[Met Performance] CID:213580
Die Walküre {405} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/21/1968.


Metropolitan Opera House
February 21, 1968


Brünnhilde..............Régine Crespin
Siegmund................Jon Vickers
Sieglinde...............Leonie Rysanek
Wotan...................Thomas Stewart
Fricka..................Christa Ludwig
Hunding.................John Macurdy
Gerhilde................Phyllis Brill
Grimgerde...............Joann Grillo
Helmwige................Clarice Carson
Ortlinde................Carlotta Ordassy
Rossweisse..............Rosalind Hupp
Schwertleite............Louise Pearl
Siegrune................Barbro Ericson
Waltraute...............Gwendolyn Killebrew

Conductor...............Berislav Klobucar

Review of Irving Kolodin in the March 9, 1968 issue of the Saturday Review


Herbert Von Karajan's staging of Wagner's Die Walküre at the Metropolitan was subject to the most searching test to date as its second round of performances began. That was a presentation without the presence of the
Presence, detained in Europe because of flu, and most likely not returning this
season. In his place as conductor was Berislav Klobucar, who had deputized for him at Salzburg and thus knew where to look, amid the encircling gloom, for Wotan, his wife, daughters, etc.

Paradoxically, the shift of emphasis from the pit to the stage served to enhance respect for the plan devised by Karajan, with its unit Ring, projected backgrounds, and shafts of light pinpointing the principals in their peak moments. The gloom was not quite so intense as it had been back in November when the production was first put on semi-display: Brünnhilde had been moved considerably farther forward for the "Todesverkündigung" ("Announcement of Death") episode, and there appeared to be more definition of individuals throughout. Whether these are changes arrived at by common consent, or merely a case of stage mice playing while the house cat was away, the refinements intensified all the good in the basic scheme, especially the well conceived, efficiently executed treatment of the duel between Handing and Siegmund at the end of Act II. A brilliant beam of light to symbolize the power of Wotan and silhouette the combatants at the moment of their lethal exchange would very likely have drawn a "Herrlich!" from the Meister himself.

Though Karajan was physically absent, he was very much present spiritually, especially in the first effort on this stage of Régine Crespin as Brünnhilde. In a part for which she had been selected and prepared (prior to the Salzburg stage premiere last March) for a recording by Karajan, Crespin faced this new, exacting assignment with professional competence and a sure sense of what she was about. The delivery of the challenging "Ho-jo-to-ho!" was spirited, dead accurate in intonation, and flashing free in its vocal glint. She was by no means home free there and then, but she had established solid credentials for the task with which she was engaged and, thereafter, could create a structure of character on a firm foundation.

This, as it progressed took on some interesting aspects related to her general qualities as an artist and those specifically Wagnerian in her background. As a qualified Sieglinde, Crespin has a psychological insight vis-a-vis Hunding's wife and the father of Siegmund's child which fertilizes and enriches her Brünnhilde. As a thoroughly qualified Kundry (which she sang with distinction at the downtown Metropolitan), Crespin has an identity with the feminine side of Wagner's artistic cosmos which adds a dimension to the men in Briinnhilde's complicated life - her father, Wotan, and the heroic victim, Siegmund, father of the Siegfried to be.

Finally, as a Walküre Brünnhilde who has not yet entered into the exaltation of the Siegfried relationship or experienced the tragedy of the Götterdämmerung denouement, Crespin retains a youthful vibrance, a daughterly - even a virginal - freshness of feeling which is not at all common in the march, decade by decade, of Wagnerian characterizations. Vocally, the part is very well within her full realization, though this has not yet come about. She proved her power to mount the full-scale attack required at the crucial points of the role, but she tended to let down somewhat in between. This seemed to me less a matter of inherent capacity than of some inexperience still as to how much vocal power is required to sustain Brünnhilde's part of the dialogue with her father, the other Valkyries, etc. Much of the dialogue with Siegmund was beautifully articulated (her German, being French-descended, is clearer to the Anglo-Saxon ear than some who learn it at the source), but it needed greater depth of sound, a darker, more ominous coloration to fulfill Wagner's purpose. For a first effort in such surroundings, it was no occasion to make little of much, while making much of little. Crespin gives the Metropolitan a back-up Brünnhilde for Nilsson
such as it hasn't had since Flagstad and Traubel.

It was, otherwise, an evening of considerable quality all around, with Jon Vickers singing the freest, most eloquent Siegmund yet to his credit in New York; Leonie Rysanek pouring her emotionally torrential nature into Sieglinde (would that she had the voice to match!); and John Macurdy venturing a first Hunding and doing it well. It was, indeed, almost too well sung, with some of the grinding menace in Hunding's proclamations filed off, rounded out, and otherwise smoothed away. However, he can always sound worse, if need be. Christa Ludwig was the Fricka - a little less voluble in sound than last fall, but equally assured in action - and Thomas Stewart the Wotan. The latter achieved the not inconsiderable feat of singing the massive role twice between Wednesday and Saturday, taking on the responsibility for the broadcast matinee in the absence of Walter Berry. His is neither the most sonorous nor ear-filling of Wotans, but it is a prideful, assertive characterization delivered with artistry and a degree of reserve admirable in any performer. The broadcast also provided Birgit Nilsson in her heroic characterization of Brünnhilde, with Karl Ridderbusch again as Hunding. [The broadcast was February 24].

As for Klobucar, he achieved the substantial success of improving his grasp of the slippery situation from one Walküre to the next, and mastering the problem of integrating two casts with critically different personnel. To a degree, the Wednesday performance served as a rehearsal for the Saturday broadcast, which may have accounted for the freer, more vital sensations it conveyed. In its large relationships, it is a Walküre cast in the mold of Karajan's - slow where his was slow, fast where his was fast. But there were, here and there, indications that Klobucar (whose name is pronounced Kloh-buchar ) may latently possess some of the personal conviction and dramatic feeling wanted to complement his good, sound, basic grasp of Wagnerian discipline.

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