[Met Performance] CID:79420
Die Walküre {186} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/16/1921.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 16, 1921


DIE WALKÜRE {186}
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Margarete Matzenauer
Siegmund................Johannes Sembach
Sieglinde...............Maria Jeritza
Wotan...................Clarence Whitehill
Fricka..................Jeanne Gordon
Hunding.................William Gustafson
Gerhilde................Marie Tiffany
Grimgerde...............Marion Telva
Helmwige................Marie Sundelius
Ortlinde................Alice Miriam
Rossweisse..............Flora Perini
Schwertleite............Kathleen Howard
Siegrune................Raymonde Delaunois
Waltraute...............Henriette Wakefield

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Samuel Thewman
Set designer............Hans Kautsky

Die Walküre received eight performances this season.


Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America


'DIE WALKÜRE' RETURNS TRIUMPHANT TO RÈPERTOIRE AT METROPLITAN

Re-studied, but not re-mounted, and with a cast about equally divided between newcomers and interpreters familiar in their rôles "Die Walküre" returned to its pre-exilic place in the repertoire of the Metropolitan, Friday evening, December 16. It was the first segment of "The Ring of the Nibelung" to re-illumine the opera house with the imperishable splendors of the colossal tetralogy; and, of the four Wagner music-dramas which now have been restored, the first to make its return in the language of the original, without the English preluding given "Parsifal," "Tristan" and "Lohengrin."

Its distinguishing element was the pictorially lovely Sieglinde, revealed for the first time in New York by Marie Jeritza, whose popularity has become a thing to marvel at; but its greatest distinction was the noble Wotan of Clarence Whitehill, in a cast that included Margaret Matzenauer as Brünnhilde, Jeanne Gordon as Fricka, Johannes Sembach as Siegmund, and William Gustafson as Hunding, with Artur Bodanzky in the conductor's chair.

Last sung in March, 1917, its absence of more than four and a half years never really dimmed the star of "Die Walküre" and it scarcely assumed the aspect of a revival at this re-introductory representation. It came back, as everyone felt it must, and as the other dramas of the "Ring" also must come back in the seasons that are to follow-as if it had never really been out of the répertoire, but had only been deferred in the usual round of subscription performances. The familiar names in the cast and the equally familiar settings doubtless played a part in establishing this attitude on the part of Friday night's audience, one which filled the opera house to capacity, and which exhibited all the enthusiasms of confirmed Wagnerites transported to their ultimate of bliss.

The effect of the music was much what it has always been since American audiences came to know their Wagner. It swept and swirled, a colossal tide of surging sound, through three and a half hours of tonal glory. "Die Walküre" is never without spots of tedium (what one of the great music-dramas is?)-witness the supper scene of Act I-and Conductor Bodanzky seemed bent upon reducing these to a minimum by accelerations of tempo. In this effort at enlivenment was the most noticeable outward evidence of the "re-study" devoted to it. Some of the older Wagnerians shook their heads. Others applauded. Even Wagner, when he conducted, was criticized about the tempo. Faster or slower, the score glows and sings, and the Metropolitan orchestra again proved its prowess in this music.

Mme. Jeritza as Sieglinde

Because of the all-engulfing interest in everything now undertaken by Mme. Jeritza, she must be accorded first mention among the members of the cast, much as the merits of the familiar Wotan of Mr. Whitehill recommend him for this priority. Those who feared the Viennese soprano would do violence to the role found that their apprehensions were groundless. She sang and acted with an artist's restraint. Hers was a Sieglinde lovely to look upon, if sometimes angular in movement; a womanly figure of alluring tenderness; simple, direct, effortless and seemingly unstudied in the most effective details of its portraiture, yet suggesting a truly heroic mother for the Siegfried that was to be. The silent posturings of Mme. Jeritza in the [first] act,when Sieglinde must devote much of her time merely to over-hearing, centered the eyes of the audience upon her, whatever the other principals were doing.

Vocally, however, Sieglinde revealed certain crudities and imperfections more than any other role Mme. Jeritza has essayed. Her middle and upper tones were frequently of a lovely quality, while here and there a top note of somewhat disconcerting power, but her lower voice -and much of Sieglinde's music lies rather low-was quite generally of a chalky color, sometimes twangy with a glottis stroke, often unsteady and at times downright ugly. There were many passages that were charmingly sung, and some had an Amazonian ring, but there were as many others by no means remarkable for tonal beauty.

Whitehill a Superb Wotan

To those whose memories run back to the days of the first Wagner performances in America must be left the question as to whether New York ever has known a better Wotan than Clarence Whitehill. Friday night's performance found him almost entirely free of the hoarseness that at times has clouded his voice, and although the music lies rather low for him, he sang it with much beauty and richness of tone. In appearance and bearing he was the master of Vahalla, god-like in his distress as well as in his anger-and how loftily tender his singing of the ever-eloquent farewell!

Mme. Matzenauer was a Brünnhilde sufficiently heroic in appearance and in vocal power. Though, as in other soprano roles, there were upward soarings beyond her best range, she sang much of the music-particularly the second-act scene with Siegmund-very beautifully, if with a somewhat darker quality of tone than is usually associated with the part.

Jeanne Gordon's Fricka, her second Wagnerian character, had merits of voice and bearing. She should grow in the part with subsequent performances. The Siegmund of Mr. Sembach was well routined, and not lacking in either vigor or fervor. He sings German better than English and hence gave a better account of himself than in last year's Wagner restorations. But his lyricism was unequal to the demands of the "Winter Stürme," and he was frequently throaty and out of tune. Mr. Gustafson's Hunding, imposing to the eye, and vocally agreeable, should improve when he has become more thoroughly at ease in the character. The Valkyries sang sufficiently stirringly to impress upon the ear anew the stinging quality of the music allotted to them. They, too, will improve with repetitions of the work.

The ante-bellum settings are fresh and quite as adequate now as they were when new, though doubtless an Urban would give "Die Walkiire" much more in the way of luminosity of color and massiveness of line. The stage management was generally admirable. The sword incident, when the firelight illumines the hilt; was effectively achieved. Less successful was the manipulation of heavens in the last act. What might have been a modern dirigible -but seems to have been intended to replace the aerial horses of other years-made three record flights from right to left, before the clouds began moving slowly and majestically in the opposite direction. Fricka's rams were happily omitted. And isn't there a way of surrounding Brünnhilde's rock with more fire and less smoke and steam? Mechanically, at least, the Wagner music-dramas seem still to be "of the future."



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