[Met Performance] CID:94500
Die Walküre {218} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/8/1926.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 8, 1926


DIE WALKÜRE {218}
Wagner-Wagner

Brünnhilde..............Florence Easton
Siegmund................Curt Taucher
Sieglinde...............Maria Jeritza
Wotan...................Clarence Whitehill
Fricka..................Margarete Matzenauer
Hunding.................William Gustafson
Gerhilde................Charlotte Ryan
Grimgerde...............Marion Telva
Helmwige................Marcella Röseler
Ortlinde................Editha Fleischer
Rossweisse..............Ina Bourskaya
Schwertleite............Kathleen Howard
Siegrune................Grace Anthony
Waltraute...............Henriette Wakefield

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

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

Die Walküre received six performances this season.

Review of Lawrence Gilman in the New York Tribune

Wagner's 'Die Walküre' at the Opera, With a New Brünnhilde

A performance of "Die Walküre" is always a major event, no matter how familiar the cast nor how routine the performance. Before that concisely magnificent bit of storm music which begins the opera has reached its climax, we know that great matters are underway; and this sense of momentousness never leaves us until the last curtain has fallen on that sublimest of slumber songs which is the opera's close, and we are released from Wagner's thronging and cumulative marvels. The sense of deathlessness is everywhere in the unaging music, and we are sustained and swept by it from the first bar to the last, as by the wind of a primal dawn - made breathless by it, yet indescribably renewed.

But last night's performance at the Metropolitan was eventful for another reason than the unfailing momentousness of the work itself; for it brought to the ear a new Brünnhilde in the person of that admirable artist Florence Easton. Mme. Easton had been heard here as the Brünnhilde of "Siegfried," but never as the disobedient war maiden of "Die Walküre." Her appearance in the role last night is officially declared to have been her first assumption of it anywhere.

Wagner was rather a brute in his treatment of Brünnhilde. He has given her one of the most difficult passages in all opera to sing "cold" at her first appearance on the scene - the terrifying "Hojotoho"! He has given her another entrance later on, not so difficult to sing, though it has its own subtler problems for the interpreter, but appallingly difficult to act; for he requires her to embody, in a sense that Wordsworth could not possibly have conceived, the "stern daughter of the voice of God." Not Wordsworth's God, and not Wordsworth's sternness" for Brünnhilde must fill her poses and her accents with a sternness that becomes increasingly compassionate.

Mme. Easton attacked the more obviously difficult of these tasks with a caution that rather militated against the effect which Wagner designed. It was not exuberant; it was dutiful. And there was not yet time for Brünnhilde to …. of duty. But of course, it is fairer to make up one's mind as to Mme. Easton's conception after she had the time to feel at ease in it. It was of good augury that when she came to the scene in which she announced to Siegmund his heroic doom, she accomplished that taxing episode with appropriateness and beauty of effect - her singing of "Sieglinde sieht Siegmund dort nicht" was exquisite in its half-comprehended pity, the gravity of its tenderness.

But indeed, much of Mme. Easton's singing last night was admirable. It was the best feature of her performance. Her acting of the role lacks freedom and ease and that large and sweeping grace which are essential to the part. She cannot yet, as has been said of another artist, "walk across the stage like one of the immortals;" she does not remind us that even the bearing of a shield and the carrying of a spear can be made to signify the ancient heroic beauty of the Sagas. Mme Easton is still constrained in the role; her movements minimize and even negate the character, instead of expressing it.

It is possible that she has not yet thought out all the implications of the part; for some of the things that she did last night were either badly calculated or not calculated at all - as when she addressed her passionate outburst of sympathy for Siegmund not to that unhappy Volsung, but to Mr. Bodanzky - for whom it was surely not intended. But we prefer not to make up our minds about Mme. Easton's Brünnhilde until we have witnessed it again.

The performance of the opera as a whole was earnest but heavy-handed, and subject to strange eccentricities. Mme. Jeritza's Sieglinde, for instance, which on occasion has been superb, was astonishingly out of the picture last night. What possessed her to turn the rapturous and primitive Sieglinde of the love-scene of the first act into a blend of the Venus of "Tannhäuser" and the Thais of Massenet's musk-sweet Alexandria? And is it possible that "Turandot," with its merciless music, is not the best thing in the world for Mme. Jeritza's voice? Her singing last night was much below her customary level - unsteady, poor in tone, sometimes unfaithful to the pitch. As for Mr. Whitehill's Wotan, Mr. Taucher's Siegmund, Mr. Gustafson's Hunding, and Mme. Matzenauer's Fricka, they are all thrice familiar here, and so this occasion must yield place to the new Brünnhilde.

What we must not omit to note, with pleasure, is that the Metropolitan has at last dispensed with the collapsible rear wall of Hunding's hut which for so long did duty as the great door that should open to the wind of the spring night. Last evening it was actually a door, and flew open precisely in the manner required by the stage directions, and all the Wagnerites in the audience heaved a sigh of gratified relief.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).