[Met Performance] CID:3570
Die Walküre {7} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/20/1885.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 20, 1885


DIE WALKÜRE {7}

Brünnhilde..............Amalie Materna
Siegmund................Anton Schott
Sieglinde...............Auguste Seidl-Kraus
Wotan...................Josef Staudigl
Fricka..................Marianne Brandt
Hunding.................Joseph Kögel
Gerhilde................Marianne Brandt
Grimgerde...............Miss Kemlitz
Helmwige................Anna Robinson
Ortlinde................Anna Stern
Rossweisse..............Helena Brandl
Schwertleite............Carrie Morse
Siegrune................Anna Slach
Waltraute...............Anna Gutjar [Last performance]

Conductor...............John Lund

Unsigned review of performance and summary of season in The New York Times (no doubt, W. J. Henderson)

METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE.

Last evening's performance of "Die Walküre" - the seventh representation Wagner's music drama has had since its production at the Metropolitan under the direction of the lamented Dr. Damrosch - took place yesterday evening. The auditorium was crowded in every part, and the listeners remained in the house until the final bar of the score was reached. The latest rendering of "Die Walküre" suggests no new comment, either upon the opera or its interpreters. Herr Lund conducted with care and firmness, and the singers and band went through their work with earnestness and effect; perhaps they threw a little less spirit than usual into their personations, but this is scarcely to be wondered at when the depressing influence of last week's incidents is taken into consideration. At the end of the second act a rather faint round of applause brought about the raising of the curtain, and the artists reappeared. Just then two ushers were descried coming down a lateral aisle bearing flowers and a sort of trophy, from which arose two large American and Austrian flags. A second salvo of applause, rather heartier than the first, but still bearing a slender proportion to the numbers of the audience followed the appearance of the ushers, and a third summoned Frau Materna down to the footlights, over which the flowers and trophy were handed to her. The impression of the affair was rather singular, for while nothing had occurred to arouse the spectators to a high pitch of enthusiasm, there seemed no grounds for so unwonted and marked coolness on the part of the assemblage, mainly composed, it may be added, of the regular frequenters of the establishment. The performers were, as usual, recalled at the close of the opera, the final scene of which was beheld at 12:30 o'clock.

The season of opera at the Metropolitan terminates with this afternoon's representation of "La Juive." It was entered upon on Oct. 17, and will have extended over a term of 15 weeks, in which 42 evening performances and 15 matinées will have been given. Twelve operas, of which all but one ("Der Freischutz") are works of great proportions, have been sung during its progress. Of these "The Prophet," "Lohengrin," and "Tannhäuser" have each had nine representations; "Die Walküre" seven," "The Huguenots" five, "La Juive" five, "Masaniello" three, "Fidelio" three, "William Tell" three, "Don Giovanni" two, and "Rigoletto" and
"Der Freischutz" one each. The figures of the average box office receipts of the respective operas were printed in these columns three days since. "Die Walküre" attracted the largest audiences, but the average receipts of "The Prophet" would have been quite as satisfactory had Wagner's music-drama been sung as frequently. However, there is no disputing the fact that Wagner's repertoire has been most liberally drawn upon, and with excellent results. And this for obvious reasons, Dr. Damrosch's singers were chosen principally because of their fitness to interpret the German reformer's operas. A very small proportion of the artists proved competent to fill the characters familiar to the frequenters of Italian opera, and the performances of Italian and semi-Italian works proved the least enjoyable witnessed throughout the season. "The Huguenots," which, in all quarters of the globe is to this day a manager's strongest card, was very poorly done, and the best that can be said for the interpretation of Rossini and Auber is that it was adequate in some respects only. On the other hand, the production of Wagner's operas left very little to be wished for. The singers were admirably equipped for their tasks, the massive choral and instrumental effects were brought out with unflagging energy, and all that could be accomplished in the way of scenic attire was looked after with taste and liberality. By this assertion it is not sought to imply that the requirements of the Italian operas were neglected. The prime necessities of these works, however, are, from a Wagnerian standpoint, peculiar. Their librettos may be silly, their melodies without significance, the accompaniments thin, and the opportunities for "mise-en-scène" slender, but they need singers in the exact sense of the word. The steady flow of tune in "The Huguenots" and the wastes of recitative in "Die Walküre," the passion of the duet between Valentine and Raoul, and the long-drawn tiffs of Wotan and Fricka call for very different methods of interpretation.

It is fair to admit that some of the performers that have been listened to during the season just ended have entrenched themselves firmly in the favor of all classes of opera-goers. First and foremost of these privileged few stands Frau Schroeder-Hanfstaengl, an admirable artist, whose song delighted the ear and satisfied the taste in every rôle the prima donna assumed. Next to be cited is Fräulein Brandt, a thoroughly conscientious songstress, upon whose success her sympathetic personality had no slight influence. Next to Fräulein Brandt comes Frau Kraus, who, although a Wagnerian songstress, is still unspoiled for characters in which the cantabile predominates. Finally, Herren Robinson and Staudigl must be referred to. The latter, be it said, has never been listened to at his best on the stage of the Metropolitan. He excels, in fact, in oratorio and as an interpreter of German lieder. Nevertheless, Herr Staudigl's portrayals have never left the audience in doubt as to his experience and lyric acquirements, As for Herr Robinson, the reader hardly requires reminder that his rich voice, genuine feeling, and thoroughly Italian delivery have invariably had immediate recognition. Concerning Frau Materna and Herr Schott so much has been written that little remains to be told. There is no denying that the Austrian soprano has proved somewhat of a disappointment. Her only memorable achievement has been her Brünnhilde, a fact indicating that she is not only distinguished solely as a Wagnerian songstress, but that she is a representative of the advanced type of Wagner heroines and nothing more. Her Elisabeth "Tannhäuser," was in no way superior to Frau Kraus's; her Valentine was scarcely passable even in a conventional sense. Herr Schott, though as distinctly Wagnerian in his method as Frau Materna, has shown more versatility and been much more useful. From a dramatic standpoint his delineations have been quite conspicuous for variety, warmth and vigor, and while his singing, as a rule, has been rather emphatic and explosive than melodious, he has imbued his lyric as well as his histrionic efforts with considerable interest and significance. It is to be mentioned to Herr Schott's credit that he has done a great deal of work since October last, and that he has never been wanting in earnestness or good will while on the stage. Under these circumstances it would be safe to infer that under less exacting conditions some of the excellences lately missed from his performances would probably assert themselves. With the remaining members of the company it is not essential to deal at length. No one of them is to be referred to as having any claim to celebrity, but each filled acceptably his or her place in the ensemble which was always sought after and generally secured Both chorus and orchestra have been large and efficient, and the scenic attire has almost always been appropriate, elaborate, and substantial. No season within the memory of the present generation has, in truth, been equally noteworthy for so many complete and impressive representations of exacting operas.

The material success of the series of performances now ending has been foreshadowed in THE TIMES. The guarantee fund representing $1,750 for each evening's entertainment, and contributed by the box holders in payment for their seats, has, of course, melted away, but this was anticipated and the receipts and the guarantee fund have met all outlays. We have reason to believe that the stockholders are quite content with the result of the experiment of giving performances that have been more remarkable for evenness and symmetry than for the cooperation of a single prima donna of eminence with a dozen mediocrities, and it is to be hoped that the determination to repeat it next season will not be shaken by the demise of Dr. Damrosch. That no "stars" are wanted in representations of the order is shown by the discovery that "La Juive" in which Frau Materna - who was supposed to be the attraction - drew less money into the treasury than "The Prophet." When Mr. Thomas engaged this excellent artist last year he was afforded, indeed, some hint as to the sudden indifference of the public to the claims of a single well-known performer, and but for the timely engagement of Mme. Nilsson, his Wagner concerts would have been a pecuniary failure. For a long while, at any rate, operatic managers must set aside their old-time policy of depending upon the voice, talent, or charms of one costly prima donna.

We trust, as mentioned already, that the teachings of the season now closing will not be lost. What the future will bring forth, be it remarked, it is not easy to predict. Fortunately, there is no need for hasty action. It will be impossible to replace Dr. Damrosch, for reasons that have been given so often as to require no fresh rehearsal, but capable musicians can he found, both here and abroad, that will take up his policy and carry on his task, There is a strong inclination, we think, to test Mr. Walter Damrosch's mettle, and, if an experienced aid were provided - a sort of lyric prime minister, in fact - it is scarcely to be doubted that the experiment would prove successful. The foundation of a dynasty is not generally accomplished, but, in this case, there are grounds for concluding, from what Mr. Walter Damrosch has done thus far, that he is worthy of inheriting his father's celebrity as well as his name. And while it is to be desired that the lamented leader may have a successor worthy of his memory, it, is to be wished that the newcomer may discover a friend and business manager as shrewd, energetic, and faithful as Mr. Morris Reno, who relieved the dead director of many cares, and whose counsel in critical moments was simply invaluable. The Directors of the Metropolitan will, of course, be represented, as heretofore, by Mr. Edmund C. Stanton, whose mild but potent sway will in all probability be more absolute even than it has been until now. With liberality and good will such as were shown by the stockholders of the Metropolitan during the current year, and with the judgment, tact, and experience - the latter acquired by two seasons' close study of the house and its managers and frequenters - of Mr. Stanton there is slight cause, we should say, for fear that the up-town house will not keep well abreast of the demand likely to be made upon it for lyric entertainments of the highest order.



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