[Met Performance] CID:86820
Die Walküre {206} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/17/1924.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 17, 1924


Brünnhilde..............Karin Branzell
Siegmund................Curt Taucher
Sieglinde...............Elisabeth Rethberg
Wotan...................Friedrich Schorr
Fricka..................Jeanne Gordon
Hunding.................William Gustafson
Gerhilde................Phradie Wells
Grimgerde...............Marion Telva
Helmwige................Mary Mellish
Ortlinde................Laura Robertson
Rossweisse..............Flora Perini
Schwertleite............Kathleen Howard
Siegrune................Grace Anthony
Waltraute...............Henriette Wakefield

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Tribune

"Die Walküre" at the Metropolitan, With a new Brünnhilde and a new Wotan

John Runciman, who was the first to teach Englishmen that musical criticism is not necessarily a melancholy profession, was fond of saying that the special quality of "Die Walküre" is the spring freshness of the music, "its godlike power, its profound sense of the past and of the mystery of things." That freshness and tenderness and strength, that epic amplitude and magnificence, do indeed enchant and overwhelm, even at the hundredth hearing of the marvelous work. But we think Wagner himself more nearly hit off the central quality of this music when he said of it in a letter to his friend Präger, in March, 1856, that it: contains "such a superlative of suffering, sorrow and despair" that the music could but constitute a terrific drain on him. "I should not be able to get to the end of a thing like that again," he added. Later, he wrote Dr. Pusinelli, of Dresden, that "Die Walküre" had painfully "got itself finished; it is finer [he added] than anything I have ever written, but it has exhausted me. It has turned out tenably beautiful."

He was right about its being finer than anything he had ever written at that time. It was. And he was right, we take leave to think, about the prevailing tragedy of the music. The two great scenes of the music-drama - that in the second act in which Wotan hears his world crashing about his ears, and the perennially wonderful Farewell at the end of the third - are drenched in tragic pathos and tragic beauty; and last night at the Metropolitan those supreme moments of "Die Walküre" were realized for us with a justness and eloquence which we shall not soon forget.

This achievement, which should be set down as among the finest that the Metropolitan has put to its credit in a good many moons, was due to the participation in the cast of a new Wotan and a new Brünnhilde, both of them singing-actors of uncommon gifts. Mr. Schorr (the memorable Hans Sachs of recent "Meistersinger" performances) was the baffled and sorrowing god; Karin Branzell was the Brünnhilde. Mme. Branzell had been heard here lately as Fricka, as Ortrud, as Brangäne, but her Brünnhilde seems to us far and away the most excellent thing she has done at the Metropolitan. It is vital and plastic and intelligent beyond any other Brünnhilde of recent years. Mme. Branzell has brains, and she does not check them at the stage door when she comes to the Opera House.

She knows what the music is saying, even when it is confined to the orchestra; she knows what Wotan and Fricka and the rest are saying - she is an uncommonly alert and responsive listener. She, through the grace of Nature, is a woman of distinguished presence, and last night she was beautiful. Heaven and a non-starch diet (perhaps) have kept her lithe - she is no lyric elephant in a tin helmet. She has a sense of expressive and modulated gesture, and she has both intensity and repose. Her scene with Wotan in that hour of his bitter yielding to defeat was beautifully imagined and conveyed - her "Wer bin ich, war' ich dein Wille nicht?" which Wagner has set to a phrase of ineffable tenderness, was worthy of the music itself. Her voice is not always equal to the demands which Brünnhilde's music makes upon it, for it is deficient in power and flexibility. Her "Ho-jo-to-ho!" was ineffective. But where is there another Lehmann who can satisfy us there? It should be said, however, that Mme. Branzell's voice was not in its best estate last night.

Mr. Schorr's Wotan had like traits, like excellences. It was continuously intelligent, dramatically vivid, deeply felt: and it was superbly sung. If the Metropolitan is not patting itself on the back these days because of its possession of these admirable Wagner singers, it ought to be. Impersonations of this kind take us back almost to the Golden Age of the - but perhaps we need not go into that.

The familiar Sieglinde of Elizabeth Rethberg, beautiful in voice, indifferent in histrionism, was delightful at least to hear. Upon Mr. Taucher's Siegmund, we need not dwell. It was, as usual. So were the Hunding of Mr. Gustafson and. the Fricka of Jeanne Gordon. Mr. Bodanzky conducted, and the score often sang nobly under his intense and vigilant and imaginative control. The audience was justifiably enthusiastic.

Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun

Karin Branzell as Brünnhilde

Metropolitan's new Contralto Sings Soprano Role in Wagner's 'Die Walküre."

At last a Brünnhilde that looks the part of a goddess! Last night Karin Branzell sang the role of Brünnhilde in Richard Wagner's "Die Walküure" at the Metropolitan Opera. Others have sung this music with more distinction, but it is a long time since Giulio Gatti-Casazza has offered so alluring an interpreter of this wayward goddess. Mme. Branzell has the requisite stature, the carriage, the dignity. She seems to have been to the manner born. She is, from an optical standpoint, the ideal Brünnhilde. But Wagner unfortunately cast this role for a soprano and Mme. Branzell is a contralto. Considering the limited range of her voice and its dark color, she accomplished marvelous things. One could have wished for a more brilliant tone - a tone with the ring of a soprano. But there seems to be a scarcity of true Brünnhilde voices, as there is of the great Isoldes, Mme. Branzell is not the first contralto to essay this altitudinous role, Margaret Matzenauer, its most frequent interpreter at the Metropolitan, has a voice of similar range and color. Still it is good to see a goddess, even if one can find no divine grandeur in the voice.

Mme. Branzell is a Wagnerian singer who sings in the true Wagnerian style. Her interpretations of contralto roles have been among the finest to be heard at the Metropolitan. If her voice were of the right range and color she would be an ideal Brünnhilde. The general excellence of the singing in last night's performance was noteworthy. Elizabeth Rethberg's lovely voice was a delight in the beautiful music of Sieglinde in the first ant.

Curt Taucher, a familiar Siegmund, was not conspicuously distinguished, but his voice is better this season than last. He gave a creditable conventional impersonation of the part. The Wotan, of Friedrich Schorr is not as regal as that of Clarence Whitehill, but vocally his performance as the king of the gods was commendably sonorous. The quality of his voice is exceedingly good. Perhaps it is not quite rough enough for so stern a personage as Wotan. His shortcomings, if they may be termed that, are there of an artist who sacrifices expressiveness for beauty. William Guatafson, the Hunding, and Jeanne Gordon, the Fricka, are too familiar to require extended comment.

The orchestra, under the exacting guidance of Artur Bodanzky, accentuated the drama in true Wagnerian style. "Die Walküre" was the first of Wagner's Ring operas to be revived after the war. Recently "Siegfried" has been added. It is to be hoped that "Das Rheingold" and "Gôtterdämmerung" will be added next year so that New York may hear the whole Niebelungen Cycle.

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