[Met Performance] CID:92640
Die Walküre {217}
Ring Cycle [47]
Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 03/4/1926.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 4, 1926 Matinee


DIE WALKÜRE {217}
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Cycle [47]

Brünnhilde..............Nanny Larsén-Todsen
Siegmund................Rudolf Laubenthal
Sieglinde...............Florence Easton
Wotan...................Friedrich Schorr
Fricka..................Karin Branzell
Hunding.................Michael Bohnen
Gerhilde................Phradie Wells
Grimgerde...............Marion Telva
Helmwige................Nannette Guilford
Ortlinde................Laura Robertson
Rossweisse..............Ina Bourskaya
Schwertleite............Kathleen Howard
Siegrune................Raymonde Delaunois
Waltraute...............Henriette Wakefield

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

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Tribune

The Wagner Cycle Reaches 'Die Walküre,' With a New Hunding

Mr. Michael Bohnen, the Metropolitan's distinguished basso, is what Mr. Huneker would have loved to call ineluctable. You cannot escape him. Even before he comes upon the scene he dominates it. Yesterday he contributed the only novel feature of the afternoon's "Walküre" performance, duly accomplished as the third matinee of the Metropolitan's current Wagner Cycle. Mr. Bohnen was the Hunding of the cast, a role in which he had not before been observed in New York.

You might have guessed that Mr. Bohnen was the Hunding, before even he entered his dwelling in the first act, and whether or not you had read his name in the program. Most Hundings announce their approach to the accompaniment of their proper motif on the horns, by a decorous clanking of chains and reticent suggestion of equine stamping ("Sieglinde," say the stage directions at this point, "starts, listens and hears Hunding outside, leading his horse to the stable.") But yesterday the ominous staccato rhythm of the horns was accompanied by a crash outside the door which suggested that an over-nourished Valkyr had been thrown from her steed in some celestial gallop and precipitated upon Hunding's doorstep. After which the door opened, and Mr. Bohnen, as Hunding, escorted by his quintet of tubas, appeared upon the threshold.

It was a superb entrance - you would have trusted Mr. Bohnen for that. Barbarically accoutered, his black bearskins reaching to his ankles, his mask ferociously contrived, he was a sinister and savage figure - menacing, brutal and perturbing. But Mr. Bohnen did not remain at quite that level. To begin with, he should have kept his helmet on. Wagner does not direct him to take it off, and so far as we can remember, Hunding has always gone through his first act scene with his helmet arrogantly on his head. When Mr. Bohnen uncovered, he ceased abruptly to be Hunding, and became only Mr. Bohnen in a shockingly amateurish wig. He had conceived Hunding as half bald; but the strip of imitation scalp which wigmakers use to indicate the absence of front hair quite failed yesterday afternoon to match Mr. Bohnen's complexion, with the result that he seemed to be wearing some fantastic sort of skull cap. The effect was distressing. Hunding with a skull cap is almost as incredible as Isolde with knitting.

Nor did Mr. Bohnen wholly persuade us by his acting of the part. Often he was admirable and engrossing - as in his frowningly suspicious comparison of Siegmund's features with his wife's, the growing intensity with which he listened to his unwelcome guest's extraordinary tale. But he was almost as much at a loss as most Hundings are in that difficult scene in which Wagner requires the two men to stand gloomily about, doing and saying nothing, while Sieglinde mixes a drink for Hunding, and the orchestral develops its beautiful and expressive, but very leisurely, commentary though half a hundred measures. Perhaps a Chaliapin could vitalize this scene; but certainly Mr. Bohnen did not - though he succeeded in keeping it more tense than the average Hunding does.

In the brief moment following his slaying of Siegmund at the end of the second act, Mr. Bohnen contributed some new and significant business; his terrified quailing as Wotan stood above him, awful in sorrowful majesty, and bade him go hence and kneel before Fricka, was an excellent touch. It is just possible that Mr. Bohnen was swaying from faintness, for Mr. Laubenthal, as Siegmund, had accidentally slashed his nose quite painfully in the course of the preceding flight. But anyway it was an effective bit of business.

Aside from Mr. Bohnen and his mishap, nothing out of the ordinary happened at yesterday's performance. The cast was an accustomed one, some of its members pleasant, some, unpleasantly, familiar. Its star was unquestionably Mr. Schorr as Wotan. It is delightful to hear a singer who knows the musical and dramatic value of a true pianissimo and can employ it with beauty and effectiveness. Mr. Schorr's delivery of the [beginning] phrases of the second act narrative; of the whispered "Das Ende!" over the C minor pianissimo chord of the brass; his mezza voce in the sublime Farewell - these were things to establish standards. And it is long since we have heard a Wotan who gave to "freier als ich der Gott!" the deeply tragic significance with which Mr. Schorr endues the phrase. No wonder this artist is considered indispensible at Bayreuth!

Of Miss Easton's Sieglinde, Mme. Branzell's Fricka, Mr. Laubenthal's Siegmund there is nothing new to be said, except that the ladies marked the festival character of the occasion by a joyful but excessive disregard of the pitch; and Mme. Larsen-Todsen, whose Brünnhilde has touching traits (it is often tender, unaffected, plastic), sang with the persistent tremolo which seems to affect her increasingly. Scarcely one of her tones was perfectly true and steady.

Mr. Bodanzky achieved one of the most expressive, dramatic and sensitive readings of the score that he has given us this season. The marvelous work, which will be seventy years old this month, seemed as deathless as ever, inexhaustible in its heroic beauty, its nobility, it undiminshable greatness of style. Happy the youngsters who are hearing it for the first time! Happy the veterans of a hundred "Abschieds" who can return to it again and again as to a thing unwearying and unworn.



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