[Met Performance] CID:236740
New Production
Götterdämmerung {189} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/8/1974.

(Debuts: Bengt Rundgren, Marius Rintzler

Metropolitan Opera House
March 8, 1974
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
New Production


Brünnhilde..............Birgit Nilsson
Siegfried...............Jess Thomas
Gunther.................Thomas Stewart
Gutrune.................Nell Rankin
Hagen...................Bengt Rundgren [Debut]
Waltraute...............Mignon Dunn
Alberich................Marius Rintzler [Debut]
First Norn..............Lili Chookasian
Second Norn.............Mignon Dunn
Third Norn..............Nell Rankin
Woglinde................Mary Ellen Pracht
Wellgunde...............Marcia Baldwin
Flosshilde..............Batyah Godfrey Ben-David

Conductor...............Rafael Kubelik

Director................Herbert Von Karajan
Staged by...............Wolfgang Weber
Set designer............Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer........George Wakhevitch

Production a gift of Eastern Airlines

Götterdämmerung received seven performances this season.

[Herbert von Karajan did not come to New York to stage this production. He had directed Götterdämmerung at the 1970 Salzburg Easter Festival, and his staging, with some necessary modifications, was replicated in New York by Wolfgang Weber.]

Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times

Kubelik Gives Wagner Poetic Coloration; Miss Nilsson Thrills in Immolation Scene

About a half dozen years after it started, the Metropolitan
Opera has finally brought its new "Ring" cycle to a close. Last night "Gotterdammerung" was staged, and it followed, more or less, the lines of the previous three operas of the Wagner cycle. It was based on Herbert von Karajan's version, with sets and projections by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen, staged by Wolfgang Weber, and with costumes by George Wakhevitch.

And Birgit Nilsson sang Brunnhilde.

The great soprano had injured herself earlier in the week during a rehearsal, falling and dislocating a shoulder. There was much speculation, of course, whether she could make it by Friday. She did, her right arm in a sling, covered by a cape. Nilsson the Indestructible sang magnificently. More of that anon.

The new production is, loosely, neo-Bayreuth. That means a prevailingly dark stage, a tilted turntable, and addles of symbolism. In this "Gotterdammerung," which anyway is the most "realistic" of the "Ring" operas, there was a more naturalistic approach than in the previous ones. There was no turntable in the hall of the Gibichungs to be accurate, elements of the turntable were on the side. The hall seemed carved from a cavern, lacking only stalactites.

Outside the hall it was all Stonehenge. Costumes were curious and may have left some members of the audience in a state of culture shock. For the final scene, for instance, Gunther's torchbearers were dressed in something out of Isis and Osiris, a long way from heroic hunting and fighting society of Wagner's world. On the stage, dominating the hall of the Gibichungs, was something
that looked vaguely bipedalian-a huge, bifurcated rocklike formation. More symbolism? Maybe. Or maybe not.

We expect this kind of stuff from modern "Ring" stagings, and there were really no unexpected ideas. And, with Miss Nilsson and Jess Thomas as the leading singers, there were no surprises there either. But there was an unknown quantity in the pit. Rafael Kubelik, conducting his first "Gotterdammerung" anywhere, was in the pit.

It was an interesting performance that he conducted.
His tempos were slow and perhaps lacking in tension. But there was an unusual degree of orchestral color, much nuance in the playing, and a much steadier rhythm than the conductor had shown previously in "Les Troyens." In its way, it was beautiful. Erich Leinsdorf has given us a sharply contoured, objective, strong "Ring." Mr. Kubelik, if he conducts the others this way, will be giving us a more poetic one.

It was the first "Gotterdammerung" Siegfried that Mr. Thomas has sung at the Metropolitan, but he has sung the "Siegfried" title role and his performance last night was of the standard he previously has set. That means clear, intelligent, smooth singing; sympathetic acting; stylish musicianship.

Miss Nilson was white hot last night. She got stronger as she went along, and the "Immolation" scene was thrilling in its power and pure focus. The soprano seemed eager to show the audience that a little thing like a dislocated shoulder and perhaps a few bent ribs meant nothing to her, a real Valkyrie. She continues to be a marvel, and one can do no more than stand off and admire her with awe.
Bengt Rundgren, a Swedish bass, made his debut as Hagen. He is a giant of a man but does not have a voice to match; it is a little weak on top and bottom. He is an imposing figure on stage, of course, and acted with intensity. Another debut saw the Rumanian bass, Marius Rintzler, as Alberich. He sounded like a well-routined singer, but other roles will give a better indication of what he can do.

Thomas Stewart was a forceful Gunther. He sang with more freedom than he recently has, and his characterization was thought all the way through. There was some doubling in the cast -- a sign of the financial times? Mignon Dunn was fine as the Second Norn and Waltraute; and Nell Rankin sang a competent Third Norn and Gutrune. The three Rhine Maidens-Mary Ellen Pracht, Marcia Baldwin and Batyah Godfrey-sang more sweetly and with better ensemble than the usual run. The opera, incidentally, was presented uncut. It started at 6:30 and ended just under the, wire around midnight.

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