[Met Performance] CID:324040
Die Walküre {486} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/23/1996.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
April 23, 1996


DIE WALKÜRE {486}

Brünnhilde..............Gabriele Schnaut
Siegmund................Plácido Domingo
Sieglinde...............Deborah Voigt
Wotan...................Robert Hale [Last performance]
Fricka..................Hanna Schwarz
Hunding.................John Macurdy
Gerhilde................Dinah Bryant [Last performance]
Grimgerde...............Jane Shaulis
Helmwige................Susan Neves
Ortlinde................Janet Hopkins
Rossweisse..............Judith Christin
Schwertleite............Ellen Rabiner
Siegrune................Michelle DeYoung
Waltraute...............Joyce Castle

Conductor...............James Levine

Review of Leighton Kerner in the Village Voice

Wagnerian Proportions

'Die Walküre' Metropolitan Opera
April 23

Wagner's four-opera "Ring" cycle is the only art-music event that will pull sellout audiences in from around the world. I'm not talking about a "Three Tenors" circus. The operative criterion here is art. The art lies not only in the almost 17 hours of music that changed the whole harmonic map and unlocked the gates to modernism, music that still makes you drunk. Art also informs librettist Wagner's innovations in dramatizing how Wotan, king of the prehistoric Norse gods, sinks ever deeper into a moral quicksand when trying to stop the bad guys - principally Alberich, the Nibelung dwarf - from ruling the world via a ring fashioned from some gold in the Rhine.

The pull of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" operates, in these Wagner-famished years, even when a fraction of the tetralogy is performed - for example, "Die Walküre," the cycle's most popular opera, which the Met revived during the last two weeks of its season. True, a major new ingredient in conductor James Levine's familiar and often overwhelming Wagnerian feast was that one of the "three T"s," Placido Domingo, brought his Siegmund here. No question: Domingo is the most completely achieved Siegmund in New York since Jon Vickers, the paragon of the previous generation. Domingo's musical and histrionic energy never flagged, his tone could be both tender and swordlike, and his acting was as sensitive as a seismograph to the opera's succession of mortal crises.

But he wasn't the performance's only blast of fresh air. Gabriele Schnaut, having made her Met debut the previous week as the eponymous Brünnhilde, used her dependable and tireless
dramatic soprano to fine effect and acted Wotan's rebellious daughter with charmingly awkward tomboyishness. She's no Nilsson, Varnay, or Flagstad, but she and Jane Eaglen (Chicago's recent Brünnhilde) are the best since those illustrious singers. Also at the Met, Deborah Voigt sang shiningly and invincibly as Sieglinde, with a fearlessly-soaring "O hehrstes Wunder!" when getting the news that Siegfried is in her womb. When Voigt's acting registers terror as well as bliss, she'll be a great Sieglinde. Robert Hale seemed vocally (but not theatrically) fatigued as Wotan, John Macurdy is still a formidably brutal Hunding at this stage of a 40-year (at least) career, and Hanna Schwarz is absolutely seductive as she threw husband Wotan over a moral-legalistic cliff.

As for Levine and the orchestra, not in 50 years of live theater, broadcast, and recorded "Walküre" performances have I heard the score played with such textural grandeur, maximum-impact pacing, brilliant brasses, melting strings, and throbbing intensity (particularly in the instrumental outburst leading into Wotan's farewell to his daughter). The performance overcame the chronic, safe-and-sane conventionality and predictability of this production, launched nearly a decade ago by director Otto Schenk and scene designer Gunther Schneider-Siemssen.



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