Friday, October 18, 2013

Sunday Classics preview: Wotan's Farewell -- feeling the pain


The final parting of Brünnhilde (Anne Evans) and Wotan (John Tomlinson) in Harry Kupfer's Bayreuth production of Die Walküre -- we hear a snatch below.
WOTAN, overcome and deeply moved, turns eagerly towards BRÜNNHILDE, raises her from her knees, and gazes with emotion into her eyes.

WOTAN: Farewell, my valiant,
glorious child!
You were the holiest pride of my heart!
Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!
[Very passionately] Though I must leave you,
and may no longer
embrace you in greeting;
though you may no more
ride beside me,
nor bear my mead in Walhall;
though I abandon you
whom I love so,
the laughing delight of my eye:
a bridal fire
shall blaze to protect you,
as never has burned for a bride.
Threatening flames
shall flare from the rock;
the craven will fear it,
cringe from its fury;
the weak will flee
from Brünnhilde's rock!
For one alone wins you as bride,
one freer than I the god.
[BRÜNNHILDE, moved and exalted, sings on WOTAN's breast: he holds her in a long embrace. She throws her head back again and, still embracing WOTAN, gazes with solemn rapture in his eyes.]
-- English singing translation by Andrew Porter,
used in the Goodall-ENO recording

[in English] Norman Bailey (b), Wotan; English National Opera Orchestra, Reginald Goodall, cond. EMI-Chandos, recorded live, Dec. 18, 20, and 23, 1975

Norman Bailey (b), Wotan; New Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, cond. EMI, recorded 1970

by Ken

Change of plans. I know the purpose of our making the acquaintance of Loge, the god of fire (and of lies), last week was to set the stage for a final Sunday Classics Bruckner exploration, but in the process we inevitably stumbled into the ineffable final scene of Die Walküre, from the point at which Wotan summons Loge to resume his original form as fire to protect the now-sleeping Brünnhilde on her mountaintop from any but the hardiest suitor. And I don't see how we can come this close without pausing to take account of the whole of Wotan's Farewell.

We're hearing the start of the Farewell proper, after Wotan has informed his cherished daughter Brünnhilde that, because she disobeyed him, she is to be stripped of her Valkyrie-dom and abandoned on the mountaintop to be awakened by some passing hero, and she has suggested that he protect her with a ring of fire. And speaking of heroes, ours has to be Norman Bailey, who manages to sustain not only Reginald Goodall's but also Otto Klemperer's extremely gradual tempos -- with the reward that I really don't know of any other performance that communicates more intensely the pain Wotan is suffering.

We're going to round out this preview with pretty much the same group of Wotans we heard last week close out this great scene. And then on Sunday we can take a closer listen to Wotan's pain.

Friedrich Schorr (b), Wotan; Berlin State Opera Orchestra, Leo Blech, cond. EMI, recorded June 17, 1927

George London (b), Wotan; London Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf, cond. RCA-Decca, recorded September 1961

Thomas Stewart (b), Wotan; Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded Aug., Sept., and Dec. 1966

John Tomlinson (bs), Wotan; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, cond. Teldec, recorded live, June-July 1992


How deeply can we feel Wotan's pain if we conclude that most of it is self-inflicted?

For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."



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