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Deconstruction and the Modern Bayreuth Festival

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 | 2:55:00 am

The Wagner Journal has, kindly made available for free, an extended essay by Edward A. & Paula M. Bortnichak on the current production of the Frank Castorf Ring. In advance of the entire cycle being broadcast on Sky Arts in July as documented here

The authors discuss the bold interpretations of Wagner's works at Bayreuth over the last decade in the context of deconstructionist approaches to literature and theatre, concluding with a dramaturgical analysis of the Castorf Ring. This landmark article should prove invaluable to anyone intending to see the production, but will also make stimulating and enlightening reading for anyone interested in the staging of Wagner's works in the modern era. The article can be accessed here.

Highly recommended. 
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New Issue Of The Wagner Journal

The July 2016 issue (vol.10, no.2), now available, contains the following feature articles:
• 'The "Missing Link" in the Evolution of Wagner's Siegfried by Edward A. and Paula M. Bortnichak

• 'Wagner's Siegfried Act III Scene 1: A Study in "Renunciation of the Will" and the "Sublime" by Richard H. Bell

• 'Steadfast and Upstanding: Franz Wilhelm Beidler, Richard Wagner's Eldest Grandson' by Dagny Beidler

plus reviews of:
Christopher Alden's Tristan und Isolde in Karlsruhe, Mario Corradi's Tannhäuser in Aachen, Mariusz Trelinski's Tristan und Isolde in Baden-Baden, Philipp Stölzl's Rienzi in Berlin and Lynn Binstock's The Rinse Cycle in London

DVDs of various productions at Bayreuth over the last decade

CDs of Lohengrin conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch in Munich (1963) and by Karl Böhm in Vienna (1965), of Die Walküre and Siegfried conducted by Marek Janowski (1981–2), and of Wagner-inspired choral works under the title Rheinmädchen

Bernd Weikl's Swastikas on Stage: Trends in the Productions of Richard Wagner's Operas in German Theaters Today, Gunther Braam's Richard Wagner in der zeitgenössischen Fotografie, The Oxford Handbook of Opera, ed. Helen M. Greenwald and Christian Thielemann's My Life with Wagner
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To The People Of France And To The Rest Of Us

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 15 July 2016 | 7:43:00 am

30 years ago or so, I would not have felt compelled to write as much of this as I am about to. The reason was simple: what has happened in Nice is an horrendous, cowardly act. Many, far too many (as if one person was not enough) have died, many more will be injured and hundreds, many children, will carry the psychological trauma of this event for years to come. That would have been enough. No need to say more, but to offer our thoughts, and any help and support we could provide. And indeed, part of me still feels we should leave it there. As I type this I wonder if what I say shall next is wise. Does it “lessen” what has happened?

But it is no longer the same as it was 30 years ago. We have grown more insular, more nationalistic, more fearful of the “other”. Our paranoia as nations, and individuals, has grown and it grows more so everyday. We have also become more reactionary. And events like this simply makes it more so. The “other” becomes a broader category, applied to entire people, countries, races, religions and even to those without a religion

30 years ago, I am unsure, if I would have even felt the need to remind, anyone – perhaps even myself – that events like this are not the result of an entire people, or religion. Instead they are a small group of fanatics with a shared ideology often twisted and distorted from the one they claim to represent. Fanatics of course have always been with us, possibly as long as society has existed. They have been, and remain, of many races, religions, philosophies and ideologies. They have many goals, but important among them is to generate fear , distrust and to increase their own number. When we turn against each other, against our neighbours, against the “other”, when we allow our prejudices and fear to run wild we help them succeed. Alas, events over the past few years, have shown me that they are very good at this. And some countries seem more  easily manipulated than others. To my eternal shame the UK is one such country.  However, this not a time to grow further apart but to grow closer together. And no, this is not about events in a loosely held together political and economic alliance, even if recent and continuous strains in this alliance are a sign, but not the cause, of how insular and fearful we are becoming.

It does not matter if we are part of an economic alliance, what matters now is that we don't let “them” get what they want. We shall not let them make us afraid and paranoid, make us turn against each other, our neighbours against the “other” -  those obviously different . We have only one enemy and they are not a people, a race, a religion but a twisted ideology that lies, cheats, rewards with wealth and uses fear, to expand its number. Let us not help them.

To the people of France, to the people of Nice, let them know we are with them at this time, as we are with all of those people that simply wish to live their lives, but right now, with them most of all.

All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.
Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend.

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Watch Now: Die Walkure. Dutch National Opera. Haenchen

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 11 July 2016 | 10:21:00 pm

Again, brought to us by The Opera Platform

Richard Wagner: DIE WALKÜRE (The Valkyrie)
Opera in three acts
Performed by the Dutch National Opera
The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra is under the baton of Hartmut Haenchen

Christopher Ventris - Siegmund
Kurt Rydl - Hunding
Thomas Johannes Mayer - Wotan
Catherine Naglestad - Sieglinde
Catherine Foster - Brünnhilde
Doris Soffel - Fricka
Marion Ammann - Gerhilde
Martina Prins - Ortlinde
Lien Haegeman - Waltraute
Julia Faylenbogen - Schwertleite
Elaine McKrill - Helmwige
Wilke te Brummelstroete - Siegrune
Helena Rasker - Grimgerde
Cécile van de Sant – Rossweisse 
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Watch Now: Parsifal. Adam Fischer At Wiener Staatsoper

Made available now, and for the net six months, by The Opera Platform


Richard Wagner: PARSIFAL
"A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage" (“Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel”) in three acts
Performed at the Wiener Staatsoper
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is under the baton of Adam Fischer

Michael Volle - Amfortas
Falk Struckmann - Gurnemanz
Stephen Gould - Parsifal
Violeta Urmana - Kundry
Ryan Speedo Green - Titurel
Boaz Daniel - Klingsor
Ulrike Helzel - First Esquire
Hyuna Ko - Second Esquire
Joseph Dennis - Third Esquire
Peter Jelosits - Fourth Esquire
Michael Roider - First Grail Knight
Il Hong - Second Grail Knight
Ileana Tonca - First Flowermaiden, first group
Regine Hangler - Second Flowermaiden, first group
Margaret Plummer - Third Flowermaiden, first group
Annika Gerhards - First Flowermaiden, second group
Caroline Wenborne - Second Flowermaiden, second group
Zoryana Kushpler - Third Flowermaiden, second group
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Katharina Wagner's Tristan Now On DVD

Katharina Wagner's 2015 production of Tristan und Isolde is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from DG. Details below

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Scandals in Bayreuth: A brief history of cancelations at the Wagner Festival

It was a last-minute upset, but not unusual for the Bayreuth Festival. Conductor Andris Nelsons called off his opening night performance and will be replaced by Hartmut Haenchen. Here's a history of Bayreuth drop-outs.

The 73-year-old German conductor Hartmut Haenchen was greeted by Bayreuth Festival director Katharina Wagner in a statement released Tuesday (05.07.2016), "I'm very grateful to Maestro Haenchen for declaring his readiness to take over conducting responsibilities for the new production on short notice and am looking forward to his first participation at the Bayreuth Festival."

That production is of Richard Wagner's last work, "Parsifal," written specifically for the "Festspielhaus," his self-designed festival theater, and normally requiring close knowledge of the specific performance conditions there. Haenchen will be joining a team that has been rehearsing since early June: orchestra, chorus, soloists and the stage director Uwe Eric Laufenberg. The team was traumatized when the announcement came on June 30 that star conductor Andris Nelsons had thrown in the towel.

Owing to a differing approach in various matters," Nelsons had requested a termination of contract. The choice of words was so vague that it's occupied the arts world for the past week.

Had he been miffed by unsolicited advice from the festival's music director, Christian Thielemann? Were there differences with the festival management over casting issues? Was the young maestro, described as a warm and outgoing, but also sensitive and somewhat private person, disturbed by the intense security measures recently introduced at the Festspielhaus? Or was Nelsons uncomfortable with Laufenberg's production, in which Wagner's "Parsifal" is set in the context of religions?

All possible explanations were denied, and both the festival and the conductor have adhered to their pledge to keep silent on the issue.

A rich tradition of Bayreuth cancelations

1999: Willy Decker: The experienced German opera director had been commissioned to direct Wagner's "Lohengrin" but backed down just months before, citing "artistic reasons." It was the first time that a designated Bayreuth stage director had stepped down. British director Keith Warner was hired in his place - and delivered a solid rendition of the opera.

2000: Hans Sotin: The famous German baritone had sung every Wagnerian role for the bass voice in Bayreuth - in every season without interruption since 1972. Then, just days before the premiere of "Parsifal," Sotin left the "Green Hill" in a huff, citing "irreconcilable differences" with conductor Christoph Eschenbach. Another baritone was found - and in the following year, another conductor.

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Listen To Opera North's Ring Cycle - On Demand

Complete cycle has now been broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and will be available for the next 27 days. To listen, click the relevant link below:

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Watch Glyndebourne’s Meistersinger - Free

You will have to visit the Telegraph to do so, but it will be available live from 5.30pm (UK time) Tuesday 12 July and then on demand for 7 days there after.

For details click here - and to watch on the dates indicated above

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Black Mountain - A Reinterpretation Of Parsifal

Nicholas Mockridge, from the artists collective known as "Like a Wild Beast’s Fur,” directed Black Mountain - a short, experimental film based on Parsifal - condensed onto ten minutes.

Said Mockbridge of the film and its "Techo" soundtrack, "“Basically, he (Wagner) invented film music, in a way. These are really simple chord progressions that narrate the story, and we took these chord progressions together with Moritz von Oswald, who created a techno soundtrack with them,”

Discussing the short film its Kundry, Canadian electronic musician and performance artist, "Peaches" said:

“It’s just really difficult because of the whole opera style. So it’s more like a pastiche - or just like fragments of an opera - but I guess it relates to the future; how our attention span is quite short and our technology is quite vast.”
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R Scruton: What Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle teaches us about love and politics

Rodger Scruton:

Richard Wagner's four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, which he began in 1848 and on which he worked over the next two decades, is a comprehensive re-working of Old Norse myths, as recounted in the Icelandic Eddas. In Wagner's story, the Viking gods are situated in a German landscape, along with Siegfried, hero of the German medieval epic Nibelungenlied. The Ring Cycle is about the gods, but the gods as conceived by a modern artist, whose concern is to create a myth that will comprehend all the principles – moral, political and spiritual – by which the modern world is governed. It is a story of the gods for people who have no gods to believe in.

That is why The Ring Cycle is of ever-increasing importance to music-lovers in our times. Its theme is the death of the gods, and what the gods have bequeathed to us, namely, the knowledge of, and longing for, the sacred. Until we recognise sacred moments, Wagner implies in this monumental work, we cannot live fully as free beings. These moments are the foundation of all our attempts to endow human life with significance. Despite the controversies that have surrounded this great work – its vast length, its dubious later associations with Nazi thought – it constantly grows on the collective imagination. It is not the answer to life in a post-religious world, but it asks the real questions, and shows us one fruitful way of confronting them. It's hardly surprising that the recent Opera North production of the Ring at the Southbank in London sold out within the space of a day.

When Wagner began work on the cycle, he was, like Karl Marx, a disciple of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Like Feuerbach, he believed in the possibility of a political revolution that would free mankind from domination and establish an order of freedom. He even took part in the 1849 revolution in Dresden, where he was court Kapellmeister (the name given to the person in charge of music-making), after which he was forced to flee into exile in Switzerland and France. Some traces of Wagner's early radical political vision remain in the finished work, inspiring Bernard Shaw, in The Perfect Wagnerite (1898), to describe the cycle in Marxist terms, with Siegfried as a revolutionary hero, fighting the monsters of industrial capitalism. Having found himself unable, on this reading, to make sense of Götterdämmerung, Shaw dismissed the last of the four music dramas as mere "grand opera," arguing that Wagner missed the opportunity, in the character of Siegfried, to deliver the agenda for the new socialist man.

Such an interpretation holds little plausibility for us today. The "radical" Wagner of Shaw's imagination sits uneasily with the traditionalism found in his 1867 comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg or the evocation of a religious community in his final work Parsifal (1878). Indeed, during the course of writing the cycle, Wagner came to believe that there could be no political salvation from the ills of civilisation. Like his sometime friend the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he saw resentment as the default position of human communities, and believed that each of us must achieve redemption for himself, gaining freedom and self-knowledge through our capacity for love. To take this path is difficult. Love condemns us to suffering on another's behalf; this capacity for sympathetic suffering is the highest human virtue, and the only known justification for our existence. Wagner's Ring Cycle, in its finished version, is an attempt to convey why we suffer. Seldom has an artistic intention of such magnitude been so convincingly pursued.

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As its Mahler's birthday

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 7 July 2016 | 7:25:00 pm

Mahler, the 9th, Abbado and Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Happy birthday.

"All Mahler symphonies look back nostalgically to the innocent past and having failed to find it, look forward (fearfully or hopefully) to some sense of resolution.” In the 9th, each movement a farewell: the 1st is a farewell to tenderness, passion - human love; the 2nd and 3rd are farewells to life – first to country life, then to urban society; the finale is a farewell to life itself."


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Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 | 9:01:00 am

Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

Jelisaveta Mojsilovic, University of Arts in Belgrade 
Originally published:  Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology: Vol. 9.


At the beginning of his career, Richard Wagner (1813–1883), was considered a universal composer—a true cosmopolitan. However, indigence, the “bad” tastes of the Parisian audiences, and poor relationships with the managers of French musical institutions had a huge impact on Wagner’s perception of foreign music. Furthermore, the representatives of Parisian music life were indifferent to foreign composers, particularly those of German nationality, and were wary of themes related to German culture. This paper explores Wagner’s first stay in Paris, from 1839 to 1842, through analysis of his writings during that time. A comparison of Wagner’s texts written before his time in Paris and those written after his return to Saxony reveals an emotional intensification towards the German tradition, foreshadowing its zenith in his mature writings and his unconditional turn towards the German tradition.
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Listen Now: Roger Scruton On Why Wagner Matters

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 June 2016 | 6:00:00 am

Roger Scruton discuses his new book  "The Ring Of Truth: The Wisdom Of Wagner's Ring Of The Nibelung" with Tom Service on BBc Radio 3's "Music Matters.
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Watch Now: Richard Wagner and the Third Reich

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 18 June 2016 | 7:30:00 am

A very interesting, two hour talk from Derek Williams, given at the Wagner Society of Scotland on April 3, 2016, Mr Williams has also very kindly made a full transcript available which can be found here


Long before Richard Wagner emerged as a political and theatrical figure around the time of Bismarck’s 1871 German unification, which gave full citizenship to Germany’s Jewish minority, antisemitism was already ubiquitous and entrenched.

Martin Luther in his 1543 treatise 'On Jews and their Lies', had urged that rabbis be forbidden to preach, their prayer books destroyed, Jewish synagogues, schools and homes set afire, and that the Jews’ money and property should be confiscated. They should be shown neither kindness nor mercy, nor should they be afforded legal protection. Luther wrote that “these poisonous envenomed worms" should be either permanently expelled or drafted into forced labour. When he wrote, "we are at fault in not slaying them" however, Luther was in effect advocating genocide.

Against this iniquitous background, Wagner’s antisemitism is comprehensively set, not only in contemporary literature, but by himself in his twice published treatise 'Das Judenthum in der Musik', alongside other writings and personal correspondence. Nevertheless, prominent Jews numbered amongst Wagner’s closest friends, for example, his favourite conductor, Hermann Levi, who conducted 'ParsifaI', Wagner’s paean to Christianity, and who was invited to be a pallbearer at the master’s funeral.

"If Jewish performers and conductors, and all who suffered the most under the Third Reich can forgive Wagner, then I too am prepared to say
Absolvo te." Derek Williams

In light of his toxic and verbose animus towards all things Jewish, what sort of intimate conversations could Richard Wagner possibly be expected to have been able to have with Jews in his circle of friends, and what sort of discourse might he have enjoyed with the likes of his great admirer, Adolf Hitler? Would Wagner have approved of the Third Reich and all it connoted?

All links and videos are public domain.

Richard Wagner and the Jews - Milton E. Brener, 1930, McFarland & Co. Inc., ISBN 0-7864-2370-6
Richard Wagner – Hans Gal, 1973, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London
Forbidden Music, Jewish Composers Banned By The Nazis - Michael Haas, 2013, Yale University Press, ISBN978-0-300-20535-0
The Wagner Clan - Jonathan Carr, 2007, ISBN 978-0-571-20790-9
The Darker Side of Genius - Jacob Katz, 1986, University Press of New England
Aspects of Wagner - Bryan Magee, Panther, 1968, Granada Publishing
Wagner As I Knew Him - Ferdinand Praeger, 1892, Longmans, Green & Co
Wagner & Nietzsche - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 1976, Sidgwick & Jackson
My Life - Richard Wagner, 1911, Constable London
Wagner’s Ring and its Symbols - Robert Donington, 1963, Faber & Faber
Wagner, Rehearsing the ‘Ring’ - Heinrich Porges, 1876, Cambridge University Press
Why Mahler? - Norman Lebrecht, 2010, ISBN 978-0-571-26079-9
Fact And Fiction About Wagner - Ernest Newman, 1931, Cassell & Co Ltd
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries - Ed. Martin Grego-Dellin & Dietrich Mack, 1980, Collins
Letters of Richard Wagner, ‘The Burrell Collection’ – Ed. John N Burk, 1972, Vienna House

Derek Williams:
Wagner Society of Scotland: 

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Wagner's Parsifal and the Challenge to Psychoanalysis

Given the location, the topics and a very fine list of guest speakers, if you can be in London on July 3, its difficult to find a reason not to attend.

Wagner's Parsifal and the Challenge to Psychoanalysis
International Day Conference

Location: The Freud Museum, London
July 3, 2016

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?


Tom Artin
Primal Scene/Primal Wound: The psychoanalytic arc of Parsifal

After they have witnessed the scarlet-suffused ritual revealing the Grail in Act I, Gurnemanz poses to Parsifal the primal question: Weißt du was du sahst? Do you know what you saw? This question is an enigma whose solution becomes the goal of the “pure fool’s” arduous quest. The answer, we will discover, is the primal scene, which, in Act II, is experienced by our hero not just vicariously, but in the flesh viscerally and shatteringly in Kundry’s passionate embrace. “Amfortas! The wound!” Parsifal cries out in retreat from the brink of penetration. In that sudden insight, he is overwhelmed by the reality of the castration threat lurking at the heart of every primal scene. The emotional sequelae following upon erotic enlightenment—guilt, remorse, compassion, and finally absolution—constitute the measured denouement of Parsifal, which culminates in a fantasy of redemption and the illusory resolution of primal anxiety.

Stephen Gee
Wagner’s Parsifal: A Hymn of Purity and Danger

Parsifal, the fool, is thrown out of an ailing religious community after witnessing a mysterious ritual of healing and purification, reluctantly officiated by a disgraced spiritual leader condemned to unremitting agony. In Act 11 he wanders into a magic garden, and almost gets involved in a sort of 19th century chemsex party. Alarmed by the sudden arousal of his desire and the prospect of endless enjoyment, he longs to return to the earlier scene of anguish and humiliation, which he begins to understand for the first time. A nostalgia for the sublime propels him back to the community of knights, where he is met by his penitent seductress, Kundry.

Wagner’s operas have provoked many great philosophers. Some, like Adorno, were hostile to what they saw as an ideological forerunner of 20th Century political catastrophes. Psychoanalysis raises another kind of intellectual challenge. Is Parsifal a menacing premonition of totalitarianism, or does it elaborate with unprecedented complexity the enigmatic after-effect of the trauma of human beings throughout history, who can never predict whether they will survive together in communities continually subverted by unconscious desires?

Tom DeRose
Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche in Berlin

With reference to Dmitri Tcherniakov’s recent Berlin production, this paper will consider the relationship between the character of Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal and Nietzsche’s conception of the ascetic priest in On the Genealogy of Morals. Although Gurnemanz appears as an un-biased narrator, something akin to the Evangelist in a Bach Passion, just how far removed from the action is he? I will suggest that the insights of Freud and René Girard can help us to gain a deeper understanding not only of this ‘all knowing’ story-teller, but also of the violence which lies at the heart of social systems.

Mark Berry
Interpreting Wagner’s Dreams: Staging Parsifal in the Twenty-First Centur

Parsifal, like all of Wagner’s dramas, has much to tell us at the intersection of authorial intention and latent content. What is revealed and what is repressed? Dreams were certainly of great importance to Wagner, perhaps most famously in his claim that the Prelude to Das Rheingold had come to him in ‘a kind of somnambulistic state … the feeling of being immersed in rapidly flowing water,’ and indeed in the dramatic material of a number of his works. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is explicitly concerned with the formation of an artwork initially revealed in a dream world. That offers an interesting way to consider stagings of his works too, and their claims to fidelity or otherwise at a textual or allegedly ‘deeper’ level. I shall consider the work ‘itself’ and its adamant claim to stand apart from the operatic repertoire as a Bühnenweihfestspiel (‘stage-festival-consecration-play’) to be confined to his artistic temple at Bayreuth. I shall also consider two particular productions: Stefan Herheim (Bayreuth, 2008-12) and Dmitri Tcherniakov (Berlin, 2015-). How do directors and performers navigate the historical, social, cultural, and psychological distances and conflicts between Wagner’s intentions, his ability and inability to fulfil and perhaps even to transcend those intentions, and the needs of contemporary theatres and audiences? What is gained and what is lost? What, again, is revealed and what is repressed?

Patrick Carnegy
Syberberg's Parsifal and the soul of Germany

Hans Jürgen Syberberg's 1982 film of Parsifal is a psychological exploration of the opera, its roots in Wagner's mind, and its historical afterlife. Abstracted from Amfortas's body, his wound, carried about on a cushion by two female pages, becomes a symbol of Germany's unassuaged shame and guilt, an object of fascination and horror until it can be healed. When Kundry's kiss awakens Parsifal's sexuality, Syberberg sensationally replaces the male hero by a female Parsifal. His idea, in Jungian terms, is that the animus cannot itself complete the therapeutic journey through the psychic labyrinth, for this is given only to the anima, which here also embodies the soul of Germany. Patrick Carnegy offers some reflections on the wondrous complexity and resonance of this brilliant film.

Eva Rieger
Kundry's kiss and the fear of female desire: A gender perspective

“Wagner’s operas are largely dramas of incestuous feelings and urges” writes James M. McGlathery (in Wagner’s Operas and Desire). Lawrence Dreyfus has also made it clear that Wagner was obsessed with sexuality, and this obsession determined the composition of operas such as Tannhäuser, Walküre and Tristan and Isolde. In his opera Parsifal, Wagner creates a female character who shows active sexual desire, and then exorcises her qua Woman for precisely that reason. Whereas men can desire women, the opposite is regarded as dangerous. In previous works, Wagner gives women like Elsa, Brünnhilde, Elisabeth and Sieglinde the power to love in a “feminine” way, but unlike Kundry they do not think of sex. I will trace the role of Kundry as she was developed by Wagner from 1865 onwards, using the development of her role to deduce which characteristics of her personality were important to him. A further clue is given by the music which speaks to us and opens up psychological insights. With respect to the semi-religious content of Parsifal, I find that the idea of gender equality is jettisoned here, which means that one can debate whether Kundry’s death is the result of Wagner’s antisemitism or his antifeminism. Finally, the question arises why Wagner should condemn women’s sexuality in such a manner (and thereby condemn the women themselves), although he was dependent on the emotional and physical love of women throughout his life.

Karin Nohr and Sebastian Leikert
Dr Kundry's Failure

The first part of this lecture sets out to investigate reasons for the well-known fact that Wagner's music and in particular his opera Parsifal evokes divergent feelings and promotes polarization among the audience. After exploring the semantic system of music which Leikert calls ‘kinaesthetical’, three principles are put forth that organize it: repetition, seduction, ritualization. Whereas religious ritualization is conservative and norm-orientated, the ethical orientation of art is creative and encourages the subject to broaden in autonomy and in the recognition of their inner world including their conflicts and the tragic aspects of life. The second part of the lecture discusses the question, if and how Wagner in Parsifal contributes to this progressive aim by analyzing the composer’s concept of empathy (Mitleid) and focusing on the Parsifal-Kundry relationship.

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Bayreuth Ring 2016: TV Broadcast Of Entire Cycle

Despite the new online booking at Bayreuth, have you still not been successful in getting tickets for Frank Castorf's "controversial" Ring? Indeed, even if you had the opportunity to get tickets were you made nervous by the less than positive reviews? Well, worry no longer, at least if you live in the UK, Ireland, Italy or Germany (Or have access to Youtube within a day or so one suspects) . For this year - and the first time ever - Sky Arts will be broadcasting the entire cycle, over two days in July - Saturday the 30th and Sunday the 31st. That means of course, two of the dramas each day (Indeed, all four on the Sunday). A marathon session for even a Wagnerian and one that suggests that when Sky's media people tell us the entire thing is broadcast "live" they are not correct, So one can ignore those reports one might suggest otherwise. However, Götterdämmerung will be broadcast live and as it is performed. The rest performed live, recorded and broadcast soon after. 
"With this, many people can enjoy the performances and I believe it’s in the spirit of Richard Wagner to reach as many arts fans as possible". K Wagner

The performances will be accompanied by documentaries and "behind the scenes" discussion. These extras  and deep analysis of Wagner and his work will be lead by the worlds leading expert on Wagner and his work, Stephen Fry (Ed: "Leading world expert"? Are you sure? I once told a knock knock joke but I hardly think that makes me a comedian)

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Michael Portillo On Richard Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 18 March 2016 | 10:02:00 pm

Text of remarks made by Michael Portillo at the Longborough Festival Opera, Friday 2 July 1999.

"Then there’s Mime, the whining and potentially murderous dwarf. Well, the Tory party abounds with people who could take that role."

"A friend of mine once put it to me that for the Conservative Party the issue of Europe has been like the Curse of the Ring. Since long ago, when we were first seduced by the Rhine maidens of Euro federalism, every Tory leader who has possessed the ring ­ that is who has held power - has come to a sticky end"

I’ve made a number of unwise speeches in my time, but this one probably takes the biscuit. In my experience, few audiences are less tolerant of error, or more fanatical about precise detail, than Wagner fans. To speak about the Great Genius, is to enter the lions’ den.

I thought, therefore, that I had better speak mainly about politics. Some of you may know that I used to be in that line myself once.

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New Book: Roger Scruton "The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung"

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 6 March 2016 | 6:46:00 pm

Due to be published June 30 2016. Sadly very little information available on Dr Scruton's new book around the subject of Wagner and the Ring. However, unless something very strange has happened, we are pretty certain it will not be a Marxist analysis of Wagner's work. It has been a long time since we last saw an examination of the Ring from the "right". It will certainly be interesting hear what someone who said the following of the student protests in paris of 1968 will say of the Ring:

"I suddenly realized I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That's when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down."

Publisher's details: 

The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung
30 Jun 2016
by Roger Scruton 

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Allen Lane (30 Jun. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0241188555
ISBN-13: 978-0241188552

Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher who has held positions at the universities of London, Oxford, Boston and St Andrews and who has written widely on art, architecture, music and aesthetics. His books include his now classic Short History of Modern Philosophy (1981), The Aesthetics of Music (1997), Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (2004), Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (1985, republished 2015) an examination of the New Left and its influence on intellectual life in Europe and America. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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Watch Now: Wagner & Buddhism.

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 30 January 2016 | 11:38:00 am

Well worth watching

Wagner grew up in the Saxon capital of Dresden, a city steeped in things oriental since the 18th century. By Wagner's time Shopenhauer had introduced the German elite to Buddhism, a European-wide event given the recent arrival of Buddhist sutras brought home by explorers. Panelists include Peter Bassett, writer and lecturer on the works of Richard Wagner and former Australian diplomat, and Paul Schofield, author of The Redeemer Reborn: Parsifal as the Fifth Opera of Wagner's Ring and former Zen Buddhist monk.

Patrick Hatcher, Ph.D., Kiriyama Distinguished Fellow at the Center, will moderate.
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Simon Callow To Publish New Wagner Biography

Simon Callow will publish a new Wagner biography 27 February 2017. Publishers details, only, available at this stage. 

The life and legacy of one of music's most influential figures.

During a wildly unpredictable sixty-nine year life, Richard Wagner became the hero of his era and the official protagonist of a new unified Germany: his music was its music. The architect of the vast four-day, fifteen-hour epic, he unleashed through his thousands and thousands of words gods and dwarves, dragons and songbirds, maidens and female warriors on horseback. All dug deep into the subconscious of his audience, discharging among them oceanic and engulfing emotions. Wagner was the creator, indeed, of the very theatre in which the heaving, roaring audience sat. He was the self-proclaimed Musician of the Future.

This was exactly what he had set out to achieve, but there was nothing inevitable about it. The magnitude of his accomplishment grew out of - and existed in the face of - a profound instability, which characterises every stage and every phase of his life and which is at the very heart of his music. Withdrawing from instability back into the kingdom of art where he would always be an absolute monarch, where his will would always prevail, he explored the depths and the heights of human experience, by which he meant, of course, his own experience. In this bold vision of Wagner's life, bestselling author and acclaimed performer of 'Inside Wagner's Head', Simon Callow turns his famed storytelling energies towards this vast and complex revolutionary of music.

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Frieling 's The Ring of the Nibelung: A retelling of Richard Wagner's opera

Newly translated to English.

Richard Wagner’s “total work of art,” the monumental, gripping, and fathomlessly deep story of the ring of the Nibelung, is here translated and narrated in a completely new fashion: breathless and distilled, it becomes the most exciting suspense novel of the opera world. The author follows the creator, dividing the spectacle into its four parts, “Rhinegold,” “The Valkyrie,” “Siegfried,” and finally, “Twilight of the Gods.”

He leads his readers through the scenic festival that takes roughly thirteen hours when staged. They say money corrupts, or money is the root of all evil. Both claims are debatable. Poverty does not save people from corruption, and even moderate wealth does not necessarily build character. But maybe those who were corrupt from the beginning can sink even lower when in the thrall of riches? Oh yes, they sure can! The fuss over the legendary Rhinegold will prove that gold, and the power inherent in it, are the bearers of doom. The precious metal exerts an irresistible pull, a glamour that is also the curse that will be the downfall of humankind.

 That is the crucial message the drama of the ring of the Nibelung offers. The theft of the Rhinegold unleashes everything that keeps the world in suspense (and makes it go round) until the present day: unfettered greed, boundless love, unfathomable hatred, consuming envy, the everlasting fight for personal freedom. Antipodes clash in battle: humans and gods, dwarves and giants, ethereal beings and thunderous forces of nature.

Wilhelm Ruprecht Frieling is an unconventional German-language author, publisher and producer. He has authored 24 books and over 40 ebooks, operates several blogs and is working as a consultant. Frieling lives in Berlin, Germany, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Availible here: The Ring of the Nibelung: A retelling of Richard Wagner's opera

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The Campaign Against Wagner - Professor Derek Hughes. London 23/02/16

A talk by Professor Derek Hughes 23 Feb 2016. 7.30pm St Botolph's Church Hall, Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3TL

On 11 August 1881, Wagner reacted to a newspaper report of an anti-Jewish riot: "That is the only way it can be done - by throwing these fellows out and giving them a thrashing." This remark is widely cited as evidence that Wagner approved of anti-Jewish violence and even massacres, but what did the news story actually say? There is no denying the ugliness of Wagner's views about the Jews, but their very ugliness encourages over-confidence in his critics: hasty inference; anachronism, and worse. Derek Hughes has read widely in the anti-Jewish literature of Wagner's Germany and will attempt to restore historical balance to this undoubtedly troubling topic.

Derek is professsor emeritus of the University of Aberdeen. His book Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera contains a chapter on Wagner, and an article on the subject of this talk is forthcoming in The Wagner Journal.

More at the Wagner Society (London)

Tickets £15/£7.50 full-time students available from Mike Morgan, 9 West Court, Downley, High Wycombe, Bucks HP13 5TG. Please send cheques payable to The Wagner Society, enclosing an SAE.
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Listen Now: Jonas Kaufmann In Discussion

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 29 January 2016 | 10:40:00 pm

In this edition of Music Matters Tom Service conducts an extended interview with Jonas Kaufmann, From Wagner to Puccini. From Opera to Lieder. Originally recorded in September 2014.

To listen, click here
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Watch Now: Daniel Barenboim: 'Spaces of dialogue'

David Frost in conversation with Daniel  Barenboim. On Wagner, Wagner in Israel, the Middle East, music and his life.

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Watch Now: Christian Thielemann Talks Wagner & Strauss

Humanitas Visiting Professor Christian Thielemann is a brilliant and controversial conductor and director of the Bayreuth Festival. In this fascinating lecture, he discusses the art of conducting, the historical context of 19th and 20th century opera, and the commonalities between Wagner and Strauss.
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Unexpected Opera present: The Rinse Cycle

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 28 January 2016 | 6:19:00 pm

The Ring? In Charing Cross? How could any of us not attend. More at Unexpected Opera

 “As well as conveying the crucial elements of the story and offering an experience of Wagner’s music at a high level of quality, I’d like to give the audience some feel for the magnitude, richness, intellectual reach, complexity and sheer awesomeness of the Ring and its composer.”  Unexpected Opera’s Artistic Director Lynn Binstock

Award-winning Unexpected Opera present
The Rinse Cycle

Wagner’s epic ring, conditioned with comedy and shrunk to one evening

Why do people go crazy about Wagner’s music?
Is this the show that “ain’t over til the fat lady sings”? Does it have anything to do with The Lord of the Rings? Where are the Valkyries riding to?
Is The Twilight of the Gods as ominous as it sounds?

Award-winning Unexpected Opera presents an entertaining take on Wagner’s masterpiece, in a comic play with highlights sung in English by five superb performers. Expect magnificent music, great drama and Unexpected fun!

Are you curious about Wagner and his famous Ring Cycle but are reluctant to give up loads of time and dosh without knowing more? The Rinse Cycle is your chance to experience this amazing work – without taking it too seriously.

The Rinse Cycle, which get its London premiere at Charing Cross Theatre from Monday 15 February - Saturday 12 March, takes four operas and 16 hours of music and shrinks it to just two hours and one easily digestible sitting. And it is has added comedy. We can’t promise it will be clean, but we’ll remove the cultural stains and encrusted stereotypes. Plus you’ll hear some of the Wagnerian opera stars of the future.

Unexpected Opera’s Artistic Director Lynn Binstock said: “As well as conveying the crucial elements of the story and offering an experience of Wagner’s music at a high level of quality, I’d like to give the audience some feel for the magnitude, richness, intellectual reach, complexity and sheer awesomeness of the Ring and its composer.”

Cast: Anna Gregory, Mae Heydorn, Edward Hughes, Cara McHardy, Paul Reeves, Simon Thorpe, Justine Viani, Brian Smith Walters, Harriet Williams, Mari Wyn Williams

Director Lynn Binstock Music Director Kelvin Lim Designer Nancy Surman Lighting Designer Tom Mannings Associate Music Director Robert Bottriell Script Roger Mortimer.


Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL Box office: 08444 930 650

Monday 15 February - Saturday 12 March

Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

Press Night:
Friday 19 February at 7.30pm

£12.50 to £25.00 (no booking fees)

Nearest underground stations: Charing Cross
(Bakerloo and Northern lines), Embankment

(Bakerloo, Northern, Circle and District lines) Age Guidance: 12+

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Quote Of The day

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 | 5:47:00 am

Not wishing to turn over a hornets nest but in Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times", Joscelyn Godwin says:

 "Richard Wagner's operas (sic) can sustain alchemical interpretations, just as they can be made to illustrate Rudolf Steiner's version of cosmic history, or practically any theory one wants to press upon them. But Wagner was no Hermeticist" Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times", Joscelyn Godwin.
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ENO: New Production Of Tristan Und Isolde 2016

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 | 6:07:00 pm

"My job is to reinvent those classics..." Daniel Kramer

"In 2007, after six years working as a theatre director, the English National Opera asked me to direct Harrison Birtwistle's opera Punch and Judy. I was joyous – until I heard the music. It sounded like mutant toads belching on a broken assembly line." 
Daniel Kramer

English National Opera’s first new production of Tristan and Isolde since 1996 is directed by ‘theatre’s most exciting young director’ (Daily Telegraph) Daniel Kramer, with designs from Anish Kapoor, one of the most influential sculptors of his generation.

The thrilling score is conducted by former ENO Music Director Edward Gardner, ‘whose immaculate sense of balance and flow denotes a great Wagner conductor’ (The Stage).

The exceptional cast is led by the outstanding Wagnerian Heldentenor Stuart Skelton as Tristan, with American dramatic soprano Heidi Melton as Isolde.

17:00Thu 09 Jun 1617:00Wed 15 Jun 1615:00Sun 19 Jun 1617:00Wed 22 Jun 1615:00Sun 26 Jun 1617:00Wed 29 Jun 1615:00Sat 02 Jul 1615:00Sat 09 Jul 16

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Watch Now: Roger Scruton - Wagner and Philosophy

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 25 January 2016 | 8:39:00 pm

How are Richard Wagner's operas shaped by his interest in philosophy? How can Immanuel Kant's vision of the human condition inform our understanding of Tristan und Isolde? Can the same interpretation be applied to Der Ring Des Nibelungen? How does that alter our understanding of the moral framework of the opera? And what are we to make of Wagner's last opera, Parsifal, which Nietzsche described as "a secret attempt to poison the very presuppositions of life"? Does Parsifal represent a rejection of the moral spheres of Tristan and the Ring, or can we arrive at a more subtle interpretation of it?

Philosophical Conversations - Sarah-Jane Leslie, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, conducts interviews with some of the world's leading philosophers through her association with the Marc Sanders Foundation. In this interview Professor Leslie meets with Professor Roger Scruton to discuss philosophical issues in Richard Wagner's operas.
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New Edition Of The Wagner Journal

A bit late but in case you missed it:

The November 2015 issue (vol.9, no.3), now available, contains the following feature articles:

• 'Wagner's Spatial Style' by Christopher Wintle

• ' "This Round of Songs": Cyclic Coherence in the Wesendonck Lieder' by Malcolm Miller

• 'From Wagner to Boulez: a Modernist Trajectory' by Arnold Whittall

• A report on the reopened Wahnfried and new archives in Bayreuth by Barry Millington

plus reviews of:

the Ring and new Tristan at Bayreuth, the Ring in Vienna, Parsifal in Karlsruhe, Birmingham and Wuppertal,Tristan at Longborough, Die Meistersinger in Mainz, Lohengrin in Pforzheim and Tannhäuser in Tallinn

the new Overture Opera Guide to Die Meistersinger, ed. Gary Kahn, Mark Berry's After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from 'Parsifal' to Nono, and Matthew Bribitzer-Stull's Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

More at: The Wagner Journal

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Listen Now: Wagner & the Leitmotif In Star Wars

Listen you must. Ignore you should not.

Brett Mitchell — Assistant Conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra, and former Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony — talks about John Williams' use of leitmotif in the score to the original Star Wars movie
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Longborough Festival Opera To Present Tannhauser 2016

9-18 June 2016. More at LFO

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Rienzi Overture: Giuseppe Sinopoli & Staatskapelle Dresden

From a Gala Concert commemorating the 450 Years of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden at the Semperoper Dresden

We dare you not to be moved. Even at this, still early a stage in Wagner's career. He may not yet have found the Wagner we went on to know but still...
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Sofia Opera To Revive Ring Cycle: May 2016

Sofia Opera is to revive their 2014 complete Ring cycle during May this year. Details below.



Conductor Manfred Mayrhofer

Director Plamen Kartaloff

Musical Training Richard Trimborn,Velizar Genchev

Set / Costume Designer Nikolay Panayotov

Multimedia Director Vera Petrova

Concertmasters Teodora Hristova,

Maria Evstatieva Orchestra and Chorus of the Sofia Opera

Technical services and workshops of the Sofia Opera

More At: Sofia Opera
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On Wagner & Schoenberg

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 | 8:05:00 pm

From: Carl E. Schorske: Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture.

The nineteenth century saw itself generally as “a century of movement,” in which “the forces of movement” challenged “the forces of order.” Such was the case in music, too. Hence it was the century of the expansion of dissonance—the medium of tonal movement—and the erosion of the fixed key, the center of tonal order. In music as elsewhere, time moved in on eternity, dynamics on statics, democracy on hierarchy, feeling on reason. Richard Wagner, who was both a political and a sexual revolutionary, became Public Enemy Number One of traditional tonality, of key. In his Tristan und Isolde, Eros returns in surging rhythms and chromatics to assert its claims against the established political and moral order of the state expressed in rigid meter and diatonic harmony. Chromatic tones—half-tones—are all of a single value, and constitute an egalitarian universe of sound. To one accustomed to the hierarchical order of tonality, such democracy is disturbing. It is the language of flux, of dissolution. Of liberty or death, depending on your point of view.
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