Notes and Editorial Reviews
No complete Metropolitan Opera broadcast performance of Wagner's Die Walküre exists with the full "Golden Age of Wagner Dream Team" line-up of Kirsten Flagstad, Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, and Friedrich Schorr. So Richard Caniell created such an artifact by splicing back and forth between the February 19, 1940 broadcast and one that took place on tour in Boston a month later on March 30. Call it tampering with history, but the bottom line is that the results convince. Both performances share the same conductor and orchestra, and the obvious ambient shift between venues doesn't thwart the listener's sense of continuity at all. Those familiar with the Leinsdorf/Met Walküre issued by Naxos won't be surprised at the
conductor's sometimes-breakneck tempos, the Met Orchestra's marvelously unified string section, or its rather hit-and-miss winds and brass.
Few Siegmunds living or dead rival Melchior's effortless, impeccably-equalized tenor. As usual, when Melchior was on hot form he liked to stretch out the Act 1 "Wälse" cries from here to kingdom come. Although the ringing resonance we know from Schorr's great pre-war Wagner 78s had dried up by the late 1930s (particularly with high notes), his meaningful attention to words remains gloriously intact, while Lehmann's vocal acting enlivens Sieglinde's music to more impetuous effect than in her famous 1935 Vienna studio recording. Ditto for Emanuel List's dark, refulgent Hunding.
While Flagstad's poise and laser-like projection put many latter-day Brünnhildes to shame, she sounds less radiant and involved than in her 1936 San Francisco broadcast Act 2 with Fritz Reiner, and less secure with the infamous octave jumps in "Ho-jo-to-ho". By contrast, Karin Branzell sings Fricka's tail off, and her fiery responses to Wotan's defense of the incestuous Walsüng twins would scare anyone into submission. Milton Cross' announcements evoke a palpable "old-time radio" aura. Richard Caniell's extensive notes are best when he focuses on the music and the performers, but they're annoyingly self-aggrandizing and vain regarding the set's production values.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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