[Met Performance] CID:21050
Die Walküre {62} Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 04/19/1899.

(Review)


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Grand Opera House
April 19, 1899


DIE WALKÜRE {62}

Brünnhilde..............Marie Brema
Siegmund................Andreas Dippel
Sieglinde...............Lilli Lehmann [Last performance]
Wotan...................Anton Van Rooy
Fricka..................Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Hunding.................David Bispham
Gerhilde................Mathilde Bauermeister
Grimgerde...............Johanna Bach
Helmwige................Olga Pevny
Ortlinde................Maud Roudez
Rossweisse..............Marthe Djella [Last performance]
Schwertleite............Louise Meisslinger [Last performance]
Siegrune................Eugenia Mantelli
Waltraute...............Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Conductor...............Franz Schalk

Review of Willa Cather in the Courier (Pittsburgh)

Of the four operas given here by the Metropolitan company, I should say, that "Die Walküre" was the most brilliant performance. Herr Van Dyck, who was to have sung Siegmund, was ill, but I scarcely see how anyone could have sung that difficult part better than did his substitute, Herr Dippel. From the first moment when, after that ominous prelude of the storm music, he rushes exhausted into Hunding's hut, to his last passionate rejection of immortality, he sang with matchless intensity and vigor, and he at all times sang perfectly in tune. Not every man can do that in the "Ring" operas. Sieglinde was sung by Frau Lilli Lehmann, who did not particularly distinguish herself. The truth may as well be told; whatever Frau Lehmann's past glories may have been, her voice is worn out, her methods are antiquated, and her self-conscious, declamatory German style seems very artificial and stilted beside the more natural methods of the younger singers. She was certainly unequal to that first stormy scene, and Herr Dippel and Mr. Bispham, who sang a most dramatic Hunding, bore the weight of it upon their shoulders. The mutual attraction between Siegmund and Sieglinde begins, you remember, the moment she discovers him at her husband's hearthstone, a refugee from his pursuers. She ministers to his needs, Hunding enters and the guest tells his story, sitting by the table, beneath the tree where the sword itself is waiting for hint where his father thrust it on Sieglinde's wedding night. During his recital Sieglinde gazes at him enraptured, and Hunding sits in the shadow, his hands clenched at his side, his eyes blazing like live coals, while his guest sings of the beginning of the woes of the children of Wotan. After Hunding is drugged and safely disposed of by his resourceful wife, Siegmund is left alone by the fire. Then he begins the great sword song, praying for the weapon his father had promised him in his hour of need, the sword with which he can free this woman he loves. It begins with quiet melancholy, rising to that great cry, "Wälse! Wälse! Wo Ist dein Schwert?" Surely if the elements ever answered the cry of human need they would have answered Herr Dippel then. The flames on the earth leap up and cast a glow upon the handle of the sword buried in the ash tree. Then in a burst of power which is the very apotheosis of the magnificent sword motif, Herr Dippel leaps upon the table and wrenches the weapon from its unwilling scabbard, and the sword song, glorified, flashes up from the orchestra like the steel itself.

Sieglinde enters, and seeing the sword in his hand knows that her deliverer has come. She tells him how the stern man with his hat drawn low over his eye, had put the sword there, and then he knows that this woman is his sister and bride. The scene which follows is probably the most exalted love scene ever set to music, and all Frau Lehmann's stilted posings could not mar it. When Siegmund throws open the door, letting the moonlight in, and sings his song of spring and love, then for the first time the human element enters the cycle of the "Ring," and already, so far as dramatic purposes are concerned, Siegfried, the man waited for of the gods, is born.

During the intermission between the first and second acts I left the theatre and was crossing the bridge between the stage entrance of the grand opera house and the Avenue Theatre, when I was arrested by a most marvelous sound. The bridge extends above the dressing rooms of both theatres; in the dressing room just below me the skylight was open, and from it there streamed up a flood of light and a perfect geyser of the most wonderful notes that were quite unmistakable. It was Mme. Brema practicing the "Hi-yo" song of the Valkyries. The night was murky and starless; only the red lamps of the Hotel Henry and the line of river lights above Mount Washington were visible; on every side rose the tall black buildings that shut out the sounds of the streets. Those free, unfettered notes seemed to cut the blackness and the silence, seemed to pierce the clouds which lie over the city and reach the stars and the blue space of heaven behind, and to carry me up with them....

[In the second act Brema, as Brünnhilde, is instructed to protect Siegmund and to slay Wotan], and the joyous Valkyrie leaps up the mountainside singing her "Hi-yo" song-and Lieber Himmel! how she sang it! The very pasteboard mountains seemed to echo it, as in the storm scene in "Childe Harold, where

Every mountain now bath found a tongue,
And Jura answers through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud.

Then Fricka enters, the wonderful Schumann-Heink, whose Ortrud I had heard only the night before. She came not in her ram-drawn car in which she enters at Bayreuth the Holy, but on foot, like common mortals, and she came in a bad humor. I should like to see this incomparable Schumann-Heink in a good-humored part just once, for I know that she is capable of simulating every sort of bad humor and spitefulness known to woman or goddess. She comes, of course, to lecture Wotan for his countenancing the unholy love of Siegmund and Sieglinde, and to express herself upon the sanctity of the marriage vow. Then the deeper tragedy of the drama unfolds; the god bound by the laws of his own making, the strong man pilloried by the weakness of the race... .

I suppose that if there was one man in that strong, well-balanced cast who stood out head and shoulders above the rest, it was Herr Van Rooy [Wotan], by reason of the vitality, the intimateness, the flesh and blood which he has given to that wooden part, full of long theological discussions and lectures on the civil government of Heaven. He does not always, I think, interpret Wagner perfectly, but it is an interpretation which commands attention, respect, admiration. He presents a figure not to be forgotten, with his iron jaw, his resolute mouth and a single gray lock drooping over the maimed eye, which was the price he had paid for wisdom, when, overcome by the authority of his wife's arguments, by the insatiable law that he had himself created, he sits down upon the rocks and his shield falls from his hand, he makes you feel how much more terrible it is to be a helpless god than to be a helpless man, and something in his attitude recalled the helpless god of the Greeks, Prometheus chained to Caucasus. He calls back Brünnhilde, the "wish maiden," she who executed his heart's desire, and reinstructs her, and so the wish is subordinated to the law, even with the god.

Herr Van Rooy's last scene is scarcely so satisfactory. His denunciation of Brünnhilde is too furious, too much washed by anger and resentment. Surely Wagner never meant that. Wotan's heart never changed an instant toward his daughter, he hated her no more than one hates his own desire that is impossible of fulfillment. He was too big a god to bear malice. He was driven against his will, by the inexorable law that tires out even the hearts of the gods, that binds and fetters in Walhalla just as it does in Pittsburgh or in Lincoln. In his parting from Brünnhilde, Van Rooy is more impassioned than Emil Fischer, but not so tender. He is the irate god rather than the father.

That night, when the singers boarded their special streetcar to take the long run out to the Hotel Schenley, where they were stopping, I got on the same car with several local musicians who were going out to a supper party. When the car was bowling off across the hill tops, I noticed a man in the further end, fast asleep. His coat collar was turned up, his linen crumpled, the make-up still discolored his eyes, his face was damp with perspiration, and he looked gray and drawn and tired. It was Herr Anton Van Rooy, late of Walhalla, tired as a laborer from the iron mills. It is hard work apparently, this being a god.



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