[Met Performance] CID:231790
Die Walküre {416} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/7/1972.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 7, 1972


DIE WALKÜRE {416}

Brünnhilde..............Birgit Nilsson
Siegmund................Helge Brilioth
Sieglinde...............Gwyneth Jones
Wotan...................Theo Adam
Fricka..................Ruza Baldani
Hunding.................Hans Sotin
Gerhilde................Judith De Paul
Grimgerde...............Joann Grillo
Helmwige................Jeannine Altmeyer
Ortlinde................Christine Weidinger
Rossweisse..............Jean Kraft
Schwertleite............Batyah Godfrey Ben-David
Siegrune................Marcia Baldwin
Waltraute...............Doris Hollenbach

Conductor...............Erich Leinsdorf

Review of Louis Snyder in the Christian Science Monitor

WELSH SOPRANO GWYNETH JONES IN BRILLIANT DEBUT

It's 'Ring" time again. Not Shakespeare's "pretty ring time," but time for Richard Wagner's four-opera cycle, based on Norse legend. San Francisco Opera has just done all four of them, the first time since 1952 as part of its 50th year celebration. And the Metropolitan Opera has picked up the pieces of its past good intentions by doing the third work "Siegfried," for the first time in Herbert von Karajan's conception. It has also revived the second "Ring" opera, "Die Walküre" which Karajan himself introduced in New York in this Salzburg transplant series in 1967 - and which will be broadcast nationally Saturday, December 16.

The reappearance of "Die Walküre" at the Metropolitan recently was the first test of durability for the Karajan foursome, begun under the Bing regime with Eastern Airlines as sponsors. In the present reincarnation, Erich Leinsdorf conducts instead of Karajan, who has withdrawn from further participation here. Wolfgang Weber, a Karajan associate, has been the stage director.

It was he, who pointed out at an earlier interview, that probably only at the Met, as far ahead as 1974-75, will the complete Karajan "Ring of the Nibelungs" finally be presented in repertory as a cycle. Time and expense now prevent doing the four works in succession at the Salzburg Easter Festival for which they were originally prepared.

Except for Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde, the redoubtable Valkyr of the title, "Die Walküre" has undergone some cast changes. True, Jon Vickers again sang his brilliant Siegmund at the revival's first performance, and will do so again in the opera's broadcast tomorrow. But Welsh soprano Gwyneth Jones made her Met debut as Sieglinde. And Helge Brilioth as Siegmund, Theo Adam as Wotan, Hans Sotin as Hunding, and Ruza Baldani as Fricka were all newcomers in the third performance of the season last week.

First of all, Miss Jones, whose exceptional vocal and dramatic gifts have already been revealed in most of the important opera houses of the world, is a major, if overdue, Met acquisition. Visually reminiscent of a youthful Marlene Dietrich and aurally representing a style of vocalism more ambitious if equally persuasive, Miss Jones brought a lively incandescence to the shadowy stage settings of Guenther Schneider-Siemssen.

In her own individual way, she must be very much the sort of artist the Viennese Maria Jeritza was - a beautiful woman with an intuitive sense of the stage which she uses to enhance the effect of her voice, rather than vice versa. It is an organ of unusual range, which she projects tastefully and knowingly - coloring it appropriately - and in every instance giving the impression of character involvement as opposed to technical absorption. Through gesture, tonal hint, and graceful stage plastique, hers became a Sieglinde to remember, both pathetic and stirring. She can and should have a great career at the Metropolitan.

Powerful Wagnerian baritones of the school of Schorr and London are now in short supply but Theo Adam is perhaps closer to that breed than most today. His first "Walküre" Wotan last Thursday was imposing to see and awesome to hear. Suave as the voice is, this is not a lyric performance in the current trend. There is a certain agreeable gruffness and bite - real evidence that here is the boss man of Valhalla.

Lyric describes Mr. Brilioth's handsomely acted and sung Siegmund. What a pair he and Miss Jones make, especially to Wagnerites with long memories. And Mr. Sotin's Hunding replaced the growling bear portrayal of other years with a bass sound of luscious richness and a credible characterization in this twisted domestic triangle. Miss Baldani's smooth but intense portrayal of Fricka painted her as a handsomely provoked rather than shrewishly vengeful goddess.

No contemporary Brünnhilde has appeared to match Miss Nilsson's for personal appeal, dignity of bearing, or tonal grandeur. But this is not a coincidence of exceptional vocal gifts and type-cast temperament. Her characterization visibly takes shape before one's eyes in anything but a routine way. Powerful voice, innate grace, and subtly intelligent projection combine to convince and thrill the listener-spectator.

As in the newly mounted "Siegfried," Mr. Leinsdorf has gauged an orchestral reading admirably suited to the heroic capabilities (and limitations) of his singers. The instrumental tone is continually exciting, matching the imaginative staging by Mr. Weber, or of Herbert von Karajan, once removed.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).