[Met Performance] CID:92550
Das Rheingold {61}
Ring Cycle [47]
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/25/1926.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 25, 1926 Matinee


DAS RHEINGOLD {61}
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [47]
Wagner-Wagner

Wotan...................Michael Bohnen
Fricka..................Nanny Larsén-Todsen
Alberich................Gustav Schützendorf
Loge....................George Meader
Erda....................Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Fasolt..................Léon Rothier
Fafner..................Adamo Didur
Freia...................Maria Müller
Froh....................Ralph Errolle
Donner..................Carl Schlegel
Mime....................Max Bloch
Woglinde................Elizabeth Kandt
Wellgunde...............Phradie Wells
Flosshilde..............Marion Telva

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

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

Das Rheingold received one performance this season.



Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

SCHUIVIANN HEINK'S RE-DEBUT EXCITES AS "RING" BEGINS

"Rheingold," With Veteran Contralto As "Erda," After Absence of Nine Seasons, Brings Another Furore at Metropolitan - Bodanzky Conducts Prologue of Trilogy, With Bohnen as "Wotan" and Meader in New Role as "Loge"-Return of Former Luminary Most Notable Event of Opera Week

Having so lately celebrated the advent of its youngest prima donna, the Metropolitan on Thursday afternoon of last week resounded with tributes to its eldest. With her sixty-fifth birthday not far away, and a round half century of singing behind her, Ernestine Schumann Heink returned to the scene of many unforgettable triumphs, to sing Erda in "Rheingold." It was her first appearance at the Metropolitan in nine seasons, and twenty-eight years had elapsed since she made her American debut there in the heydey of Maurice Grau. It was as Erda that she last appeared in 1917, but in "Siegfried," rather than "Rheingold."

Always an event of cardinal importance and interest in itself, the beginning of the "Ring"-and incidentally the only performance of "Rheingold" scheduled for this season-became almost a secondary consideration, so strong was the sentimental appeal exerted by the renowned contralto's return. Back stage, there were embracings and rejoicings. It is said that Antonio Scotti, who made his Metropolitan début one year later than Mme. Schumann Heink, sloughed off another ten years, on discovering that he was no longer the senior member of the company.

"Ernestine, sweetheart," was his cry in greeting her.

"Scotti, dear," was the affectionate reply.

"You know I was put out of a convent for being naughty as a girl," she remarked in the midst of the huggings.

Out in front was another capacity audience, with all available standing room occupied by a confusion of more or less perfect Wagnerites and those who would have fought as eagerly to be present at Mme. Schumann Heink's return if the opera had been Meyerbeer's "Prophète." The part of Erda in "Rheingold" is a brief one, occupying less than ten minutes in all, and does not come until nearly the end of a three-hour stretch that is particularly fatiguing for most listeners because the work is given without intermissions between the scenes. Erda is little more than a voice, for although the figure of the Earth Mother is dimly seen as she emerges from the underworld to admonish Wotan, the episode is virtually a tableau without action. There was an unusual hush as the first phrases of the big voice sounded Wagner's "Weiche Wotan, weiche ! Flieh' des Ringes Fluch !"

Throughout this scene the audience listened with rapt advertence, as if straining to catch and hold in the memory the sound of every syllable and note. The end of performance was soon reached and the inevitable series of curtain calls began. It was some time before the contralto could be persuaded to come out alone, but once this had been accomplished, there were a series of individual calls. "Was I good enough?" she asked of those on the stage, confessing to the nervousness which has been rather conspicuously absent from the stage demeanor of her youngest associate, save for a moment of confusion at her début. Though it would be folly to deny that time has made inroads upon this singer's powers, the veteran contralto brought to the performance in the few moments of her presence on the stage the breadth and nobility of style, the largeness of utterance, the depth of feeling and the epic manner which the "Ring" demands, and which otherwise were lacking in this representation.

Save only that of Michael Bohnen as Wotan, the other voices of the afternoon shrunk and paled beside this surviving organ of an elder day. There were shortness of phrase and a variety of "registers," but there was tone coloring such as no other member of the cast achieved. Those few minutes will remain in the memory when every other detail of the performance is forgotten.

Aside from Mme. Schuman Heink's Erda, the success of the representation was largely in the hands of Bohnen and Schützendorf. The former repeated his vivid characterization of a year ago-an untraditional Wotan that looks like Zeus, and moves and sings with an unflagging flair for the picturesque. Schützendorf's Alberich had power and vividness-though it made one's throat ache. How can an artist survive the incessant barking of this role, and still sing a Bach cantata as smoothly as he!

George Meader's transfer from his last year's role of Mime to Loge was not a particularly happy one. His Mime was as finished a product as his Loge seemed tentative and half-formed. He sang the music well-rather too well, in fact. The hissing, spitting suggestion of flame, and the indications of craft and guile, which have on occasion been given to the character were almost altogether lacking. Moreover, Max Bloch's Mime, while competent, fell considerably short of his predecessor's. The feminine members of the cast were vocally satisfying, save for some inaccuracy of pitch on the part of one of the Rhine maidens, and the lesser males cared competently for their roles.

The stage management-except for a complete misfire of Wagner's plain intentions in the scene of the slaying of Fasolt by Fafner-was capable, and the transitions smoothly achieved once the restlessness of the second "drop" had been pacified.
Mr. Bodanzky began spiritedly, and the marvelous introduction of the "Rhine" scene has seldom been more fascinating or compelling. But three hours unbroken playing is a trial for any orchestra, as it is for any audience, and there was no little sagging later on. In its entirety, "Rheingold" was a fairly satisfactory prologue for the far richer glories of Wagner's genius that the riper music-dramas of the trilogy will bring.



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