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First performance of Wagner's Valkyrie in Scotland

Posted 24 Dec 2012

Excerpts from Wagner's Ring cycle had been given many times in concert halls around Scotland, so the announcement by Carl Rosa Opera of the first staging of one of the works, The Valkyrie, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, was warmly welcomed.  The first performance was given in Glasgow's Theatre Royal on 12 November 1896. The cast included Hedmondt (Siegmund), Esty (Sieglinde), Elandi (Brünnhilde), Ludwig  (Wotan),  Winckworth (Hunding) and Kirkby Lunn (Fricka), under the experienced conductor Richard Eckhold.

The critic of the Glasgow Evening News said 'the work was rather severely mutilated here and there, so that after all the performance did not really test the patience of the Scottish audience....the heavy scoring was always well subdued by Herr Eckhold, who merits the warmest praise for his pains in holding the band in subjection as well as for his masterly conducting of the performance generally... the mise-en-scene (an elaborate affair) was splendidly managed by Mr T. H. Friend and the artist painter, Mr W.F. Robson." 

The critic of the Evening Times stated 'Wagner's great work was represented on the Royal stage by a magnificent cast, whose brilliant efforts succeeded in claiming the attention of the audience for over three hours. Praise is particularly due to Herr Richard Eckhold, who conducted.'  He commented on the reception given to the famous Ride of the Valkyries, stating '..there was an outbreak of enthusiastic appreciation that threatened to stop the action of the play.'  Of Ludwig as Wotan, he said 'his artistic, reposeful acting and sympathetic vocalisation in the second and closing acts stamped him as one of the first Wagnerian artists.'

The Scotsman critic (26 November 1896) said of the only performance in Edinburgh that most of the audience would have gone prepared to make allowances given the difficulties inherent in staging the work itself, and thought it was a far finer performance than might reasonably have been expected. 'The Lyceum Theatre was last night crowded from floor to ceiling.'  He singled out Herr Eckhold for the highest  praise.  He also thought Mr Hedmondt an ideal Siegmund, and Alice Esty's singing as Sieglinde 'if occasionally wanting in strength, never failed in sweetness and finish of style.'  The short chorus of the Valkyries 'was finely sung.'

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