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Watch Now: Tristan Und Isolde. René Kollo & Gwyneth Jones

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 | 6:51:00 pm

Again, made freely avaible by Euroarts. One of our early Tristan's on the then newly emerging DVD format.

This performance was recorded (in HD) in Tokyo during the Deutsche Oper Berlin's 1993 Japan tour.

René Kollo - Tristan
Robert Lloyd - King Marke
Gwyneth Jones - Isolde
Gerd Feldhoff - Kurwenal
Peter Edelmann - Melot
Hanna Schwarz - Brangäne
Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Jirí Kout - conductor
Götz Friedrich - stage director
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Watch Now: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Deutsche Oper

Made available, freely, by Euroarts. It may help one take one's mind off of all sorts of insanities.

This magnificent production of Wagner's masterpiece at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, brilliantly directed by Götz Friedrich and staged by Peter Sykora, was not only a great success in Berlin but in Tokyo as well.

Wolfgang Brendel - Hans Sachs
Victor von Halem - Veit Pogner
David Griffith - Kunz Vogelsang
Barry McDaniel - Konrad Nachtigall
Eike Wilm Schulte - Sixtus Beckmesser
Lenus Carlson - Fritz Kothner
Volker Horn - Balthasar Zorn
Peter Maus - Ulrich Eißlinger
Otto Heuer - Augustin Moser
Klaus Lang - Hermann Ortel
Ivan Sardi - Hans Schwarz
Friedrich Molsberger - Hans Foltz
Gösta Winbergh - Walther von Stölzing
Uwe Peper - David
Eva Johansson - Eva
Ute Walther - Magdalena
Peter Edelmann - Ein Nachtwächter

From the Deutsche Oper, Berlin
Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos - conductor
Götz Friedrich - stage director
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Listen To The 2016 Bayreuth Parsifal.

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 15 April 2017 | 9:54:00 am

NRK KLASSISK Radio is rebroadcasting, the 2016 Bayreuth Parsifal today at 16.00 GMT
. Full details below. To listen, simply click this link. You might also have to press play, but no matter your native language, hopefully, the play icon should be universally comprehensible - top of the page. Any difficulties, facebook or tweet at us. We will try and get back to you.
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A Wagnerian With No Wagner? Not Music To An Aussie. 10 Down, 8 Across.

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 30 March 2017 | 7:12:00 pm

Colin Dexter: 29 September 1930 – 21 March 2017)
As readers are surely aware, Colin Dexter, creator of probably one of this generation's most famous Wagnerians - Inspector Endeavour Morse - sadly died last week. For those unfamiliar, Morse is a somewhat idiosyncratic, curmudgeonly, romantic, crossword addicted, fictional Oxford,
police inspector. He first appeared in Colin Dexter's  1977 novel Last Bus to Woodstock - the first in a series of 13 - plus one short story. Since then, he has appeared in one stage play (An original story, recently adapted as a radio play by the BBC and to be found, in full, below) a number of radio play adaptations and two TV shows (plus another spin-off show "Lewis in which he does not appear).

As we have noted, Morse was a Wagnerian - as too was his creator. The original novels are filled with references to Wagner - many relatively obscure to those without an interest.
“Colin Dexter, the series’ writer had Morse down as a Wagner freak, but to tell you the truth, I can’t stand Wagner. So over the years I gradually phased his music out.”
This last week, with some spare time on our hands, and following the sad death of his creator, we have found ourselves revisiting the world of Morse; both the original novels and the various TV shows: Morse, the prequel series Endeavour and the spin-off series Lewis.
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Celebrate 10 years of the Wagner Journal

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 12 March 2017 | 5:56:00 pm

The Wagner Journal is 10 years old this year - no small task when so many magazines and journals are struggling to survive in the second decade of the 21 century. Happy Birthday! To celebrate, they have not only just published a new edition but revamped the website. Click here to visit and read below what you can expect in this quarter's edition. As always, recommended. 

• 'Wagner: Race, Nationalism and Other Distractions' by Derek Hughes
• 'Teleology, Providence and the ‘Death of God’: a New Perspective on the Ring Cycle’s Debt to G.W.F. Hegel' by Richard H. Bell
• 'All in it Together: the Gesamtkunstwerk Revisited' by Barry Millington
• 'David Breckbill 1957–2016' by Barry Millington

plus reviews of:
Mariusz Treliński's Tristan und Isolde at the Met, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in a multi-director Ring in Karlsruhe, Tatjana Gürbaca's Der fliegende Holländer and Lohengrin in Essen, Pierre Audi's Parsifal in Amsterdam and Neil Armfield's Ring in Melbourne.
DVD of Dimitri Tcherniakov's Parsifal from Berlin
CDs of Die Walküre over a span of 80 years
Eva Rieger's Frida Leider: Sängerin im Zwiespalt ihrer Zeit and Ulrich Drüner's Richard Wagner: Die Inszenierung eines Lebens


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Watch Now: Opéra Monte-Carlo's French Language Tannhauser.

But first listen to those involved in, Opéra Monte-Carlo's new production of Tannhauser,  discuss the production, the work itself and why they are staging the Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter translated 1861 "Paris version"
5:27:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Was Bugs And Fudd Your First Time?

Many of the people involved in the Washington National Opera's production of the Ring say it was theirs. Well, at lest that their first exposure to Wagner's "operas" came from the same source: Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd cartoons. Or so they say in interviews in this short video from the Wall Street Journal.
10:06:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Is The ‘Ring’ a shadow of the Trump presidency?

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 20 February 2017 | 2:39:00 am

Not a real Tweet. Unsure what his thoughts on Wagner might be

In this insightful essay, Richard Bammer finds reflections of todays political events in Der Ring des Nibelungen. Whatever your political views - if you have any - this is an interesting exploration of the Ring, from a staff reporter on a small local newspaper in Vacaville, California that could be easily overlooked. Well worth reading and a writer for Wagnerians to keep an eye on. 

By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times, including the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, animus toward refugees, religious intolerance, bigotry expressed by prominent national leaders, the consequences of the global economy, the ignoring of science and environmental destruction, and the rise of far-right political parties in democracies across the globe.
In Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” perhaps the single greatest operatic work of all time, he created not only 15 hours of revolutionary 19th-century music but also — using Norse myths and medieval Germanic poetry — a story rich in themes of greed, desire, corruption and politics, the destruction of nature, the consequences of an unbridled pursuit of power, and the redemptive qualities of a love that ultimately triumphs over all.
Mark Twain once said, “Wagner’s music is not as bad as it sounds.” I’m not sure the great 19th-century American author of “Huckleberry Finn” realized it at the time, but there is a sense of sex and sexuality in all of the German composer’s music, and his is a sound — expressed in “leitmotifs,” or defining themes — that relates to and stirs the deepest human emotions.

When “The Ring” (as it’s called for short) begins, a low E-flat rumbles from the sonic depths and sets the entire work’s tone, suggesting the birth of the universe, and, some minutes later, ushers in the first scene: Rhinemaidens frolicking (often in the nude, depending on a directors’ staging) in the Rhine River and puts into motion the first of four operas in a cycle, “Das Rheingold.”

Over the course of two hours in that opera, the cycle’s prelude, and through three more, each nearly five hours long, we are introduced to giants, dragons, gods, heroes and heroines, with characters clashing over fidelity and honor, and struggling for control of the ring, which grants its bearer absolute power.
By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times
The other operas in the cycle are “Die Walkure,” which boasts the hit “The Ride of the Valkyries” (music featured in the film “Apocalypse Now”), a story in which we meet the warrior-maiden Brunnhilde, the heroine of “The Ring”; “Siegfried,” about a defiant, boastful and arrogant young hero and title character, who wins the ring and falls in love with Brunnhilde; and “Gotterdammerung” (The Twilight of the Gods), which brings the story to a tragic conclusion, recalling a prophecy in “Das Rheingold” as the Rheinmaidens recover the ring and flames consume their celestial fortress, Valhalla.

By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times, including the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, animus toward refugees, religious intolerance, bigotry expressed by prominent national leaders, the consequences of the global economy, the ignoring of science and environmental destruction, and the rise of far-right political parties in democracies across the globe. (Consider that Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw viewed “The Ring” as socialist commentary on the evils of capitalism.)

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Dallas Symphony Orchestra To Perform Walkure

In an exciting last season as Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Music Director - to include Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Bruckner's Eighth and Mahler's Second and Fifth symphonies - Jaap van Zweden will conduct a complete, unstaged, version of Die Walkure.

The production will mark Jaap van Zweden's last season as musical director and the Dallas Symphony Chorus' 40th anniversary year,

Performers and dates follow: 

MAY 18 + 20 | 2018
MICHELLE DEYOUNG MEZZO-SOPRANO (DSO Artist-in-Residence) (Sieglinde)

1:51:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Watch Now: Walkure (Highlights) Miami Wagner Institute

Miami Wagner Institute Debut

July 16th, 2016- New World Center

Michael Rossi- Artistic Director
Christine Goerke- Program Director/ Brünnhilde
Kathleen Kelly- Principal Coach
Dan Wallace Miller- Director


Christine Goerke- Brünnhilde
Alan Held- Wotan
Sieglinde -Tracy Cox


Gerhilde -Elisabeth Rosenberg
Ortlinde -Rebecca Wilson
Waltraute -Jillian Yemen
Schwertleite -Rehanna Thelwell
Helmwige -Jennifer Root
Seigrune -Stephanie Newman
Grimgerde- Lauren Frick
Roßweiße -Molly Burke

1:25:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

The Catholic,The Actor And Richard Wagner.

For Francis Philips, writing for the Catholic Herald, Simon Callow's new Wagner biography, raises - for most of us well visited -  arguments about Wagner

Reading Stephen Pollard’s article about anti-Semitism and social media in the Telegraph last week gave me a jolt. According to Pollard, figures from the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitic incidents with the police, “show that in 2016 there was a 36% rise in incidents of Jew-hate over the figure for 2015 – and a 29% increase in violent assaults on Jews.”

It gave me a jolt because in my own daily life I never encounter it (though I have read of problems with anti-Semitism within the Labour Party). It seems such a strange and abstract crime, if an ancient one: hating a whole people simply because they come from a particular race or religion.

Interestingly though, I have come across anti-Semitism twice in the comment box when I have blogged: once, when I wrote about the Tridentine Mass and remarked that a Jewish convert who attended the Extraordinary Form had been upset by certain anti-Semitic remarks she had heard; and a second time when I wrote about a book called The Crime and the Silence: confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Poland by Anna Bikont. On both occasions I was taken aback by some of the comments.

Apart from Pollard’s article my thoughts on the subject have been roused by reading Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will (its subtitle eerily echoing Leni Riefenstahl’s notorious film about the dark glamour of the Nazi Party in its early days.) Callow, a lifelong devotee of Wagner’s musical dramas, does not gloss over the more unpleasant features of the composer’s personality – in particular, his virulent anti-Semitism.

Continue Reading
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The Arts Strike Back: MET Opera Vs The President

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 February 2017 | 7:54:00 am

Siegfried may not be the only one fighting dragons at the MET
Lost amongest so much media coverage of Donald J Trump's administration, are his plans to close down both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. Admittedly, public funding for the arts in the US is already the lowest of any developed country - and some less developed - however, eliminating these two sources of funding, however small that they are, may impact Trump supporters the most: the poor and those in rural communities.

To give an idea of how serious things are, the MET's Peter Gelb warned listeners, midway through this Saturdays live broadcast, .that many of the stations they were listening to would risk severe cuts or even closure, Said Gelb, "I think it’s really important that people be aware of this: The possibility of losing the arts on the radio, losing the arts on television, losing the arts altogether is very real if these cuts were to go through,". At the same time, the St. Louis Symphony sent an email asking its board members to call their elected representatives in the hope of stopping the cuts.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hollywood star Robert Redford, the president and founder of the Sundance Institute, went as far as to say; "“It’s another example of our democracy being threatened. Arts are essential. They describe and critique our society.”

As is often the case with such cuts, it will be those living in poorer, rural communities and smaller towns, who came out in force to vote for Trump, that will suffer the most. As Martin Miller, the executive director of TheatreSquared, said today, "“The N.E.A. has a big impact in the middle of country — even more so, I suspect, than in urban areas where funding is more diversified. Losing the N.E.A. would mean that many smaller, mid-American arts companies couldn’t weather a recession. Losing these companies would mean fewer jobs, a lower quality of life and less local spending in the small towns that need it most.”
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Wagner And The Popular Authoritarian Leader

It's difficult to become fascinated with Wagner without becoming equally fascinated with racist, far right authoritarian leaders. Not because Wagner may have been any of these things (as much as some biographers would have us believe) but because of a person who has grown so closely associated with him; Adolf Hitler. And not just Hitler and the Third Reich but similar extremist authoritarian movements; both in the past and the present. I am even more fascinated by how such people come to power - a lifelong one that influenced early academic choices. The most common answer to such a question is that the people that elect them (when commentators admit they so often elected) are simply not the "norm", poorly educated (although there is sometimes truth in this) or that they are "manipulated". Indeed, this excuse is being used now in the US as an explanation for the chaotic presidency - only 8 weeks old - of Donald J Trump. However, the truth is much more complex than this although, sadly, this may not be the place to discuss it any depth.

However, I sat with fascination today watching the recent Trump press conference and then his rally in California. Watching the crowds at the later it was difficult to not be reminded of the ending of the recent film version of Timur Vermes'  comedy novel "Er ist wieder da" (Look Who's Back). If you are unfamiliar, both the book and film imagine that somehow Hitler is transported in time from his last day in the Führerbunker to present day Berlin. Quickly acclimatizing, he uses social and traditional media to rise to power. The film is unusual in that it uses both scripted and unscripted scenes, with its unscripted moments being perhaps the most disturbing. During these Oliver Masucci manages to channel Hitler in the most extraordinary manner. More interesting is how, in Germany of perhaps all places, while in character, so many ordinary Germans agree with him; "If you were him, I would follow you today", says one.

The movie ends with Hitler explaining why he came to power and why he will again.

Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a poor review, saying that it "... doesn't ... suggest something meaningful about either contemporary German society or whether Hitler's ideas and methods could potentially take root again", He said this in May 2016 - only six months before Trump became the "Leader of the free world"  and only eight months before a poll yesterday found 40% of Americans felt Trump was "doing a good job",.

If you have not seen it I cannot do more than recommend you get it on DVD. If you have access to Netflix it is also available there right now.

If you are still undecided, and are unbothered by "spoilers" - although I  think hardly relevant in this case -  you can watch the "denouncement" in the clip of the final few minutes of the movie below.

By the way, Wagner's music only appears once, and then only by a terrible TV show.
3:27:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Simon Callow Is Even Less Reliable Than Wagner About Wagner?

It seems that Micheal Tanner finds Simon Callow an even more unreliable Wagner Biographer than Wagner. He has a poor grasp of Schopenhauer also. Our own thoughts will be arriving shortly. 

The dust cover features one of the best-known caricatures of Richard Wagner, his enormous head in this version opened like a boiled egg, with a photograph of Simon Callow either emerging from his skull or sinking into it. The idea is that rather than just writing another book on this over-biographised figure, Callow will let us know what it was like actually to have been him, something he also tried in his one-man show at the Linbury Theatre, Inside Wagner’s Head. Callow tells us that he has been a lifelong Wagnerian, but that only in the last four years has he investigated him as a man, reading the most important biographical and, especially, autobiographical works, together with a fair number of critical studies.

So we have one flamboyant theatrical figure claiming to portray another. Wagner’s narratives of his life — there are many of them — are notoriously unreliable, often with dramatic intent. Callow is not the man to mind that; and he adds a large number of inaccuracies and flourishes of his own, so that, in many respects, the book turns out to be a mine of misinformation. Callow even gets Wagner’s birthday wrong, twice, though it is correct in the chronology at the end. More seriously, he takes Wagner’s word for it that it was seeing the great soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient as Fidelio in 1829 that determined him to become an opera composer, and also was a lifelong influence on his view of the ideal operatic performer. But it has long been known, and stated in several of the books Callow lists in his bibliography, that she didn’t perform in Fidelio then. It was part of Wagner’s mytho-autobiography.

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Johannes Debus On Wagner: "There is something in this music that is so sick"

Canadian Opera Company conductor Johannes Debus is frank about his relationship with the music of Richard Wagner.
“I always tried to avoid Wagner,” he says. “There is something in this music that is so sick. Something in it that takes you over and doesn’t let you go. It manipulates you. Of course, there are those moments of ecstasy that are so powerful, so strong. And yet, sometimes you don’t want to get close to that, because it’s somehow dangerous. There’s a reason why that music has been used and abused in our history – in German history.”
But Debus has been unable to avoid Wagner any longer. Over the past three years, the Canadian Opera Company has presented three of the four operas of the famous Ring cycle, with Debus leading the orchestra, and soprano Christine Goerke – the next great Brunhilde – featured on stage. Two years ago, it was Die Walkure. Last year, Siegfried. And, starting Feb. 2, the last of the cycle – Gotterdammerung.
Debus’s observations are not entirely new regarding the music of the great, controversial 19th-century opera composer. Debus quotes Leonard Bernstein on Wagner, who said: “I hate Wagner. I hate Wagner on my knees.” (He also quotes Woody Allen: “Every time I listen to Wagner, I get the urge to  invade Poland.”)
Traditionally, these qualms have been washed away by citing Wagner’s musical/historical significance, which is undeniable, or absolving the composer from the abuses to which his music has been put, or just noting its power and popularity. But anyone who knows Debus knows that he is an intense, thoughtful, deeply committed artist and citizen in the modern world. Simple answers to ethical and aesthetic dilemmas are not for him. And fair enough. These days the music of Wagner needs to be confronted morally as well as musically.
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Watch Now: The Ring - Complete. Opera North

Opera North. Filmed during live performances in 2016. Available from BBC 4. Unsure if you can watch this outside of the UK. If you cannot, and you wished, you could use a proxy server of course. If you don't have access to such a thing you might want to download the OPERA web browser. Choose "New Private Window" and from there use Opera's proxy servers (you will see the option in far left where you type the URL). When given the option chose location as UK.
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Zen & The Art Of Tristan und Isolde

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 29 January 2017 | 2:52:00 pm

There is, at the moment,  much talk of "walls" and segregation, enemies and"vetting", "the other", you/me, them/us snowflakes/patriots, fake and real  facts. I was contemplating all of  this while only half listening to Tristan this very morning - never the best way to listen to any good music of course; especially Wagner. But then, suddenly and upon hearing "O sink' hernieder, Nacht der Liebe", my mind was drawn elsewhere. Not, as one might expect, to Schopenhauer but instead to a  passage in Zen Monk, D T Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" - if only half remembered. Why Suzuki and not Schopenhauer? Perhaps something to do with the aforementioned duality so readily found in the news at present? Whatever.  I thought you might like to experience the same juxtaposition - if it really is much of a juxtaposition. As another person, much fond of generating "others" - and a fear of them - might say; enjoy!

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Happy Christmas.

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 25 December 2016 | 3:24:00 pm

Whether you have found this a good or bad year, we only hope that you take a rest, recover and have a much better year in 2017.
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Watch Now: Toscanini & Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 | 1:24:00 am

From Cesare Civetta. Discover Toscanini's love for Wagner's music and why the composer's family held the maestro in the highest esteem among conductors
1:24:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Wagner on Bakunin vs Bakunin on Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 6 August 2016 | 7:40:00 pm

Reading a biography of revolutionary anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, our editor  came across a discussion that, in the last few days of his life, he had about Wagner -  who he had meet  many years previously. And of course that lead to going  back to Wagner's thoughts on Bakunin - which are far better known. We thought you might be interested. Call it Wagner on Bakunin vs Bakunin on Wagner:

"First of all, however, with the view of adapting himself to the most Philistine culture, he had to submit his huge beard and bushy hair to the tender mercies of the razor and shears. As no barber was available, Rockel had to undertake the task. A small group of friends watched the operation, which had to be executed with a dull razor, causing no little pain, under which none but the victim himself remained passive. We bade farewell to Bakunin with the firm conviction that we should never see him again alive. But in a week he was back once more, as he had realised immediately what a distorted account he had received as to the state of things in Prague, where all he found ready for him was a mere handful of childish students. These admissions made him the butt of Rockel's good-humoured chaff, and after this he won the reputation among us of being a mere revolutionary, who was content with theoretical conspiracy. Very similar to his expectations from the Prague students were his presumptions with regard to the Russian people."

My Life: Vol 1 - Richard Wagner

"The old anarchist could fight the laws of capital and the state, but the inexorable laws of nature ground away. A few friends visited regularly, including Vogt and Adolf Reichel, a musician Bakunin had known since the Berlin days of the early 1840s. Reichel wrote to Gambuzzi at length about Bakunin’s last days. The two talked philosophy, and Bakunin read Schopenhauer in his hospital bed. He showed some of the old spirit when he remarked to Reichel that “all of our philosophy starts from a false premise. It always begins by taking man as an individual, rather than a being who is part of a community. That’s where most of the philosophical errors that lead to either pie in the sky [literally, happiness in the clouds] or the pessimism of Schopenhauer and Hartman come from.” As he declined, however, they abandoned philosophy for reminiscences. “It’s a pity, Bakunin, you never found time to write your memoirs,” Reichel gently chided one day. “Why would you want me to write them?” he responded. “It is not worth wasting the breath. Today, the people of all nations have lost the instinct of revolution. They are all too content with their situation and the fear of losing what they have makes them harmless and inert. No, if I regained some of my health, I would write an ethic based on the principles of collectivism, without reference to philosophical or religious phrases.” They spoke of music, and Bakunin expressed his preference still for Beethoven, opining that Wagner, whom he remembered from the Dresden barricades, was deficient in both character and musical taste. At the end, he slept more and more; even his famous appetites left him. The man who had once looked as though he could devour the world could now manage only some spoonfuls of kasha, or groats, prepared in the Russian manner by Reichel’s wife, Maria. He refused bouillon, murmuring without opening his eyes, “I have no need; I have finished my task.” At noon 1 July 1876, Bakunin died an ordinary death in stark counterpoint to an extraordinary life"
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A Letter From Thomas Mann To Theodor Adorno - Re Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 2 August 2016 | 5:14:00 pm

ZURICH, 30–31.10.1952

Dear Dr Adorno,

‘However, if a decadent society develops the seeds of the society that will perhaps one day take its place …’ If there were only a single positive word, my honoured friend, that vouchsafed even the vaguest glimpse of the true society which we are forced to postulate

Not knowing your precise address, I have directed these lines via the publisher who sent me a copy of the ‘Wagner’. I have been reading it for days with the greatest sense of urgency. It is a tremendous book, fascinating for its perspicacious intimacy with an object which, for all of your enforced admiration (unintentionally breaking through now and again), still reveals itself as one of the greatest and spiritually liberating things that has ever presented itself to critical reflection. The most authoritative chapter is surely that on the instrumentation, which is itself so closely connected with ‘phantasmagoria’, with the ‘concealment of the productive process through the appearing product’, as the governing principle of Wagnerian form. These pages have clearly shown me the degree to which I am a Wagnerian – and to which I am not. I have followed Wagner’s example in many respects, I have ‘recalled’ his works in many ways. But the illusionistic character of a work of art that would present itself as reality is entirely alien to me and has never fired my artistic ambitions. My own relationship to the ‘work’ itself was always too honestly ironical for that, and I have always taken pleasure in compromising the act of production in some humoristic fashion or other.

The terror of late bourgeois society and that of the ‘new’ society stand armed to the teeth over against each other and at any moment everything might ‘through some incalculable error just go up in smoke’. All that I can see approaching, spreading and irresistibly advancing upon us, is barbarism.

But that is all by the by. Your book is enormously interesting on every page. I have made innumerable pencil jottings in the text, and some minor queries as well. One of these concerns ‘the singing voice is detached from the life of music and its logic: to sing a motif would conflict with the requirement of natural intonation.’ This does not seem to be entirely true. Quite a few motifs are sung, the most striking example being the ‘Annunciation’ addressed to Sieglinde: ‘For know one thing, and remember it indeed: the noblest hero of the world you bear, O woman, within your sheltering womb.’ Another example would be Alberich’s curse upon the gold, which, like Lohengrin’s injunction ‘Never shalt thou ask’, clearly shows how a motif is often sung first, before the orchestra then takes it up again in various reminiscences. In the ‘Liebestod’ Isolde also sings a good part of the melody (from Act II), although it is true that subsequently the voice merely follows ‘the harmonies of the orchestra’. And there are other cases.Most of all I was impressed by the pages towards the end on Wagner’s work as an expression of incipient decay of the bourgeois world. ‘There is not a single decadent moment in Wagner’s work from which productive insight could not extract the forces of change.’That reveals very great insight, as does the remark about ‘the neurotic’s ability to contemplate his own decadence and to transcend it’. And likewise the question: ‘whether Nietzsche’s criterion of health is of greater benefit than the critical consciousness that Wagner’s grandiose weakness acquires in his commerce with all the unconscious forces responsible for his own decadence … the bourgeois nihilist sees through the nihilism of the age that will follow his own.’ This is superb! And then the remarkably prophetic quotation from ‘Religion and Art’.
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Watch Now: Alex Ross And The Wagner Legacy

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 30 July 2016 | 5:24:00 pm

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Originally posted Sept 2015

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.
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Free Kindle Ebook: Ferdinand Praeger's "Wagner As I knew Him"

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Originally published - July 2013
The famous (or infamous -, depending on how you look at it) Ferdinand Praeger  book "Wagner As I knew Him"   A book that Bayreuth - following Wagner's death - tried to ban (and caused to be withdrawn in Germany) and discredit. A book that may have lead to end of London's first Wagner Society - see here. In English translation. Available here in Kindle, Epub and web format. Simply click the version that you want.
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We Need Your Help To Choose The Best Ring Cycle On DVD

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 | 4:44:00 pm

We need your help again. This year we would like to run a readers vote of what you consider to be the best entire Ring Cycle on video - DVD or Blu-ray.

However, before you vote,  the problem  for us is selecting which productions to include in that  the vote. Only 20 years or so ago, this would have been easy - there were simply not that many Ring cycles that had been recorded on video and then made commercially available. But things are different now and it can seem we have been swamped with productions - not a bad thing.

So, with the above in mind, we would appreciate if you would complete the form below, adding the name of three Ring cycles on DVD that you admire, in no particular order - you will have plenty of time later to select the one you think is the best. And should you only be able to think of one production, or just  two then that's great also.

Again, we would appreciate your help. Please note, we will not record any details about you other than your answers. That includes IP address.

Note: If the embed form does not work for you, you may click this link to go directly to the form

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Listen Now: Bayreuth Parsifal 2016 - On-Demand

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 26 July 2016 | 3:52:00 pm

As usual, there are a number of sources to listen to this year's Bayreuth Parsifal after its broadcast. In our opinion clicking on the link below, which will launch Bartok Radio's on demand player should give the none German speaker the easiest way of doing this. You may have to forward through it a little bit for the beginning of Parsifal.

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Eric Laufenberg Explains The Meaning Of His Parsifal

In a recent interview with DW,  Eric Laufenberg had this to say about his interpretation of Parsifal:

This piece basically focuses on the religion of Christianity. On one hand, the grail knights in "Parsifal" inhabit a realm of charity, empathy and sympathy, and they come to the aid of the needy. Then there's the other side: a crucified God, blood rituals and military symbolism.

I believe that Wagner wanted to bring out the factors of benevolence and mystery in this work. Not to openly criticize religion, but to enable one to experience it. That's interesting in our own times of widespread religious fundamentalism - but also in times of a Pope Francis, who has been de-emphasizing the institutional side of the Catholic Church and stressing the factors of mercy, grace and benevolence.

It's always been pertinent to ask: What are religions doing, and are they allowing themselves to be abused for ideological purposes? What do they really stand for?

If you just consider the text, "Parsifal" is difficult, yes. You need the music. It explains so much in detail, and you have to get a sense of that. Such is the case with the happy ending. Wagner knew this would be his last work. At the final uncovering of the Holy Grail, the violins soar upwards, the harmonies become clearer, and everything finally dissipates into nothingness. It's like a final breath, the utopia of a dying man, as it were - a very beautiful, holy, peaceful utopia.
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Bayreuth: Parsifal 2016 - Some Thoughts

Yesterday, at the end of act one of Eric Laufenberg's new prodcution of Parsifal. I applauded louder than perhaps I have done for a long time at a Bayreuth production. What I had been presented with was a production of high, dramatic, musical standards, a superb cast, a conductor whose "late substitution" had managed to bring out the best of the performers and orchestra. An unusually fast pace that, at least this once, also helped the production (this is not a “Buddhist” or even Schopenhauerian interpretation of the Parsifal). And of course, the always amazing Bayreuth chorus. (I shall listen to it again shortly to reassess my opinion but there it is for now). The production itself brought little new to Wagner's work but this is not always a bad thing – and it was dramatically convincing. Alas , in places, there was a little too much of the"provincial theatre" about it (the 2001 AD A Space Odyssey video comes to mind - and while enjoyable, reminded me of a student production) but this is something that can be worked on. Nevertheless, it remained, relatively faithful to both text and score. However, it was from act two onwards that I became increasingly“uncomfortable” and this continued to the end – although among people here, I am not in the majority.

In the second act, the production seemed to do everything in its power to be insensitive to the religious sensibilities of Islam - although I am not convinced that was Laufenberg's intention. However, in trying to “shoehorn” his concept into Wagner's work, in the heavy-handed manner that he did, this was inevitable - and occasionally cringeworthy. And once Parsifal became an "Western"  Marine, further readings of western dominance and hegemony across the none western world became inevitable in act 3 – if again untended. Is it a good idea, no matter your intentions, in these strange times (or any time), to have a tall, blond, blue eyed, “western” man on a the stage of Bayreuth who proves to be the saviour of all races and all religions? Who shows them all, how “dangerous” and irrational their religions are? A man portrayed in act two as an American Marine, who sublimates a Muslim Klingsor, using the power of the Christian cross to bring him and his empire to heel – care of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in Hammer Horrors first Dracula film? If nothing else, this displays an incredible nativity.

Laufenberg's conclusion, in act three, was one that some readers of Wagner's work and writings, might believe easily fit's in with Wagner's thoughts. In this interpretation, humanity must put aside all religions, being tools (in Wagner's terms - influenced by the young Hegelian's - one of his much hated “ancient contracts”) of control. Its “trappings and symbols being nothing more than “empty edifice”. In the end of the production, the cast throw away all of their religious “trappings” - Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindhu, etc into coffin. This might  remind us somewhat of Wagner in Religion and Art, wherein he said “Religion has sunk into an artificial life, when she finds herself compelled to keep on adding to the edifice of her dogmatic symbols”. On first view, this is what Laufenberg's Parsifal seems to say, but in the final act it does nothing to replace these - something that I think Wagner would not have agreed.  Indeed, would he have been happy with the dismissal of these symbols out of hand?

This of course, might be my reading of his production. After all, what was all of that vegetation in act three? A return to “nature”? Who knows. And this maybe the problem. To me, the production provides no alternative. At this stage, and after only one performance, I cannot help but feel that this is a Parsifal for the “Richard Dawkins” generation. A Parsifal that freely mocks and ridicules traditional (and perhaps future) spiritualities – and is happy to blame them for the worlds failures, rather than on those that would use and abuse them for their own means. In this view of reality, there is no value in religious symbology or  more importantly, in spirituality. It is a childish plaything, a throwback to more primitive times and thinking.

But what are Wagner’s thoughts on this? Again returning to Religion and Art, “...it (religion) has always sought the aid of Art; for religion has remained incapable of higher evolution so long as it must present that alleged reality of the symbol to the senses of the worshipper in form of fetishes and idols,— whereas it could only fulfil its true vocation when, by an ideal presentment of the allegoric figure, it led to apprehension of its inner kernel, the truth ineffably divine.”

Indeed, one suspects that Wagner would not have been the friend of this Dawkinsesh, production that, at least, my reading suggests. Going back to Art and Religion– and one must be careful of selectively quoting Wagner I admit:

“ONE might say that where Religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the spirit of religion by recognising the figurative value of the mythic symbols which the former would have us believe in their literal sense, and revealing their deep and hidden truth through an ideal presentation.

Whilst the priest stakes everything on the religious allegories being accepted as matters of fact, the artist has no concern at all with such a thing, since he freely and openly gives out his work as his own invention. But Religion has sunk into an artificial life, when she finds herself compelled to keep on adding to the edifice of her dogmatic symbols, and thus conceals the one divinely True in her”.

To see our way clear in this, we should have most carefully to test the origin of religions. These we must certainly deem the more divine, the simpler proves to be their inmost kernel. Now, the deepest basis of every true religion we find in recognition of the frailty of this world, and the consequent charge to free ourselves there from. ...accordingly the most successful work of the religious Founder consisted in the invention of mythic allegories, by which the people might be led along the path of faith to practical observance of the lessons flowing from the collective unconscious.

And it is even possible that this is what this production suggests. If so, it sadly, for me, does not do so well, while doing other things, uncomfortably, badly. But again, I am aware that I am in the minority


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Wagner Quote Of The Week: Nietzsche

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 25 July 2016 | 9:20:00 am

"Through Wagner modernity speaks most intimately, concealing neither its good nor its evil—having forgotten all sense of shame. And conversely: one has almost completed an account of the value of what is modern once one has gained clarity about what is good and evil in Wagner.

I understand perfectly when a musician says today: “I hate Wagner, but I can no longer endure any other music.” But I’d also understand a philosopher who would declare: "Wagner sums up modernity. There is no way out, one must first become a Wagnerian.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: The Case For Wagner
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You Can Still Buy Tickets To This Year's Bayreuth Ring

There was a time, not that very long ago, when you might have to wait for up to ten years for tickets to Bayrueth. This was especially so for Bayreuth Ring cycles. But how times have changed for it seems that as of right now - on the festival's online ticket shop -  tickets to the second Ring Cycle are still available. Sadly, all other productions are sold out. Whether this speaks much of the reception of Castorf's production or something else we would not venture to guess. To buy tickets, click the link below. Once you are at the page click "Buy Now" and you will enter a "line". When we tested it, not long ago, the wait was about 3 minutes. Once through, you will have 10 minutes to select and buy your tickets.

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Where To Hear This Years Bayreuth Festival

A little late again (Ed: Yes. Seems you have to do things yourself around here to get anything done) but please find below a list of links, dates and times where you can listen to this years performances from the Bayreuth Festival. We are trying something different this year by including a link directly to that stations page on Tunein. This should help those with no German - no matter your native language. It will also be useful for those that might use the Tunein app on their phone, Ipad, etc. We have selected Radio Románia Muzical as this seems to be offering the highest bitrate (sound quality) broadcast as of today.

Any feedback as whether this presents the  reader with any issues would be gratefully received. If so, we will make adjustments accordingly. We may be able to assist on the day of transmission but would highly recommend you click a link in advance to make sure it works for you now.

Click below to be taken to the Broadcast. All times discussed are in GMT. Note: there is likely to be a long pre-broadcast talk/program to each broadcast.
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Watch The Premiere Of The Bayreuth Parsifal - Free

As more attentive readers will be aware, Bayreuth will be broadcasting the entire Ring cycle free this year on Sky Arts. However, you may not be aware that they are also broadcasting Uwe Eric Laufenberg (2014's replacement for Johnathon Meese) new production of Parsifal, free, on the Internet.  This will start at 14,00, local German time, tomorrow, 25 July 2016

To watch simply click on the link below to BR-Kassik's Website. This will take you straight to the videoplayer which is now in place, displaying a handy countdown clock slowly ticking down to the start time - so no German should be needed to navigate.

We have left this a little late to announce it - SORRY! So, you might want to get it to as many people as you can quickly. Again, sorry!
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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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