitri Mitropoulos

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 Jay Harrison in the Herald Tribune

Met's First Walküre in 3 Years

About Richard Wagner one fact has always been clear - among composers he is a genuine giant. You may not care for his music, even going so far as to dispute the esthetic sovereignty of those personal features known as Wagnerian; and you may find him long-winded, pompous, oratorical and frankly somewhat absurd. But you cannot deny, try as you will, that Wagner is a technical titan whose craft in putting together measure upon measure and lighting them all up with brilliant harmonic and orchestral strokes is virtually without equal.

For this reason alone, "Die Walküre," which the Metropolitan Opera revived last night after an absence of three years, is an enormously vital work to encounter every now and again. Indeed, on this occasion, it was the vast vigor and ingenuity of the opera itself that held the ear, for the performance was at its best lukewarm and, during many moments of the first act, downright bad. And the cause
of this, alas, can be traced directly to the evening's two debutants, Marianne Schech and Wolfgang Windgassen, neither of whom, at this initial hearing, lived up to advanced reports.

What is even stranger, however, is that both singers seem more or less to be troubled by the same kind of vocal failings. Both, for example, are noticeably weak in their ability to color their voices, with the consequence that phrases dealing with diametrically opposed sentiments frequently emerged with the same tints and shades. In addition, Miss Schech's soprano rather lacked substance or the kind of ringing core that brings to Wagner's lines their due of majesty and grandeur.

Similarly, Mr. Windgassen's tenor is rather dry and sapless, lacks something of the basic metal that a heroic singer should possess. It is possible, of course, that having adjusted to the acoustics of the auditorium Miss Schech and Mr. Windgassen can alter their present projective capacities to suit the roles they undertake. Let us at any rate hope so, For both artists seem to be dealing rather tentatively with their assignments, as though they were not quite sure how much or how little sound to produce. What resulted would not have pleased Wagner. On the other hand, the Bayreuth wizard might have found Otto Edelmann's Wotan much to his liking, as it was a sonorous, grave and commanding arch-god that he made. The whole of the second act was sparked by the warmth and richness of his baritone and he literally filled the hall with his chain of deep-dyed tones.

As Brünnhilde, Miss Harshaw was thoroughly first rate, she too sending forth her swooping lines with considerable ease and assurance. Miss Thebom, despite a touch of hoarseness in the lowest register, made her Fricka glow with colors golden. Lastly, Mr. Boehme's Hunding was rather a bright spot in an act where vocal light was shed but rarely.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday Review

As directed by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the Metropolitan's first "Walküre" of its two "Ring" cycles was stimulating in two ways: for the direct results of the conductor's first endeavor with Wagner in this theatre; and for the possibilities it suggested for the future. Some of it was too loud and other conductors have made the music (especially in Act I) flow more evenly, but it was rhythmically impelling and dramatically positive, which are basic requirements.

All things considered, the performance was not much more than a respectable one, a judgment related to the uncertain vocal elements with which Mitropoulos had to work. Bringing Wolfgang Windgassen to sing Siegmund (and other roles) shows Rudolf Bing's hearty concern for the interest of the Wagnerites (who, somehow, seem to be multiplying in number despite a semi-starvation diet). He is Bayreuth's best, which means that Germany, for the while, has nothing better to offer. A stalwart man, with an excellent figure and welcome agility for his considerable inches, Windgassen is known for musicianship, earnestness, and sound routine. It would be stretching a point to say that the voice has ear-appeal, for it is produced according to the difficulties of the moment, and with no really consistent sound. His best asset, as Siegmund, is a responsive lower register which serves well in the second-act scene with Brünnhilde.

Also new was Marianne Schech, a Sieglinde from Munich with a sturdy voice, a nondescript physical appearance, and a good deal of enthusiasm for her work. She may even possess that element called temperament (to judge from her response in Acts II and III to Wagner's dramatic requirements), though it would be optimistic to expect anything like tonal velvet from this hard-used voice. Kurt Böhme, a first-rate Hunding, provided the gruffness required, a clean command of the German text, and all the stage authority necessary. On the other hand, Otto Edelmann's Wotan is still in the growing stage, founded on real understanding of the part, though not the trumpet blast of sound to match memorable standards. Blanche Thebom's Fricka conforms to the connotations of respectable, though I cannot say I relish the way her voice is sounding now. The effort she put into singing "Tannhäuser" Elisabeth in
Sweden last summer has left it without the previously well-focused middle or a new, sharp attack at the top.

On the other hand, the Brünnhilde of Margaret Harshaw merits some reappraisal. Having broken with mezzo background several years ago, hers is now, in effect, a different voice. All traces of her mezzo background are effaced, save for the dark lower sound in suitable places, and her experiences abroad have now given a sure command of necessary action. Together with suitable makeup (including a becoming blond wig), she provides a vocal strength that is always keyed to good musical discipline. If not yet a great Brünnhilde, Miss Harshaw may be admired for the effort
that has gone into making her a good one. If there was one general complaint about this cast it would be that everyone (with the exception of the crafty Böhme) was putting projection before proper vocal sound. Herbert Graf's well-planned, reasonably clear staging was a further contribution to pleasure. A large audience responded more than generously.

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