Friday, November 15, 2013

Preview: The long-separated twin brother and sister Siegmund and Sieglinde recognize each other

Plácido Domingo and Adrienne Pieczonka as Siegmund and Sieglinde at the Met, April 2009

by Ken

This week I want to finish up with my contention that that extraordinary depth of pain we hear coming out of Wotan, first in Act II of Die Walküre and then, of course, in the his final farewell to his cherished daughter Brünnhhilde at the end of the opera, is tempered by our knowledge that most of this pain is self-inflicted.

Last time we listened to the whole of Act I of the Walküre, the second opera (but properly speaking "First Day") of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy. In preparation for Sunday's installment, we're going to back to the end of Act I, and pick up after Sieglinde, having heard her mysterious guest's woeful life story, has drugged her husband Hunding and returned to share some of her background. Suddenly the door of Hunding's house blew open, and Sieglinde has asked who left.

This is of course one of the supreme scenes in the musical literature. We're going to start with the Melchior-Lehmann performance we already heard as part of the complete Act I recorded by EMI in Vienna in 1935 under the baton of Bruno Walter, but then we're going to hear an earlier Melchior recording -- unfortunately acoustical -- with the great Brünnhilde and Isolde Frida Leider as Sieglinde. Then we hear Jon Vickers, who I think it's safe to say has been the most successful of the post-Melchior Siegmunds, in the Karajan recording with the surprising choice of the lyric soprano Gundula Janowitz as Sieglinde (I happen to enjoy her performance a lot), and finally we have the sturdy Siegmund of Sieglinde coupled with the vocally strongest Sieglinde at least since Leonie Rysanek.

WAGNER: Die Walküre: Act I, Siegmund, "Keiner ging, doch einer kam" . . . "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond" . . ."Du bist der Lenz" to end of act
The door remains open. It is a glorious spring night, and moonlight streams into the room.

SIEGMUND [in leiser Entzückung]: Nobody went,
but someone came;
look, the spring
smiles into the room.
[SIEGMUND, with tender force, draws SIEGLINDE to him on the couch, so that she sits beside him. The moon shines more and more brightly.]
Wintry storms have vanished
before Maytime;
in a gentle light
springtime shines out.
On balmy breezes
light and lovely
it weaves
miracles as it wafts.
Through woods and meadows
its breath blows,
wide open
its eyes are smiling.
Lovely birdsong
sweetly proclaims it.
Blissful scents
exhale its presence.
Marvellous flowers
sprout from its hot blood,
buds and shoots
grow from its strenght.
With an armoury of delicate charm
it conquers the world.
Winter and storms vanish
before their stout defence.
At these bold blows, of course,
the stout doors yelded too,
for stubborn and hard
they kept us from the spring.
To its sister here
it flew.
Love decoyed the spring.
In our hearts
it was hidden deep;
now it smiles joyfully at the light.
The sister as bride
is freed by her brother.
In ruins lies
all that kept them apart.
Joyfully the young couple
greet one another.
Love and Spring are united.
SIEGLINDE: You are the spring
for which I longed
in the frosty winter time.
My heart greeted you
with holy terror
when first your glance lighted upon me.
I had only ever seen strangers;
my surroundings were friendless.
As if I had never known it
was everything that befell me.
But you I recognized
plain and clear;
when my eyes saw you,
you belonged to me.
What I hid in my heart,
what I am,
bright as day
it come to me,
like a resounding echo
it fell upon my ear,
when in frosty loney strangeness
I saw my friend.
[She clings rapturously to SIEGMUND.]
SIEGMUND [carried away]: O sweetest bliss,
most blessed woman!
SIEGLINDE: O let me come
close up to you
and clearly see
the noble light
thet shines in your eyes
and from your face,
and sweetly grips my senses.
SIEGMUND: In the spring moonlight
you shine brightly,
nobly haloed
with waving hair:
what enchanted me
I can easly guess,
for rapturously my eyes gloat on you.
SIEGLINDE [pushing back the hair from his brow]: Look how your forehead
broadens out,
and the network of veins
winds into your temples.
I tremble with the delight
that enchants me.
It brings something strange to my mind:
though I first saw you today,
I've set eyes on you before.
SIEGMUND: A dream of love
comes to my mind as well:
burning with longing
I have seen you before.
SIEGLINDE: In the stream I've seen
my own likeness;
and now I see it again.
As once it appeared in the water
so now you show me my likeness.
SIEGMUND: You are the likeness
that I hid in myself.
SIEGLINDE: Hush! let me
listen to your voice.
Its sound, I fancy,
I heard as a child,
but no! I heard it recently -
when the echo of my voice
sounded back through the forest.
SIEGMUND: O loveliest sound
for me to hear!
SIEGLINDE [gazing rapturously in his eyes]: The fire in your eyes
has blazed at me before.
So the old man gazed
at me in greeting
when to my sadness he brought comfort.
By his look
his child recognized him,
I even wanted to call him by name.
Are you really called Woeful?
SIEGMUND: I am not called
that since you love me:
Now I am full of purest rapture.
SIEGLINDE: And "Peaceful" may you not,
being happy, be named?
what you love to call me.
I take my name from you.
SIEGLINDE: But did you name Wolf as your father?
SIEGMUND: A Wolf he was to cavern foxes!
But he whose proud
eyes shone
as grandly as yours, you marvel,
his name was "Volsa."
SIEGLINDE [beside herself]: If "Volsa" was your father
and you are a "Volsung,"
it was for you he thrust
his sword in the tree -
so let me call you
by the name I love:
Siegmund -
so I name you.
SIEGMUND [springin up and seizing the hilt of his sword]: Siegmund I am called
and Siegmund I am,
let this sword,
which I fearlessly hold, bear witness.
Volsa promised me
that in deepest distress
I should one day find it.
Now I grasp it.
Holiest love's
deepest distress,
yearning love's
scorching desire,
burn bright in my breast,
urge me to deeds and death.
"Needy", "Needy",
I name you, sword.
"Needy", "Needy",
percious blade,
show your sharpness
and cutting edge:
come from your scabbard to me!
[With a mighty effort he draws the sword from the tree and shows it to the amazed and enraptured SIEGLINDE.]
You see Siegmund,
the Volsung, woman!
As wedding gift
he brings this sword;
so he weds
the fairest of women;
he takes you away
from the enemy's house.
[embrading her to draw her away]
Now follow me
far from here,
out into springingtime's
smiling house.
For protection you'll have "Needy" the sword,
even if Siegmund expires with love.
SIEGLINDE: Are you Siegmund
whom I see here?
[Tearing herself free]
I am Sieglinde
who longed for you:
your own sister
you have won and the sword as well.
SIEGMUND [as she flings herself into his arms]: Wife and sister
you'll be to your brother.
So let the Volsung blood increase.
[He holds her to him with passionate fervor. The curtain falls quickly.]

Lauritz Melchior (t), Siegmund; Lotte Lehmann (s), Sieglinde; Vienna Philharmonic, Bruno Walter, cond. EMI, recorded June 20-22, 1935

[from "Winterstürme"] Lauritz Melchior (t), Siegmund; Frida Leider (s), Sieglinde; Paul Breisach, cond. ("Winterstürme"). Parlophone-Polydor, recorded Dec. 3, 1924 ("Winterstürme") and November 1923 (Leider sides)

Jon Vickers (t), Siegmund; Gundula Janowitz (s), Sieglinde; Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded Aug., Sept., and Dec. 1966

Siegfried Jerusalem (t), Siegmund; Jessye Norman (s), Sieglinde; Staatskapelle Dresden, Marek Janowski, cond. Eurodisc, recorded Aug. 22-29, 1981


The case against Wotan.


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