Opera Scotland

Valkyrie 1910Denhof Opera Company

Read more about the opera Walküre

The second instalment of the first Scottish Ring cycle was as successful as the first, and greeted with huge enthusiasm by the audience, though the performance did not end until near midnight. This must have made it difficult for the critic from a jounal outside Edinburgh to file his copy in time for the morning edition.

One curiosity in the two newspaper reviews provided here is that, while both describe the plot at sme length, they both skate over, without comment, the true nature of the blood relationship between Siegmund and Sieglinde.

Cast details are from the reviews in the Scotsman and the Dundee Courier & Argus for 2 March.


The Edinburgh View

Scotsman: Wednesday, 2 March 2010 (p8)

Wagner's Ring in Edinburgh - Second Drama The Valkyrie

'Of the four dramas constituting the Ring, The Valkyrie may be accepted as being the most popular when presented in separate form.  Last night, at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, its performance completely eclipsed the success of The Rhinegold.  The audience was larger and more enthusiastic than on the previous night.  The artists obviously felt themselves on more natural ground;  and with Madame Agnes Nicholls thrown into the chief part, the whole production rose to a very high point of artistic completeness.  The enjoyment of the audience may be best estimated by the fact that though the first act is one of the most beautiful and inspired in all that Wagner wrote, the second, which is marred by his somewhat diffuse and explanatory style, in which everybody on the stage talks - and sings - too much, ended with a fivefold recall before the curtain for all the artists.  And at the end enthusiasm reigned supreme.

'The drama of The Valkyrie begns, as it were m in the middle of a long story, and its conclusion leaves the main problems of the music-drama of The Ring unsolved.  But it is easier to follow its argument than in some of the others; it is distinguished by one of the most impassioned, if long-drawn out, love-duets of modern stage music; and the great ''Ride of the Valkyries'' is spectacularly and musically one of of the most magnificent of Wagner's stage conceptions.  In his earlier time Wagner objected to its separate production.  His persistent claim was ''the Ring, the whole Ring, and nothing but the Ring.''  But in the end he had to surrender at discretion to the pressure of his own followers.  The Rhinegold was produced at Munich Court Theatre in 1869; the Valkyrie in the same theatre in 1870; the complete tetralogy had to wait the readiness of the Bayreuth Theatre in 1874.  And since then The Valkyrie has been produced passim as a separate opera.

'If to the multitude the story is not in its ultimate purport and rationale quite clear, the rush and dash and beauty of the music are unchallengeable.  ''Though the Philistine may chatter,'' there are sufficient people who take music seriously to counteract his influence.  To the British people Wagner may have come thirty years later than he came to Germany.  That fact may be used for or against his whole conception of the music-drama.  It may justify the sneer that he left no school, and, therefore, that his labours were sterile.  Or it may be takn to strengthen the position that his was really the music of the future; and that it is only now becoming the music of the present.  Such questions have been discussed, and will continue to be discussed, ad nauseam and without profit, so long as there is no accepted doctrine as regards musical aesthetics.

'But one thing is certain - that the presntation of The Valkyrie in the King's Theatre last night was obviously full of interest to the audience, and the reason was that it was splendidly performed.  The high opinion formed of Mr Balling, the conductor, was more than confirmed by his management of the rchestra last night.  It is true that an orchestra in which the nucleus is the Scottish Orchestra may be trusted to follow, or even to lead, their leader; but there are fine points in the interprettion of Wagner's instrumental commentary to his dramas which require elucidation - notably the leit-motiven, which the composer utilises with the most ingenious skill at every opportunity, but which embarrass the man in the orchestra,  and which require the direct attention of the conductor if the general tone and colour of the musical texture are to be maintained.

'But, after all, the honours did not fall to the orchestra last night.  The outstanding success was the Brünnhilde of Madame Agnes Nicholls.  As the leader of the Valkyries she had a splendid part, in which vocal restraint was as often appealed to as force and fire.  But if the drama be taken in its natural order, it may safely be said that the superb rendering of the first act gave the tone to all that followed.  The scene is laid in the primitive dwelling of Hunding.  There is a human quality in the drama as it is developed which comes home to the ordinary auditor more forcibly than the olympic, subterranean, and magical interests of The Rhinegold.  The relatve position and play of the three characters who appear - Siegmund the wounded and worn-out warrier; Sieglinde, his sympathetic hostess and predestined companion; and Hunding, the rude and suspicious host - are pretty clearly defined.

'Full advantage was taken of one of the most magnificent efforts of Wagner in characterisation last night by Mr Francis Maclennan (Siegmund), Mr Robert Radford (Hunding), and Miss Florence Easton (Sieglinde),  All three artists were in splendid voice, and as the scene, once staged, was subject to no alteration, the whole interest centred in the action and the music.  One commendation which may be applied to all three artists is that they made their words clear.  Miss Florence Easton made a sweet and sympathetic Sieglinde, and her singing was pure and at times forcible.  A strenuous and dramatic delivery of the hard part of Siegmund confirmed previous opinions that Mr Maclennan is a tenor of fine artistic instinct.  Another really fine part was the Hunding of Mr Robert Radford.  He gave it all the dignity that could pertain to the rude warrior, and his vocalisation was steady and sure.

'Mr Frederic Austin has admittedly the most uninteresting and heavy part in the work.  Wotan is one of Wagner's dullest but most pathetic creatins;  he is always explaining his own metaphysical reasons for doing wrong things, and he delays the drama.  He largely monopolises the second scene with his controversies with his wife Fricka  a part which was played with rare vocal and dramatic ability by Madame Marie Alexander, who steadily advances in her art; and later with Brünnhilde, to whom also Wagner apportions far too many long declamatory passages which do not seem to help the progress of the drama.

'A noteworthy feature of the production was the wild chorus of the Valkyries; the scheme of Wagner to show them flying across the sky was sensibly abandoned, for reasons of mechanical difficulty.  But on the whole, the productin - including the difficult staging of the fire spell - was on the prescribed lines of the Wagnerian conception and the German tradition.  It was surprisingly successful.  At the late close the audience gave to the performers a series of enthusiastic recalls to the platform; but Mr Denhof had, as on the night before, disappeared.'


The Dundee Perspective

Dundee Courier and Argus:  Wednesday, 2 March 1910 (p4)

Wagner's 'Ring' in Edinburgh - Second Evening

'The audience at the performance of the Valkyrie in the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, last night was, if possible larger than that on the previous evening.

'This may be accounted for by the fact that Monday evening's performance proved the artistic success of Herr Denhof's venture, and as the enthusiasm waxed stronger than ever last night we hope that success in every direction is imminent.

'The Valkyrie affords an appreciative audience a better chance of showing their appreciation than does Rhinegold, for the former contains three acts and the latter only one.  Every advantage was taken of the fall of the curtain to call all the performers again and again.

'Our only complaint is that the music-drama did not finish until close on midnight.

'The first act of the Valkyrie takes us apparently far away from the story of the Rhinegold.  Siegmund and Sieglinde are strangers to us, as well as to each other, until they discover their relatinship, and the story of the mysterious Wanderer,  who appeared at Sieglinde's wedding is illuminated by the presence of an accompaniment suggestive of Wotan.

'The great love duet between the hapless pair in this act is one of the most beautiful things in the whole Trilogy, the peculiar affinity between them and Sieglinde's love being wonderfully epressed.  The second act is famous for the introduction of the celebrated Brunhilds and her eight warrior maiden sisters.  Brunhilde is the great type of womanhood striven for in all Wagner's previous operas, and here at last realised, and henceforward she occupies a prominent place in the rest of the Trilogy.  She soon defies her father Wotan, and while she cannot save Siegmund from his wrath she protects Sieglinde, and in doing so shelters the destined hero Siegfried.

'The third act is designed on a scale of stupendous grandeur.  It is ushered in by the ''Valkyries' Ride'' familiar to all frequenters of orchestral concerts, and includes a scene of great passion, in which Brunhilde and her sisters plead, but in vain, with their father, Wotan.  When Brunhilde realises that punishment is inevitable she begs for a mitigated penalty, to which Wotan finally assents, and, in the finest piece of music in the act,  he bids her a tender and moving farewell.

'The orchestral  close of the act and of the drama is a glorious blending of the motive associated with the magic fire by which Brunhilde is left surrounded, and the Sleep, Wotan's Farewell, and Siegfried motives.

'The Valkyrie does not lay such heavy demands on the producer and stage manager as does Rhinegold.  

'The finest effect last night was that of the clouds and mist sweeping up from the valley in the last act.  The picture of the Valkyries riding through the storm was not too successful, for some of them appeared in the clouds before any of them had left the stage.  But if the producer and stage manager have not such great chances as in Rhinegold,  the vocalists have more, and a really splendid performance was given.

'Miss Agnes Nicholls lent great importance vocally and dramatically, to the fine part of Brunhilde.  Her declamation of the striking bars with which her part begins was superb, and equally artistic was her mezza voce in the final scene with Wotan.  Miss Florence Easton sang very beautifully, especially in the first act in which Sieglinde's innocence and grace were happily suggested, and Miss Marie Alexander as Fricka, the defender of virtue,  declaimed and acted with great power.

'The eight Valkyries were strikingly and forcefully represented.  Mr Francis Maclennan made an excellent appearance in the part of Siegmund.  He has a full and extensive voice, which he uses with great skill/  He articulates excelleently, and he sang specially well in the love duet and in the whole of the scene with Hunding, who has a first-rate representative in Mr Robert Radford.  Mr Frederic Austin's Wotan is dignified and forceful, and he sang the ''Farewell'' very finely, but he has a tendency to allow his anxiety for dramatic emphasis to obscure his articulation.

'The band played the difficult and constant work superbly.  The prelude and the ''Ride of the Valkyries'' were specially fine, but all through the playing was wonderfully good.  Big as the band is, it is under perfect control, and Herr Balling succeeds in making it what he wants it to be, a responsive cushion for the voices to rest on.  To him again is unbounded credit due, and he was called for by the audience last night again and again.'

Performance Cast

Siegmund a Volsung

Francis Maclennan

Sieglinde a Volsung, sister of Siegmund

Florence Easton

Hunding husband of Sieglinde

Robert Radford

Wotan father of the Valkyries and Volsungs

Frederic Austin

Brünnhilde a Valkyrie

Agnes Nicholls

Fricka Wotan's estranged wife

Marie Alexander

Waltraute a Valkyrie

Edna Thornton

Performance DatesValkyrie 1910

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

1 Mar, 18.30 8 Mar, 18.30

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