Das Rheingold

Sixten Ehrling
New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
15 February 1975
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanDonald McIntyre
DonnerWilliam Dooley
FrohKolbjörn Höiseth
LogeGlade Peterson
FasoltBengt Rundgren
FafnerJohn Macurdy
AlberichMarius Rintzler
MimeRagnar Ulfung
FrickaMignon Dunn
FreiaMary Ellen Pracht
ErdaLili Chookasian
WoglindeChristine Weidinger
WellgundeMarcia Baldwin
FloßhildeBatyah Godfrey Ben-David
The New York Times

Admit it. You looked at the cast before Monday night’s “Das Rheingold” at the Metropolitan Opera and could not suppress a twinge of doubt. A fear for the worst even, to tell the truth. After all, thirteen of the fourteen singers in this first performance of the season in the Met’s finally completed “Ring” cycle had not previously taken their roles with the company. Only Thomas Stewart as Wotan was familiar in his part.

Moreover, Herbert von Karajan, who conceived, produced, directed and conducted this production when it was new six seasons ago, was present only in spirit – his place in the pit being taken by Sixten Ehrling, also trying his first “Rheingold” here. Could there be a chancier way to start off the Met’s first complete “Ring” since the ’61-’62 season?

And yet this turned out to be a first-class if not quite magical performance that compared favorably with Mr. von Karajan’s own glorious achievement in the ’68 premiere. Mr. Ehrling, like his predecessor, held the orchestra in check with the skill of a sulky driver, so that even the lighter voices could be heard at all times. This meant sacrificing a great deal of what we once thought of as Wagnerian sound, but especially in “Das Rheingold,” which has the least inspired music of the “Ring” tetralogy, anything that focuses attention on the acting and the narrative makes dramatic sense.

The vocalism would have sent no one home reeling in dazed delight, perhaps, but the cast was extraordinarily well-balanced. Mr. Stewart, though light-voiced for Wotan and less than light at the bottom, lent dignity and restraint to his part. Mignon Dunn’s Fricka, more than usually gentle and understanding, was another in this surprising mezzo-soprano’s recent successes.

Of three artists making their Met debuts, Glade Peterson as Loge made the strongest impression. Mr. Peterson’s voice is ample, and his nefarious skulking about as Wotan’s Secretary of State for Intrigue marked him as a real find for the company. Loge is the perfect corporation lawyer, with a loophole ready for any occasion, and Mr. Peterson had him down to perfection. Maureen Forrester, in her debut as Erda, was musically fine but somewhat lacking in contralto power and timbre, particularly since Erda was placed deep in the stage and far from the amplification that made the Rhinemaidens’ task so easy. Marius Rintzler sang lustily and well and, though his characterization was not remarkably rich or detailed, made a plausible Alberich. Ragnar Ulfung as Mime was a touch of luxurious casting in that minor but

important role, and William Dooley swung Donner’s hammer with convincing muscularity. As his sidekick, Froh, Kolbjörn Höiseth also looked godly enough but sounded thin and strained in his Met debut. John Macurdy and Bengt Rundgren, as the partners in the giant firm of Fafner and Fasolt, General Contractors, hulked about with proper menace while dunning Wotan for his unpaid bill.

Donal Henahan

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
1.4 Mbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 1.4 GByte (flac)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Herbert von Karajan (1968)
Donald McIntyre’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera.
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.