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Two Sopranos Substituted in Met ‘Walkure’

May 2, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Metropolitan Opera’s last ″Die Walkure″ of the season was presented with new singers in the two leading soprano roles.

The opera’s two scheduled sopranos were felled, one of them literally.

Hildegarde Behrens, scheduled to sing Brunnhilde, was hit on the head by a falling piece of scenery near the end of ″Gotterdammerung″ Saturday night.

Jessye Norman, scheduled to sing Sieglinde, was ill.

Both were replaced Tuesday night by their ″covers,″ the singer standing by in case she’s needed to perform.

Gudrun Volkert made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Brunnhilde. She has a beautiful middle range but her top notes aren’t produced easily. Miss Volkert, who was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, has sung Brunnhilde in seven European opera houses. She is tall and very thin.

Hanna Lisowska of Warsaw, Poland, made her Met debut on April 21 as Gutrune in ″Gotterdammerung.″ She proved more of a disappointment, possibly partly because the audience expected not to hear Hildegarde Behrens but thought it was going to hear the lush vocal outpouring of Jessye Norman.

Miss Lisowska has a smaller voice and was singing with two big-voiced men.

Gary Lakes was in good voice as Siegmund, sounding warm and heroic. Matti Salminen as Hunding made his bass notes round, hollow and ominous.

Miss Lisowska sang a competent Sieglinde but didn’t make a listener’s heart beat faster.

James Morris was remarkable as Wotan, singing the long part with nuance and power, never tiring.

Christa Ludwig sounded splendid as Fricka. As she left the stage, Maestro James Levine blew her a kiss. A program note said, ″This performance celebrates the 30th anniversary of Christa Ludwig’s Metropolitan Opera debut.″

The Ring cycle operas aren’t being presented at the Met next season. It’s possible that Miss Ludwig may not sing Fricka at the Met again.

Levine made instrumental tempos and Wotan’s Act 2 monologue to Brunnhilde unusually slow. Sometimes during the evening, tempos were brisk.

Miss Behrens and her doctor have not decided whether she’ll be able to sing Brunnhilde in Thursday’s ″Siegfried″ or in ″Gotterdammerung″ on Saturday.