[Met Performance] CID:201350
Die Walküre {394} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/22/1965.

(Debut: Beverly Bower
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 22, 1965


DIE WALKÜRE {394}
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Birgit Nilsson
Siegmund................Jon Vickers
Sieglinde...............Leonie Rysanek
Wotan...................George London
Fricka..................Irene Dalis
Hunding.................David Ward
Gerhilde................Carlotta Ordassy
Grimgerde...............Joann Grillo
Helmwige................Lynn Owen
Ortlinde................Beverly Bower [Debut]
Rossweisse..............Janis Martin
Schwertleite............Gladys Kriese
Siegrune................Helen Vanni
Waltraute...............Mignon Dunn

Conductor...............William Steinberg

Production..............Nathaniel Merrill
Set designer............Lee Simonson
Costume designer........Mary Percy Schenck

Die Walküre received six performances this season.

Production photos of Die Walküre by The Metropolitan Opera Guild.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the March 13, 1965 issue of the Saturday Review

"Walküre"

William Steinberg's first venture as a Wagner conductor at the Metropolitan coincided with the first performance of "Die Walküre" in three seasons. Presumably this should have provided him with more opportunity to evolve a personal treatment of the work than was the case with "Aida," in which he made his debut there several weeks ago. If the understated, rather anemic sound that emerged from the pit was truly representative of his desires, the estimate of his capacities as an opera conductor will have to be revised.

By comparison with some conductors who have found a pace and momentum for the first act that leads it in an uninterrupted surge from curtain rise to curtain fall, Steinberg's treatment rendered it episodic and nonconsecutive. Such purpose and momentum might have swept aside some momentary shortcomings of his Sieglinde (Leonie Rysanek) and Siegmund (Jon Vickers), but what Steinberg had to offer was slowed and impeded by every obstacle, such as Miss Rysanek's inability to sustain the pitch or Vickers' incapacity to mold his powerful sound into an instrument of ardor or tenderness. Least Wagnerian of the trio was David Ward, whose Hunding had neither the darkness of voice nor the intensity of purpose to make this character properly intimidating. Indeed, so broad-shouldered a Siegmund as Vickers could have taken him on in hand-to-hand combat without the desperate clamor he raised about being "weaponless."

By comparison, George London's first Wotan in this work (he has performed here previously in both Rheingold and Siegfried) was a model of authority, purpose, and dramatic understanding. He not only had the stature for the part, but also a command of the suitable posture and stance for each episode as it presented itself. Playing the role with a lock over one eye and without the traditional helmet left London looking more than a little youthful for his status as the father of virtually everybody in the cast but Hunding and Fricka, but he doubtless believes in accelerated development. He did convey a decision at variance with the youthful appearance and a compassion beyond his visible years.

Vocally London was more at ease with the declamation and drama of the role than he was with its lyricism. It is rare to hear the text delivered with so much clarity, or the colloquy with Fricka so well sustained. The monologue of Act II is a little low for him, as some of the Es and Fs of the third act are high, but I found the dramatic line impressively sustained to a proper climax in the farewell. In the aggregate, as a first-time effort, this was not merely full-fashioned to the needs of the character, but a testimonial to thoroughgoing preparation at the source (Bayreuth).

In the half-dozen years since Birgit Nilsson sang her first Metropolitan Brünnhilde she has grown from a performer of quality to an artist of the first quality. As of 1959, she was very much the youthful daughter dependent on her godfather for strength and guidance. Now, it is clear, she is portraying a Brünnhilde with her own sense of destiny, imbued with a life force that will sustain her beyond the paternal protection. This Miss Nlilsson makes clear not
only in her powerful but well-shaded singing of Brünuhilde's music, which begins in rejoicing and ends in resignation but is never less than triumphant, but also in her appealing visualization of the role. Dalis outdid herself this time with a spiteful Fricka, and the Valkyries included Mignon Dunn, Helen Vanni, Janis Martin, Joan Grillo, Gladys Kriese, and a new singer, Beverly Bower) were individually and collectively better-sounding than such groups usually are.



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