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" Ride of The Valkyries" As Performed By Midi Synthesia

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 5 September 2014 | 8:08:00 pm

Was Sir Clive Sinclair A Wagner Fan?
Those of you, yes we know there are one or two, who "wasted" their youth on a Game Boy - or if you are really old like our editor, on a ZX81 -  may find this both interesting and perhaps responsible for conjuring up memories of already mentioned miss-spent youth.
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The Wagner bio film: Magic Fire

There have been a few, often greatly fictionalised, films claiming to present Wagner's life. One oft less mentioned is Republic Pictures not un-entertaining 1955 "Magic Fire" Sadly, a box office failure, from a studio that closed down only a few years later, it has proven nearly impossible to see - especially as far as we are aware any video release has been long deleted. However, due to that wondrous treasure trove known as youtube, it has now reappeared. One assumes, like a few of Republic films from this time, it is in the public domain? Anyway, till some bright spark releases it on DVD here is Peter Cushing as Otto Wesendonk and Wagner's music arranged by Korngold - who also appears as Hans Richter

Directed by William Dieterle, the film made extensive use of Wagner's actual music, which was arranged by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Dieterle worked with Korngold on several Warner Bros. films, including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Juarez. It was one of the final films Republic made in the two-strip color process known as Trucolor.

Although many details about Wagner's life were accurately portrayed, the film often distorted some facts, apparently for dramatic purposes. One high point was the accurate depiction of the riot at the Paris Opera House for the premiere of the revised version of Tannhäuser. The film depicted King Ludwig II's patronage of Wagner, without going into much detail about the king's controversial personality.

The film used a very large cast, opulent sets, and lavish costumes. Since Republic was known primarily for westerns and adventure serials, Magic Fire was one of the rare "prestige" films to be produced by studio chief Herbert Yates. Nevertheless, critical response was mixed and box office receipts in the U.S. were disappointing.
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Listen Now & On-Demand: SFO - The Dutchman

The WFMT Radio Network continues their 2014 American Opera Series with San Francisco Opera – eight operas from their past season and two operas from the San Francisco Opera archives. This week they present The Flying Dutchman..

You will have to create a free account to listen to the whole performance - on-demand until the 12 September. However, we have tested it out and its quick and easy - you can, should you wish, opt-out of email updates

Click Here To Listen.

Conductor: Patrick Summers 

Cast: Senta - Lise Lindstrom 

Mary - Erin Johnson 

Erik - Ian Storey 

The Steersman - A.J. Glueckert 

Daland - Kristinn Sigmundsson 

The Dutchman - Greer Grimsley 

Host: Dianne Nicolini

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Nike Wagner, Richard Wagner and Beethoven

On September 7 at 7:00 pm (CET), DW presents a live stream of the opening concert at this year'sBeethovenfest. Andris Nelsons conducts the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Symphonies 1-3.

 Go to to watch the live stream.

DW: The Beethovenfest is about to begin with a program that was put together by your predecessor. Everyone has been wondering whether we will get a sense of Nike Wagner in the program?

Nike Wagner: The program was fully planned and contractually binding. But I did want to leave a few small marks of my own, for instance by adding a new event format - an opening matinee with music and a lecture I plan to give on Beethoven and Bonn. The choice of music shows the direction my thoughts take concerning the Beethovenfest. "Bagatelles for B" is the name of a very witty work written by Reiner Bredemeyer from 1970, very ironic and with a lot of brass. Then, a young pianist will play the "real" Beethoven Bagatelles. At the end, you'll hear a "Beethoven Symphony" for chamber ensemble by Dieter Schnebel, with the composer present. I'm interested in pursuing Beethoven down to the present day, and I'm pleased when contemporary composers study him.

What are your personal tips for the 2014 Beethovenfest?

We're presenting two outstanding young conductors. One is Andris Nelsons, who will lead the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in all nine Beethoven symphonies. Nelsons is as serious as he is entertaining.

Nike Wagner is a great-great-granddaughter of Franz Liszt and a great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner

The other is a young Canadian, Yannik Nézet-Séguin - a bundle of energy! Whatever he touches turns into fireworks, even rather heavy, late Romantic music like Mahler or Strauss. No one should miss those two conductors' concerts. Nor should anyone miss our string quartet weekend, when three young quartets play along with the famous Kuss Quartet. The programs include Haydn, Schubert and Janáček, and they're excellent!

In an interview with DW in March, you mentioned problems with the Beethovenfest that are mainly due to the fact that you can hear the world's best orchestras play Beethoven in London, Vienna and Paris. So in the era of Nike Wagner, why should people come to Bonn?

During the festival, people want to hear leading international orchestras, which is all right. We live a culture of interpretation. On the other hand, there's the danger that touring orchestras will play the same programs everywhere, so I'll insist on sharpening the focus. You need to come up with a kind of script and put Beethoven in relation to other works that can be older, younger or contemporary, commission world premieres, or demonstrate Beethoven's influence on European symphonic music. And we can compare the "original" sound of his era with that of modern instruments.

I want to have a very special festival that is strongly anchored in the region? "Think globally, act locally" - that's the motto.

Beethoven was a major role model for your great-grandfather, Richard Wagner. How present is Beethoven in your life?

Wagner adored Beethoven, and that was carried on in a family tradition. But I also admire Beethoven as a revolutionary and advocate of human rights. As a musician, he's overwhelming in his restlessness: never satisfied, he was always pushing music forward into new forms of expression, taking every genre - whether sonata or string quartet - to its limits. He was volcanic in his creativity, but also in his seriousness. With him, music has nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment; it has a wholly different existential status. It's about human dignity. How he managed to deal with such ethical issues without lecturing is simply fantastic. And with Beethoven, Germany has a composer with a completely clean political and artistic record. An "ideal ambassador," if you will.

Frau Wagner wants to sharpen the image of BeethovenFranz Liszt is very present here in Bonn, too.The city is near Nonnenwerth Island, which Liszt called home for a while...

Franz Liszt adored Beethoven, he forced the people of Bonn to commit to Beethoven; he paid for the Beethoven statue and initiated the Beethovenfest. In addition, he adapted all nine Beethoven symphonies for piano. He'll turn up in my programs here, particularly his symphonic poems. Liszt's friend Hector Berlioz was a Beethoven fan, too, so we have to bring him into the program more as well. These are all wonderful composers in the heritage of Beethoven whose works are heard all too seldom.

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Richard Wagner presents Lohengrin

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 28 August 2014 | 8:27:00 am

Richard Wagner presents Lohengrin 
3rd September 2014 to 5th September 2014.
18:30 to 20:00
Rhodes University. South Africa

Jamie has now very kindly uploaded all of his Dutchman performance - with music and media to his website. You can watch it by following this link.

Following the dramatised readings of The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser last year, Jamie McGregor again reprises the role of Richard Wagner reading the text of his opera Lohengrin. The reading has been designed to introduce and complement an original audio-visual presentation of the opera itself, subdivided into conveniently sized and dramatically coherent episodes.

The "Wagner reading Wagner" project as a whole constitutes an innovative, entertaining and illuminating new approach to the perennially controversial German composer, and an unusually accessible introduction to his supposedly forbidding musical dramas. The readings will not only appeal to opera aficionados but to anyone with an interest in Romantic mythology and fairy tale (or even those simply curious to see an English lecturer impersonating a 19th century composer).

No specialist knowledge of the subject is necessary for a full enjoyment of the performance, while both the story and the music of the opera have an immediate appeal. Audiences have the option of attending the event either in full or in part, as the opera as a whole will be presented over three consecutive evenings – arranged as follows:

Act I - "The Forbidden Question"

Act II - "The Temptation of Elsa"

Act III - "The Revelation of the Secret"

Where: Beethoven Room, Rhodes Department of Music & Musicology

Cost: Admission free

For more information, visit the dedicated website:
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Want to take part in some Wagner research?

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 21 August 2014 | 1:08:00 pm

Text and request below is from the research team - not "The Wagnerian"

Listening for Leitmotives in Wagner

It's hard to hear anything mentioned about the music of Richard Wagner without also hearing someone mention the word 'leitmotif'. Leitmotifs, if you are unfamiliar with the term, are small, dynamic musical ideas that are associated with a person, place, idea, or feeling. These leitmotifs undergo many different transformations throughout Wagner's operas and most importantly, contribute to the dramatic narrative. While this may be common knowledge to most musicologists, how different groups of people actually experience these leitmotifs has remained very unexplored in much of the academic literature.

Recently the Transforming Musicology team in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths have began to look into this question of how listeners perceive leitmotifs in Wagner's operas. For the first experiment of this project, we have started out with a very basic question we wish to answer: How good are listeners at recognizing leitmotifs and what (if any) factors lead to an individual's ability to identify leitmotifs? Based on similar research that has already been done we have assumed that factors such as an individual's musical training, familiarity with Wagner, the orchestration of the leitmotifs, the compositional structure of the leitmotifs and sheer number repetitions of a leitmotif would contribute to recognition rates.

In order to gain insight into this question, we designed an experiment that requires participants to listen to a ten minute excerpt from Der Ring des Nibelungen and then give them a memory test on some of the musical material they just heard. After this memory test, we ask participants to fill out a survey about their musical background, their familiarity with the music of Richard Wagner, as well give them an objective quiz about the life and music of Wagner. We plan to use the data that we collect to hopefully be able to predict how well an individual can recognize leitmotifs based on the survey results and the other previously mentioned factors.

We are still collecting data for the experiment, but have currently run into a minor difficulty in diversifying the sample from our population. It is easy enough to find participants of varying musical background that are willing to come and participate in a twenty minute experiment, but in order to find the trends that we have hypothesized to exist, we need to make sure that we have a wide spread of participants with varying Wagner expertise.

We are currently scouring London for anyone who would self identify as a fan of the music of Wagner and are looking for any help we can get in finding enough 'Wagnerians' to give our first experiment a sample that might yield some interesting trends. If you have ever considered calling yourself a 'Wagnerian' or know someone who might, please refer them to us. We would be more than happy to have them come into the lab and test their Wagner-ness in the name of science!

David Baker is a student on the MSc. programme in Music, Mind, and Brain in Psychology at Goldsmiths. As well as contributing to the Transforming Musicology project, this work will also be included in the dissertation David will submit as part of his degree. Please contact David directly by email if you'd like to take part in the study.
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Bernd Weikl: Why Richard Wagner needs to be banned in Germany

Bernd Weikl, yes the baritone well known for his Wagner roles, argues that Wagner's work not only should but must be banned in Germany.

Why? Well, it seems that after a very, financially, successful career performing Wagner, he has just discovered that Wagner was anti-Semitic [must have come as a surprise that, after all these years - Ed]. And not only was Wagner anti-Semitic but, according to Weikl, so are his dramas and operas [One hopes certain Wagner specialists - and the odd second rate Wagner conductor and opera director - are proud of themselves - Ed]. Indeed, so convinced is he of his argument that he uses Germany's criminal code - in particular articles 130. and 131 of the Criminal Code - claiming that Wagner's dramas with their "anti-Semitic content" fall under these laws.

Weikl makes his argument in his new "bestseller" "Warum Richard Wagner in Deutschland verboten werden muss" wherein he calls upon the research of a number of individuals in Wagner research and discussion to support his argument. These include: Paul Morand, Theodor W. Adorno, Hartmut Zelinsky, Thomas Mann, Marc A. Weiner, Saul Friedlander, Paul Lawrence Rose, Barry Millington, Ulrich Drüner, Annette Hein, Jens Malte Fischer and Gottfried Wagner

Of course, if anyone should be able to spot anti-Semitism it would be Weikl. After all, according to his own argument, he has been spouting anti-Semitism in public for years [inadvertently of course -  Sue, Grabbit & Runn (The Wagnerian's legal team)]. Please see the video evidence below. Or is it, as Han Sachs might say, "Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!"

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Listen Now: When Tolkien Stole Wagner's Ring

Tolkien always vehemently denied any connection between his Lord of the Rings and Wagner's Ring Cycle. He once said: 'Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased'.

But there is almost certainly more to it than that. Tolkien used the same Norse legends as Wagner for inspiration in 'Lord of the Rings', but it also seems likely that he took the original idea of an all-powerful and corrupting ring directly from Wagner. So why did he deny it? Perhaps Tolkien felt the taint of the Nazi associations that surrounded Wagner's music at the time he was writing. Perhaps he simply found Wagner's conclusions distasteful. Was Tolkien's work, in fact, conceived as a kind of antidote to Wagner's take on ultimate power.

Susan Hitch explores the connections between the pair of them.

BBC Radio 3: Twenty Minutes. To Listen Now On Demand Click Here
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Das Rhinegold: Malicious Dwarfs, Fair Nymphs & Heroic Gods

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 | 11:49:00 pm

Malicious Dwarfs, Fair Nymphs, Heroic Gods. Application and Transformation of Germanic Mythology in Richard Wagner’s libretto The Rhinegold 

Martin Blawid

According to Joachim Heinzle, the Nibelungensage represents the «most German among all German issues». The following essay seeks to analyze in how far the German composer Richard Wagner resorts either to a more traditional or to a more innovative representation of the Germanic influences in his libretto The Rhinegold, which is the opening part of his operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelungen. Moving from an epistemological basis, the libretto will be examined with a special focus on how Wagner applies and transforms Germanic mythology in terms of the characters and of deictic references.

Originally published in:  Studia Theodisca, Vol 19, Iss 0, Pp 167-178 (2012)

Download By Clicking Here

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The Case of Wagner Against the Grain

The Case of Wagner Against the Grain: The Disagreement between Nietzsche and Adorno and its Relevance Today

João Pedro Cachopo

Published in:  PARRHESIA: A JOURNAL OF CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY. Issue 19. August 2014

Wagner’s oeuvre might amount today to no less conformist positions than those maintained by the composer himself—whose operas, rather than the more or less confused or confusing ideas, should be at issue. This does not mean either to suggest that ideological issues should be totally left aside from discussion, or to assume that the work is absolutely independent from the author. The refusal of reductionism of whatever kind (biographical, sociological, historical...) must not lead to the opposite assumption that artworks should be dealt with as purely
ideal entities. Both extremes are partial, and consequently faulty.

Therefore, if one draws a distinction between the composer’s more or less explicitly political ideas and the politics of his work, while by the same token not losing sight of how deeply Wagner’s operas and their reception were affected by social, ideological and political forces, the conditions are eventually met to acknowledge that the writings of Wagner’s critics—not less, at least, than his own essays—are of the utmost importance to discuss the “afterlife” of his work both aesthetically and politically. The avatars of its critical and artistic reception crucially bear on what Wagner’s work became and is today. They are the historical constituents of the work itself—not mere instances of an allegedly exterior process of reception. This view prompted me to take “the case of Wagner” as an epitome of such an “afterlife,” rather than, stricto sensu , as a reference to the Nietzschean quarrel with the composer of Parsifal.

Seen in this context it is hardly surprising that a comparative re-reading of the seminal texts of Nietzsche and Adorno will play a crucial role in this article. And yet, just as I will start out calling attention to a peculiar consonant point behind Lacoue-Labarthe’s and Badiou’s dissonant pronouncements on Wagner (“Wagner(ism)—between the aestheticization of politics and the politicization of aesthetics”), my aim, regarding Adorno and Nietzsche, is on the contrary to spot heir disagreement behind the long-standing presupposition of their compliance (“A barely noticed disagreement,” and “Neither... nor...”). At a first level this article—as its title allows the reader to hint from the outset—is indeed anattempt to revise the assumption that Nietzsche’s and Adorno’s criticisms
on Wagner complement each other. In fact, against this assumption, I will try to make apparent that they differ in practically all aspects and even undermine each other in the most decisive ones.

At end of the article (“Chronicle of an end foretold”) I will argue that such a disagreement sheds light of the very tensions inherent in Wagner’s operas to a degree—and this is the crucial point—that prevents any criticism on them from finding a stable vantage point. The aim, to be sure, is not to propose a newly resuscitated apologia of Wagner, but to raise the critical discussion on the set of his works to a level where their ambivalent, though unabated, untimeliness
might be brought into light.

Continue Reading (PDF)
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Missed Bayreuth 2014? Listen Now Here

Should you have missed this year's Bayreuth radio broadcasts then never fear. A number of radio stations keep them in their archives for short time and they can be listened to on demand. Alas, these are often in other languages then English meaning that directing an English speaker to them somewhat difficult. However, this year, Wagnermania has placed them on one one page, within  in one simple player from RTVE.

While not in English it should not prove difficult in this format,  for any English language speaker, to work out which drama is which. To listen click the link below, chose your Wagner, press the obvious play button and sitback.

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Unpublished Solti Die Walküre Released By Testament

As always with Testament's Wagner releases shockingly overpriced -  some might argue. To be released on September 9, 2014.

This release marks the first appearance of Georg Solti on Testament as an opera conductor in an historic performance of Die Walküre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in October 1961.

This is the first new production at the Royal Opera House conducted by Solti following his appointment as Musical Director of the Covent Garden Opera Company in 1961.

The outstanding cast includes Anita Välkki as Brünnhilde, Hans Hotter as Wotan, Claire Watson as Sieglinde, Jon Vickers as Siegmund, Rita Gorr as Fricka and Michael Langdon as Hunding.

The overall performance received high praise for its intensity and drive as well as Solti’s fine musicianship.

Solti obtains spectacularly fine playing from the Covent Garden Orchestra, described by the critics as ‘superb’, ‘magnificent’, ‘the finest since the war’ and ‘exciting beyond words’.

The production was meant to be the start of a complete Ring cycle directed by Hans Hotter and designed by Herbert Kern but Kern was replaced by Günther Schneider-Siemssen and the production revised, so this version stands alone and is not part of the eventual Ring cycle as completed in 1964.

Recorded live on 2 October 1961 after the premiere on 29 September.
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After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from Parsifal to Nono by Mark Berry

Due October 2014.

This book is both a telling of operatic histories 'after' Richard Wagner, and a philosophical reflection upon the writing of those histories. Historical musicology reckons with intellectual and cultural history, and vice versa.

The 'after' of the title denotes chronology, but also harmony and antagonism within a Wagnerian tradition. Parsifal, in which Wagner attempted to go beyond his achievement in the Ring, to write 'after' himself, is followed by two apparent antipodes: the strenuously modernist Arnold Schoenberg and the æstheticist Richard Strauss. Discussion of Strauss's Capriccio, partly in the light of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, reveals a more 'political' work than either first acquaintance or the composer's 'intention' might suggest.

Then come three composers from subsequent generations: Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, and Hans Werner Henze. Geographical context is extended to take in Wagner's Italian successors; the problem of political emancipation in and through music drama takes another turn here, confronting challenges and opportunities in more avowedly 'politically engaged' art. A final section explores the world of staging opera, of so-called Regietheater, as initiated by Wagner himself. Stefan Herheim's celebrated Bayreuth production of Parsifal, and various performances of Lohengrin are discussed, before looking back to Mozart (Don Giovanni) and forward to Alban Berg's Lulu and Nono's Al gran sole carico d'amore. Throughout, the book invites us to consider how we might perceive the æsthetic and political integrity of the operatic work 'after Wagner'.

Original language English
Place of publication Woodbridge
Publisher The Boydell Press
Publication date Oct 2014
ISBN (Print) 9781843839682
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Opera Australia's Melbourne Ring Triumphs At 2014 Helpmann Awards

The $20m Melbourne Ring swept the opera category awards at this years Helpmann Awards, including the best opera award. Warwick Fyfe picked up
Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera,  Jacqueline Dark was awarded Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera, Terje Stensvold was awarded Best Male Performer in an Opera and Neil Armfield was awarded Best Direction of an Opera
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Why Digital Music Looks Set to Replace Live Performances

This August's production of Richard Wagner's four-opera Ring cycle in Hartford, Conn., has been postponed.

Rather than hiring pit musicians, producer Charles M. Goldstein had intended to accompany the singers with sampled instrument sounds, played by a computer. Not a CD, not a synthesizer; the computer triggers the playback of individual notes (“samples”) originally recorded from real instruments.

The reaction of professional musicians—and, of course, the musicians' union—was swift and furious. New York City's Local 802 president called it operatic karaoke. Hate mail poured in. In the end, the opera's music director, as well as two of the stars, withdrew from the production.

I know exactly what Goldstein must be feeling right about now. For my first 10 years out of college, I worked on Broadway shows as a musical director and arranger. In 1993 the group now called the Broadway League (of theater owners) contacted me. They wanted me to demonstrate how well computers and samplers could serve a live performance.

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Nike Wagner says she was bitter at being ousted from Bayreuth.

Meeting the great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner is an intimidating prospect. We don’t believe family traits are “in the blood” any more, but even so it’s hard to imagine a scion of that domineering “sacred monster” of the 19th century won’t turn out to be formidable. Certainly the 131 years since Wagner’s death have done little to water down the worldly power of the Wagner gene. The Wagners still maintain a stranglehold on Bayreuth, the opera house that Wagner had built at his admirers’ expense, and which has been the centre of the Wagner cult ever since.

As for the relationships within the clan, it’s been a saga of, well, Wagnerian proportions. The different sides of the family have fallen out spectacularly, and battled it out for control of the sacred shrine. Those who have won have had an unfortunate tendency to crush the life out of their rivals and would-be successors, in their bid to hang on to power. Those who lose end up roaming the world, never quite able to put their family connections behind them.

On the face of it, Nike Wagner falls into the latter camp. The third daughter of Wieland Wagner, born a month after the end of the war and raised in the family home of Wahnfried, she seemed well placed to take over the family business. “I remember so well growing up in that house,” she tells me. “My father was in charge of the productions, and worked so hard to bring a radical new style to Bayreuth. We thought we were born on the right side, compared with other Wagners; we were on the side of revolutionary artists, so to speak. This gave me a world-view that has lasted all my life.”
"But I was 21 when my father died, so this dream came to rather a rushed end. His brother, my uncle, Wolfgang, took over, and pretty soon I and my siblings realised we were no longer welcome.”
Did she hope that one day she would become part of all this? “Of course it was a childhood dream to be a singer or dancer… or at least an assistant director. But I was 21 when my father died, so this dream came to rather a rushed end. His brother, my uncle, Wolfgang, took over, and pretty soon I and my siblings realised we were no longer welcome.”

Is she bitter? “I was, but not now,” she says, and then adds, “it was not so hard for us children, but it was very hard for my mother. She was very bitter, and she passed her bitterness on to us.” Surely she nurtured dreams of returning at some stage? “Uh-huh,” she says with studied coolness. She picked up her Americanisms during the years she spent in the US as a student of cultural history. Even so it’s odd to hear it in the mouth of a Wagner, and it emphasises her distance from what one thinks of as the Wagner manner. With her slender, elegant figure and quietly spoken diplomatic ways, she reminds me much more of Christine Lagarde than the fiery composer who manned the barricades in Dresden in 1848. Only in profile does one get a reminder of that Wagner nose.
"We knew behind the scenes Wolfgang was working to make sure his line of the family would take the reins of the festival. It was a done deal, but we had to try.”
Unlike her great grandfather, who was always impatient, Nike Wagner bided her time. “I made my own way as an author and critic, and at the beginning of the Nineties I felt I was ready to take another look at Bayreuth.” That’s putting it mildly. In 2001, she published a book which took exquisite revenge on the family that had rejected her, portraying it as dysfunctional in ways that parallel the dysfunctional families in Wagner’s operas. At around the same time she made a bid for the directorship of Bayreuth, in league with Gérard Mortier, the man who had caused radical changes at the Salzburg Festival.

Their plan seems reasonable enough, but in the context of Bayreuth it was a revolution. “We wanted to raise the standards of singing and conducting, bring in new directors, and also perform the youthful works of Wagner we never see there. Also we felt it was time to break the hold of tradition, which says you can only have Wagner morning, noon and night, by bringing in other works with a connection to Wagner. Our overriding principle was to connect Wagner with the modern world.”

Nike never expected to win this battle. “We knew behind the scenes Wolfgang was working to make sure his line of the family would take the reins of the festival. It was a done deal, but we had to try.” In the event the daughters of Wolfgang were appointed, one older and experienced, the other young and glamorous. Has the partnership worked? Nike Wagner won’t be drawn on that. “My rule since then is never to comment, because if you are the loser it just looks like resentment.” Instead she’s thrown herself into other things. From 2004 to 2013, she directed a festival devoted to her great-great-grandfather Franz Liszt (Liszt was the father of Wagner’s second wife Cosima, who was Nike’s great-grandmother). Now she’s just been appointed director of the Beethovenfest in Bonn.

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As Peter Gelb Seems To Threaten To Cancel 2014-15 Season. Orchestra Responds

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 25 July 2014 | 1:39:00 am

Whose Head Is Being Called For?
Unions respond to Gelbs's letter threatening a "lockout. Full response below.

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb Threatens Lockout, Cancellation of the 2014/2015 Opera Season;

Orchestra Musicians Denounce Gelb’s Long-Planned Lockout as a “Cynical strategy to cover up his failed management and
lack of artistic vision"
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OU Offers Free Undergraduate Course

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 | 10:33:00 pm

While it may seem a little off topic,  there are certainly things here of interest to those with an interest  in Wagner. We recently discovered that the Open University offers a number of distance learning course on-line and for free.  While nodoubt intended to offer "tasters" to their full graduate and undergraduate course many of the modules themselves - for that is what they appear to be - would seem to offer something of interest for more than a few people. We have gone through the list available under "Arts and History" and have selected a few we thought general readers might find of use or to be of interest. Click the header to be taken to the course overview. Expected study time anywhere between 10 to 24 hours. If its a tad "basic" for yourself perhaps you might want top pass this on? The Music Theory introduction seems especially useful.

An introduction to music theory

This unit provides an introduction to music theory pitched at a level equivalent to Grades 1-3 of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music theory exams. The material will provide you with an understanding of such basic building blocks of music notation as music staves, clefs, rhythmic and pitch values, rhythmic metre and time signatures. You can test your understanding as you proceed by completing simple multiple-choice questions.

After studying this unit you should have:
  • a satisfactory understanding of the basic building blocks of musical theory and notation
  • an understanding of music theory comparable to that demanded by Grade 3 of the Associated Board of the Royals Schools of Music theory syllabus
  • an understanding of music theory that enables you to move on to Open University Level 2 and Level 3 Music courses, e.g. A224 Inside Music.

Making sense of art history

In this unit you’ll explore art history. Look around you, it’s likely that wherever you are you’ll be able to see some images, it’s also likely that many of these image will be intended to have some sort of effect on you. Here you will be exploring the power of images via a study of contemporary art from the 1980s onwards. Taking the time to look beyond the immediate appearance of an art work to consider what the artist might be trying to say can be immensely rewarding.
Studying this unit will:
  • enable you to develop your ability to identify the effects of art works;
  • introduce you to a range of artistic techniques, such as the use of colour, composition and medium;
  • enable you to explore the relationship between effects and techniques in a range of art works;
  • enable you to explore some of the factors involved in interpreting meaning;
  • enable you to explore the significance of context in informing the interpretation of art works;
  • enable you to further develop your study skills.

Schubert's Lieder: Settings of Goethe's Poems

This unit looks at the short poems in German that were set to music by Franz Schubert (1797–1828) for a single voice with piano, a genre known as ‘Lieder’ (the German for ‘songs’). Once they became widely known, Schubert's Lieder influenced generations of songwriters up to the present day.This unit then discusses a selection of Schubert's settings of Goethe's poems, and recordings of all of them are provided. You can find the poems, in German with parallel translations into English and the music scores of four of the song settings, on the unit home page. You are not expected to be able to read the music, but even if you are not very familiar with musical notation, you may well find the scores useful in identifying what is happening in the songs.
By the end of your work on this unit you should:
  • have learned about Schubert's place as a composer in early nineteenth-century Vienna;
  • have learned about the place of Schubert in the history of German song and the development of Romanticism;
  • be able to follow the words of songs by Schubert while listening to a recording, using parallel German and English texts;
  • be able to comment on the relationship between words and music in Schubert's song settings.
This unit explores the Holocaust, as the destruction of European Jewry is commonly known. The mass killing represented by the Holocaust raises many questions concerning the development of European civilisation during the twentieth century. This unit, therefore, covers essential ground if you wish to understand this development.
By the end of this unit you should have:
  • a perception of the enormity of the events under discussion;
  • a recognition of the kinds of ideas and incidents which may have prompted them;
  • an awareness of the historical arguments surrounding the Holocaust;
  • an awareness of the relationship between the Holocaust and the war.

Accounts of Caravaggio's life are filled with suggestions of murder and intrigue. But does knowing more about this dark artist's experiences help us to interpret his art? Or does understanding his motivations cloud their true meaning? This unit explores the biographical monograph, one of the most common forms of art history writing.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
  • analyse the pros and cons of the biographical monograph in art history;
  • examine the strengths and weaknesses of the biographical monograph in relation to other kinds of art history writing
What is art? What is visual culture? How have they changed through history? This unit explores the fundamental issues raised by the study of western art and visual culture over the last millennium. It moves from discussing the role of the artist and the functions of art during the medieval and Renaissance periods to considering the concept and practice of art in the era of the academies before finally addressing the question of modern art and the impact of globalisation.
After studying this unit, you will be able to:
  • understand the changing perceptions and definitions of art across history
  • understand the relationship between ‘art’ and visual culture
  • understand the global dimension of art and how it has changed over time
  • understand the significance of notions of ‘function’ and ‘autonomy’ for art history
  • understand the role of patronage, institutions and the wider historical context in shaping art
  • understand some of the major developments in western artistic practice since the Middle Ages.
While recognising the shadows cast by two world wars (one concluded and one imminent) over European society during the 1920s and 1930s, this unit demonstrates how a number of specific features indicate that the interwar period was a distinctive and important moment of modernity in the twentieth century, from the rise of the metropolis and the emergence of new forms of mass media, to the changing lifestyles of women and the increasingly interventionist approaches to managing the health and welfare of modern populations.
After studying this unit, you will be able to:
  • understand the terms ‘modernisation’, ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ and the ways in which they relate to each other, as well as know about the experience of modernity in interwar Europe
  • understand the main historical debates about society and culture in interwar Europe, in particular a sense of the patterns of change and continuity, and the extent to which any change can be attributed to the First World War
  • interpret visual sources, use data in tables to construct arguments, and summarise historiographical review articles.
What is imagination and can philosophy define it in any meaningful way? This unit will introduce you to some of the possible answers to these questions and will examine why philosophy has sometimes found it difficult to approach imagination. It will then go on to examine the relationship that imagination has to imagery and supposition, charting where these concepts overlap with imagination and where they diverge.
By the end of this unit you should:
  • be able to discuss basic philosophical questions concerning the imagination;
  • have enhanced your ability to understand problems concerning the imagination and to discuss them in a philosophical way.

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Where To Listen To Bayreuth 2014 - Free

Yes, its that time of year again. As always there are multiple places to listen to the Bayreuth festival live on the net but alas, should you not have any German they can be difficult to traverse. So, with that in mind we list the live performances available to listen to below. Clicking a link will take you directly to the player which should then allow you to listen to the performance - on the date specified.

Note: Clicking the link pay lead to a "popup". If so, you may need to temporarily disable any popup blocker you use for these links.

July 25 - TANNHAUSER. Starts 14.00 GMT. Click Here To Listen

Conductor Axel Kober 
Director Sebastian Baumgarten 
Stage design Joep van Lieshout 
Costumes Nina von Mechow 
Lighting Franck Evin 
Video Christopher Kondek 
Dramaturgy Carl Hegemann 
Choral Conducting Eberhard Friedrich 

Landgraf Hermann Kwangchul Youn 
Tannhäuser Torsten Kerl 
Wolfram von Eschenbach Markus Eiche
Walther von der Vogelweide Lothar Odinius 
Biterolf Thomas Jesatko 
Heinrich der Schreiber Stefan Heibach 
Reinmar von Zweter Rainer Zaun 
Elisabeth, Nichte des Landgrafen Camilla Nylund 
Venus Michelle Breedt 
Ein junger Hirt Katja Stuber

July 26. DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER. Starts: 18:00 GMT. Click Here To Listen

Conductor Christian Thielemann 
Director Jan Philipp Gloger 
Stage design Christof Hetzer
Costumes Karin Jud 
Lighting Urs Schönebaum 
Video Martin Eidenberger 
Dramaturgy Sophie Becker 
Choral Conducting Eberhard Friedrich

Daland Kwangchul Youn 
Senta Ricarda Merbeth 
Erik Tomislav Mužek 
Mary Christa Mayer 
Der Steuermann Benjamin Bruns 
Der Holländer Samuel Youn

July 27 DAS RHEINGOLD. Starts at: 16.00. Click Here To Listen

Conductor Kirill Petrenko 
Director Frank Castorf 
Stage design Aleksandar Denić 
Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki 
Lighting Rainer Casper 
Video Andreas Deinert / Jens Crull

Wotan Wolfgang Koch 
Donner Markus Eiche 
Froh Lothar Odinius
Loge Norbert Ernst 
Fricka Claudia Mahnke 
Freia Elisabet Strid 
Erda Nadine Weissmann 
Alberich Oleg Bryjak 
Mime Burkhard Ulrich 
Fasolt Wilhelm Schwinghammer 
Fafner Sorin Coliban 
Woglinde Mirella Hagen 
Wellgunde Julia Rutigliano 
Floßhilde Okka von der Damerau

July 28 DIE WALKÜRE. Starts at: 16:00 GMT.Click Here To Listen

Conductor Kirill Petrenko 
Director Frank Castorf 
Stage Design Aleksandar Denić 
Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki 
Lighting Rainer Casper 
Video Andreas Deinert / Jens Crull

Siegmund Johan Botha 
Hunding Franz-Josef Selig 
Wotan Wolfgang Koch 
Sieglinde Anja Kampe
Brünnhilde Catherine Foster 
Fricka Claudia Mahnke
Gerhilde Allison Oakes 
Ortlinde Dara Hobbs 
Waltraute Claudia Mahnke 
Schwertleite Nadine Weissmann 
Helmwige Christiane Kohl 
Siegrune Julia Rutigliano 
Grimgerde Okka von der Damerau 
Rossweisse Alexandra Petersamer

July 30 - SIEGFRIED. Starts at 16.00 GMT. Click Here To Listen

Conductor Kirill Petrenko 
Director Frank Castorf 
Stage Design Aleksandar Denić 
Costumes Adriana Braga 
Peretzki Lighting Rainer Casper 
Video Andreas Deinert / Jens Crull

Siegfried Lance Ryan 
Mime Burkhard Ulrich 
Der Wanderer Wolfgang Koch 
Alberich Oleg Bryjak 
Fafner Sorin Coliban 
Erda Nadine Weissmann
Brünnhilde Catherine Foster 
Waldvogel Mirella Hagen

July 31 LOHENGRIN. Starts at 16.00 GMT.Click Here To Listen

Conductor Andris Nelsons 
Director Hans Neuenfels 
Stage Design Reinhard von der Thannen 
Costumes Reinhard von der Thannen 
Lighting Franck Evin 
Video Björn Verloh 
Dramaturgy Henry Arnold 
Choral Conducting Eberhard Friedrich

Heinrich der Vogler Wilhelm Schwinghammer
Lohengrin Klaus Florian Vogt 
Elsa von Brabant Edith Haller
Friedrich von Telramund Thomas J. Mayer 
Ortrud Petra Lang
Der Heerrufer des Königs Samuel Youn 
1. Edler Stefan Heibach 
2. Edler Willem Van der Heyden 
3. Edler Rainer Zaun 
4. Edler Christian Tschelebiew

August 1 GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. Starts at 16.00 GMT. Click Here To Listen

Conductor Kirill Petrenko 
Director Frank Castorf 
Stage Design Aleksandar Denić
Costumes Adriana Braga
Peretzki Lighting Rainer Casper
Video Andreas Deinert, Jens Crull 
Choral Conducting Eberhard Friedrich

Siegfried Lance Ryan
Gunther Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester 
Alberich Martin Winkler
Hagen Attila Jun 
Brünnhilde Catherine Foster 
Gutrune Allison Oakes 
Waltraute Claudia Mahnke 
1. Norn Okka von der Damerau 
2. Norn Claudia Mahnke 
3. Norn Christiane Kohl 
Woglinde Mirella Hagen 
Wellgunde Julia Rutigliano
Floßhilde Okka von der Damerau
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Wagner Festival - Norfolk

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 9 July 2014 | 6:06:00 pm

Epic Operas Come To Norfolk as Dynamic Company Makes Theatre Royal Debut


The scale, dynamic vision and sheer grandeur of two of Wagner’s epic works are set to provide a summer treat in rural Norfolk as one of Europe’s most highly-regarded opera companies leave their German base for some major UK dates.

Theater Freiburg will swap the German city where they have been presenting opera for over 100 years for a temporary summer home at Norwich Theatre Royal to present both Parsifal and Tannhäuser.

Peter Wilson, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that Theater Freiburg have agreed to come here for what will be an undoubted cultural success.”

The short season will open with Wagner’s final opera Parsifal on Wednesday July 23 with a second performance on Friday July 25.

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New Issue Of The Wagner Journal Now Available

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 30 June 2014 | 12:28:00 am

The July 2014 issue (vol.8, no.2), now available, contains the following feature articles:

• 'Spinning the Yarn: Intertextuality in Wagner's Use and Reuse of his Songs in his Operas' by Malcolm Miller

• 'Richard Wagner and the "Zurich Writings" 1849–51: From Revolution to Ring' by Hilda Meldrum Brown

• ‘Wagner's Acquittal', in which Joachim Köhler retracts his claim that Wagner was a forerunner of the Holocaust (See the Wagnerian's "review" here)

• ‘Reckoning up the Ring: A Mathematician's Diary of Bayreuth 1876' by Patrick Carnegy, discussing the journal kept by Alfred Pringsheim, father-in-law of Thomas Mann, on his 1876 visit to Bayreuth

• Joseph Horowitz on Artur Bodanzky and the golden age of Wagner at the Met

plus reviews of:

Tannhäuser and Parsifal in Berlin

Der fliegende Holländer in Copenhagen

Das Liebesverbot in Leipzig

Guy Cassiers' Milan Ring and the Met Parsifal with Jonas Kaufmann on DVD

Plus, new books on Wagner by David Trippett, Eva Rieger, Na'ama Sheffi and Joachim Köhler

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Joachim Köhler & Why Wagner Did Not Cause The Holocaust.

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 29 June 2014 | 7:50:00 pm

"Wagner always considered himself a spiritual revolutionary whose concern was the liberation of human beings, including the Jews, from their so-called 'curse'. Joachim Köhler. The Wagner Journal

While there is much of interest in the July issue of the Wagner Journal, perhaps Joachim Köhler's reversal on the centrality of Wagner's antisemitism in his work, his influence on the the Third Reich and the persecution of the Jews; is one of the most interesting, extraordinary and "brave" "turn-a-rounds" in Wagner research. But first a little background:

Köhler first came to prominence  with his much discussed Wagner's Hitler - the Prophet and his Disciple - first published in German in 1997 and translated into English in 2011. In this, he put forward the argument that Wagner should be seen as having "created" Hitler and that he (Hitler) was simply carrying out Wagner's desires. Indeed , this was a task Hitler perceived as being given to him alone and directly from Wagner. To quote Köhler at that time;

"The nature of this task was certainly not to pursue a set of political aims, that is, to arrange the political and social realities of the time in the interests of the nation whose Chancellor he was. Reality meant for him the task of transforming the world into a Wagnerian drama..."

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Der Ring des Nibelungen Medieval, Pagan, Modern

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 28 June 2014 | 12:44:00 am

Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen Medieval, Pagan, Modern.

Carole M. Cusack

Originally published in: Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 3, no. 2 (2013): 329—52.

(The original article plus footnotes and appendix can be read/downloaded by following the link at the end of this article or the one above. Images and video added by "The Wagnerian")

Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen is a Romantic work that draws on medieval narrative and thematic elements (e.g., the Poetic Edda, the Volsunga Saga, and the Nibelungenlied). Wagner's cycle is a polyvalent work of art and can be interpreted as exemplifying both secularisation, as the gods of Valhalla give way to humanity, and re-enchantment, in that its performance allows the gods of Germanic myth to "live" on stage. This article addresses the issue of reception by looking at Wagner's medievalism, the modern Heathenry movement and its use of the Pagan past as a source of legitimation, and finally by examining attendance of performances of the Ring as a significant secular ritual activity that engages with Pagan gods and brings them to modern audiences, Heathen and otherwise.

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Medieval Influence on the Libretto of the Ring

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 27 June 2014 | 11:48:00 pm

Medieval Romance and Musical Narrative in Wagner’s Ring

J. P. E. Harper-Scott.

First printed in: 19th-Century Music 32, no. 3 (2009): 211–34

In some respects Wagner’s “medieval” practice has been well documented. Deryck Cooke offered a famously sensitive and detailed exploration of the literary and scholarly sources of the Ring in I Saw the World End. His findings on the central importance of the Poetic Edda to Wagner’s poems for the cycle have more recently been amplified by the literary scholar Stanley Hauer, who draws out in more detail Wagner’s metrical and lexical debt to the Scandinavian sources and his use of punning names.[1]As a study of the origins of the libretto and of Wagner’s synthesis of narrative elements, Cooke’s chapter remains useful. But in focusing exclusively on details of plot and (to a much more limited extent) of verse forms, both Cooke and Hauer miss the remarkable – indeed arguably unique – underlying structural principle of medieval narrative: the interlace structure. It is this important but “hidden” detail of medieval prose and poetic narratives that, translated into musical terms, constitutes perhaps Wagner’s most fruitful contribution to the history of music.

Cooke and Hauer demonstrate the high level of Wagner’s scholarly involvement and establish the realistic possibility that, while finding ways to shape his sources’ narratives to suit his dramatic ends, Wagner also replicated certain aspects of his sources’ structure in his musical language. The sources in question are both literary and scholarly. The literary texts are the Middle High German Nibelungenlied, the German-inspired (but Old Norse)Þiðreks saga, and the Old Norse Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Völsunga saga.[2] The scholarly studies Wagner owned and read include Karl Lachmann’s thesis on theNibelungenlied (“Habilitationsschrift” über die ursprungliche Gestalt des Gedichts von der Nibelungen Noth), which more or less founded strictly philological research into the lay, and works by the Grimm brothers (Wilhelm Grimm, Die deutsche Heldensage and Jakob Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie).[3]

The Nibelungenlied (ca. 1200) came late in the day for tales of a broadly comparable sort, even discounting the very ancient epic poetic or prose narratives (Iliad and Odyssey and the Indian Mahabharata); the Old English Beowulf (possibly twelfth century, though there is doubt) and Welsh Mabinogion (before AD 1000) still predate it.[4] The extent of theNibelungenlied-poet’s knowledge of earlier Scandinavian archetypes is unknown, but Cooke suggests that the poem was to some extent an amalgam of earlier lays.[5] For present purposes it does not matter whether the Nibelungenlied-poet knew the earlier sources; the poem’s style, particularly in relation to other medieval narratives, is what matters, because it was the style more than the detail of the literary hinterland that would manifest itself in Wagner’s stage works.

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The Scars of Yggdrasill: Conflict, Power & Family In The Ring

A surprisingly well written and "easy to read" Doctoral thesis from Dr David Bret Smithey. Introduction is reprinted here while the full 58 pages can be downloaded or read by following the link below.

The Scars of Yggdrasill: A comparative Study of the Conflict Between Selected Familial Relationships and the Will to Power in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

David Bret Smithey Florida State University.


The purpose of this paper is to explore the conflict between power, politics and family relationships in Richard Wagner's Der RingdesNibelungen. Selected familial relationships between characters will be analyzed using various methods, including Jungian analysis, comparative mythology and musical analysis. The project will attempt to show that interpretations of the Ring have not given enough attention to the tension and paradoxes inherent in family relationships in Wagner's tetralogy and will provide for a more human understanding of the cycle.


"Axe-time, sword-time, shields are sundered, wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls."

This quote from the Icelandic Edda, the source poetry for much of Teutonic myth, describes accurately the aura of great events that surround Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Richard Wagner had a great belief in the power of myth. He believed that myth was timeless and the conflicts that myth highlighted would be applicable to any age or situation. Part of what makes myth attractive to those who wish to interpret their own times is in the inherent flexibility of myth.

The most obvious difficulty in pursuing research about Der Ring des Nibelungen is the sheer size of the work itself. The four operas span sixteen to seventeen hours of stage time, and historically the writing of the work took up the larger part of Wagner's professional life. To facilitate understanding I suggest reading one of the published synopses of the Ring. Wagner wrote the poem Siegfried's Tod (what we now think of as Gotterddmmerung) first and expanded the poem backwards to create the other three operas. The music, in contrast, was written in performance order. This fact makes the identification of style and period more difficult than in other composers' works.

Although it is difficult to take on such a large subject in such a short format, it is necessary. Richard Wagner believed in changing the world of art by incorporating all of the art forms into the music drama equally. This combining all of the art forms is called Gesamtkunstwerk.

To discuss Wagner's work requires a breadth of inquiry from art to politics, and from myth to philosophy. He sought to create a new myth for the modern man.

Much of the scholarship devoted to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen has focused on political interpretations. It is easy to see why socio-political criticism has taken center stage in our attempts to understand Wagner's epic. Wagner himself was very active politically, both by means of the pen and in person, as in the aborted Dresden revolution. In Saxony in the year 1849 there was a violent uprising against the government that called for greater personal freedoms and a unified German state. Wagner played an active role, and after the rebellion was crushed, he had to flee to Switzerland.

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Listen Now: Seattle Opera's Mid 70's Ring Cycle

Walkures from Seattle's 1975 Ring

Made available, kindly, by Seattle Opera. There is also an interview with Joan Herald, who performed as Ortlinde in 1973's Settle Opera's 1973 Walkure to be found by clicking here

When Seattle Opera first began presenting Wagner's RING, in the mid-1970s, the cycle was done twice each summer--once in the original German, once in Andrew Porter's English singing translation. Recordings survive of some of those original cycles, thanks to KUOW, who broadcast the English-language performances for several years. Enjoy these excerpts showcasing the voices of Seattle Opera's first generation of Wagner stars.
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Seattle Opera To Release 2013 Ring Cycle On CD

A pity there is no DVD release, but at least it is something - and their first commercial recording release. Press release from Seattle Opera follows:

Wagner-lovers of the world, rejoice!

We’re giddy with excitement to announce Seattle Opera’s first-ever live audio recording: our fantastic Der Ring des Nibelungen from last summer.

Everyone seems to agree that our 2013 Ring was one for the history books.

General Director Speight Jenkins (who steps down this August after three decades at his post) felt the production was some of the company's best work. “By every measure: voices, orchestra, drama, audience excitement, I truly feel that the 2013 production was the bestRing I produced in my 31 years with the company," he said.

The press agreed.
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Video Preview: COC's Walkure. 2015

Christine Goerke , and others, discuss COC's up and coming January 2015 revival of Atom Egoyan's Walkure.

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The Deepening of the Wagner Conundrum

Originally published at the Wagner blog "Sacrifice" where much more Wagner related analysis and thoughts can be found. Reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

The Deepening of the Wagner Conundrum

Most serious Wagnerians know that the germinal seed for what became The Ring was the story Wagner called The Death of Siegfried. After laboring for months over the story, Wagner realized that in order for Siegfried’s Tod to do justice to his inspiration, the opera would be overburdened with narratives needed to supply necessary background. Therefore, he decided to expand the original concept with what we now call a prequel. The working title for this opera was (Das) Junge Siegfried. Ernest Newman in The Wagner Operas provides a far better history of the prolonged adding to the original idea as it became four operas than I can give here (see pages 420 – 450. First American Edition).
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Breaking: The Fight Continues At The MET Opera

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 | 5:51:00 pm

Starving Artists on the stage of the MET. La boheme
The battle, at least of words, continues  in New York over proposed cuts of 26% to the salaries of the MET Orchestra and Chorus. But this time not between Orchestra and Gelb but the Orchestra V The New York Times.

Monday saw the NYT run an editorial titled, The Real Drama at the Met: Labor (sic) Talks Turn Bitter at Metropolitan Opera. In this, they have suggested that the present economic situation at the MET is unworkable. In general they seem to take their lead from Gelb's statements about the situation. They note:

"...both sides should compromise on real cuts. For the unions, this means accepting changes in benefits and work rules. Management will have to cut salaries and expenses just as rigorously."

They hey cite data that has previously been provided by Gelb in support of this arguement. This includes:

"...average earnings for the chorus and orchestra running about $200,000 a year."

"$85,000 in benefits"

"16 weeks off with pay".

However, the MET Orchestra has responded that these figures are neither accurate or reflective of reality (It should be noted that in the MET Orchestra's recent report they note a salary of around  $164, 000 ("Furthermore, the actual proposals with which we have been presented reflect a cut in our annual earnings of between $41,000 to $62,000 (25.2% to a worse-case scenario of 37.55%. See here). Their response is"  below.

What do you think?

Statement from the Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Regarding Today’s New York Times Editorial
NEW YORK, NY—Monday, June 23, 2014—The MET Orchestra Musicians and Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, are deeply concerned about the future of the Metropolitan Opera.
Regarding today's editorial in the New York Times, The MET Orchestra would like to clarify a few important points:
  • The Met musicians are paid a competitive contract, a yearly salary that is commensurate with attracting and retaining the best players in the world. The musicians in fact do not have 16 weeks of vacation. Their guaranteed time off is equivalent to that of their peer orchestras (10 weeks), and is in part due to the recognition that they are at the disposal of the Met to perform 6 days a week during the season. Unutilized weeks are due to Peter Gelb's unpopular and counter-productive decision to end the beloved weeks of free summer concerts in New York City’s parks, which musicians still wish to play (and besides being a wonderful amenity for New Yorkers and visitors are a proven vehicle to expand the opera audience), as well as Gelb’s termination of the practice of touring, which has been a part of the Met season since its inception and also develops tourist audiences for the Met

  • Peter Gelb insists on citing an average salary number for musicians that has not been substantiated. The musicians and their legal team have been asking for months for the Met to provide figures showing where they are getting this average salary number, as well as the amount of stated benefits, but the Met has not provided it. We do not know if the Met provided proof to the Times, and we respectfully request that any press covering these matters ask Gelb for documentation to support this disputed figure. Furthermore, we ask that the press consider citing the median salary for the musicians, as this would more accurately represent what most musicians at the Met are paid – if you can get the data from management!

  • It is true, as the New York Times states, that The Met cannot continue on its present fiscal course. However, it is relevant to note that over Gelb's tenure the cost of musician labor has risen only modestly (slightly above inflation), while the non-labor budget increased by 50% ($105 Million). As the musicians pointed out in their report to the Met Opera Board the revivals of Peter Gelb's new productions, which have sold dismally, are pulling revenues down. In fact, when other opera houses around the world are thriving, there has been a 13% drop at the Met box office on Peter Gelb’s watch.

  • Given that last year the Met reported a $2.8 Million dollar deficit why does Gelb claim he needs $30 million in cuts (16%) to performers who are already being paid less than musicians in several other U.S. orchestras, in some cases in absolute dollars or, when calculating the cost-of-living to compensation ratio, less than their counterparts at most peer orchestras? Also, importantly, research conducted by the Orchestra indicates that the various cuts that Gelb has proposed actually constitute a reduction in compensation much greater than 16%, but in fact would constitute a 25-37% reduction in compensation. 

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Editorial: The MET, The Death of Klinghoffer & Why Wagnerians Should Be Very Afraid

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 20 June 2014 | 7:59:00 pm

The Death of Klinghoffer: ENO 2012
"My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, and it roundly condemns his brutal murder. "It acknowledges the dreams and the grievances of not only the Israeli but also the Palestinian people, and in no form condones or promotes violence, terrorism or anti-Semitism." John Adams, June 2014

"The cancellation of the international telecast is a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of ‘artistic freedom,’ and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera’s detractors claim to be preventing."  
John Adams, June 2014

Peter Gelb has made a number of odd decisions over the last few years but surely none can be as dangerous to the arts and to freedom of expression, while also an insult to the intelligence of those opera lovers that view opera at the cinema (and one assumes DVD) and a direct insult to Europeans; as his cancellation of the live relays of Adams and Goodman's (the latter of whom is of course Jewish) 'The Death of Klinghoffer'.  Of course, the work in question has not been without "controversy" since its premiere. The accusation that it is somehow "antisemitic"  is an old and much disputed one (for the record I consider to not be so - for whatever that is worth. And while trying to present a complex argument that is not as simple as many would like to pretend, it is clearly 'against' violence.) But most importantly its creators have repeated many times that it is not an antisemitic work- as have any number of critics.
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