[Met Performance] CID:6970
United States Premiere
Das Rheingold {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/4/1889.
 (United States Premiere)
(Intermission between Scenes 2 and 3

Metropolitan Opera House
January 4, 1889
United States Premiere


Wotan...................Emil Fischer
Fricka..................Fanny Moran-Olden
Alberich................Joseph Beck
Loge....................Max Alvary
Erda....................Hedwig Reil
Fasolt..................Ludwig Mödlinger
Fafner..................Eugene Weiss
Freia...................Katherine Senger-Bettaque
Froh....................Albert Mittelhauser
Donner..................Alois Grienauer
Mime....................Wilhelm Sedlmayer
Woglinde................Sophie Traubmann
Wellgunde...............Félicie Kaschowska
Flosshilde..............Hedwig Reil

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

Director................Theodore Habelmann
Set Designer............Johann Kautsky
Costume Designer........Carl Doepler
Costume Designer........Henry Dazian
Lighting Designer.......James Stuart, Jr.

There was a fifteen minute intermission between Scenes 2 and 3.

Program note: "For this opera the scenery has been ordered from Germany and the costumes and armorare from the designs of Prof. Doepier, who made the original drawings for Richard Wagner."

Das Rheingold received seventeen performances this season.

Alternate title: The Rheingold.

Review in The New York Times:


Making the acquaintance of a work of art produced by a mastermind is always an event in the experience of the public. When that work happens to be one in a series forming one of the most elevated, far-reaching, many-sided products of an epoch-making intellect it is to be approached properly only with a spirit at ready sympathy and deference. In music, it need hardly be said, the public of this city has for several years been fed on the most solid mental pabulum in existence. The growth of taste and of appreciative perception has been correspondingly large. Today works can be produced with the prospect of a fair hearing and a ready comprehension which 10 years ago would have been too heavy for the common digestion.

It is not to be wondered at, then, that the first performance in America of Wagner's "Das Rheingold" drew to the Metropolitan Opera House last evening an audience that filled the house. It would be unjust to the memory of the greatest genius that ever revealed itself through music as well, as to the management of the Opera House and the conscientious singers engaged in the work to sum up the merits of last evening's production in the brief time at one's disposal after the performance. Extended comment must, therefore, be deferred, but it may be said that the representation embodied many noble features that made a deep impression on the audience. In respect of stage apparel it can at once be set down as the most satisfactory achievement of the Metropolitan. The scenery, costumes and effects were all designed and executed with great art and caused admirable results. Among the performers the one who was, on the whole, the most worthy of praise was Herr Beck. His performance of Alberich, while not striking in its histrionic aspect, was a fine example of Wagnerian declamatory singing, His delivery of the famous curse of the ring was notably excellent in its distinctness and dramatic force. The achievements of the other singing actors must be reserved for consideration at a later date.

The stage manager, Herr Habelmann deserves congratulation and commendation for the smoothness of this first performance. Herr Seidl merits high praise for his discharge of his arduous duties. The music drama will be repeated at the matinée today. As a matter of record it may be noted that the cast was distributed as follows: Wotan, Herr Fischer: Mime, Herr Sedlmayer; Donner, Herr Grinauer; Froh, Herr Mitttelhauser; Fafner, Herr Weisse; Fasolt, Herr Mödlinger; Loge, Herr Alrary; Fricka, Frau Moran-Olden; Freia, Fräulein Senger-Bettaque; Erda, Fräulein Reil; the three Rhine maidens, Fräuleins Traubmann. Koschoska, and Reil.

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

There is something paradoxical about the attitude of nearly all of Wagner's creations toward the mental habits of the time and not even his strongest admirers can escape the paradox as it presents itself in "Das Rheingold." Wagner himself conceded this when, in introducing the Nibelung poem to the world, he argued that his works ought not to be judged by reason, but enjoyed through affection. Genuinely sincere and sufficient enjoyment of the tetralogy in which he sought to symbolize the emancipation of the world from the greed of power and the dawn of the reign of unselfish love (something like this seems to be the ethical programme of "Der Ring des Nibelungen"), is only to be had by those who are willing to let critical judgment wait upon the fancy. This Wagner would have admitted. We will go a step further: There are times when even this unfettered fancy must needs be as ingenuous as the "raised imagination" of Charles Lamb at his first play, which transformed the glistening substance on the pillars of Old Drury into "glorified sugar-candy." This can be said without bringing into question the potential beauty of the creations themselves; we can easily conceive of a mental condition that would accept such a childlike receptivity as the only mood in which an art-work designed to appeal to the emotions which the humdrum routine of modern life leaves untouched ought to be approached. We need not argue; our readers can make the demonstration for themselves; they need only attend a representation of "Das Rheingold," with a fixed resolve to keep a tight check line on the rational faculty and give free rein to the imagination. Of course, we are assuming that all are serious minded people, such as believe that works of art have a loftier mission than to give only momentary diversion. For those otherwise disposed, "Das Rheingold" has the same species of attractiveness as a Christmas pantomime of the old kind, with its fairy-talk and marvelous pictures of No-man's land. . .

The one character who presents himself fully developed is Loge and it is significant that no person in the tetralogy is better characterized in the music than he so far as two of his attributes go. To depict him as, at once, the god of fire and the spirit of mischief, Wagner has accompanied his entrances, his speeches and his movements with a crackling chromatic phrase, fitful, flickering, restless like the element he controls. Unfortunately Wagner has also represented him as the type of intellectuality among the gods. To find the loftiest intellectual attributes given to the spirit of evil is not an uncommon thing in mythologies and tales of folklore, but being a fire god, Loge must be in motion. Though his capers and caprioles consort with his destructiveness as symbolized by fire, it is difficult to reconcile them with the activity of thought. The character is an exceedingly difficult one to understand, but still more difficult to interpret, and we do not wonder that Mr. Alvary's impersonation is not generally liked by those who have studied the character abroad. Part of the difficulty comes from an unhappy association of vocal style with that which our public has grown accustomed to expect from the representatives of Beckmesser in "Die Meistersinger."

Photograph of Emil Fischer as Wotan in Das Rheingold by Falk.

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