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Opera Today

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.
11:38:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

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.

10:59:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

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
10:40:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

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.

10:19:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

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.

THE RINSE CYCLE

Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk Box office: 08444 930 650

Monday 15 February - Saturday 12 March

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

Press Night:
Friday 19 February at 7.30pm

Tickets:
£12.50 to £25.00 (no booking fees)

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

(Bakerloo, Northern, Circle and District lines)

www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk Age Guidance: 12+


6:19:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

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.
5:47:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

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.

Dates:
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.
8:39:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

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

8:22:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

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.



RICHARD WAGNER - “DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN”


SOFIA OPERA HOUSE, 20 MAY – 28 MAY 2016

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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Free Online Course: The Modern and the Postmodern

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 14 September 2015 | 10:23:00 pm

Delphin Enjolras. Evening Reading
Of possible interest to those with an interest in Wagner. While it doesn't seem to discuss Wagner himself it certainly seems to examine some who he knew, who knew him or simply had much to say about him. A two part course. It will require registration but we assure you we have tried the process and it is quick, painless and without spam. You can chose to pay a small fee if you wish. This seems to then provide a certificate.

The Modern and the Postmodern: Part 1


About this Course

This course examines how the idea of "the modern" develops at the end of the 18th century in European philosophy and literature, and how being modern (or progressive, or hip) became one of the crucial criteria for understanding and evaluating cultural change. Are we still in modernity, or have we moved beyond the modern to the postmodern?
Subtitles available in English
3-5 hours/week

Content

“The Modern and the Postmodern Part I” covers the first half of a full semester course on European history, literature and philosophy. We begin with Immanuel Kant and Jean Jacques Rousseau and conclude with Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Baudelaire and a very quick look at painting at the time they wrote. Although in the final week themes of postmodernism begin to emerge, a discussion of how modernism becomes postmodernism is at the heart of Part II of this course.





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Wagner's "Wedding March": Selling Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 11 September 2015 | 5:10:00 am

"Then whore in the dark, you watery brood! (He reaches out his hand towards the gold.) Your light I’ll put out, wrench the gold from the rock and forge the avenging ring "(Alberich, Rheingold Scene 1) Spencer, Stewart; Millington, Barry (2013-03-04). Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung: A Companion

"Clever though be the many thoughts expressed by mouth or pen about the invention of money and its enormous value as a civiliser, against such praises should be set the curse to which it has always been doomed in song and legend. If gold here figures as the demon strangling manhood's innocence, our greatest poet shews at last the goblin's game of paper money. The Nibelung's fateful ring become a pocket-book, might well complete the eerie picture of the spectral world-controller." Richard Wagner,  Know Thyself, 1881

Some readers may have noticed a headline circulating about a "missing" Wagner Mss available to buy for only $3.5 million. No? Well, to bring you upto date, a company in the US, Moments In Time, is selling a piece of sheet music, in Wagner's hand, of Treulich geführt from Lohengrin (Or "Wagner's wedding march" as they are calling it), It was given as a gift by Siegfried Wagner a number of years ago, appeared at an auction in Sotheby's in the 1980s until its recent reappearance.

However, not got the odd $3.5 million to spare? Don't worry for Gary Zimet of Moments In Time, has, as he told us, "many more stellar offers" All of which are "far less expensive than the Wedding March"(sic). For example, "Ring mss. 95k ($) Lohengrin,  195k ($) Tannhauser 110K ($) Gotterdammerung 225k ($)Siegfried 175K ($)" (Visit "Moments In Time" for more details)

Of course, should you have a spare $3.5 million lying around, "burning a hole in your pocket", you could do something far more constructive with it then to buy a few pieces of interesting but ultimately moldy old paper. For example, what about sponsoring a Wagner production at one of our bravely struggling small opera companies, with a strong Wagner connection? Take For example Fulham Opera or Birmingham Opera Company in the UK as just two examples?


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The Path Of Wagner’s Wotan

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 10 September 2015 | 2:32:00 am


A Phd Dissertation written in 2012, But don't let that put you off, it's actually well written. As to the argument? Well, we will leave that up to you. We have been reading, sometimes heated, discussion about Wagner, Schopenhauer and  Feuerbach for far to long to get involved in that discussion.

Author's description below. Click the link at the bottom to download the entire paper in PDF format. 

The path of Wagner’s Wotan

Solomon R. Guhl-Miller

2:32:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Wagner Transformed

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 6 September 2015 | 5:12:00 pm

J. Peter Schwalm (born 1970, Frankfurt am Main) is a German composer and music producer, active in the fields of electronic music, ambient, radio drama, film, theatre and ballet. He is best known for his work with musician Brian Eno. He lives and works in Frankfurt.

As godfather of the cross-genre work of art, Wagner revolutionized the direction of theatre and operas into a modern multimedia experience. If Wagner were around today, how would he use the technical possibilities of modern studio technology and to what extent would he — once again — break away from conventions? In this new project, Wagner’s music is not retold but newly told, transporting his feeling for melody and dynamics into the modern age.


Wagner Transformed / J. Peter Schwalm, Brian Eno, Eiving Aarset, Christine SchutzeSchwalm / Schwalm / Eno / Schutze 
Release Date: 05/13/2014 
Label: Intergroove Catalog #: 122 
Number of Discs: 1
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Watch Now: Alex Ross And The Wagner Legacy

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 3 September 2015 | 5:24:00 pm

Recently, looking for a video of the great Donald Lambert's Pilgrims Chorus (See the video at the
bottom of the page) Alex Ross' 2012 New Yorker Festival presentation on The Wagner Legacy came up in our search results - surely one of only  a few other people that have discussed Wagner and Lambert?

Persistent readers may recall us bringing this video to your attention 3 years ago (3 years? Where does the time go?). Alas, at that time it was hidden firmly behind one of those detested paywalls. Although, despite this fact we still recommended it for your attention. If however, you did not trust our judgement at that time - and who can blame you - or indeed you didn't see that recommendation, we have some good news for you. It seems the New Yorker has now made the full discussion/lecture available for free. 

As one of what we have begun to call here "The New Wagner Thinkers"  (we will explain what we mean by that sometime soon) in this video he brings valuable insight - both old and new - into Wagner's work and legacy. One of the saner - and more accessible -  voices discussing Wagner today. Highly, highly recommended. 

Now all we have to do is wait on that Wagner book he has been promising for years. Although, as he seems to take as much time on his work as Wagner did on his, we might be in for some wait. In the mean time, why not read his survey of "modernist music" The Rest Is Noise"  (see below - HERE if the preview does not work in your browser) -- assuming for some insane reason you have not done so already.
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The Wagnerians, 2015 - The Results

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 31 August 2015 | 1:19:00 am

We admit this has taken some time. Indeed, it is now nearly two years since we asked you to vote in the first semi finals - where we reduced the number of entries down from 18 to 8 in some categories. Why so long? We won't bore you with the technical difficulties, identifying and removing those voters who followed the maxim, "vote early and vote often (you know who you are) and other problems. All you really need to know its here and we have learnt how to simplify things in future years - we hope. And of course we apologise for the long wait, while at the same time thanking everyone of the very many of you that took part and voted. Honestly. Thank you.

Of course, a question remains, are the results still valid - nearly a year later?  Looking at the  results and the existent world of Wagner we think so. Yes certainly there have been some changes, but we would have to wonder if things have changed that greatly? Probably not. We shall see next year for the next awards.

Finally, very well done to all those that won.An award that has been decided by people with an extensive knowledge of Wagner - and the odd obsession - is a very difficult to one to achieve.
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The Wagner Scrapbook - 2nd Edition

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 30 August 2015 | 9:00:00 pm


Note: Because people asked, you should now be able to download this as a PDF -  should you want. To Download Click Here

We spent a surprising amount of time trying to think what we could do for 2013. It seemed that every idea that came to us had already been developed or done in a similar way. But then by chance, we  went back to the origins of the Wagnerian. How, we thought,  would we have produced something like this during Wagner's first centenary? Without electronic media it seemed impossible. But then, an idea came to us. A very, very basic way of reproducing some of the media here could, at a stretch, be done with a very old fashioned scrapbook. And so The Wagnerian Scrapbook: The First 100 Years came into being.

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Why Defending History is More Important Than Defending Wagner

Out of the ashes came a very different Wagner & a very different history?
Originally published, at Think Classical 19 August 2015 Slightly modified in our version 

When I first started writing on the Wagner controversy several years ago, I started out as a kind of amateur lawyer acting on his behalf. Part of this was driven by the fact that in retrospect I was rather naive about the sheer complexity of the subject. Things only gained clarity when I started to read major authoritative accounts of the history of the Dritte Reich and the origins of the Final Solution. At that point I literally stopped reading about Wagner, and started to devour just about anything I could get hold of on the subject of the history and origins of the Dritte Reich and Holocaust. I also found myself reading huge volumes devoted to the study of the 1848 pro-democracy revolution as well as the German 1918 revolution. I found myself studying Richard J. Evans's Rereading German History over and over again.

At a certain point I realised that people who blame Wagner for the historical disasters of WWII and the Holocaust have not even the slightest of interest in Wagner or opera. What is happening is that they are advocating a certain interpretation of history for political purposes. What is really being discussed is history, not opera. The controversy really is about the crude politicisation in the public sphere of a particular debate around the origin of the Holocaust.

This debate was one that was fought out amongst different camps of historians during the 1970s, which divided itself into the intentionalist and structural-functionalist camps. For those who find this debate perplexing I cannot recommend this article written by Elly Dlin highly enough:


Please read it several times over, and study it carefully. It should be noted that Elliott Dlin was the former director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum. The website it is posted on is hardly a neo-Nazi website trying to defend Wagner's radicalisation of opera into a medium for turning "Jew hatred into an aesthetic experience", but The Jewish Agency for Israel. You can find other material that covers similar ground about the intentionalist vs structural-functionalist debate on the Yad Vashem Holocaust Center, such as in this interview with Hans Mommsen.

The reason I am continuing to write about the subject of Wagner is simply that in the course of researching my posts on Köhler, I did a huge amount of background research on history. While I put condensed snippets of what I learned into my posts, I realise that I probably need to do a bit more explaining so that non-historians can better understand the all crucial historiographic issues at stake.

The most important thing is that once you learn to understand the origins of the Final Solution as the mainstream of academic historians understand it, you find that the notion that the National Socialist regime came to power with a fully formed premeditated plan to commit genocide engendered by an inherently warmongering and genocidal anti-Semitic psychopathology deeply inherent to the German character, with Wagner as the archetypal case in point, simply fails to hold. Once this concept is grasped, any notion of the existence of a premeditated intentionalist grand Masterplan to "transform the world into a Wagnerian drama" that the young Adolf decided to devote his life to realising when he was just a schoolboy starts to look rather ridiculous.

Dlin summarises the fundamental claim of the intentionalist school:
The intentionalist school is made up of those who are convinced that the Nazis/Hitler "intended" to kill the Jews at some relatively early point in time (here historians may differ as to exactly when that point was reached) and that he proceeded along the road to Auschwitz in a carefully planned and premeditated fashion.
The further back the time the point at which the premeditated plan for genocide is posited as having been hatched, the more extreme the intentionalism. When this plan for genocide predates Hitler, who is claimed to have reached the point of genocidal operatic anti-Semitism as a schoolboy, then we are dealing with a form of radical intentionalism far too extreme for any genuine scholar to take seriously.

Dlin quotes Gerald Fleming in summarising the core assumption inherent to the intentionalist argument which makes claims about an "unbroken continuity of specific utterances...a straight path...a single, unbroken, and fatal continuum...to the liquidation orders that Hitler personally issued during the war". All Köhler does is elaborate on this by extending this "straight path...a single unbroken, and fatal continuum" from Hitler back to Wagner. While professional historians, even those on the moderate intentionalist camp, struggle to find a clear straight path going from Mein Kampf to Auschwitz, non-historians set themselves up as experts claiming to have discovered clear "straight paths" going from Judaism in Music (1850) through to Mein Kampf (1925) and Auschwitz.

The main counterargument that blurs such extremely simplistic clean lines of a straight path of history that runs from A to B, is the structural-functionalist camp arguments that presents a far more complex picture of a "twisted road to Auschwitz".
The structural-functionalist school debunked the command-response (also prophet-disciple) paradigm
of a Leader in masterful command of the Reich's minions, and replaced it with a messy polycratic jungle 
in which ad hoc decisions were improvised by those "working towards the Führer", anticipating 
what they assumed would be approved action, thus inadvertently engendering a "cumulative radicalisation". 

This camp, referred to as either the functionalist or structuralist camp, consists of highly reputable academic scholars, some of whom were themselves Holocaust survivors. Let nobody attempt to dismiss scholars such as Hans Mommsen, Goetz Aly, Christopher Browning, or Raul Hilberg as being neo-Nazis for their failure to press arguments conducive to the demonisation of all Germans before Hitler as proto-Nazis, because nothing could be further from the truth. This camp has left an indelible mark on Holocaust studies, and even those who were formerly on the intentionalist side such as Yehuda Bauer now advocate for a more moderate synthetic approach between the two camps.

The structural-functionalist methodological approach is also a much more academic approach to the study of history. It puts the blame for the rise of the Dritte Reich on the catastrophes of WWI, followed by the crippling reparation payments imposed upon Germany by the treaty of Versailles, setting the stage for Weimar democracy to be undermined to the point that it was soon put onto life support following the body blow of hyperinflation before the Great Depression delivered its coup de grace. The Holocaust is seen more in terms of the ad hoc system of decision making in the power structures of the Dritte Reich, a messy polycratic jungle, which left the system utterly bereft of humanitarian decision making during a war of attrition even more catastrophic than the first world war.

The idea first found in Allied war propaganda that Germans were always Nazis, and that German culture could be characterised by a uniquely psychopathic Nazi mentality since the time of Martin Luther has long ago been left behind by mainstream historians. The reason is that this way of thinking represents "cultural historicism" which claims that culture and psychology exclusively drives events in history. History is seen as being driven by the genius of the Great Man, such as poets, philosophers and opera composers. In the driving seat of German history is placed various Great Men steering German history to the crematoria of Auschwitz. The choice of the Great Man who conditioned the German mind to brainwash them all into becoming "Hitler's Willing Executioners" is always dictated by the political prejudice of the writer.

Paul Hinlicky puts things rather well about those self-serving polemicists who draw such neat and clean "straight lines" running wherever they want to run by claiming that:
There is, say, a straight line running “Luther-Bismarck-Hitler”, or rather “Darwin-Nietzsche-Hitler”. Unsurprisingly these facile characterizations correspond to contemporary culture wars...  

Hinlicky is right to say that these furious debates ultimately tell us nothing about history, but inform us only about "contemporary culture wars", wars waged along political battle lines. As Israeli historian Na'ama Sheffi says, Wagner is merely being manipulated as a pawn in the battle of these contemporary culture wars.

The same can be said for a straight line allegedly running Wagner-Hitler or even Darwin-Marx-Wagner-Hitler, as has been argued before during the 1940s by Allied war propagandists using the fog of war to launch an attack on the left:



For some on the right, Wagner's admiration for the proto-Marxist thinker, Feuerbach, has been reason to insinuate that National Socialism was a post-Marxist left wing revolutionary movement, the ultimate evolution of radical left wing thought. On the cover of Barzun's book, Richard Wagner's face merges into the heads of Darwin and Marx, as though to suggest they are different faces of the same proto-fascist ideology.

For the reactionary Christian right (usually American anti-abortion creationists and intelligent design proponents) the Great Man who invented Kraut think was Charles Darwin, and his German advocate, Ernst Haeckel. Right wing American Christian universities often publish this literature arguing Nazism was the ultimate expression of a Godless Social Darwinism. The crowd devoted exclusively to discrediting evolution mostly seem to have forgotten the idea that World War II and the Holocaust were really caused by a nineteenth century opera composer.

However, there have been those who have blamed Martin Luther, and singled him out as the Great Man who steered Germany to Auschwitz. The best example here is William Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a liberal who turned to writing this populist book after losing his job during the McCarthy era. Since his time, the number of left-wing polemicists to point the finger of blame at Luther have been few and far between, because this type of "cultural historicism" is more of a right-wing ideological tradition, one which finds that demonising an iconic religious figure like Luther is simply inconvenient. The left generally tends to feel contented to accept that socio-economic structural conditions and socio-political power tensions engendered WWII, while functional conditions of the political power structures within the Dritte Reich at war colluded to precipitate the Shoah. From this standpoint, the left feels no need to "discover" in the figure of Martin Luther the "real" Great Man who steered Germany down the road to Auschwitz.

In this new mini series of shorter explanatory posts about the main post on this blog critically analysing Joachim Köhler's book Wagner's Hitler—the Prophet and his Disciple, the major emphasis has been a plea for anyone who wants to grapple with the Wagner controversy to first come to grips with mainstream academic historiographic research on the origins of the Holocaust. Modern researchers in this field universally fail to even bother mentioning Wagner (or Luther) as being even remotely relevant to the origins of the Final Solution. Once you understand history properly, the Wagner controversy melts away into a rather irrelevant non-issue.

In summary, it is immeasurably more important to defend history than to defend Wagner, because history is the truly important thing at stake in Wagner controversies. Once you have successfully done that, Wagner merely defends himself. All of the "gross exaggeration and distortion" accompanying the controversy around Wagner increasingly starts to look like a ridiculously overblown storm in a tea cup. Put simply, Wagner controversies have got nothing to do with Wagner at all.
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Wagner The Anti-semite - A Complex Relationship

Taken from "Think Classical"'s essay Richard Wagner: Supreme Annihilator of the German War Gods

The Berlin anti-Semitic unrest of 1879-81 is mentioned in Know Thyself published in February of 1881, where Wagner dismisses it as "dunkel und Wahnvoll"—"sinister and steeped in delusion". Wagner also obliquely mentions an anti-Semitic pastor referred to only as "unsere Herren Geistlichen ... in ihrer Agitation gegen die Juden" (our dear clergymen in the agitation against the Jews). He was referring to pastor Adolf Stöcker who founded a party called the Christian-Social Workers Party, later renamed the Christian Social Party (see p. 259 of Stefanie Hein's Richard Wagners Kunstprogramm im nationalkuturellen Kontext).

Cosima records Wagner's reaction in her diary on the 14th of November, 1879 to a sermon by Adolf Stöcker:

A second sermon from Pastor Stoecker brought R[ichard] to exclaim: Alas! Not just the Jews, but every creature seeks to further their own interest. It is us, we of the state, who condone such things. So too the stock exchange, in the beginning a free, decent institute—what have we permitted to become of that? And he spoke of the current debts that the states gets into and how that once again only drives the evil speculative spirits!

Eine zweite Rede vom Pfarrer Stoecker bringt R. darauf, aufzurufen: Ach! Nicht die Juden sind es, ein jedes Wesen sucht sein Interesse zu fördern, wir sind es: wir der Staat, die wir solches gestatten. So auch die Börse, anfänglich eine freie gute Institution, was haben wir daraus werden lassen. Und er erzählt von der jetzigen Anleihe, welche der Staat macht und die wiederum nur ein Vorschub diesem bösen spekulativen Geiste leistet!
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Editorial: Barenboim Banned From Playing In Iran By Just about Everyone

Last week, we noted protests from seeming racists in Israel - notably Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister, who once called Black Africans a cancer in our body,” - to Barenboim conducting in Iran. However, it seems she need not have worried, for her equally, seemingly, racist counterparts in Iran have also said he will not be allowed to conduct there, according to the Fars news agency, because of his Israeli citizenship.

It's difficult, for a rational person, to sometimes imagine that such immature and frankly childish psyches manage entire nations and have access to weapons that could destroy the planet. But this is sadly the reality in which we find ourselves. Of course for how long is debatable, for that old war god, among other things, Wotan lies awaiting in the wings - Valhalla far from burned to the ground. War Gods always await their opportunity to rise. 

Wagner of course is often cited as a "horrendous racist" but I believe it was Wagner who once said - despite his many faults:

"Like may not rule over like; like has no higher potency than its equal: and as ye all are equal, I will destroy all rulership of one over other."

I will destroy the existing order of things, which parts this one mankind into hostile nations, into powerful and weak, privileged and outcast, rich and poor; for it makes unhappy men of all. I will destroy the order of things that turns millions to slaves of a few, and these few to slaves of their own might, own riches. I will destroy this order of things, that cuts enjoyment off from labour, makes labour a load (Last), enjoyment a vice (Laster), makes one man wretched through want, another through overflow. I will destroy this order of things, which wastes man's powers in service of dead matter, which keeps the half of humankind in inactivity or useless toil, binds hundreds of thousands to devote their vigorous youth-in busy idleness as soldiers, placemen, speculators and money-spinners-to the maintenance of these depraved conditions, whilst the other half must shore the whole disgraceful edifice at cost of over-taxing all their strength and sacrificing every taste of life. Down to its memory will I destroy each trace of this mad state of things, compact of violence, lies, care, hypocrisy, want, sorrow, suffering, tears, trickery and crime, with seldom a breath of even impure air to quicken it, and all but never a ray of pure joy.


 Destroyed be all that weighs on you and makes you suffer, and from the ruins of this ancient world let rise a new, instinct with happiness undreamt! Nor hate, nor envy, grudge nor enmity, be henceforth found among you; as brothers shall ye all who live know one another, and free, free in willing, free in doing, free in enjoying, shall ye attest the worth of life. So up, ye peoples of the earth! Up, ye mourners, ye oppressed, ye poor! And up, ye others, ye who strive in vain to cloak the inner desolation of your hearts by idle show of might and riches!  Richard Wagner. Volksblätter no 14, Dresden, Sunday 8 April, 1849
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Syberberg's Parsifal available again: DVD, Download and Streaming

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 29 August 2015 | 6:45:00 am

Update (after 3 years!) : The DVD is now also available on Amazon - other retailers we are sure are available. To find on Amazon search for " Syberberg Parsifal"

The now "legendary" Syberberg, long out of circulation, has been made available once again from Filmgalerie 451. Available as either a DVD (24 Euros), as a download (4.90 euros!) or streaming on-demand (2.99 euros). Details below.

PARSIFAL (Parsifal) Hans Jürgen Syberberg, F/D 1982, 260 min

Syberberg's celebrated version of 'Parsifal' was made on the one hundredth anniversary of the opera's first performance at Bayreuth in 1882 and is staged around the looming presence of a huge replica of Wagner's death mask. Armin Jordan's acclaimed interpretation of Wagner's incomparable music unfolds against a startlingly effective and constantly changing backdrop of images and tableaux vivants, while Syberberg's camera concentrates on the expressive faces of his actors, revealing staggering performances, especially from Edith Clever as Kundry, who many agree has given the definitive interpretation, hair-raising in its intensity.

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Like A Wagnerian Today - But it's Not Just For Christmas

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 28 August 2015 | 9:24:00 pm

A Wagnerian on Facebook. Not Wotan's Ravens but close?

Are you someone that likes to keep up with our ramblings (Really? Are you sure?) but doesn't use Twitter, want emails or use an RSS reader but does have one of those insidious Facebook accounts? Then you can keep up with us by liking our Facebook Page. To do so, you can visit it by clicking the link below

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Nikolaus Lehnhoff: May 1939 - August 2015


Perhaps the best obituary would not be words but images.

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A Quick Word From Our Editor: Wagner & Dicks vs Phalluses

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 27 August 2015 | 2:25:00 pm

I enjoy the Wagner Journal immensely - after all how could I not. It is always filled with the most interesting articles - the latest issue as much as any others. And it's often full of surprises. However, the July issue (vol.9, no.2) - I am just catching-up, its been a busy few months -  has just left me more bemused than normal.

I was happily reading an intriguing discussion about an aspect of Wagner's work taking place between a number of  renowned Wagner scholars  (Nicholas Vazsonyi, Barry Emslie, Sanna Pederson and Eva Rieger) when I reached the following comment from Sanna Paderson, 

"But I will stop there and look into dicks vs phalluses..."  

Needless to say I paused momentarily and felt the need to share with my good friends - you dear readers. If you would like to know what  lead to this investigation I can only recommend you head over the the Wagner Journal by clicking here and get your hands on a copy.

Who said that everything has already been said about Wagner? 

TW
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Barenboim & Berlin Philharmonic In Iran?

Miri Regev: "Look! I'm telling you! Its True! Elvis is alive. 

He works in this fish 'an chip shop in Scunthorpe."
Rumours are strange things and can quickly grow out of hand. Take the following: Barenboim is to take the Staatskapelle Berlin, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel (exactly what the poor Iranians have done to receive the latter is not precisely  defined - again depending on one's source) to Iran in either September, October or some other month. He may also , or instead, be taking an number of other German orchestras - once again depending on who you read. This particular rumour first gained legs over at the always entertaining, recommended but never the most reliable slippedisc.com and from there has grown expedentially.

Now, we are not saying it isn't true but only no one of worth has confirmed it.  However, that has never stopped a politician from getting excited or making odd statements on facebook (don't these people have advisers?).

Take Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister. She is outraged! On Facebook she wrote yesterday, “Daniel Barenboim, a citizen of Israel, will perform in Iran together with the Berlin Philharmonic. Daniel Barenboim’s concert in Iran hurts Israel’s efforts to prevent the nuclear agreement and boosts the delegitimisation (sic) efforts against Israel,” she added.

That this is nothing but a rumour seems of no interest to her. That Barenboim holds four citizenships nowadays, Argentine, Israeli, Spanish and Palestinian and lives in Berlin seems to be of  equal unimportance. That the Berlin State Opera is on holiday and thus can't say anything,  that the Vienna Philharmonic has denied having anything to do with it and that at present Barenboim has nothing to do with the Berlin Philharmonic is all equally of unimportance.

But this is not the first time that Ms Regev has made either odd or offensive comments. After all it was Israel's "culture" minister who said all artists where "tight asses". Or perhaps most offensively compared  African migrants to Israel as a " cancer in our body,”. That, sickeningly, this echos Hitler's description of the Jews as ""racial tuberculosis" in "German lungs" also seems to escape her. 

EDIT: It has just been announced that the Berlin State Opera has pulled itself off of the beach to  briefly  say that it is at least, "...in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran by the Staatskapelle Berlin," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has agreed to take over the patronage of the concert, if it goes ahead,  as he "supports Daniel Barenboim's dedication to making music accessible to all people, irrespective of national, religious or ethnic boundaries,".

It appears then, that Elvis is not working in a "Fish an Chip shop" in Scunthorpe but possibly a takeaway in Small Heath in Birmingham (England) .
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Cheryl Studer Remembers Wolfgang Sawallisch

On her Facebook page, Cheryl Studer has just written the following. We felt it was more than worth bringing to your attention. And perhaps Wagner would have approved of the inclusion of Euryanthe (See here for an overview if you are unfamiliar or perhaps also here).

Anyway, on to Cheryl Studer:

"Remembering Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Wikipedia does not describe his genius as an opera conductor. He was THE best conductor I ever had the honor to work with, although I worked with many great conductors! He had a lovely lyric tenor voice and understood the voice. Once, when I was sick and convinced I must cancel a performance of Don Giovanni in Munich, he called me in to work with him a bit. He sang Don Ottavio while accompanying my Donna Anna at the piano. After half an hour, he said: "No problem, you'll be OK. Just keep your eyes on me". I did. He conducted me through the performance, helping me to "save" wherever possible. I got through the performance without having to make an announcement after intermission. Everyone who sang in Munich under Maestro Sawallisch was better there than anywhere else. He was inspiring and uplifting! I miss him."
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The Phantom Cup that Comes and Goes: The Story of the Holy Grail

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 | 8:20:00 pm

From noiseful arms, and acts of prowess done 
In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale, 
Whom Arthur and his knighthood called The Pure, 
Had passed into the silent life of prayer, 
Praise, fast, and alms; and leaving for the cowl 
The helmet in an abbey far away 
From Camelot, there, and not long after, died.

The Holy Grail conjures up images of a romantic and heroic past, of magical journeys and brave knights. What do we really know of its origin and meaning? It has entered the language as a phrase that embodies an infinitely desirable but attainable goal.

Is there any truth behind this intriguing object, or is it just one of the many myths of the Middle Ages?
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Is It Possible to Enjoy Wagner & Ignore His Unpleasant Associations?

Thought for the day?

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Wagner's Parsifal as ritual theater: approaching the numinous unknown

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 | 11:00:00 pm

From carl Jung's "Red Book"
by Douglas Thomas, PhD, LCSW and Elizabeth Eowyn Nelson, PhD

Richard Wagner spent 37 years developing and refining his final work, Parsifal, which he would not call an opera but, rather, a ‘Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage’. Critical response to Parsifal has historically taken up the work's ambiguous nature as a puzzle to be analyzed and solved, yet treating the opera as a Grail quest for some ultimate meaning reveals more about the seeker than the work and simultaneously errs by distancing the audience from participation in the ritual Wagner orchestrated. Parsifal is deeply psychological in the most radical sense of the word. A depth psychological approach finds the essential value of the work through a direct encounter with the dynamic symbols of the archetypal unconscious, which emerge through Wagner's images and music. Then, the light of understanding emanates from within the drama, from within the music, and from within the landscape and its characters as complex and dynamic autonomous beings – so that it becomes, in Nietzsche's description of Parsifal, ‘an event of the soul’.


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