[Met Performance] CID:146870

New Production

Ring Cycle [77] Uncut
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, January 29, 1948 Matinee

Götterdämmerung (162)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Helen Traubel

Lauritz Melchior

Herbert Janssen

Polyna Stoska

Dezsö Ernster

Kerstin Thorborg

Gerhard Pechner

First Norn
Margaret Harshaw

Second Norn
Lucielle Browning

Third Norn
Jeanne Palmer

Inge Manski

Maxine Stellman

Hertha Glaz

Emery Darcy

Osie Hawkins

Fritz Stiedry

Herbert Graf

Set Designer
Lee Simonson

Costume Designer
Mary Percy Schenck

Ring Cycle [77] Uncut

Götterdämmerung received two performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Jerome D. Bohm in the Herald Tribune

"Götterdämmerung" Heard at the Metropolitan

The performance of "Götterdämmerung" which brought the presentation of Wagner's "Ring" cycle to a close at the Metropolitan Opera House yesterday afternoon was in many ways a highly impressive one, particularly from the musical point of view. Of the three new settings designed by Lee Simonson (the rock of the Valkries of the Prologue and second scene of the first act having already been described after the "Walküre" performance), the most imaginative and effective is that for the second act, the Banks of the Rhine, before the hall of the Gibichungs. Here the designer has succeeded in reflecting felicitously at the atmosphere envisioned by the composer for his overwhelming music drama.

The setting for the Hall of the Gibichungs itself followed very much the lines of the previous setting, although it had a tinge of penny-postcard neatness when fully lighted, and the first scene of the third act, a wild wooded and rocky valley on the Rhine, resembled to a considerable degree the previously utilized setting. What puzzles this observer is the want of stylistic unity between these three settings and the majority of Mr. Simonson's remaining "Ring" sets. The juxtaposition of the modern with the traditional is quite disturbing.

There was much fine singing by nearly every member of the cast. Mme. Traubel has now brought to full maturity her delineation of Brünnhilde. Her fine soprano voice was projected for the most party steadily, with unflagging vitality, and always to excellent musical purpose. The intensity and breadth of her portrayal, its admixture of passion, tenderness and resignation lend it genuine distinction. It was not so fortunate visually; for the singer chose to costume the womanly Brünnhilde in the vestments of the Brünnhilde of "Walküre" who is still a daughter of the gods until the Immolation scene where she unexpectedly donned a black cape, acquired, one is led to suppose, immediately after entering into the conspiracy with Hagen and Gunther to kill Siegfried.

Miss Stoska, appearing here for the first time as Gutrune, was winsome to gaze upon, plastic in action and vocally admirable. Few singers have been able to lend such conviction to this ungrateful role. As Waltraute, Miss Thorberg sang her Narrative understandingly and, excepting in the concluding high-lying phrases, with round tones. The full, warm soprano voice of Jeanne Palmer was the distinctive feature of the Norn Scene and the voices of the Misses Manski, Stellman and Glaz, blended mellifluously in the Rhine Maidens' trio.

As Siegfried, Mr. Melchior was in good voice, and he invested his death scene with moving pathos, but in the earlier scenes his demeanor was often too blandly casual and his not infrequent textual and musical uncertainties must have caused the conductor some unhappy moments. Mr. Ernster, who had not appeared here before as Hagen, was an imposingly sinister figure, and his bass voice sounded fuller and freer than it has in any other role essayed here, only occasional unsteadiness marring his expensive vocalism. Mr. Janssen accomplished the miracle of making the vacillating Gunther a sympathetic figure both in voice and action.To his discourse of the orchestral score Mr. Stiedry brought unfailing perceptiveness and an unerring sense of proportion so that the epic expansiveness of and tragic work was justly and affectingly unfolded.

Review 2:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Sun

Stiedry, Traubel and Melchior Sing Fine Wagner.

Simonsonized or not, the return of Wagner's "Götterdämmerung" to the Metropolitan repertory, as well sung, played and directed as it was in yesterday's finale of the matinee cycle, was welcome indeed. Some might have preferred the previous setting merely Simonized, but with Lauritz Melchior and Helen Traubel in grand vocal form, and the total of good singing augmented by the orchestral work under Fritz Stiedry's direction, this was Wagner to make the skin creep. If what was seen sometimes made the hair stand on the end, the two physiological processes added to an experience altogether stimulating.

What there was about this performance that was moving and subtle was accomplished primarily by Stiedry and his well-balanced cast, plus the thoughtful direction of Herbert Graf. Deszo Ernster did a truly "grimme" Hagen, large and dark both in sight and sound; Polyna Stoska was a properly slender and silvery Gutrune, when her top tones behaved, and Herbert Janssen made one tolerant, by his singing, of the Caspar Milquetoast of all opera, Gunther Gibichung.

The last of Lee Simonson's stagings has a better unity, and sounder suitability to what goes on than its predecessors. The various levels that are provided make for excellent groupings and stage pictures; one regrets that the painted drops and set pieces didn't come off as well. Thus, the hall of the Gibichungs, with its baronial purple, suggests Hagen and Gunther as likely candidates for a medieval Men of Distinction club; its outside counterpart "stages" well, but the backdrop looks more like the Palisades than the Rhine; and the forest scene could be anything, so poorly was it lit.

As before, the costumes were a little prettified and unbarbaric. Least acceptable was Mme. Traubel's black wrap for the "Immolation," a complete violence to the idea that here, finally, she is a Valkyrie again, contemptuous of her mortal company. And, speaking of wraps, where did Brünnhilde get a replacement for the red cape Siegfried departs in? Some celestial tailor shop, no doubt. An indirect product of the new staging - a restudied, reasonably well-rehearsed performance of the four dramas - may well be its most valuable result. Certainly the tremendous moments of this score - the parting of Siegfried from Brünnhilde, the forlorn appeal of Waltraute, the bewilderment of the outraged wife, the tumultuous grief of the whole last scene - have not recently been given a surer impact or a truer outline.

Stellar vocalism had a part in it, but the fresh preparation was even more valuable for such newcomers to the cast as Ernster and Stoska, the three Norns - Margaret Harshaw, Lucille. Browning and Jeanne Palmer - and the unusually able group of swimming singers, Inge Manski, Maxine Stellman and Herta Glaz. Gerhard Pechner (Alberich) and Kerstin Thorborg (Waltraute) were, in their variable fashion, faithful to the text. This might not add to $100,000 worth, even at today's distorted values. But where else, in the commercial theater, would four productions of such magnitude open "cold"? That they possessed the kind of heat reflected in yesterday's applause testified to two things - the hard work of all concerned and the incandescent genius of Richard Wagner.

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