[Met Performance] CID:173920
Siegfried {216}
Ring Cycle [81]
Metropolitan Opera House: 01/30/1957.

(Debut: Martha Mödl

Metropolitan Opera House
January 30, 1957

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [81]

Siegfried...............Wolfgang Windgassen
Brünnhilde..............Martha Mödl [Debut]
Wanderer................Otto Edelmann
Erda....................Jean Madeira
Mime....................Norman Kelley
Alberich................Gerhard Pechner
Fafner..................Kurt Böhme
Forest Bird.............Laurel Hurley

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

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

Siegfried received three performances this season.

Review of Paul Henry Lang in the Herald Tribune

Wagner s "Siegfried," the third opera in the "Ring" cycle currently presented by the Metropolitan Opera, places the critic in a very difficult position. The work, sung last night, is the weakest link in the tetralogy, turgid, and at times a bit infantile, though it also has some enchanting music. That's bad enough for the reporter because he is dealing with sacrosanct things and flippant remarks are resented by the faithful.

Then there is the incredible fact that for two acts (i.e., pretty nearly for three hours) no woman is in evidence on the stage, as a consequence of which the debutante, Martha Moedl, especially imported for these performances, was neither seen nor heard by the critics writing for the morning papers. So, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Moedl, whose picture you see at the head of this report, remains a news item to us until we see her in a role that calls for singing in day time.

When discussing the "Ring" one must begin with the chief protagonist, the orchestra. Last night's performance was a routine affair: everything went fairly well and there were no untoward accidents. However, that does not add up to an inspiring evening.

In patches the orchestra sounded well and Mr. Stiedry nicely adjusted the volume to cope with a weak-voiced Siegfried. But there was little finesse in the really moving scenes. The forest music, one of Wagner's wondrous nature visions, lacked enchantment. The strings rustled all right, but not very homogeneously, while the clarinet was dry-throated. In the battle scene with the dragon and in the other tumultuous places the brass sounded shrill and not well balanced.

Mr. Novotny, the tuba player, must be singled out for outstanding performance, and Messrs. Moore and Schuller, who shared the exacting duty of the first horn, were not far behind him. Otherwise Mr. Stiedry just kept things going as well as he could.

Mr. Windgassen demonstrated that the real Wagnerian Helden-tenor must have the physique of a piano mover. He sang well and rather intelligently and seems to have adjusted his voice to the auditorium, but his is not a big voice nor is it a colorful one. Still. Siegfried looked believable - in a Germanic fairy tale way.

Mr. Kelley gave a most remarkable performance of Mime, the dwarf swordsmith. His singing was utterly musical, his acting vivid, and his phrasing and enunciation better than the native Germans'!

Mr. Edelmann is justly renowned as Wotan. His ample and well-modulated voice contributed the only real sustained song in this orchestral opera (well, Siegfried, too. has a couple of them) and he made the most of it.

Gerhard Pechner and Kurt Boehme - Alberich and Fafner - sang and acted the smaller parts very creditably.

As "Siegfried" begins, before the curtain goes up, and we hear growling and moaning coming from the pit, one expects Little Black Sambo to appear to the accompaniment of Debby the Tuba. And when that brontosaurus impersonating Fafner sticks his smoking head over the rocks, even the earnest Wagnerians could not suppress a titter.

All this is a bit puerile and the music itself disconnected and labored. But when Wagner gets hold of one of the good motifs and elaborates it symphonically, everything comes to life, and as to the "set" scenes - yes, there are even arias hidden in the score they can be quite magnificent. One could listen to Wotan's noble song with undiluted pleasure. even forgetting the silly text and the Doctor of Divinity gown he wears.

In sum, while "Siegfried" is a very uneven work, its best parts are still full of life and well worth hearing.

Review of a G.S. in unidentified newspaper

New Brünnhilde

Martha Moedl, who sang for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House Wednesday night in Richard Wagner's Siegfried, made an unusually graceful Brünnhilde. She achieved the difficult feat of raising herself with no apparent effort from being almost flat on her back, first to a sitting position with arms curving up and then to a standing position, while the orchestra played several pages of music.

But her singing was not quite as successful. While her first notes - very important in this scene - were pleasing, a few of her highest later tones were harsh and unsure. Her voice is almost contralto-like in quality and possibly the part is a bit high for her. Or the natural nervousness attendant upon a debut may have caused the trouble. Certainly the conditions she faced were difficult enough. During the final scenes (often the very best) of Wagner's operas at the Met there are always rivulets of people in the audience hurrying out to catch trains and buses to the suburbs. For a girl from central Europe; where Wagner is treated more respectfully, those streams of seemingly dissatisfied customers must be a shattering experience.

Of the others in the performance, a special word must be said again for Wolfgang Windgassen., the Siegfried, who had made his debut the week before as Siegmund. For so tall and sturdy a man he has a rather light voice, especially in the lower register, but he has no difficulty in making himself heard in the huge reaches of the Met. And in the final scene his sustained singing took on an appealing emotional quality.

Otto Edelmann as Wotan, Jean Madeira as Erda, Gerhard Pechner as Alberich and Kurt Boehme as the dragon did their usual excellent jobs. And Norman Kelley, a new Mime, was outstandingly successful both in voice and action. Laurel Hurley's forest bird could not be heard as well as one might have wished, and Fritz Stiedry's orchestra, while mostly satisfactory, lacked the special drive and brilliance necessary to sustain the long periods of near-inaction on the stage.

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