Die Walküre

Erich Leinsdorf
New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
19 February 1977
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundJames King
HundingManfred Schenk
WotanNorman Bailey
SieglindeJanis Martin
BrünnhildeRita Hunter
FrickaMignon Dunn
HelmwigeSarah Beatty
GerhildeElizabeth Volkman
OrtlindeMary Ellen Pracht
WaltrauteSheila Nadler
SiegruneMarcia Baldwin
GrimgerdeJoann Grillo
SchwertleiteBatyah Godfrey Ben-David
RoßweißeJean Kraft
New York Times

Leinsdorf Raises ‘Walkure’ to High Level

Wagner’s “Die Walküre” returned to the Metropolitan Opera repertory Friday night, with some changes. This is the production originally conceived by Herbert von Karajan, and he did conduct “Walküre” and “Das Rheingold” in New York, but he never did finish the cycle. Nobody admired this “Ring” concept very much. It was dark, it had all the neo‐Bayreuth clichés, complete with open and closed turntable, and it posed as many problems as it attempted to solve.

Die WALKUERE, music drama In three acts by Richard Wagner. Text by the composer. Conducted by Erich LeInsdorf. Staged by Wolfgang Weber. Designed by Guenther Schneider‐Seimssen (sets and projections) and George WakhevItch (costumas).

Based on the version of the productions for “Der Ring des Nibelungan,” of Herbert von Karalan for the Easter Festivals In Salzburg. Presented by the Metropolitan Opera.

Nothing much can be done with the sets; the Metropolitan is stuck with them for the time being. Friday night, the differences were in cast and conductor. And even in sound effects. During the prelude, there was the noise of whistling wind. That was not the snowstorm that started swirling outside. Erich Leinsdorf, who conducted the opera, demanded a wind machine, in accordance with directions in the score. Nobody around had ever remembered hearing that particular addition.

Several singers were appearing in major “Walküre” roles for the first time at the Metropolitan. These included Norman Bailey as Wotan and Manfred Schenk as Hunding. Other leading singers were familiar: James Kind as Siegmund, Janis Martin as Sieglinde, Rita Hunter as Brünhilde and Mignon Dunn as Fricka.

It would be hard to imagine Interpretations as opposed as those of Mr. von Karajan and Mr. Leinsdorf. The former held the orchestra down to let the singers come through, giving us, in effect, charnber‐music Wagner. Other conductors have been following Mr. von Karajan’s lead. But not Mr. Leinsdorf.

His was a defiantly Romantic, traditional sort of Wagner, in which the orchestra assumed a dominant role. If the singers had trouble, tent pis. It so happened that there were some lustyvoiced singers around. Miss Hunter, when she unleashed her gleaming top, had no trouble cutting through, nor did Miss Martin. But Mr. Bailey, who does not have a very big voice, tended to get swamped.

Mr. Leinsdorf, who has had generations of experience with this opera—he made his Metropolitan Opera debut with it 39 years ago—went for the color and majesty of the score. He has relaxed a good deal in recent years, plays with tempos a bit more than he used to, and he made “Die Walkitre” a virtuoso piece for ochestra. It was good to hear it this way for a change. A musician good as Mr. Leinsdorf was not going to lose line or contour, and he didn’t, even with some tempos that sounded unduly deliberate.

The first act was a promising start on stage. Mr. King sounded fresh and clear. Indeed, this was the best Siegmund this listener has heard from him. Miss Martin, with her big voice and accurate production, was as good a Sieglinde as can be heard today. And Mr. Schenlc sang his first Hunding with firmly produced tones and a strong stage bearing.

In the second act, there was something of a vocal letdown. Mr. Bailey is an intelligent artist and a fine actor. His conception of Wotan was notable. But his voice can be described as serviceable rather than great. It does not have the requisite weight or power. Considering the dearth of Wagnerian baritones, it could be said that Mr. Bailey handled himself better than most. One, however, had hoped for a bit more.

As for Miss Hunter, she is superb when she can let her voice out. Her battle song was delivered with real panache. When she had to sustain long and quiet phrases, as in the “Todesverkundigung,” there was a pronounced waver. Miss Dunn sang Fricke with a passion that sometimes degenerated into edgy sounds. It was a powerful characterization, though. From the eight Valkyries came some peculiar sounds and, occasionally, earsplitting yells. On the whole then, this was an average international “Walküre” performance, raised to a high level by Mr. Leinsdorf and by the fine singing of the principals in the first act.


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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
192 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 279 MByte (MP3)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Herbert von Karajan (1967)