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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 16. July 16, 1969



Die Walkure (Decca. 3AL 7131— 7140), the second opera in Wagner's vast tetralogy Der Ring Des Nibelung occupies some four and a half hours listening time of the total 15 hours approx. In Die Walkure we descend from a world of gods, dwarfs, and giants, into the world of people. The emotions are human, as are the situations, even Wotan here appears as a henpecked husband, and Fricka as the domineering wife. Die Walkure is above all an opera about love. The love of Sieglinde and Siegmund, the incestuous twins. The love of Wotan for the pair who are his unknowing children. The love of Brunnhilde for Wotan her father.

There are eight years difference this recording and Das Rheingold. Eight years experience and thousands of recordings in which to develop and perfect recording techniques, but in my opinion this recording is inferior to Das Rheingold. It is a flawed masterpiece, for in the course of listening to the five L.P.s of the Die Walkure I detected hiss, brittleness of sound, and distortion in the high notes. This may be bad recording, (the brittleness certainly is) or just a lousy pressing, but when I pay $5.00 and more per LP I demand perfection, and nothing less will suffice.

Despite recording faults, the performance was more than enjoyable. None of the Das Rheingold cast appear in this recording, the Fricka of Das Rheingold, Kirsten Flagstadt, who died in 1962, has here been replaced by Christa Ludwig. Ludwig gives a beautiful performance, and performs ably as the chief goddess, but Flagstadt's more mature voice, and greater experience make her, to my mind, the better singer. Other great voices in this magnificent lineup of Wagnerian singers include: Hans Hotter—as the dignified but dissillusioned Wotan; James King as Siegmund, the hero, and the personification of some of Wagner's nonmusical theories; Regine Crespin, Sieglinde, Siegmund's sister, a French singer whose voice is better suited to the carresses of French than the exploitation of German; Birgit Nilsson as Brunnhilde, the fiery and disobenient Valkryie; and Gottlod Frick, as the vengeance-seek ing Hunding.

The opera opens with an orchestral interlude simulating the dying moments of a storm. The scene is the inside of a wooden manor the central pillar of which is a great tree, from the tree portrudes a sword. The door opens and Siegmund staggers in, he is weary, wounded, and unarmed—he is obviously fleeing. Sieglinde enters from another room and upon seeing the stranger makes him welcome. Her husband Hunding arrives, he has been chasing Siegmund, but upholding the laws of hospitality, decides to kill him in the morning. That night Sieglinde returns, she has drugged Hunding's drink, and in the course of their conversation they discover that they are brother and sister. Siegmund is overjoyed at this news, for now the family name can continue without demeaning it with lesser blood "Braut und schwester". Then they embrace. Propriety here forced Wagner to have the curtains lowered, thus ending the first act.

The second act opens with Wotan and Brunnhilde discussing the dissolute twins who have eloped with Hunding close on their heels. Wotan favours Siegmund and true love, but his wife Fricka maintains the law, and demands that justice be done. Wotan is forced to order Brunnhilde to ensure Hunding's victory. Brunnhilde however knows what Wotan really wants and when the now-exhausted twins arrive "faste nun hier", Brunnhilde decides Siegmunde shall win.

Hunding arrives with his hounds baying amid blasts of his hunting horn, and in the ensuing battle, with orchestral shrieks as lightning, thunder, and sword clashes split the skies, Wotan is forced to step in and brine victory to Hunding, thus ensuring the death of Siegmund. Brunnhilde rides off with the unconscious Sieglinde, and Wotan looking down at the corpse of the son he has killed says to Hunding "Geh hin knecht." Go hence slave, kneel before Fricka, tell her Wotan's spear has avenged what wrought her shame. Go, Co. Hunding promptly drops dead, and with shrieks and wails from the orchestra telling of catastrophes to come, act two ends.

Act three—as the basses rumble, and the brasses blare, the jangle of spurs echoes across the horizon as the Valkryies ride forth. With a cacophony of cavorting crescendoes, the full outpuorings of grandeur and pomp, of orchestral pandemonium, like the storm-swept skies across which the warrior maidens prance fearlessly singing "Hojotoho Hojotoho," bearing their brave burdens to the halls of Valhalla. With a final outburst the full orchestra vibrates across all space, the genius of Wagner at his creative best, and then dies away as the Valkryies, now fully assembled, gather around Brunnhilde and Sieglinde. Sieglinde begs to die, and thus join Siegmund in death but soon changes her mind when Brunnhilde informs her that she is in a state of expectancy.