[Met Concert/Gala] CID:264180
Wagner Concert. Metropolitan Opera House: 04/12/1981.
Metropolitan Opera House
April 12, 1981
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act I Prelude
Die Walküre: Act III Duet
Zu neuen Taten
Manfred Jung [First appearance]
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod
Review of Alan Rich in New York Magazine
MAKING THEMSELVES YOUTHFUL
Even so, nothing in its shortened, disease-racked season became the Met like the leaving of it. There was the young Malfitano and there was the just-as-young Birgit Nilsson - not the hastily arranged Saturday-broadcast matinee. but the full glory of the Sunday-night Wagner concert. On that night of nights you didn't just hear a veteran star singer doing all right for 63. The thrust and majesty of almost all her singing belonged to the annals of Nilsson's own glory over two decades at the Met. When had she made those last lines of Brünnhilde's last entreaty to Wotan more beguiling than now? When had her exhortations to the loving Siegfried rung out more heroically?
True, there were some problems, but few of them belonged to the sovereign singer we had come to greet and cheer. James Levine conducted, and he has still to learn that fast Wagner does not automatically gladden hearts in the same way as does fast Puccini. Up on the Met's stage, the orchestra sounded as harsh and unbalanced now as it had in the [first]-night Mahler, except that I had forgiven it then on the strength of the preceding long hiatus. Simon Estes sang an eloquent Wotan in the "Walküre" scene, but could not be heard for long stretches. It remains to be seen (no, heard) whether he can manage this repertory in a house this large. Manfred Jung, the new heldentenor. looks and acts as goofy as the last several interpretors, sang a Siegfried with very little ring in it, but would probably make a fine Lohengrin.
All of this is niggle-naggle, of course, against the duality of Nilsson's work and what it tells us about her current estate. She is down to sing the Dyer's Wife in next season's "Frau ohne Schatten." I saw her do it last year in San Francisco, and it was an astounding performance, not merely as a vocal achievement, but as the best realization of the vulgar passion in this role that I ever expect to see.