[Met Performance] CID:173790

Das Rheingold
Ring Cycle [81]
Metropolitan Opera House, Fri, January 18, 1957

Debut : Norman Kelley

Das Rheingold (97)
Richard Wagner | Richard Wagner
Hermann Uhde

Blanche Thebom

Gerhard Pechner

Ramon Vinay

Jean Madeira

Kurt Böhme

Dezsö Ernster

Mariquita Moll

James McCracken

Arthur Budney

Norman Kelley [Debut]

Heidi Krall

Rosalind Elias

Sandra Warfield

Fritz Stiedry

Herbert Graf

Costume Designer
Mary Percy Schenck

Set Designer/Lighting Designer
Lee Simonson

Ring Cycle [81]

Das Rheingold received three performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Ronald Eyer in Musical America

Metropolitan Revives 'Ring' After Six-Year Absence

The Metropolitan opened its first complete cycle in six years of Wagner's "Ring des Nibelungen" with a performance of "Das Rheingold" on Jan 18, followed by "Die Walküre" on Jan. 22. If one had any doubts about the continuing popularity of the music dramas of the divine Richard, they were quickly dispelled by the size as well as the enthusiasm of the house. Every seat was filled, and there were as many vocal standees as for "Il Trovatore."

It was a triumphal re-entry, and we hope the Metropolitan itself was sufficiently impressed to retain the "Ring" as a permanent part of the future repertoire and make some serious attempt to restage it properly. The quasi-realistic sets of Lee Simonson are passable in "Walküre," but in "Rheingold" they are pretty sad, and in neither production do they make any positive contribution to either the dignity or the dramatic impact of the drama.

We do not look for Bayreuth standards at the Metropolitan - indeed we wouldn't want them all the way - but the brothers Wagner have got hold of a contemporary approach to their grandfather's stage works that gives them a new illusion of grandeur and poetic probability for a generation that is allergic to papier-mâché. Something of their method certainly could be applied with profit at the Metropolitan.

New Vocal Concept

There were some fine effects, however, in the flesh-and-blood department. Over-all, thus far at least, there seems to be a new vocal concept in the making, which I can only describe as lyrical. Perhaps the day of the "heldenmütig" Wagnerian is passing and less emphasis is to be placed in future upon stentorian tone and more upon delicacy of phrasing, diction, and style. At any rate, we had several such performances in these productions.

In "Rheingold," Ramon Vinay and Gerhard Pechner gave sensitive and elaborately developed characterizations as Loge and Alberich, respectively. Hermann Uhde, as Wotan, threw a new sinister light upon the petulant, grasping deity and sang rather than masticated his lines as is so often done in this role. Otto Edelmann's Wotan in "Walküre" was even more impressive on the vocal side, though more routine in characterization. Blanche Thebom who sang Fricka in both operas, brought impressive dignity to that commonly shrewish role and sang her often ungrateful music with much beauty of tone.

Jean Madeira, rising unexpectedly out of the top of a mountain, gave an outstanding vocal performance as Erda, imparting to the role a purely musical importance which it has not always had in other hands. Norman Kelley made his debut in the practically impossible part of Mime, but nevertheless managed to disclose a voice of true operatic dimensions, possessed of that magical ability to project into the furthest reaches of the auditorium. Kurt Boehme and Deszo Ernster were dressed like teddy-bears as the giants Fasolt and Fafner, but their fine vocal performances belied their appearance. Mariquita Moll was a properly appetizing and teutonic-looking goddess as Freia, and the Rhine Maidens - Heidi Krall, Rosalind Elias and Sandra Warfield - safely and invisibly anchored to the floor the while ballet girls disported on wires in the upper reaches of the proscenium, were the better for giving full attention to their music.

The conductor, Fritz Stiedry, who obviously loves this music and understands it thoroughly, had much to do with the poetic, lyrical character of the performance. His orchestra gave him a little trouble from time to time, notable among the French horns and the brasses who perhaps have not been playing enough Wagner lately to fully hit the stride of a composer who knew how to give them a real workout.

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