The One Weak Link:  FRICKA

I did not hear the RHEINGOLD broadcast, but I listened to much if not most of the WALKUERE broadcast last Saturday. I was out on the boat, bobbing around the Gulf, and it seemed perfectly suited to the warm beautiful day and aquatic surroundings. I wasn't going to listen to it because I will see it live in May and thought I perhaps should skip the broadcasts and be surprised/disgusted/elated/disappointed when the time comes. (I haven't heard a broadcast in months....but then, there has been precious little to listen to, meaning there has been no Wagner).

The surprise was decidedly on me. I loved what I heard. I haven't heard such an excellent performance from the Met since LOHENGRIN. (TRISTAN was a distinct disappointment). Yes, Eaglen's sound can be edgy at times; yes Morris is a step or two beyond his vocal prime; yes Voigt's voice never seems to soar; yes Domingo sounds a might old here and there. But overall, the singing was on such a high plane that quibbles are downright insulting to the singers. A better cast of singers for this work would be difficult, probably impossible, to find today.

Bayreuth certainly doesn't have them. After three years of expensive pilgrimage to the Green Hill, I have given up on that sauerkraut festival and decided I need a rest from the woeful singing and the weird productions that so enthrall the addlepated Europeans (and certain unnamed Chicagoans). Bayreuth will have to struggle along this summer without me although I told Wolfgang that if he needs advice about what singers to hire, he can call (but not too early!).

But as for the Met's cast, the only weak link in this stellar assemblage is the deplorable-sounding Hanna Schwarz. There must be dozens of Frickas around; why cast that hooty, ugly sounding thing? Alas, I missed the opening to Act 3 and the eight maids-a-milking; I dozed off on the sun pad on the bow.

Levine and his orchestra were also mighty good and I am looking forward to hearing that exciting sound live in the theater. Perhaps they collectively come in second to Barenboim and the Bayreuth band but a close second isn't too shabby a position to hold. I don't get too enthused about RHEINGOLD; I am usually glad when it is over and we can move on to the good stuff. But I hope the remaining two performances (with a Siegfried unknown to me) sustain the promise that this WALKUERE has suggested.     P13

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