[Met Performance] CID:6040
United States Premiere
Siegfried {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/9/1887.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debut: Johann Kautsky
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 9, 1887
United States Premiere


SIEGFRIED {1}
Wagner-Wagner

Siegfried...............Max Alvary
Brünnhilde..............Lilli Lehmann
Wanderer................Emil Fischer
Erda....................Marianne Brandt
Mime....................José Ferenczy
Alberich................Rudolph Von Milde
Fafner..................Johannes Elmblad
Forest Bird.............Auguste Seidl-Kraus

Conductor...............Anton Seidl

Director................Theodore Habelmann
Set Designer............Johann Kautsky [Debut]
Lighting Designer.......James Stuart, Jr.

Siegfried received eleven performances this season.


Review (excerpts) of Henry Krehbiel in the New York Tribune:

The production last night at the Metropolitan Opera House of Wagner's "Siegfried" was an invitation to the public of New York to take the longest and most decisive step away from the ordinary conventions of the lyric theatre that has yet been asked of them. What the ultimate response to the invitation will be it would be foolishly presumptuous to attempt to predict; but the favor with which "Tristan und Isolde" was received last season we believe to have been sincere, and we are not at all inclined to doubt that the same promptings will place the public in an attitude toward the new drama which will make its appreciation easy and its acceptance genuine and hearty.

Yet the difference between the ordinary opera and "Tristan und Isolde" is not so great as between it and "Siegfried," notwithstanding that in the love tragedy Wagner took as uncompromising a stand as ever did a Greek poet and hewed to the lines of his theoretical scheme with unswerving fidelity. In the subject matter lies the distinction. In spite of the absence of that ethical element which places "Tannhäuser" immeasurably above "Tristan und Isolde" as a dramatic poem, the latter drama contains an expression of the universal passion which is so vehement, so truthful and so sublime that it seems strange anybody susceptible to music and gifted with emotions should be deaf to its beauties or callous to its appeal. Besides this the sympathies are stirred in behalf of the personages, who after all stand as representatives of human nature and, though the cooperation of the chorus is restricted to a single act, the dramatic necessity of the restriction is so obvious that an audience once engrossed in the work could do naught else than to resent such a violation of propriety as the introduction of a chorus in any but the first scene would be. In "Siegfried," however, the case is not so plain. Here there is not only no chorus, but scarcely a dozen bars in which even two solo voices are united. The personages of the play, with two exceptions, the hero and Brünnhilde, have no claim upon human sympathy and their actions can arouse no loftier feeling than curiosity. Through two acts and a portion of the third the music of woman's voice and the charm of woman's presence are absent from the stage and, instead, we are asked to accept a bear, a dragon and a bird, a sublimely solemn peripatetic god and two dwarfs, repulsive in mind and hideous in body. The exchange seems anything but fair. These are the drawbacks concerning which there can be no controversy; their enumeration involves questions of fact (which no one would put) and not questions of taste. To them, as falling perhaps under the latter category, are to be added the difficulties which result from an effort to employ in a serious drama mechanical devices of a kind that custom associates only with children's pantomimes and idle spectacles. A bear is brought in to frighten a dwarf; a dragon sings, vomits forth steam from his cavernous jaws, fights and dies with a kindly and prophetic warning to his slayer, and a bird becomes endowed with the gift of articulate speech through a miraculous process, which takes place in another of the personages of the play. Finally, an American opera audience was last night compelled to sit during the representation in darkness so dense that neither shapely shoulders, gorgeous gowns nor dazzling diamonds could delight the eye. . . ."Siegfried," in spite of defects, is a strangely beautiful and impressive work, which last night, under trying circumstances, challenged the plaudits of an audience that, it may be imagined, found all the obstructions of conventions which we have mentioned lying between its appreciation and Wagner's work. It ought to become popular and take the place in this season which has just opened that "Tristan und Isolde" took in the last, as much for the sake of the composition as in token of recognition of the splendid interpretation which it receives at the hands of the Metropolitan company. Timidity need cause no one to be chary of praise.. . .

Herr Alvary has made a careful study of his part and, with his artist's instinct, has found its picturesque possibilities. He gave the forging scene with splendid vigor and freedom of movement and, it is safe to say, there were few pulses that were not quickened as their owners watched the darting flames, the groaning bellows and the dancing sparks that leaped from the anvil at every blow he gave it. . . A pleasant surprise was the excellence of Herr Ferenczy's impersonation of Mime -- an extremely difficult character to portray technically as well as intellectually. None of his words were lost and the low cunning of the dwarf had ample expression in voice, gesture and motion. Herr Fischer's Wanderer was splendidly musical and dignified and Herr von Milde did as much as possible with the insignificant part which Alberich has to play in this division of the tetralogy. To Fräulein Lehmann it was reserved to fill the last scene with a musical glory which had its visual counterpart in the flood of light which tilled the stage after the clouds of steam and canvas and gauze which concealed it during the transformation had disappeared. Her apostrophe to the sun was sung with thrilling power, while the struggle between pride and dawning of love had most eloquent exposition. With each performance of a really dramatic work the artistic stature of Fräulein Lehmann seems to grow, and to those who can appreciate the deep earnestness of her efforts it is easy to understand why she was willing to sacrifice her assured position and pension in Berlin for the sake of taking up a phase of artistic endeavor for which she is so magnificently equipped and from which circumstance disbarred her in the Prussian capital. Love, knowledge, devotion and enthusiasm were the mainsprings of Herr Seidl's efforts as conductor and the results which he achieved in "Siegfried" will remain as firmly fixed in the memory of music lovers as his brilliant accomplishments in "Tristan" and "Die Meistersinger."


Max Alvary as Siegfried. Photograph by E. Bieber, Berlin.



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