Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Die Walküre
Radio Broadcast of Saturday, April 28, 11 A.M.
Wotan watches the sleeping Brünnhilde upon the Valkyries' rock
© Beth Bergman 2012
The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation and
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
Music and text by Richard Wagner
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Siegmund tenor, FRANK VAN AKEN
Sieglinde sop., EVA-MARIA WESTBROEK
Hunding bass, HANS-PETER KÖNIG
Wotan bass-baritone, BRYN TERFEL
Brünnhilde sop., KATARINA DALAYMAN
Fricka mezzo, STEPHANIE BLYTHE
Gerhilde soprano, KELLY CAE HOGAN
Helmwige Soprano, MOLLY FILLMORE
Waltraute mezzo, MARJORIE ELINOR DIX
Schwertleite mezzo, MARY PHILLIPS
Ortlinde sop., WENDY BRYN HARMER
Siegrune mezzo, EVE GIGLIOTTI
Grimgerde mezzo, MARY ANN
Rossweisse mezzo, LINDSAY AMMANN
Conducted by FABIO LUISI
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Production: Robert Lepage
Associate director: Neilson Vignola
Set designer: Carl Fillion
Costume designer: François St-Aubin
Lighting designer: Etienne Boucher
Video image artist: Boris Firquet
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
Linda Hall, Derrick Inouye,
Jonathan Khuner, John Fisher
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
Stephen Pickover, J. Knighten Smit,
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Prompter: Jonathan Khuner
German coach: Irene Spiegelman
|Production a gift of Ann Ziff and
the Ziff Family, in memory of William Ziff
In collaboration with Ex Machina
|THE SCENES || ||Timings (ET) |
|ACT I||Hunding's hut ||11:00–12:12|
|ACT II||A rocky pass||12:53–2:30|
|ACT III||The Valkyries' rock||3:12–4:21|
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
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This performance is also being broadcast live
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ACT I. As a storm rages, Siegmund the Wälsung, exhausted from his escape from enemies in the forest, stumbles into an unfamiliar house for shelter and collapses on the hearth. Sieglinde, wife of the house, finds the stranger, and the two feel an immediate attraction. But they are soon interrupted by the return of Sieglinde's husband, Hunding, who asks the stranger who he is. Calling himself "Wehwalt" — one ruled by woe — Siegmund tells the tale of his disaster-filled life; in the process, it emerges that Hunding is a kinsman of his foes. Hunding, honoring ancient custom to offer a guest shelter for the night, warns Siegmund that they must fight to the death in the morning, then retires. Left alone, Siegmund, who is unarmed, calls on his father, Wälse, for the sword he once promised him. Sieglinde reappears, having given her husband a sleeping potion. She tells of her forced wedding to Hunding, at which a one-eyed stranger drove into a tree a sword that has resisted every effort to free it. Sieglinde confesses her unhappiness to Siegmund, whereupon he ardently embraces her and vows to free her from her loveless union. As moonlight floods the room, Siegmund compares their feeling to the marriage of love and spring. Sieglinde hails him as "Spring"; she then asks whether his father was really "Wolfe," as he said earlier. When Siegmund reveals his father's real name, Wälse, Sieglinde recognizes him as Siegmund, her twin brother. The Wälsung now draws the sword from the tree and claims Sieglinde as his bride. They escape together into the woods.
Fricka (Stephanie Blythe) confronts Wotan (Bryn Terfel)
© Beth Bergman 2012
ACT II. High in the mountains, against a stormy sky, Wotan, leader of the gods, tells his warrior daughter Brünnhilde that she must defend his mortal son, Siegmund. Leaving joyfully to do his bidding, the Valkyrie pauses to note the approach of Fricka, Wotan's wife and the goddess of marriage. Storming in, Fricka insists that Wotan defend Hunding's marriage rights against Siegmund. Wotan argues that Siegmund could save the gods by winning back the Ring from the dragon Fafner before the Nibelung dwarfs regain it. But Fricka points out that Siegmund is not a free agent, merely Wotan's tool. When Wotan realizes he is caught in his own trap — his power will leave him if he does not enforce the law — he agrees to his wife's demands. After Fricka has left, satisfied, the frustrated god tells the returning Brünnhilde about the theft of the gold and Alberich's curse on it. Brünnhilde is shocked when her father, his plans in ruins, orders her to fight for Hunding. Then, alone in the darkness, she withdraws as Siegmund and Sieglinde approach. Siegmund comforts his distraught sister, who feels unworthy of him, and watches over her when she falls asleep. Brünnhilde appears to him as if in a vision, telling him he will soon go to Valhalla, but when he says he will not leave Sieglinde and threatens to kill himself and his bride if his sword has no power against Hunding, she decides to help him in spite of Wotan's command. She vanishes. Siegmund accepts the approaching Hunding's challenge, but as he is about to win, Wotan appears, waving Brünnhilde aside and shattering Siegmund's sword with a lightning bolt, leaving him to be run through. Brünnhilde escapes with Sieglinde and the broken sword. Before following to punish her disobedience, Wotan contemptuously fells Hunding with a glare, telling him to go and kneel before Fricka.
Brünnhilde (Deborah Voigt) is subjected to the anger of
her father, Wotan (Terfel)
© Beth Bergman 2012
ACT III. On the Valkyries' rock, Brünnhilde's eight warrior sisters — who have gathered there briefly, bearing slain heroes to Valhalla — are surprised to see her arrive with Sieglinde. When they hear she is fleeing Wotan's wrath, they are afraid to hide her. Sieglinde is numb with despair until she learns from Brünnhilde that she carries Siegmund's child; then, eager to be saved, she receives the pieces of the sword from Brünnhilde and thanks her rescuer as she rushes off into the forest to hide near Fafner's cave, a place safe from Wotan. When the god appears, he sentences Brünnhilde to become a mortal woman, silencing her sisters' objections by threatening to do the same to them. Left alone with her father, Brünnhilde pleads that in disobeying his orders she was really doing what he wished. Wotan will not relent: she must lie in sleep, a prize for any man who finds her. But as his anger abates, she asks the favor of being surrounded in sleep by a wall of fire that only the bravest hero can pierce. Both sense this hero must be the child that Sieglinde will bear. Sadly renouncing his daughter, Wotan kisses Brünnhilde's eyes with sleep and mortality before summoning Loge, the spirit of fire, to encircle the rock. As flames spring up, Wotan invokes a spell forbidding the rock to anyone who fears his spear.
Wagner took more than two decades to complete his Ring cycle, a process prolonged by many interruptions. The text dates back to 1848, when Wagner made his first dramatic sketch of the Nibelung myth. By the autumn of 1850, he had written the text for Siegfried's Death (later revised as Götterdämmerung) and was beginning to sketch out the music when he decided to expand the drama with The Young Siegfried (as Siegfried was first called); in time, Die Walküre and Das Rheingold followed, to explain the complex myth that comes to a head in Götterdämmerung. The texts were thus written in reverse order, although the composition of the music was accomplished in the now familiar order of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.
Wagner was unique among successful opera composers in his transparently didactic purpose. Far from offering his audience relaxing entertainment, he set out to lecture them on the philosophy of art and world politics. Act I of Die Walküre drew Wagner into a white heat of inspiration: his sympathies were particularly engaged in the forbidden passion of Siegmund and Sieglinde when he was at work on the opera from mid-1854 to 1856. Then involved in a love affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, wife of one of his patrons, Wagner criticized conventional marriage through the characters of Fricka and Hunding.
Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund in Act I of Die
Walküre at the Met
© Beth Bergman 2012
The popularity of Die Walküre — the Ring opera most frequently performed by itself — undermined Wagner's plan to have the cyclealways presented in its entirety. Wagner felt that a full Ring would best allow audiences to follow its lofty ideas. Among these concepts were the redemption of man by woman; the cleansing of the world by unselfish love; the defeat of greed, materialism and arbitrary power; and the need, both individually and on a national scale, to follow "manifest destiny."
Wagner, who saw himself as a heroic crusader, identified with Siegfried in his search for love, his defiance of obstacles and petty interference and his unity with nature. The downfall of the gods in Götterdämmerung represents, according to Wagner, the beginning of the modern world, in which the human race must learn to control its own destiny.
Wagner's plans for the completion and production of his cycle of four music dramas were frustrated by his inability to find proper backing for such a gigantic project. In 1857, halfway through Act II of the Siegfried music, Wagner set aside work on the Ring; before he resumed sustained work on the cycle, in 1869, he completed Tristan und Isolde, the Paris revision of Tannhäuser and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and found the patron of his dreams — Ludwig II, the "mad" king of Bavaria. At the insistence of the king, Wagner's first two Ring operas were given their world premieres in Munich during the 1869–70 season, before the rest of the cycle had been completed. Wagner finished Siegfried in 1871 and completed Götterdämmerung in 1874, when plans were already well underway for the first Bayreuth festival. It was there that the world premieres of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung were presented, as part of the the first complete Ring, in August 1876. The principal cast of the first Ring, conducted by Hans Richter, included Amalie Materna (Brünnhilde), Georg Unger (Siegfried), Franz Betz (Wotan), Albert Niemann (Siegmund) and Josephine Schefsky (Sieglinde).
The first of the Ring operas to reach the Met was Die Walküre, which had its company premiere on January 30, 1885, with Materna as Brünnhilde and Leopold Damrosch conducting. The company's next Ring installments were the U.S. premieres of Siegfried (November 9, 1887), Götterdämmerung (January 25, 1888) and Das Rheingold (January 4, 1889). In March 1889, the Met presented the first Ring cycle in the Western Hemisphere. The operas were conducted by Anton Seidl; Lilli Lehmann (Brünnhilde), Emil Fischer (Wotan and Hagen) and Max Alvary (Siegfried) headed the cast.
The Met's current production of Die Walküre was unveiled on April 22, 2011, as part of a new cycle being created by Robert Lepage, whose trailblazing Das Rheingold opened the 2010–11 season. The final installments of Lepage's complete Ring, in collaboration with Ex Machina, with sets designed by Carl Fillion, costumes by François St-Aubin, lighting by Etienne Boucher and video images by Boris Firquet, are scheduled to arrive at the Met in the 2011–12 season.
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Beginning Wagnerites can start their study of the composer concisely with Michael Tanner's Wagner (Princeton) and The New Grove Guide to Wagner and his Operas, edited by Barry Millington (Oxford); more adventurous readers will find Millington's Wagner (Princeton) and The Wagner Compendium: A Guide to Wagner's Life and Music (Thames and Hudson), edited by Millington, to be rewarding. Ernest Newman's The Wagner Operas, originally published in 1949 and now available as a Princeton paperback, remains valuable. M. Owen Lee's Wagner's Ring: Turning the Sky Round (Limelight) takes a measured, erudite look at the composer's magnum opus. Andrew Porter's brilliant English-language Ring text — intended as a "singing" translation and used as such with great success at ENO and other companies — is well worth seeking out (Norton).
The history of Wagner's Ring is inseparable from that of the Bayreuth Festival, where the first complete Ring performances were given. Frederick Spotts's Bayreuth (Yale) is comprehensive and respectful; Jonathan Carr's The Wagner Clan (Grove) is a lively history of three generations of the composer's family in and out of Bayreuth.
Most of the Ring operas have been recorded as part of complete cycles, although some notable Die Walküres were conceived as separate recording projects. The 1961 Decca Die Walküre, led by Erich Leinsdorf at his most commanding, features Gré Brouwenstijn's imaginatively phrased Sieglinde, partnered by Jon Vickers's moving Siegmund. George London offers a distinguished Wotan. Birgit Nilsson, Leinsdorf's Brünnhilde, is marginally less authoritative than in her later recording for Georg Solti. Bruno Walter's enthralling 1935 account of Act I of Die Walküre, with Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior and Emmanuel List its high-voltage principals, is available in an excellent remastering from Naxos.
In the late 1980s, while the Met was rolling out its handsome, traditional Otto Schenk staging of Wagner's Ring, the company was also at work on the Ring in the recording studio, under the direction of James Levine. Levine's studio recordings of the four Ring operas (DG) are a testament to the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra's extraordinary development into a world-class ensemble under the conductor's leadership; Levine's reading balances wit, vigor and passion in equal measure. His superb principal cast — most of them veterans of the Schenk Ring staging — includes Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), James Morris (Wotan), Jessye Norman (Sieglinde), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Matti Salminen (Hagen) and Hanna Schwarz (Waltraute). A slightly different group of principals is on hand for the Met's Ring DVDs, recorded and telecast in 1990; for example, the highly telegenic Siegfried Jerusalem, who had sung Loge in the 1988 Met studio recording of Das Rheingold, added the higher-profile assignment of Siegfried for the live telecast.
Georg Solti's Decca Ring — the first studio recording of the complete cycle, begun in 1958 and completed over a period of eight years — remains one of the biggest and boldest Ring performances on disc, undeniably exciting if (occasionally) somewhat relentless in its delivery of heroically-scaled histrionics by the Vienna Philharmonic. Solti's veteran Ring cast includes Nilsson, Hans Hotter (Wotan), Régine Crespin (Sieglinde), Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Gottlob Frick (Hunding) and Kirsten Flagstad (Fricka, Das Rheingold). The chief contemporary rival to the Solti Ring is the performance by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, who deliver a less elemental reading than that of Solti, but one that is considerably more sensuous and radiant (especially in Das Rheingold). Bernard Haitink's studio set (EMI) is admirable for the exemplary playing of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the splendid Wotan of James Morris. Reginald Goodall delivers vigorous yet meticulous leadership of a brilliantly committed ENO ensemble in a remarkable English-language Ring, sung in Andrew Porter's translation (Chandos). Among the live Bayreuth Rings available on CD are illuminating accounts led by Clemens Krauss (1953; Opera d'Oro), Joseph Keilberth (1955; Testament), Hans Knappertsbusch (1956; Orfeo d'Or), Rudolf Kempe (1960; Melodram) and Karl Böhm (1967; Philips).
On DVD, Patrice Chéreau's revolutionary Bayreuth Ring reimagined the drama in a nineteenth-century setting; Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre, Jeannine Altmeyer and Peter Hofmann are Chéreau's highly persuasive principals, conducted by Pierre Boulez (Philips). Kasper Bech Holten's Ring stagingfor Royal Danish Opera, conducted with masterly finesse by Michael Schønwaldt, is imaginatively detailed and refreshingly musical. Lothar Zagrosek conducts Stuttgart's controversial Ring, which fielded a different stage director for each of the four operas: Siegfried, directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito as a domestic drama with an aproned, potato-peeling Mime, is probably the most striking of the four stagings (TDK). A 1963 black-and-white film catches legendary Wagnerian Hans Knappertsbusch in late bloom, pacing Claire Watson, Fritz Uhl, Joseph Greindl and the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert performance of Act I of Die Walküre. Fritz Lang's 1924 silent epic Die Nibelungen — consisting of two separate films, Siegfried and Kriemhild's Revenge — presents a fascinating variation on the legends and the iconography that Wagner used in constructing his Ring cycle.