[Met Performance] CID:149540

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, January 19, 1949

Götterdämmerung (167)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Helen Traubel

Set Svanholm

Osie Hawkins

Polyna Stoska

Dezsö Ernster

Kerstin Thorborg

Gerhard Pechner

First Norn
Jean Madeira

Second Norn/Wellgunde
Lucielle Browning

Third Norn
Jeanne Palmer

Inge Manski

Hertha Glaz

Emery Darcy

Philip Kinsman

Fritz Stiedry

Review 1:

Review of Herbert D. Peyser in the February 1949 issue of Musical America

This "Götterdämmerung," ending a partial "Ring" cycle which advanced in the orthodox sequence, simultaneously began another (and likewise partial) one that advanced backwards -"Walküre," "Siegfried," "Götterdãmmerung," "Siegfried," "Walküre" being the order of march. One thing is certain: the performance of the last drama of the tetralogy was the finest the colossal work has received at the Metropolitan in years. Unquestionably, Set Svanholm, in his first assumption of the elder Siegfried this year, contributed enormously to the grandeur of the representation. And Fritz Stiedry, who conducted, rose above himself. True, the orchestral playing was marked by a number of technical slips in the course of the three acts. But at no time, either here or abroad, has the reviewer heard Mr. Stiedry conduct "Götterdämmerung" with quite this sweep, spaciousness and majesty.

Helen Traubel and Dezso Ernster would of themselves have brought uncommon distinction to the evening, even had its other elements been less notable. The soprano's various Brünnhildes are not exactly a new story. Yet this winter they have surpassed, vocally, almost anything she has ever done. In this particular instance her singing achieved something like a new peak of sustained splendor, and actually appeared to excel her bridal Brünnhilde of the previous week, an achievement which, in point of sheer voice, had already seemed to futilize praise. Not the slightest trace of weariness or of letdown clouded her opulent tones from her first notes in the prologue to the close of the immolation Scene. Mr. Ernster's prodigious Hagen, for its part, invited a fresh recital of the bounteous catalogue of praise that saluted it a year ago.

Set Svanholm was fittingly admired when he first embodied the mature Siegfried at the Metropolitan, but for some reason the idea has persisted that the younger phase of the fearless hero is, more than anything else, his specialty. The time has come to readjust this estimate-or rather to admit that his later Siegfried is wholly as great, if not, indeed, the greater characterization of the two. Of all the Siegfrieds this observer has seen and heard in close to half a century, it is immeasurably the finest from any point of view. It is developed and carried out with an intelligence, imagination and plastic sense that illumine aspects of the role which even the closest and best informed observers may have suspected only in part. It is executed with such a wealth of psychological and dramatic detail that to do it anything like full justice would demand unavailable columns. The Swedish tenor's byplay and expressions throughout the first two acts (to say nothing of the banter with the Rhine maidens or the stunning enactment of Siegfried's murder and death) manifested the workings of a creative individuality, allied with the most authentic type of Wagnerian training it seems possible to encounter.

One likes to think it was the incentive of Mr. Svanholm's knowledge of Wagner's poem that, at last, spurred the stage direction to time the arrival of Siegfried's skiff at the Gibichung hall to the split second, as the composer had prescribed it-which is to say exactly at the proclamation by the orchestra of the curse motif, not several bars too late.

Elsewhere, too, Mr. Svanholm's timing was expert to the last degree. The momentary hesitation as he is about to raise to his lips the drinking horn Gutrune hands him, so that he may quaff the welcoming draught to Brünnhilde's love; the instant eclipse worked by the sinister potion; the savagery of the rape of the ring; the expression of baffled, uncomprehending wonder at the charges of treachery-all these and far more of the sort maintain the highest standard. Vocally, Mr. Svanholm's bright, expressive, dramatic singing was a story by itself; and, as usual, there was continual occasion to admire his sovereign musicianship.

The evening brought a few last minute changes of cast. Herbert Janssen, being indisposed, was replaced as Gunther by Osie Hawkins who, though he will probably develop the role further as he deepens his grasp of it, already provided a very acceptable performance. Lucielle Browning substituted for Maxine Stellman as Wellgunde and for Martha Lipton as the Second Norn. Except for some troublesome high tones Kerstin Thorborg's Waltraute had its usual expressive merits and high authority. Polyna Stoska as Gutrune and Gerhard Pechner as Alberich were the remaining principals.

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