Das Rheingold

Erich Leinsdorf
New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
16 December 1961
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanGeorge London
DonnerNorman Mittelmann
FrohRobert Nagy
LogeKarl Liebl
FasoltJerome Hines
FafnerErnst Wiemann
AlberichRalph Herbert
MimePaul Kuën
FrickaIrene Dalis
FreiaHeidi Krall
ErdaJean Madeira
WoglindeMartina Arroyo
WellgundeRosalind Elias
FloßhildeMignon Dunn
Musical America

The Metropolitan launched its first Ring cycle since the season of ’56-’57 with an admirable performance of “Das Rheingold” (uncut and without an intermission, as Wagner wanted it) on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 16, under that devoted and eloquent Wagnerian, Erich Leinsdorf.

Since the Ring stands alone in the operatic literature, unique in its grandiose dimensions, its spiritual and emotional scope, its incredible workmanship and detail, no opera house of the first rank can afford to be long without it.

And in an era notorious for superficiality, impatience, and instability of taste, it was heartening to find a capacity audience listening with profound absorption. Much of the credit for this must go to Mr. Leinsdorf, who is giving these masterpieces uncut and with faith in their intrinsic majesty and beauty. Nor should the superb Metropolitan Opera Orchestra go unpraised.

The distinguished German tenor Paul Kuen made his debut at this performance in a role for which he is famous-Mime. All of the rest of the cast were new to their roles at the Metropolitan, with the exception of Mr. Hines, Miss Madeira and Miss Elias.

Mr. London’s “Rheingold” Wotan was an original conception. He revealed the God’s all-too-human qualities unsparingly and almost went too far in his psychological realism. Vocally, his impeccable diction and musical intelligence were always in evidence, though one missed a certain majesty of tone. Mr. Mittelmann and Mr. Nagy fulfilled their tasks capably.

Mr. Liebl’s Loge was a striking and probing characterization, and beautifully sung. In make-up, movement, gesture and inflection he pointed up the malice and cleverness of this teutonic Mephistopheles. Mr. Herbert made a dramatically fearsome figure of Alberich, but his voice was unable to achieve more than song speech in some passages. Mr. Kuen, as I had expected, was superb.

Like Mr. Hines’s Fasolt, Mr. Wiemann’s Fafner was a vivid and convincing giant. Miss Dalis was almost too handsome and attractive a Fricka, but, with her customary intelligence, made Fricka’s indictment of Wotan’s lust for wealth and power prophetically ominous. Miss Krall was visually as well as vocally an attractive Freia.

Miss Madeira’s huge voice was right for Erda, but she should have sung her mysterious warning less sensuously and more majestically. The three singing Rhine Maidens sounded as fascinating as the three ballet girls looked, swimming about under the Rhine on invisible cables.

Mr. Merrill’s direction was very sensible, except for the clouds of steam that billow out into the house; and the Lee Simonson sets for Das Rheingold are his only satisfying Ring designs.

Robert Sabin

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Lyric Distribution
Technical Specifications
664 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 684 MByte (flac)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Herbert Graf (1948)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.