Review of Flagstad debut

a historic occasion


Comment on the Flagstad debut:

"Mme. Flagstad is that rare avis in the Wagnerian woods - a singer with a voice, with looks, with youth.

She is not merely another of those autumnal sopranos who passed their prime when the Kaiser was a boy, and whose waistlines have gone to that bourne from which no slenderness returneth."

Review of Flagstad debut:

A New Wagner Singer Makes Her American Debut at the Metropolitan (February 1935)

Review of the debut by Lawrence Gilman of the New York Herald Tribune:

"It is a pleasure to salute in Mme. Kirsten Flagstad, the Metropolitan's new dramatic soprano, an artist of surprising and delightful quality.



Kirsten Flagstad debut picture.

Mme. Flagstad, who made her American debut yesterday afternoon as Sieglinde, has come to us without benefit of ballyhoo. Her name was unfamiliar here except to a few observers on the critical watch-towers who knew that this young Norwegian from Oslo had sung at Bayreuth during the last two seasons (Ortlinde and the Third Norn in 1933, Sieglinde and Gutrune in 1934), and that experienced observers who had heard her in Europe spoke well of her.

Flagstad debut

Yesterday's audience was therefore unprepared for the disclosure that awaited them, and to which they paid frequent tributes of enthusiastic recognition.

Mme. Flagstad is that rare avis in the Wagnerian woods - a singer with a voice, with looks, with youth. She is not merely another of those autumnal sopranos who passed their prime when the Kaiser was a boy, and whose waistlines have gone to that bourne from which no slenderness returneth.

I cannot swear that Mme. Flagstad is in her thirties, but the point is that she looks as if she were, and sings as if she were. The voice itself is both lovely and puissant. In its deeper register it is movingly warm and rich and expressive, and yesterday it recalled to wistful Wagnerites the irrecoverable magic of Olive the immortal. [The reference is to Olive Fremstad.] The upper voice is powerful and true, and does not harden under stress.

The singing that we heard yesterday is that of a musician with taste and brains and sensibility, with poetic and dramatic insight. It was heartening, for example, to encounter a Sieglinde sufficiently imaginative to give their due effect to such significant details as the dream-like quality of tone and phrasing which should imbue the wonderful passage in which Sieglinde gropes for her memory of her brother's voice in childhood, and finds it in the recognition of her own clear tones as they echoed back to her from the evening woods.

Her acting is noteworthy for its restraint and poise. She does not indulge in those imbecile operatic gestures which Wagner detested - he called them "swimming exercises." Mme. Flagstad expresses volumes with a turn of the head of a lifting of the hand. She was at times a bit inflexible yesterday; but that may possibly have due to nervousness.

She is solacing to the eye - comely and slim, and sweet of countenance. "I still need a Sieglinde!" wrote Wagner despairingly to a friend while he was casting the "Ring" for Bayreuth sixty years ago. "That need," he added, "is a calamity - for she must be slender." Wagner knew his Germans.

Yesterday was one of those comparatively rare occasions when the exigent Richard might have witnessed with happiness an embodiment of his Sieglinde. For this was a beautiful and illusive re-creation, poignant and sensitive throughout, and crowned in its greater moments with an authentic exaltation.

Flagstad debut - the ideal Sieglinde

The rest of the cast was familiar and admirable. Siegmund is Mr. Althouse's most successful Wagnerian achievement, and yesterday he companioned responsively the new Sieglinde. The others were at their most eloquent and effective.

The performance as a whole gave us a memorable "Walk├╝re," one in the best tradition of our times, responsive to the mighty tremor of Wagner the Titan.

Du bist der Lenz, actual audo from Flagstad's debut



Flagstad debut - in her own words in the book "The Flagstad Manuscript"

"Then came my debut on February 2nd as "Sieglinde". It was a Saturday afternoon and the opera was broadcast. Although I had had no rehearsal I was not a bit nervous.

The moment I faced the audience I felt all the stimulus I needed and everything went smoothly. Once on the stage it made no difference to me whether it was Oslo, Brussels, or the Metropolitan. People are the same everywhere and they come to the opera to be moved. That's all the incentive I need. And oh, the crowd that came to see me afterward!

-- I hadn't even dreamed that anything like that could happen to me. I had been used to success of a kind and somehow I knew I would make out all right in America. But not this. I never hoped or expected to become famous. And the critics were all so very kind to me. There again, I was used to getting good notices, so that wasn't so much of a surprise really.

But the general reception swept me off my feet. There had never been anything like it for me. I was terribly happy about it all, of course. Standing on one of the great stages of the world - actually singing a leading role in the Metropolitan Opera House - that was the real thrill.

At first I hadn't regarded it as such an astonishing thing, that is, my being here at all. Maybe that's why I wasn't the least bit nervous.

-- from The Flagstad Manuscript


See a video clip of Flagstad in her prime

Flagstad in Song

Flagstad's first Isolde at the Met


Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

Premium Photographic Print
Dorsey, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com

Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

Premium Photographic Print
Dorsey, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com


Flagstad debut

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