Culture Magazine

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Die Walküre

By Superconductor @ppelkonen

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Die Walküre

A rehearsal image of "The Machine", configured for Act II of Die Walküre.Photo by Yves Renaud, from a feature inArchitectural Record magazine.


The debut of part II of the Robert Lepage production of Wagner's Ring Cycle features Deborah Voigt in the title role and Bryn Terfel as Wotan. Jonas Kaufmann is Siegmund, singing his first Wagner role at the Met. James Levine is scheduled to conduct the run of performances.
My old music teacher James Kurtz pointed out that Walküre was the first opera in the Ring to involve actual human beings with real emotions after the abtruse world of Rheingold with its gods, dwarves and giants. It also has some of Wagner's "greatest hits", including the "Winterstürme" aria, the Ride of the Valkyries, and the Magic Fire scene. Put those two facts together, and you have one of the most popular operas Wagner ever wrote.
The plot of Walküre concerns an act of incest and adultery between the twins Siegmund (Jonas Kaufmann) and Sieglinde, (Eva Maria Westbroek) the half-human Wälsung children of Wotan  the king of the Gods. The rest of the opera is a chase, with the twins' half-sister Brunnhilde attempting to save them from the wrath of their father Wotan. Siegmund is killed. Sieglinde goes into exile. But the ultimate result of their union: the hero Siegfried, is the title character of the next opera in the Ring.


Recording Recommendations:
For recommendations for a complete Ring, click here.
For a recommendation of a recording of Das Rheingold, click here.
There are probably more recordings of Walküre out there than any other Wagner opera, for the simple fact that it's the one opera from the Ring that stands alone without being part of a complete cycle. But when it comes to this opera, there are basically two contenders.
Bayreuth Festival, 1966, cond. Karl Böhm (Philips, (currently Decca) 1970)
This is a really special performance, recorded live at the Festspielhaus. What sells it is James King and Leonie Rysanek as an ardent, nearly unbeatable pair of lovers. This is the recording with the famous Rysanek scream: it comes at the end of Act I when Siggy pulls the sword out of the tree.
The later acts feature the solid Wotan of Theo Adam and the great Birgit Nilsson, th one soprano of the golden age of recordings who could sing Brunnhilde, Isolde, Turandot and Elektra and not seem fatigued. Karl Böhm keeps things moving at a lively clip, and the orchestra plays superbly.
To hear what the Ring sounded like in the silver age of Bayreuth, this is the recording to own. The fact that it comes as part of an excellent complete Ring on 14 discs for about $56 bucks should sweeten the deal.
Berlin Philharmonic cond. Herbert von Karajan (DG, 1968)
Karajan's Berlin recording of the Ring is not without its admirers--and I'm one of them. The Austrian maestro has a special touch with Wagner, creating chamber-music dynamics out Wagner's huge set pieces, and making his crack Berlin troops respond with tender, languid playing that makes the first act feel, well, erotic.
This recording boasts a great pair of Walsüngs: Jon Vickers and Gundula Janowitz. For the casting of La Janowitz as Sieglinde, we can thank the confines of the recording studio: the role was far too heavy for this middle-weight soprano to tackle onstage.
The same applies to Regine Crespin, a controversial Brunnhilde (she recorded Sieglinde on the Solti Ring four years before) who could never sing the Valkyrie onstage. But in the studio she brings a youthful freshness to the young warrior maiden. Thomas Stewart's performance as Wotan is under-rated.
Die Walküre opens April 22.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • North American Opera . . . A Quiz

    North American Opera Quiz

    Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas March came in like a lamb today into the US Northeast where I live. And just as unobstrusively, Operatoonity’s editorial... Read more

    By  Galegirl
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • North American Opera . . . the Answers

    North American Opera Answers

    I promised answers to yesterday’s quiz today, and here they are. True confessions time: I didn’t have to work very hard identifying them. One reader, John Gilks... Read more

    By  Galegirl
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Introducing the Opera Belles!

    Introducing Opera Belles!

    Three classically trained young singers have joined forces and voices to form the country’s first young female pop opera group. The Opera Belles, composed of... Read more

    By  Gibbs22manila
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Murder at the Opera?

    Murder Opera?

    a novel by Margaret TrumanOnly on the page, I’m afraid.Though at least one opera singer in the US was believed to be murdered in the past year (according to... Read more

    By  Galegirl
    BOOKS, CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Opera Review: Unfinished Mozart

    Opera Review: Unfinished Mozart

    Zaide at Zankel Hall An unfinished portrait of Mozart, circa 1786. Painted by the composer's brother-in-law Joseph Lange. On Thursday night, David Robertson... Read more

    By  Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Opera Within Opera...Within Opera?

    Opera Within Opera...Within Opera?

    The theater within a theater. Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez in Le Comte Ory. Photo by Ken Howard © 2011 The Metropolitan Opera. Read more

    By  Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • Metropolitan Opera Preview: Wozzeck

    Metropolitan Opera Preview: Wozzeck

    "Ein guter Mord. Ein richtiges Mord. Ein schöner Mord, als schöne einen Mord als man sich wünschen, wir haben nicht einen Mord, wie dies für Jahre." --The... Read more

    By  Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA