Die Walküre

Erich Leinsdorf
New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Date/Location
16 December 1972
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
SiegmundJon Vickers
HundingJohn Macurdy
WotanThomas Stewart
SieglindeGwyneth Jones
BrünnhildeBirgit Nilsson
FrickaRuža Baldani
HelmwigeElizabeth Anguish
GerhildeJudith De Paul
OrtlindeChristine Weidinger
WaltrauteDoris Hollenbach
SiegruneMarcia Baldwin
GrimgerdeJoann Grillo
SchwertleiteBatyah Godfrey Ben-David
RoßweißeJean Kraft
Gallery
Reviews
New York Times

‘Die Walkure’ Returns to Met

What with the hazards of scheduling, Wagner’s “Die Walküre” received its first seasonal performance Friday night at the Metropolitan Opera, coming after the “Siegfried” of last week. Perhaps it is just as well. This Herbert von Karajan version is a production of surpassing unloveliness, with all the clichés and bad traits of the Bayreuth style and few of the good ones.

But enough has been said in previous seasons about the production. At least this performance was a good one, though, as with the “Sieg fried,” it was not a dream performance. There are not enough great Wagner singers to go around these days. Birgit Nilsson, who sang the Brünnhilde, has a contemporary monopoly on the role. Jon Vickers is the best Siegmund currently in action. But when it comes to the role of Wotan, there is trouble. Baritones today do not seem to have the heft and range they did when great Wagnerians like Schorr, Hoffmann and Bohnen were in action.

Theo Adam was the Wotan. He sang the role in a dry manner, and had to gasp out some of the low notes. It was a performance that was, however, redeemed by intense musicality, dignity and a stately stage presence.

Added interest was lent by the presence of the Welsh soprano Gwyneth Jones, making her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sieglinde, A handsome woman and a good actress, Miss Jones sounded just as she does in her many records. The voice itself is basically a fine instrument, rich in sound, colorful and even sexy in timbre. An inferior vocal technique prevents her from making the most of it. As soon as Miss Jones let the voice out, a pronounced, edgy waver was in evidence, and fortissimo high notes wandered all over the place. In the third act, Miss Jones sang with more of a grip on the pitch. If she could get control into her singing, she could be a very important artist.

Miss Nilsson and Mr. Vickers were in fine voice. She sang her opening battle cry a shade more carefully than she has done in the past, and then sounded like the Nilsson of old, producing those clear, imposing, centered sounds so characteristic of her style. This great singer goes on like the Valkyrie she really is. Hers is one of the phenomenal careers in operatic history.

And Mr. Vickers was a worthy foil. He unleashed some big tones in a completely musical manner, never yelling, never straining. He started the “Wintersturme” in a quiet, yet ardent and poetic manner, showing that his range encompassed lyri cism as well as heroism. Physically, of course, he is an ideal Siegmund, every inch the warrior, built as sturdily as the tree dominating the Act I set. Not the most skillful of actors, he poses more than he acts. But even his poses are striking. The man looks so huge on stage, as though he could snap Hunding in two without the aid of the sword he so frantically seeks.

The Hunding was John Macurdy, competent in every way. The same could be said of Mignon Dunn’s Fricka. Neither singer is the ultimate vocalist for the role, but, through brains, style and husbanding of resource, they manage to make a fine effect.

Erich Leinsdorf conducted, and his work was every bit as striking as it had been in “Siegfried.” He has added something in the last few years, and from a good technician has developed into a conductor of breadth and power. There was a consecutive sweep to this “Walküre,” from the opening pattery figures to the noble fire music. And more: there was an ability to work with singers, molding orchestral phrases around them. Mr. Leinsdorf has been setting a high standard in his Wagner performances, and succeeding conductors are going to have hard act to follow.

HAROLD C. SCHONBERG | NOV. 26, 1972

Rating
(8/10)
User Rating
(4/5)
Media Type/Label
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Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 450 MByte (MP3)
Remarks
Matinee broadcast
A production by Herbert von Karajan (1967)