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Opera Today

Watch Now: Siegfried Act 1.

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 20 December 2014 | 12:32:00 am


Queen City Chamber Opera, in collaboration with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati, continue to produce their Ring cycle - albeit one act at a time it would seem - as they turn their attention to act 1 of Siegfried. Well worth your time.

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Who Is Richard Wagner? Paul Dawson-Bowling

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 19 December 2014 | 10:24:00 am


The following is the introduction - especially adapted by the author -  to Paul Dawson-Bowling's two volume introduction and analysis of Wagner and his work: The Wagner Experience

The Wagner Experience

This is a book of enthusiasm. It is addressed to everyone with an interest or a potential interest in Richard Wagner. People who take to the Wagner Experience encounter something wonderful, like gazing into a silver mirror which dissolves into a miraculous, self-contained world, glinting with life-changing possibilities. There are others who sense its appeal but find it difficult, and the first aim of this study to provide an Open Sesame for anyone wanting it. The aim is to make things easier for new-comers by presenting Wagner’s works as they stand before us.[1] The book also offers good things to old-timers, scholars and longstanding enthusiasts in virtue of the distinctive disciplines and viewpoints which it applies; but for all those drawn to the Wagner Experience, the key factor is the direct encounter with his ten great stageworks as they are. This accounts for the first main purpose of this study, to describe them in all their immediacy.

This is not to belittle the background, or deny its importance. The man Wagner, his background and his output are so interwoven that an awareness of his circumstances, his influences, his sources, his explanatory prose works, the psychological considerations, the performance history and the reception history – all these things can deepen the Wagner Experience. Adding the right background can be like adding the right lenses during an eye test. As lenses are added, what was blurred takes on new focus and depth, and we see more clearly and better. Even so, trouble arises when anyone turns the background into the foreground in a way that inflates features from the margins and distorts Wagner’s explicit intentions. He created mysterious worlds of knights in shining armour, grottos of enticing eroticism, magic fire and quests for the Holy Grail. Does it add meaning if people are led to think of Das Rheingold as not really about beautiful Rhinemaidens swimming in luminous depths and not about the Rhinegold shining through the waters? How does it help if even in telling the story it is reconsituted in line with some unusual element from the background, if the gold is recast as faeces and Alberich the dwarf is made into a Freudian symbol of a deprived infant, wanting to play with his own excrement?[2] What if the Ring which Alberich forges from the gold becomes a bizarre combination of an anal and vaginal sphincter? This kind of thing may produce interesting glosses, according to taste, but it is not Wagner, and when someone promotes it as the real Wagner, I believe that error is at work, and a reworking of his intentions which is unwarranted. This is a particularly glaring example to make the point, but it is a real one; and a particular drawback is that these reworkings is that they can put off newcomers who are trying out the Wagner Experience. The same happens if Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is set up as a Luddite manifesto attacking industrialisation, on the grounds that Wagner later had a violent argument with a factory owner about factory conditions and because Die Meistersinger’s main characters are manual craftsmen.

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Parsifal: Jonathan Meese Is Out And Uwe Eric Laufenberg Is In

Uwe Eric Laufenberg -sans mother or swastikas

After  Jonathan Meese's less than graceful exit from Bayreuth's 2016 Parsifal, a replacement has been, very, quickly found. However, one suspects those looking for a straightforward reading and presentation of the text maybe somewhat disappointed given Uwe Eric Laufenberg's revisionist tendencies with Wagner's work. However, we might expect something  both closer to that text and perhaps much more coherent a production then we have seen at Bayreuth for sometime - we hope
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Nina Stemme: Tristan's Death Wish & Why Kundry Must Wait


While a typically pedestrian interview in someways - but one has to consider its audience and the journalists need to write for that audience - Rupert Christiansen's recent discussion with Nina Stemme, never-the-less produced some interesting moments.

Discussing the relationship between Tristan and  Isolde for example, she told him, “I used to be preoccupied with conveying Isolde’s status as a Princess and the reasons that she hated the love that she felt for Tristan – issues that dominate the first act. Now I’ve become more fascinated with what she feels about death. Tristan has always been suicidal, because he can’t believe he will ever be loved, but for her the idea of death as an escape is a new one.”

And as to the  work itself, "“What some people don’t realise is that Tristan is a chamber opera, delicately analysing the most intimate feelings. So I find more abstract productions difficult: it reads so much better if it seems human and specific."

And what of Brünnhilde? “For a long time, I thought Brünnhilde wasn’t really for me, and I still think very carefully before I commit,” she says. “I want to know who is conducting, who my colleagues will be, and what the production is like. But she’s inside me now. I need to sing her more, and I shall.” While Kundry must wait it would seem, “It will come, it’s in the diary. But first I have to get Elektra under my belt. ”

To read the full interview click here
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When Opera Directors Need To Step Back And Reevaluate Their Work

Düsseldorf Deutsche Oper am Rhein's Tannhauser.
An interesting discussion from Jessica Duchen which asks "Should an opera production be changed if audiences dislike it?" Sparked by the clear revision of Christof Loy’s production of Tristan und Isolde at the ROH this season and going on to discuss the Glyndebourne/Richard Jones’s new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Mariinsky’s staging of the Ring and Düsseldorf Deutsche Oper am Rhein's Tannhauser.
 
When the director Christof Loy’s production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde first opened at the Royal Opera House in 2009, some of the audience were in for a shock.

The set was dominated by a long, high, diagonal wall; and people seated on the left-hand edge of the auditorium found their sight lines virtually non-existent. Loud booing resulted on opening night; anybody would be angry after paying Wagnerian prices – in every sense – for an opera they could scarcely see.

Beyond the wall, though, the production was psychologically fascinating; and now it is back to Covent Garden starring, as Isolde, Nina Stemme, widely regarded as today’s greatest Wagnerian soprano. And the angle of that wall has been shunted by a few degrees; the theatre is offering a reduced price on seats where the view is still restricted.

Unlike mainstream theatre, opera is not blessed with a run of previews in which the creative team can fine-tune the staging and catch any likely bloopers. If something goes wrong, it tends to do so under the spotlight of acerbic critics and full-price audiences. Mistakes happen – this was a biggie – but how much can and should a production be changed if it goes over badly with its audience?

Most directors would naturally regard the idea as anathema. A good director has, in certain ways, to function as a benign dictator to realise a consistent concept; and anybody would need the hide of a large reptile to shrug off negative reactions. Mucking around with a show to try to please everyone risks pleasing nobody; besides, controversy is often a driving force in opera. If something strong is being said, somebody, somewhere, is bound to dislike it.

And in the best cases that is exactly why the director should stick to his or her guns. The 1976 production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth by Patrice Chéreau, set during the Industrial Revolution, was greeted with considerable revulsion at first, yet in due course it became a true classic.





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Lyric Opera's Ring - Reinterpreting Wagner?

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 7 December 2014 | 8:14:00 pm

 Kearley, Sayers, Pountney,  Lecca, and Matthew Rees
With the sad and untimely death of Johan Engels, the remaining  team behind  Lyric Opera's Ring Cycle discuss the productions future, a discussion  that may provide hints on its visual, narrative focus.

Talking to Deanna Isaacs, in a room that tantalizingly contained models of Engels' set design behind blackout curtains, and with a clearly subdued team,  model maker Matthew Rees, who was sitting in for Engels, said "We're all devastated". As David Pountney had said early last month, "Johan’s death leaves an enormous void in my personal and artistic life. We were very close collaborators, having worked on over 20 operas together over the last 20 years, and not only did we have two important projects for WNO this year, but had just completed designs for the Ring in Chicago due to be premiered over the next 5 years. Everyone who has seen one of Johan’s productions will mourn the loss of this artist with a superb aesthetic grasp and stunning visual flair. I have lost an inspiration and a friend.The theatre has lost one of its most brilliant and dedicated practitioners.'

So, where does this leave the production? David Pountney explained, as one might expect given his track record with Wagner, that this production will not be one that revises the narrative - whatever it  maybe about.  Pountney was keen to point out that any re-write of the work that places it, as has become popular, within a narrative that seems to support Fascism and the Third Reich in particular (a re-write that  was first done by the Nazis themselves, as they did with the work of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Bach and much else) is not what he wants.  Indeed, he was adamant that,"To narrow the vision that yielded (the Ring and the 20 years that Wagner spent on it) is incredibly stupid." Poutney says they simply want to "tell the story,". As Wagner seemed to want, and as might, at last in someways, be fitting with the intellectual zeitgeist of his time, any interpretation will be made by the audience. If Wagner intended that his audience should interpret its meaning only by what he wrote (and clearly the Ring is much more than an operatic "Epic Fantasy" - at least if you want it to be) this is now an oddly  fresh  approach to Wagner productions.

But does this mean a use of "high tech" theatrical effects like those of the METS recent Ring cycle? Not according to Pountney, "This Ring will be characterized by its avoidance of high tech,”  It'll be "pure theater," with the "virtuosity" coming out in the storytelling. While each opera will have its own environment and the cycle will move through time, the works will be mounted on a "common theatrical skeleton," with the artifice exposed.


The full interview can be read here
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Dame Gwyneth Jones Discusses "The Wagner Experince"

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 28 November 2014 | 11:25:00 pm


We have had many guest authors here over the years but surely none can be as special  as that of Dame Gwyneth Jones. In this review, Dame Gwyneth takes time from what remains an incredibly  busy schedule to review Paul Dawson-Bowling's book "The Wagner Experience"  Not only does it provide an unique review of Paul's two volume Wagner book but also an intriguing look at Dame Gwyneth Jones relationship to Wagner, his work  and productions of his work. A must read.

Edit: It has been pointed out the book is now available on Kindle for only £10.99. See below

THE WAGNER EXPERIENCE BY PAUL DAWSON-BOWLING:

THE PERFECT GIFT, THE PERFECT POSSESSION

Dame Gwyneth Jones

Christmas is just around the corner, someone very special is having an occasion to celebrate, or you just feel like spoiling yourself! This set of two wonderful books, beautifully presented, truly makes the ideal gift. But not only that! They are a “must” to have, as a reference to Wagner’s life and his incredible compositions and are ideal for placing in the lounge or bedroom for visiting guests to browse through, or for refreshing one’s memory of the stories, the sources and the lessons of Wagner’s great dramas, before attending the performance.

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Latvian Wagner Coin Wins International Award

Just goes to prove there is no award Wagner cannot win.

At the World Coin News’ Coin of the Year Award an international panel of judges bestowed Best Silver Coin honors to Latvia’s 1 lats coin marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of composer Richard Wagner, KM-140.

The coin dedicated to Wagner was issued in June 2013 to mark the 200th anniversary . It commemorates the active Riga period of the composer when he took to writing his first important opera "Rienzi".

The authors of the coin are Aigars Ozolins (graphic design of he front), Ivo Grundulis (graphic design of reverse) and Ligita Franckevica (plaster model). The coin was struck by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (Netherlands)



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The Wagnerian's Reader Choice Awards - 2014

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 16 November 2014 | 9:17:00 pm


Update: Due to a technical error (well, to be honest we thought we had closed the voting but we had not) we are keeping the polls open till the last day in November. The virtual award ceremony will run week beginning the 21 December 2014.  Who is the greatest living conductor of Wagner?  Plus who has our editor selected for special editors awards? Find out soon.

Time flies so  quickly it seems, for it is now 10 months since we first asked you to nominate entries, in  a number of categories, in the first "Wagnerian's Readers Choice Awards (henceforth "The Wagnerians"), Indeed, so enthusiastic was the response that we needed to run a semi-final a few months later to reduce the number of  entries in the male and female performer categories - from over 18 in each down now to more manageable 8.

So why has it taken so long to get the final voting? A number of reasons, that included not only technical ones but the way in  which we could include certain categories. Indeed, so complex did this become, that we have felt the need, at least this year, to leave certain  categories out - such as best CD. We won't bore you at this stage why this is the case apart from saying we are looking at how to address this next year.

But never-mind that for the present, for you finally have the opportunity to make your voice known below. This year there are five categories: Conductor, female and male performer, book and app of the year. All require a vote, apart from phone app of the year. This last omission is due to the simple fact that that not everyone that votes may have a "smart phone".

If the embedded form doesn't work for you below, click here. No login needed and no personal data kept.

A special thank you gift once you have voted
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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - 10 Day Study Course




Opera in Depth with David Nice: Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Frontline Club
12 January – 16 March 2015 14.30-16.30

In the second term of his new Opera in Depth course at the Frontline Club, a year of epics, David Nice devotes 10 two-hour classes to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - a masterpiece that will never outstay its welcome. David, who has now explored all the major Wagner operas over 25 years of opera classes, last took students through Meistersinger five years at the time of Richard Jones’s revelatory new production for Welsh National Opera with Bryn Terfel making his role debut as Sachs.
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Bayreuth Kick Jonathan Meese Out Of The Festival - Making Sense?

Johnathan Meese clearing out his desk at Bayreuth?
Jonathan Meese has been a controversial figure from the moment he signed a contract with the Wagner sisters to direct 2016's Parsifal. Even we had our reservations, given his unconventional thoughts on Wagner and his lack of experience with directing opera (or given that this is Parsifal, more correctly drama). Other commentators have cited what some have called his obsession with Nazi symbolism or indeed what we described as his pythonesque response during and following his selection as 2016's director.  

However, it is none of these factors that seem to have lead to him being unceremoniously "booted" from Bayreuth.  Instead the festival's commercial director Heinz-Dieter Sense  has said the reason is one of affordability.

As Sense said today, "Substantial financing problems emerged from the very beginning with regard to the planned stage sets and costumes.The available budget would have been substantially overrun. And this is not acceptable."

A surprising statement given the costs of 2013's Ring cycle.

A rather "irritated" Meese has responded to his ousting by saying  "Bayreuth has long ceased to be about  Art. It's now all about self-preservation, power and the struggle against declining relevance.. "

And of the Bayreuth management team? He talks of   "intimidation" and a "culture of domination and obedience". He also says: ".. Artists fail at Bayreuth, because art has no home there"

"Meese has not failed  Wagner" he says, but "Bayreuth has failed Meese" Indeed, it would seem the "2016 Meese Festival at Bayreuth" will not now take place.  Perhaps we might have some Wagner instead?

As of writing, a new director has not been announced,  
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Does Listening To Wagner Mess With Your Mind?

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 15 November 2014 | 7:53:00 pm

 
The following, free, event at the Birmingham Hippodrome looks very interesting, We will be there. Details from the organizers below:

Hearing Wagner in the Being Human Festival: Does Wagner mess with our minds?

Saturday 22 November 10:30 - 17:00
Birmingham Hippodrome Patrick Centre Theatre

The emotional impact of music is undeniable, and this is nowhere more obvious than in Romantic music such as the operas of Richard Wagner. But can the effects of music be measured? Is this even desirable? The Hearing Wagner event taking place at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November aims to air these and other questions and show how psychologists and musicologists are working together to understand better what is going on in these extraordinary works.
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Wagner Related Thought Of The Day

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 1 November 2014 | 8:24:00 am





One sometimes feels that no one has the measure of Nietzsche like Will Durant:
 
"Nietzsche was the child of Darwin and the brother of Bismarck. 

It does not matter that he ridiculed the English evolutionists and the German nationalists: he was accustomed to denounce those who had most influenced him; it was his unconscious way of covering up his debts." William James Durant . The Story of Philosophy.
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A Visit To Richard Wagner - And A Special Gift. 1852

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 31 October 2014 | 7:11:00 pm


"Mendelssohn, was a gentleman of refinement and high degree; a man of culture and polished manner; a courtier who was always at home in evening dress. As was the man, so is his music, full of elegance, grace, finish, and refinement, but carried without variance to such a degree that at times one longs for brawn and muscle. Yet it is music that is always exquisite, fairy-like, and fine in character. Richard Wagner, 1852

"Wagner stopped walking a moment, and looked about the room as if searching for something. Then he rushed to a corner, and seizing a walking-stick, raised it as if it were a baton.
"Here is Beethoven," he exclaimed, "the working-man in his shirt-sleeves, with his great herculean breast bared to the elements." Richard Wagner 1852



William Mason (Boston, January 24, 1829 – New York City, July 14, 1908) was an American composer and pianist.  Son of Lowell Mason, a leading figure in American church music. His younger brother, Henry Mason, was a co-founder of the piano manufacturers Mason and Hamlin.

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Now Available: Wagner Journal November 2014

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 30 October 2014 | 9:51:00 pm


Contents:

• 'Kundry’s Baptism, Kundry’s Death' by Christopher Wintle


• 'Timely Timelessness: Regietheater at Bayreuth in the 1970s' by Simon Williams


• 'Wagner Manuscripts at the British Library' by Nicolas Bell


plus reviews of:


the Hans Castorf Ring in Bayreuth


Der fliegende Holländer in Copenhagen


Tristan und Isolde in Lübeck and Florence


a concert performance of Götterdämmerung in Leeds


CDs of a solo disc by James Rutherford and of Wagner's edition of Gluck's Iphigenia in Aulis


Stefan Herheim's Die Meistersinger, Parsifal directed by Romeo Castellucci and Wolfgang Wagner on DVD, together with Joachim Herz's pioneering Der fliegende Holländer


New books on Wagner and Freud by Tom Artin, Wagner and Manet by Therese Dolan, Schultze und Müller's satirical take on the Ring and The Cambridge History of Music Performance, ed. Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell

More At: The Wagner Journal

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How Much Would You Pay To Watch Gergiev Conduct The Ring?

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 26 October 2014 | 4:57:00 pm

Valery Gergiev - Going cheap?
About a year ago, the Birmingham Hippodrome (UK) and the Mariinsky Opera announced that the Mariinsky Opera/Gergiev  Ring would be performed, complete and fully staged, this November. Now, as I am sure most of you are aware Ring cycle tickets have a tendency to sell out - and quickly. However, that has not been the case in Birmingham. Indeed, as I type there are over 500 seats still unsold across the entire cycle.

Why? No one seems to be saying.  Is it a rather tepid Walkure on CD from Gergiev last year? Or is it that this particular cycle did not receive anywhere near universal approval from audiences and critics last time it was in London? We don't know,  but tickets prices starting at £240 ($386) and going upto £720 ($1160) for an entire Cycle cannot be helping (If you are not a frequent opera goer in Europe. it might help that you can see an entire Ring Cycle at Bayreuth for £98  - $148!).

Whether this has anything to do with today's announcement from Birmingham I shall leave upto you. Should you have not bought tickets yet, Birmingham Hippodrome has announced 100 tickets per opera will be made available on a ballot basis at just £30 each (plus 5% transaction charge), representing a discount of up to 85% on some tickets.

According to Birmingham Hippodrome Chief Executive, Stuart Griffiths "After years of planning we are delighted to be presenting The Ring Cycle in its entirety right here in Birmingham. And, thanks to the generous support of BP we are thrilled to be able to offer more people the experience of live opera at an extremely discounted rate via this special ballot."

To take part, if seeing the entire Ring at still more than you would pay at Bayreuth interests you,  you can do so by emailing ringcycleballot@birminghamhippodrome.com with your full name, contact phone number, address and the best time to be contacted by Wednesday 29 October. Successful ticket applicants will be drawn at random and contacted by phone by Birmingham Hippodrome for payment in advance following the deadline. (Terms and conditions apply - apparently),

If you would like more information you might trying contacting the Birmingham Hippodrome by clicking here,

Details below:

Mariinsky Theatre's presentation of Richard Wagner's The Ring Cycle runs at Birmingham Hippodrome Wed 5 - Sun 9 November 2014 with the following four opera performance schedule:

Wednesday 5 November 2014 - Das Rheingold - 7.30pm

Thursday 6 November 2014 - Die Walküre - 5pm

Saturday 8 November 2014 - Siegfried - 5pm

Sunday 9 November 2014 - Götterdämmerung - 5pm

Standard tickets can be booked online at birminghamhippodrome.com or by telephone on 0844 338 5000.Calls from 5p per min, 5% fee applies, postage from £1. Prices and discounting subject to change.

* Terms & Conditions:

No refunds, transfers or exchanges;

Tickets can only be used by named applicant;

Tickets void if resold for profit.

Successful applicants only collect tickets with ID on the night.

This offer cannot be combined with any other offer or applied retrospectively.

Unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted.

Photo: Conductor VALERY GERGIEV
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Boston Wagner Event: The Beauty of the Abyss

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 24 October 2014 | 5:40:00 pm

Jean Delville, "Tristan et Iseut,
 
The View from the Rim: Tristan, the Grand Canyon, and the Beauty of the Abyss

Presented by
James Holman, Chairman of the Wagner Society of Washington DC

The quarter century from 1857 to 1883, from the composition of Tristan und Isolde to the composer’s death, marked a period of unprecedented and revolutionary change, change in the way we look at the world and the way we look at ourselves. The “discovery” of the Grand Canyon, and the beauty of looking “downward,” is an apt metaphor, both for Wagner’s masterpiece and for a civilization coming to terms with the modern world.

Please join us for another superb presentation by James Holman, Chairman of the Wagner Society of Washington DC and author/editor of several books on Wagner. The book Quo Vadis, Wagner: Approaching the Bicentennial will be distributed for free and signed by Chairman James K. Holman, who is the editor. The book includes essays by luminaries such as Leon Botstein, Jeffrey Buller, Maureen Dowd, Evelyn Lear, Saul Lilienstein, Barry Millington, John J. Pohanka, Alex Ross, Nicholas Vazsony, Simon Williams, and Francesca Zambello

Sunday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m.
The College Club
44 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston

Tickets: $15; Members $10
For tickets, click HERE.

For more information: info@bostonwagnersociety.org ∙ 617-323-6088
Boston Wagner Society
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History Of The Ring Cycle In The USA - 1850-1903

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 23 October 2014 | 8:20:00 pm

"While Tommasini’s statement seems to neatly encapsulate the Ring cycle’s significance today, it also raises the question of why it appears to be Wagner’s cycle, and not some other operatic work, that now defines one pinnacle of opera production, or perhaps to a certain extent, even cultural progress, in cities all over the world." Hannah Chan

A highly readable doctoral dissertation from Dr Hannah Chan, that documents and discusses
the American performance and reception of Wagner's Cycle between 1850-1903 and its legacy and impact. Highly recommended

Der Ring des Nibelungen in the New World: the American performance and reception of Wagner's Cycle, 1850-1903

 Hannah Chan

Abstract: Given the central position of Wagner’s operas in art music culture over the past century and a half, the performance and reception of his works in various national contexts has received—and continues to receive—considerable scholarly attention. Of significant interest is the period of the late nineteenth century, when the composer’s aesthetic theories and music were being introduced and disseminated on both sides of the Atlantic. This dissertation examines the early performance and reception history of Wagner’s monumental operatic cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, in the social and cultural context of opera production and performance in the United States from 1850 to 1903.

 It considers the social and cultural processes that led to the incorporation of the work’s operas into an ongoing repertory, about a decade before World War I interrupted the process of the assimilation of Wagner’s legacy in American performances. 

This study is situated within the context of the vital transatlantic relationship between Germany and the U.S. that brought about the rise and dissemination of German musical culture—and in particular, Wagner’s music—in the New World during this period. The chapters of the dissertation focus on two chief facilitators of this development: 1) German and German-American musicians who promoted the composer’s music through performance; and 2) American critics who advocated on behalf of these works. 

The production and reception of Wagner’s Ring in nineteenth-century America was more than a simple cultural exchange; the process was one in which the U.S. (with certain cities at the forefront) came to define itself as a culturally progressive nation, open to the assimilation of German musical culture. Moreover, in bringing their music to American audiences, German musicians moved into the American musical world and in doing so, many became themselves American. Concerning the Ring dramas, this dissertation investigates the ways in which these musicians first introduced and disseminated the cycle’s music to Americans, and the key role of German artists who were imported to the U.S. for the first American stagings of the work’s operas.

 This discussion is positioned within a broader consideration of the social and economic conditions that influenced the American production of Wagner opera, as it moved from the theatres of New York’s Kleindeutschland (Little Germany) to elite institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera House, and eventually, from the Metropolitan Opera to other major American cities. In tandem with the early performance history of the Ring in the U.S., the American reception of Wagner’s Ring cycle is analyzed utilizing two methods. One is a demographic study of the audiences who were present at the operas’ performances in Bayreuth and the U.S. To ascertain what kinds of Americans went to performances of the Ring and the extent to which they were interested in its music (compared to other Wagner operas and foreign-language opera in general), extant records such as visitor lists, box office receipts, and recorded observations in the media are examined. These sources reveal that the nineteenth-century mania for Wagner in the United States was primarily led by the middle and upper-middle classes, comprising of Anglo- and German-Americans who were guided by the notion that cultivating an appreciation of his music enabled their social mobility. 

The other approach is an assessment of the opinions of American music critics, as published in reviews and articles for major newspapers and periodicals. At this time, the influx of Wagner’s music into the United States was accompanied by the parallel rise of music criticism as a profession. Certain journalists stood to shape the tastes of Americans for his operas and in this study, their responses to the music and staging of the Ring dramas at different historical points are evaluated in detail. In sum, the writings of these critics document their shifting attitudes to, and changing experiences with, the Ring operas, as they were coming to terms with the composer’s aesthetic theories and works, while seeking to groom American audiences for them. 

Click Here To Download .








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The Fatality of Romanticism vs. The Metaphysics of Sexual Love: Wagner's Love Letter

The Fatality of Romanticism vs. The Metaphysics of Sexual Love: Wagner's Love Letter to Schopenhauer and the Break-Up with Nietzsche.

Robert Cowan

Journal Article Monatshefte 106(1) 1-16 (2014) 

"Goethe hat sich einmal die Fragevorgelegt, was die Gefahr sei, dieu¨ber allen Romantikern schwebe: dasRomantiker-Verha¨ngniss. Seine Antwortist: ,,am Wiederka¨uern sittlicher undreligio¨ser Absurdita¨ten zu ersticken.“Ku¨rzer: Parsifal".—Friedrich Nietzsche, Der Fall Wagner: Ein Musikanten-Problem (1888) 

Introduction: How to Achieve Transcendence

Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche are well known as embattled dis-ciples of Arthur Schopenhauer and both, like their mentor, struggle to rec-oncile conceptions of immanence and transcendence. But for Wagner, thisbattle does not center around questions of happiness, as it does for Schopen-hauer, or power, as it does for Nietzsche. For the composer, immanence andtranscendence are bound up in the battle between sexual union and chastity.

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Book Of The Month:Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire

Update: Sadly, it seems that Amazon has now "sold out" and are awaiting new stock. It has, however,  been bought to our attention that it can still be bought directly from the publisher, Ashgate. It is also a little cheaper there too. More details by clicking here

We have left this book far to long to review. So,  one shall follow shortly, But in the mean time we have decided to make this our book of the month. Yes, it is horrendously expensive but that surely is what libraries are for - should you not want to make the investment.  Full details below and a more than generous sample also. 

Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire: Politics and Religion in Wagner's Ring.

Mark Berry, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Mark Berry explores the political and religious ideas expounded in Wagner's Ring through close attention to the text and drama, the multifarious intellectual influences upon the composer during the work's lengthy gestation and composition, and the wealth of Wagner source material. Many of his writings are explicitly political in their concerns, for Wagner was emphatically not a revolutionary solely for the sake of art. Yet it would be misleading to see even the most 'political' tracts as somehow divorced from the aesthetic realm; Wagner's radical challenge to liberal-democratic politics makes no such distinction. This book considers Wagner's treatment of various worlds: nature, politics, economics, and metaphysics, in order to explain just how radical that challenge is.
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Free Audio Book: The Case of Wagner / Nietzsche Contra Wagner



From those very kindle volunteers at LibriVox.

The Case of Wagner / Nietzsche Contra Wagner / Selected Aphorisms
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Two Free Wagner Books For Your Kindle By Judith Gautier

"Chère, I am sad! There is another reception this evening, but I shall not be going to it! I reread a few pages of my life which I once dictated to Cosima! She sacrifices herself to her father's habits, - alas! Could it have been for the last time that I held you in my arms this morning? No! - I shall see you again - I want to see you! because I love you! - Adieu - Be good to me! R Wagner in a letter to Judith Gautier.

Often described as Wagners "muse" during Parsifal -  as Mathilde Wesendonk is supposed to have been his muse during the creation of Tristan - it is certain that Judith Gautier and Wagner were close. So close that Wagner named his chaise-longue after her!  

It is also clear that she became an "enthusiastic fan", not only attending the first Bayreuth Festival but spending much time with the Wagners. However, Gaultier was much more than a "muse" or "wagnerian" she was also a poet, novelist, feminist and Oriental scholar. Of especial interest to us is that not only did she translate Parsifal to French but she also wrote a first-hand account of her first two visits to the Wagner's Villa Tribschen. This was translated into english in 1911 and published  by (in a rather ironic turn, considering what they went onto become) Mills and Boon.

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LFO Announce Cast Of New Tristan Und Isolde - 2015

Tristan and Isolde lithograph by Milen Litchkov
 
Longborough return to Wagner after a, sort of, rest season, with a new production of Tristan. Details below.

12, 16, 18, 20 June

CONDUCTOR Anthony Negus
DIRECTOR Carmen Jakobi
DESIGNER Kimie Nakano
LIGHTING DESIGNER Ben Ormerod
CHOREOGRAPHER Didy Veldman

Sung in German with English surtitles.

Longborough’s Wagner journey continues with this eagerly-awaited new production conducted by Anthony Negus, directed by Carmen Jakobi.

Performances begin at 3.00 pm and have a short interval after Act One and a longer 75 minute dining interval after Act Two


CAST
Tristan – Peter Wedd (12, 16, 20 June), Neal Cooper (18 June)
Isolde – Rachel Nicholls (12, 16, 20 June), Lee Bisset (18 June)
Kurwenal – Andrew Slater (12, 16, 20 June)
King Marke – Frode Olsen
Brangäne – Catherine Carby (12, 16, 20 June), Harriet Williams (18 June)
Melot – Ben Thapa (12, 16, 20 June), Stephen Rooke (18 June)

More At LFO
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Washington National Opera Announces Complete Casting for 2016's Ring

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 | 11:12:00 pm

Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced complete casting for its first full presentation of Richard Wagner's four-part Ring cycle. Three cycles will be presented from April 30 to May 22, 2016 and will be directed by Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and conducted by WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin. Contribution packages with priority seating for The Ring are on sale now. For more information, go to WNO's Ring website.

The complete casting announcement follows the principal casting announcement this spring. WNO's Ring cycles feature two Brunnhildes. Acclaimed British soprano Catherine Foster, who will make her U.S. debut in Cycles I and II. Internationally renowned Swedish soprano Nina Stemme  makes her WNO debut in Cycle III. American heldentenor Daniel Brenna,  takes on the role in the United States for the first time. American bass-baritone Alan Held, an experienced Wagnerian who has appeared in more than 20 WNO productions, returns to his celebrated portrayal of Wotan.
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Bernd Weikl And Why You Should Simply Not Take It Anymore

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 7 October 2014 | 8:55:00 pm

Sarcasm and satire - dangerous tools. Not for the power their use may have when used well (although this too has its dangers), but if they are misunderstood by their audience. No more so then in 'Wagner studies' where, if one didn't know better, it is easy to assume that certain interpretations of Wagner's work and characters must surely be the work of a mischievous mind - or sometimes just a very strange one. After all, how else are we to accept interpretations by those that insist that Wagner meant Klingsor to represent a negative Jewish stereotype because, somehow, we are to equate Klingsor's self castration with Jewish circumcision!1

Indeed, so familiar are many of us with these bizarre interpretations being placed upon Wagner and his work that when world famous Wagner baritone Bernd Weikl recently published a book titled 'Why Richard Wagner needs to be banned in Germany', it was difficult for us not to sigh in exasperation and conclude the inevitable. This is especially so when, during a quick scan, he presents evidence from many commentators on Wagner's work - including opera directors and the media as well as Wagner academics - that 'prove' that Wagner's work is littered with antisemitic messages; using this to call for Wagner and his work to be banned in Germany under articles 130. and 131 of the German Criminal Code. And this despite the fact that Weikl had published a book just a year or so earlier 'acquitting' Wagner and his work from being responsible for the Third Reich and the Holocaust. After all, flip-flopping around ones assumptions about Wagner and his work is not unusual. Take Joachim Köhler, for example who has shifted his views from Wagner somehow influencing Hitler from beyond the grave to "Wagner was only joking all along. Of course he didn't mean it", "What a funny guy he really was".

And let us never forget that Wagner as the creator of Hitler; Wagner as antisemitic; Wagner as womanizer; Wagner as cross dresser; Wagner and his "terrible beliefs" - this Wagner sells and sells well. Indeed it always has. 'Good copy' in Wagner literature means controversy and more controversy. Wagner the self proclaimed, unembarrassed, social Utopian; Wagner the animal lover; Wagner who called for social equality; Wagner who called for freedom for all "men" (of any race); Wagner who called for the integration of the Jews into German society; Wagner who was generous - often overly and frequently disastrously so to his own finances; Wagner who formed the Wagner societies so that, in part, they would fund the attendance by some of the poorest in society to visit Bayreuth - sadly this (if sometimes inconsistent) Wagner 'doesn't sell' (oddly appropriate from a man whose most terrible political thought, to some minds, was a damning critique of capitalism). Indeed, and at the risk of sounding paranoid (and yet I have been presented with strong evidence over the years that would suggest just so), there are certain powerful forces within Wagnerism that would seem to be much happier for 'their' Wagner to be of the 'right' of the political spectrum than probably a truer place on the 'left'. And of course all of this controversy and reconstruction of Wagner's music and librettos, which adds to the casual label of "this terrible man and his wonderful art", means that his critique of capitalism and social inequalities can be dismissed along with everything else. But should this come as a surprise in a society in which our 'Wagnerian' Chancellor of the Exchequer today called charities "anti-business" and told business leaders to raise their heads “above the parapet” and fight back against those very charities? (What happened to your leader's "Big Society", George? Shouldn't everything be run by charities by now?). But I digress - and rant to be honest. I take a deep breath, wait for the usual -whenever things like this are mentioned- unliking on facebook and unfollowing on Twitter -  by followers of Ayn Rand and those that feel they really understand Nietzsche's thought. Oh and there goes another Tea Party member. Oh, well. Hang on a minute. A few more deep breaths and a nice cup of tea are needed...

Right. Back. Ignore the last few sentences - they have little, if anything, to do with our recent conversation with the more than sane and rational Bernd Weikl, to which we shall now return with haste. So, given Weikls's book, its title, its content, the reaction of many reviewers in Germany and the general trend in Wagner literature, we were more than pleased when Bernd got in contact with us to set the record straight. You see, a little like Peter Finch's character Howard Beale, in Sidney Lumet's satirical 'Network News', Bernd is "as mad as hell and isn't taking it anymore." (Click the link if you are unfamiliar with the reference). In brief, his argument is this:

Many, many Wagner academics - and many more 'pseudo-academics' - have analyzed Wagner's work and found, they tell us, his thought to be proto-Nazi, as too is his work. Worse, he litters his work with his fascist and antisemitic messages. The Ring, Parsifal and Meistersinger are filled with antisemitic caricatures - clear to his audience at the time and there for all to see. His message is clear in his work: Jews are evil, not to be trusted, responsible for all of the worlds ills and must be 'dealt with'. None of this can be doubted, It is 'proven fact'. In turn, this 'fact' is taken up by the media, who repeat it, ad nauseum. (Something I discussed last year)

Tannhauser?
Further directors, in Germany especially, of Wagner's work leap upon this interpretation with a rather unhealthy enthusiasm. There may be, Bernds points out, more Nazi symbolism in a typical German Wagner production today than one would have found at a Nazi rally during the 1940s. As he told us, "There is not a single day without Hitler and Nazi symbols on Germany's stages [in Wagner productions]. Its criminal". If you want to make a career in opera in Germany, he tells us, then make sure your Wagner production is littered with swastikas.

And thus we get to the point of his book: Weikl does not accept the 'evidence' that Alberich is a negative Jewish stereotype, or indeed any other character in any of Wagner's works. Equally, there is no underlying antisemitism in Wagner's work says Weikl, and as he discusses in his previous work. More importantly there is no evidence for it.  To use an example we, not Weikl, provided recently, Antonio Pappano and Keith Warner may happily say with confidence that there is simply no denying the antisemitic messages in the Ring and that this has been 'proven beyond doubt' - which can be happily broadcast on national television with no alternative viewpoints - but this, says Weikl is "nonsense" and indeed "criminal".

Indeed, the evidence is nothing more than poor academic reasoning - and worse - fantasy, or at best wild conjecture. If it was presented in a court of law, he argues, for example under articles 130. and 131 of the German Criminal Code as he calls for in his book, there would be no alternative but for the case to be dismissed. And if it was dismissed then advocates would have little alternative to admit it was simple theorizing. And for Weikl even more importantly it might finally put an end to the proliferation of what he describes as - and with which it is difficult to argue - filthy Nazi symbolism found on German stages using Wagner's work as an excuse. As he says, it would seem that due to this interpretation of Wagner's work, Hitler is more alive and well on Germany's opera stages then he ever was during his life. And to support this he sent us many newspaper cuttings of recent Wagner productions that prove his point. "There is not a single day without Hitler," he told us, "Should we laugh, or should we cry?" he asks, "Or should we get angry?", echoing Peter Finch's character. And angry he is. Publish a book, he tells us, with evidence that puts forward an alternative to what one writer on Wagner calls "The Wagner Nazi Conspiracy theory" and it is ignored, Not only by the media but often by many Wagner Societies and other such organisations and groups. Alternatively, publish a book within the existing Wagner paradigm and it is lauded as a 'masterpiece' and promoted without hesitation - no mater how bizarre its conclusions or clearly weak its 'evidence'.

And consider how many opera directors claim to dislike Wagner he told us, sending a number of interviews with high profile directors whose productions are indeed nazified deconstructions and reinventions of Wagner's thoughts. "Some state they even dislike Wagner's music" he notes pointing to an interview with the director of last year's Bayreuth Ring.

There is only one answer left to him, present all of the evidence of the 'prosecution' - from Theodor W. Adorno to Marc A. Weiner and everyone in between - to the courts. If they are correct then there can only be one outcome, to ban Wagner's work in Germany. This is the only logical conclusion he argues. But if they are deemed wrong or the evidence is insubstantial? Then there is little alternative but for authors to finally admit so. The case, he tells us, is far from proven. But even more importantly, he insists that the incidents of Nazi material and what he considers propaganda must be prevented from being given time on German opera stages.

He does regret perhaps, not adding a clearer introduction to his book to clarify his intent and the satirical nature of his work - something that will be rectified in a new English translation to be released shortly. Here he will suggest to readers it is not he who wishes to ban Wagner but that this will be done eventually by the  result of littering his stage work with Nazi symbols and unfounded allegations about the nature of his work.

While I was writing this, he sent us a mail regarding the scandal caused in Germany last year around the Düsseldorf Tannhäuser; the so called 'Nazi themed' Tannhauser that was forced to cancel, so upset and outraged were audience members. Something that we reported at the time. It brought back memories to Bernd of productions he had taken part in during a career that started in 1972. He loves Wagner, he reminded us. Try and think, he asked, what it felt like to perform Han Sachs when he knew certain people believed he was putting forward Nazi propaganda. He recalled one production of Tannhauser wherein he was forced to perform the Lied an den Abendstern while wearing a Nazi armband. A professional he may be, but a cold and distanced performer he isn't and cannot be. Can you imagine how that felt, he asked? And what about the audience?

As he had told us earlier, "There has to be an end to this horrible devastation being done upon our composer and his work. When we destroy all of  our culture we will end up with a right-wing waiting eagerly to fill this vacuum."

Ban Wagner in Germany? No! Ban productions that use Wagner as an excuse to saturate German stages with Nazi paraphernalia and propaganda? Yes! And Now! As Howard Beale told his audience, "Go out there and tell them, I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"

Notes:

1 - It should also be noted that one of the earliest people to  make this link between castration and circumcision was Freud in 1919, adding it to the Oedipus complex and using it, in part, towards a psychoanalytical theory to explain antisemitism - long after Wagner was dead, never mind after writing Parsifal. There are nodoubt all sorts of reasons that Klingsor self castrated. For example, this vain attempt to circumnavigate the 'will' would be a familiar criticism of anyone from a Buddhist perspective.Even more interestingly, it could have its origins in Wagner's detailed knowledge of the early Church where self castration was used by some due to a miss-reading of Mathew. Indeed, it is interesting that one of the most famous figures of the yearly Church, Origen, was thought to have  castrated himself for this very reason. What is ironic is that his writings are considered to have lead to  the rise antisemitism in the early Church. However, in the odd world of Wagner studies such, more reasonable,  links are never considered. 
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Ring Cycle Player - Listen While You Read

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 5 October 2014 | 12:17:00 am

Wagner Composing The Ring of the Nibelungen: L. Balestrieri
We have tried various methods of bringing a permanent Wagner music player to the site over the years - I think the first was back in 2011. However, there have been problems with most of them, meaning that often either the player did not display in certain browsers, it refused to play or simply slowed things down for too many readers, However, we are hoping the newest addition will be compatible with as many users operating systems and web browsers as possible. Indeed, using HTML5, as it does, it may even work in many mobile/phone browsers - hopefully. Although, should you be having any problems with it please let us know.

It can be found on the upper left hand corner of any page you might be on. Alas, it will restart if you left  click an item. We could resolve this by changing things so that a left hand mouse click automatically opens a new browser tab but some browsers may treat this as a "pop-up" and prevent the page opening. The easiest way to circumnavigate this issue is that for the first time you click on a new article to read, simply right click and chose "open in new tab". A pain we know, but an easy work around.

The details of the Ring Cycle playing can be found below. Should it prove popular we may add other Wagner works in the future.

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New Book: Wagner's Parsifal: An Appreciation in the Light of His Theological Journey

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 3 October 2014 | 6:32:00 pm

Expect a review in the next few months.

Wagner’s Parsifal
An Appreciation in the Light of His Theological Journey
By Richard H. Bell


SBN 10:
ISBN 13: 978-1-62032-885-9
Pages: 400
Binding: Paperback/Ebook
Publication Date: 11/12/2013
Street Date: 11/12/2013
Division: Cascade Books
Series: Veritas

Book Description

Parsifal, Wagner's final opera, is considered by many to be one of the greatest religious musical works ever composed; but it is also one of the most difficult to understand and many have questioned whether it can be considered a "Christian" work at all. Added to this is the furious debate that has surrounded the composer as an anti-Semite, racist, and inspiration for Hitler. Richard Bell addresses such issues and argues that despite any personal failings Wagner makes a fundamental theological contribution through his many writings and ultimately in Parsifal which, he argues, preaches Christ crucified in a way that can never be captured by words alone. He argues that Wagner offers a vision of the divine and a "theology of Good Friday" that can both function as profound therapy and address current theological controversies.

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Free: The Parsifal Libretto Retold As Epic Poem - Oliver Huckel


PARSIFAL: A DRAMA BY WAGNER
RETOLD BY OLIVER HUCKEL

Oliver Huckel's poetic rendition in English of the libretto of Richard Wagner's opera 'Parsifal'. This book was originally published in 1903 by T.Y. Crowell & Co. The original illustrations by Franz Stassen as reproduced below - along with the opening of the poem.
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Free Epub/Kindle Book: Wagner As I Knew Him - Praeger


Previously available in other formats but now as an Epub or in Kindle format. Click the relevant link below to download - or read and search online.

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Why Bernd Weikl Doesn't Want To Ban Wagner.

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 2 October 2014 | 12:22:00 am


Confused? All will become clear tomorrow when we publish a recent conversation with the great Mr Weikl, Let us just say that for one of the late 20th century's most successful  Hans Sachs there is certainly Wahn, oh too much Wahn  but just not of the kind that we - and many others -  assumed back here.

Stay tuned

"There has to be an end to this horrible devastation being done upon our composer and his work" Bernd Weikl

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The Reinvention of Genius: Wagner's Transformation of Schopenhauer's Aesthetics in “Beethoven

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 | 8:51:00 pm

Originally published: postgraduate journal of aesthetics. Vol 4

The Reinvention of Genius: Wagner's Transformation of Schopenhauer's Aesthetics in “Beethoven”

Menno Boogaard

ABSTRACT

Wagner's treatise Beethoven (1870), written to celebrate the centenary of Beethoven's birth, is one of his most influential theoretical works. His main concern in this text is to bring his theory of opera into line with his recent 'conversion' to Schopenhauer's philosophy. Commentaries often give the general impression that Wagner leaves Schopenhauer's philosophy largely intact, merely adapting his own ideas to make them fit those of his new mentor. In this paper I want to challenge this assumption. I will try to show that, on the contrary, Wagner introduces dramatic changes to Schopenhauer's aesthetic doctrine, changes that together amount to a substantial transformation of the philosopher's thought.

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Parsifal Archetypes.

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 | 11:26:00 am

Carl Jung, began his career as a follower of Sigmund Freud. Eventually he felt that Freud's vision of the "unconscious" was too negative and too limited. Jung saw the unconscious as broad, deep, and shared humanity. He referred to it as the "collective" unconscious and explored the archetypes, which he said inhabited it. Literary scholars have and have not accepted the collective unconscious, but they have heartily welcomed the concept of archetypes to explain themes and motifs in all forms of artistic works.

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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 other...um...other Wagner bio film: Magic Fire


UPDATE: Sadly, it seems that this has now been deleted from Youtube. However, there is some good news. A number of kind readers have pointed out that the film is available on DVD. If only on Amazon in Germany. This version (available in Region 2) has two soundtracks - one in German and one in English. It can be ordered directly from Amazon Germany by using the following link . Alternatively, it can be found on Amazon UK by following this link


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

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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 dw.de/culture 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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