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Book Recommendation: Richard Wagner And The English

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 May 2019 | 4:40:00 pm

I have found myself, once again, reading Anne Dzamba Sessa's excellent, 1978  book  "Richard Wagner And The English". This is a book that charts the influence of Wagner, on the intellectual, artistic and social life of Victorian England, and in part beyond.  It's a fascinating read, both well written and researched. It's not perfect, but it gets close

While long out of print (secondhand print copies sell for "silly" prices")  It can be bought as an ebook from google play books. 

Highly recommended. A review is long overdue and will follow shortly.

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A Lecture Series On Die Walkure

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 18 May 2019 | 2:46:00 am

A nine hour, or so, lecture series on Die Walkure. Recorded in 2012

The Opera in Its Time (Simon Williams)
The Growth and Evolution of Love (Jeffrey Swann)
Contrasts with Das Rheingold (Simon Williams)
Wotan's Spear and Its Music (Jeffrey Swann)
Redemption Through Love (Simon Williams)
Staging Die Walküre and the Ring (Simon Williams)
Wotan and Fricka (Jeffrey Swann)

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Stefan Herheim, "Opera for me is not about entertaining people or giving them a good time"

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 12 May 2019 | 2:51:00 pm

In an interview with the Telegraph, Stefan Herheim told Rupert Christiansen "Opera for me is not about entertaining people or giving them a good time" [Ed: We know Stefan. We know. But despite the best efforts of many, some of us still do]. Then what is it about? "It is about bringing us together to confront our most pressing and dreadful problems. Perhaps art can’t change the world, but it can change the way that people can think and feel. This makes opera a spiritual experience for me.”

Of course, some art [Ed: Surely all, in some small way?] seems to have tried to do this from the outset and was one, if not the only, intention of the creator. Verdi's Traviata or Puccini's Madame Butterfly comes to mind. And of course, much, if not all of Wagner's work. So, does that mean keeping the message and lessons of the creators intent - if they exist? Nearly, but not fully. “I always aim to tell the story and to get to its essence, but I want to add other perspectives. Opera audiences need to see with their ears and hear with their eyes: it can never be a simple experience, and if audiences all leave the auditorium thinking differently about what they have witnessed then I have succeeded.”
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Deutsche Oper Berlin And A New Ring From Stefan Herheim

Deutsche Oper Berlin has announced that the first part of the new Stefan Herheim, will premiere, logically enough, with Rheingold one Friday, 12.06.2020. Donald Runnicles will be holding the baton. Full cast details below.

So, what can we expect from a Herheim Ring? In the interview below, Herheim gives us some clues:

"Since I began preparing for the RING DES NIBELUNGEN, I have been considering how the end of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG could look. An ending that leaves the question of the future of man, of overcoming the old order, open. As long as we are failing in modern society due to lust for power, exploitation, betrayal and violence, the RING remains an 'artwork of the future'. To find ways toward the future we must begin searching for the prerequisites for being human. This search is reflected in the drama itself, as well as in the figure of Richard Wagner. He worked on this piece for over a quarter of a century. The self-"actualisation expressed therein also reflects Germans' longing for national identity.
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Wagner And “Game of Thrones”: Where they Intersect?

Alex Ross is always worth reading, especially about Wagner.

By Alex Ross. 

When Arthur Schopenhauer read the libretto of “Die Walküre,” the second instalment of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, he found himself discomfited by the goings on in Act I, in which the twin siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde, separated children of the god Wotan, fall madly in love. “You are bride and sister to your brother,” Siegmund exclaims. The music that churns ecstatically in the closing bars indicates that consummation is imminent, with the hero Siegfried as the destined result. Next to the stage direction at the end—“The curtain falls quickly”—Schopenhauer sardonically wrote, “Denn es ist hohe Zeit”—“Because it’s high time.”

Mythic and fantasy narratives gravitate strikingly often toward incestuous themes. “Game of Thrones,” the HBO series that a portion of the planet has been watching, is a case in point. It features not only a sibling affair, between Cersei Lannister and her twin brother Jaime but also a liaison between the dragon-mother Daenerys and the outcast hero Jon Snow, who, unbeknownst to each other, are aunt and nephew. The latter relationship matches the other great eyebrow-raising romance in the “Ring”—the love of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Siegfried is Wotan’s grandson; Brünnhilde is his Valkyrie daughter. It’s not clear whether George R. R. Martin, the creator of “Game of Thrones,” has Wagnerian leanings, but the proliferation of “Ring”-like elements in his saga—dragons, dwarves, ravens, magic swords, shape-shifting devices—suggests that, like J. R. R. Tolkien before him, he may owe a few debts to the wizard of Bayreuth.
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Animated Rheingold. Operavox

While these have held up well to the passing of time, sadly, they are very difficult to buy now. Surely time for them to be rereleased?

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Parsing Parsifal: Wagner's Erotic Kunstreligion

Edition of Parsifal illustrated by Willy Pogany, 1912
From "The Sidney Undergraduate Journal Of  Musicology. An intriguing read, that does see Parsifal as concluding Wagner's work by pulling together "...multiple threads he spent his whole life weaving.". I am less convinced by this. Would have Wagner's work and thought have stopped developing? Whatever. Recommended.

Parsing Parsifal: Wagner's Erotic Kunstreligion
Rafael Echevarria

Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal, is an enigmatic work that resists simple understanding both as an independent work and as a work within Wagner’s oeuvre. In particular, the themes of religion and sexuality are often addressed independently, resulting in vastly different interpretations. Religious readings focus on the redemption of the Knights and its theological significance, while sexual perspectives have focused on the overcoming of sexual desire. However, these partial perspectives lack sufficient explanatory power for the opera’s overall message. Evidently, a full understanding of Wagner’s ideas requires an integrated account of both religion and sexuality, one which Roger Scruton’s philosophy provides. His post-Kantian philosophy extracts key ideas surrounding the role of erotic love, redemption, and the sacred for human existence and interaction. This article analyses Parsifal by utilising Scruton’s framework to explore the opera’s plot, characters, and music. Simultaneously addressing Wagner’s treatment of erotic love and religion elucidates previously unexamined aspects of Parsifal and re-evaluates key elements of the work. Specifically, the interplay of érōs and agape prove to be the central dynamic of the work, which paves the way for its unique form of redemption. This sacred, yet fully human, redemption is evinced through Wagner’s music and overall structure. Notably, this holistic interpretation also provides important links to Wagner’s previous works, establishing a continuity that coherently positions Parsifal within Wagner’s oeuvre. This new exegesis reveals a renewed Parsifal that concluded Wagner’s development and completed the multiple threads he spent his whole life weaving.
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Gods and Monsters: The Musical Journey of Wagner's Ring Cycle

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 11 May 2019 | 5:08:00 pm

Conductor Brett Mitchell gives a deep dive into Wagner's Ring Cycle, demonstrating how he used leitmotifs to tell one of the greatest stories of all time.
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Wagner's Das Rheingold -- A Psychological Analysis

From This SophiaCycles. The author describes this as, " (A) Video Essay takes a look at the first drama of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle in an a psychological/archetypal way. Looked at as a metaphor for the mid-life crisis, Rheingold explores the many challenges that arise during this liminal time in life. In the end, Rheingold is a fairy tale and it uses many of the same tropes we find in fairy tales from across the world. This does not mean it is a children's fable, however. Just as with other fairy tales, a careful analysis of Das Rheingold yields many deep truths.
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An Animated Guide To The Ring

This is actually rather good and in less than six minutes! And who can deny its closing remarks?

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A 5 Hour Lecture Series on Das Rheingold

Once again, from the Wagner Society Of Washington. Lecturers: Simon Williams And Jeffery Swann
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Because You Didn't Ask For More: Der Fliegende Holländer - In Lego

And if you continue not to ask,, we may also give you, Tristan - in Lego

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Richard Wagner's Parsifal - in Lego

It's probably best if you cannot speak German. As the producers say in their introduction, "The plot of Richard Wagner's complex masterpiece as a Lego movie. Don't say later, we didn't warn you". However, should you then want to watch all of act one of Parsifal as a Lego movie, simply click play on the second video

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Wagner in der Wildnis: 11 Hours Worth Of Lectures On Parsifal From Simon Williams & Jeffrey Swann

Originally given over a full weekend, in an event hosted by the Wagner Society Of Washinton. Sadly, neglected on Youtube. Worth your attention. Lecture topics include:

Ritual And Theatre In Parsifal, A Showcase for the Evolution of Wagner's Style, The Troubled World of Parsifal, In Search of New Orchestral Colors, and Parsifal and the Avoidance of Tragedy.
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Jeffrey Swann: "The Music of Parsifal: A Mixture, a Summation, or a Culmination?"

From The Wagner Society Of New York:

Jeffrey Swann, Ph.D., internationally renowned pianist and lecturer on Wagner topics, gave a superb lecture with piano examples on Wagner's last music drama, with references to its relation to his other music dramas

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Philippe Jordan Talks About Conducting Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 7 May 2019 | 6:12:00 pm

Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan, music director of the Paris Opera and music director designate of the Vienna State Opera, is one of the world’s hottest Wagner talents, winning widespread acclaim for his performances of the composer’s music in Paris and at the Bayreuth Festival. Now, he returns to the Met for the first time since 2007 to lead this season’s three complete Ring cycles. In advance of the premiere of Das Rheingold, he sat down with the Met’s Mary Jo Heath to discuss opera’s grandest and most grueling epic.

"With Tristan und Isolde or the Ring cycle, there are moments where suddenly something happens in the music, and the emotion just comes out of you and you don’t know how to deal with it".

You’ve conducted quite a lot of Wagner. What is it that makes his music particularly rewarding for you?
No other composer makes me so emotional while conducting. At the end of La Bohème, if I’m sitting in the audience, I cry. But when I conduct La Bohème, this doesn’t happen. I’m still moved, but I’m very concentrated. With Tristan und Isolde or the Ring cycle, there are moments where suddenly something happens in the music, and the emotion just comes out of you and you don’t know how to deal with it. Sometimes you have to consciously decide to push the emotion down because, otherwise, how will you last another hour of music?

What about the technical aspect of his music? Does it pose particular challenges because of its monumental scale?
Wagner brought me to another level of conducting, more than any other composer. In Wagner, shaping the music over long distances, with a far bigger orchestra than with Mozart or Verdi, requires a special way of conducting, a special way of shaping tempi. For example, you start to think in bigger units instead of smaller details, and you start to trust the orchestra more and let things flow. Also, younger conductors tend to do slow tempi really slowly and fast tempi really fast to make a contrast and a big effect— something I used to do as well. In Wagner, you learn to do the opposite. You learn not to take slower sections too slowly so that the music doesn’t start schlepping and the energy doesn’t fall apart.
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Jung Discusses The Collective Unconsciousness, Music, Wagner & Perhaps Opeth

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 6 May 2019 | 7:16:00 pm

Our editor is wakened from, what seems, a prolonged slumber, due to the combined forces of Jung, Wagner and Doom/Death/Prog Metal band Opeth.

I have been spending much time these past few months with the Ring (nothing especially unusual admittedly) and the entire discography of Death/Doom/Prog Metal band Opeth (again not that unusual). With the latter, I have found myself giving special attention to Opeth's much underappreciated 1999, concept album "Still Life".  I appreciate that to many readers this may be an odd, perhaps even horrifying, juxtaposition of artists and their works, And yet, despite the clear musical, artistic and stylistic differences, I find both works seem to reach into the same, deep parts of what Jung would call the Collective Unconcessnious
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Barenboim & Tomlinson On The Kupfer Ring

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 14 April 2019 | 5:12:00 pm

Taken from one of the many extras on the DVD release of the fantastic 1991/2 Kupfer Ring, from Bayreuth.

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Theo Adam Dies at 92

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 12 January 2019 | 2:59:00 am

It is with much, much sadness that we must inform that the great Theo Adam died on Thursday in Dresden.  Words could do no justice to the amazing career that he had or the sadness that we feel.  We will leave that to his work. 
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Should You Be In San Francisco In February: Jasmin Solfaghari Discusses Directing The Ring Cycle

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 10 January 2019 | 5:52:00 pm

Saturday February 9, 2019 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm

JCC-SF - 3200 California Street

San Francisco, CA

Free to WSNC Members, suggested donation of $10 for guests

The Wagner Society of Northern California invites you to meet and hear:

Jasmin Solfaghari, Director and Master Teacher will discuss her career as an Assistant Director for the many of the greatest opera directors and as a Director in her own right.

To read a review of Solfaghari's RING in Odense here is a link to a review with photos of the production:


Bio and CV: Jasmin Solfaghari was born in Freiburg/Germany in 1963 as daughter of German-Persian parents. After having spent the first six years of her childhood in Teheran/Iran she got her school and musical education in Freiburg. In 1989 she graduated in stage directing at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg in the class of Prof. Götz Friedrich (diploma).

Positions and leading Positions

2018 Leadership department Opera/Musicaltheatre at PAMY Mediaproductions, Switzerland. www.pamy.ch

2004 – 2006: Oberspielleiterin at Deutsche Oper Berlin with revivals of “Rheingold”, “Siegfried” (Götz Friedrich), “Lulu” (Götz Friedrich), “Die Tote Stadt” (Philippe Arlaud), “La Bohème” (Götz Friedrich), “Pelléas et Mélisande” (Marco Arturo Marelli), “Der Rosenkavalier” (Götz Friedrich), “Cav/Pag” (David Pountney).

2001 - 2004: Oberspielleiterin Musiktheater" at Stadttheater Bremerhaven: main director opera.

1994 -1998: assistant stage director of Hamburgische Staatsoper and has worked among others with Christine Mielitz, Harry Kupfer, Günther Krämer, Achim Freyer, Marco Arturo Marelli a.o. She was responsible for revivals such as: "Der Ring des Nibelungen", "Il Trittico"(also for TV), "Die Fledermaus", "Tristan und Isolde", a.o.

During this period Jasmin Solfaghari collaborated with conductors such as Christian Thielemann, Sir Simon Rattle, Philippe Augin, Jacques Lacombe, Daniel Oren, Marc Albrecht, Antonello Allemandi, Gerd Albrecht, Donald Runnicles, Markus Stenz, Lothar Zagosek, a.o.

Jasmin Solfaghari worked with singers as Deborah Voigt (Debut Marschallin), Veronique Gens, Sophie Koch, Agnes Baltsa, Helga Dernesch, Gabriele Schnaut, Hanna Schwarz, Lisbeth Balslev, Angelika Kirchschlager, Monserrat Caballé, Barbara Daniels, Linda Watson, Evelyn Herlizius, Olga Romanko, Piotr Becala, Toopi Lehtipuu, Jean Marc Ainsley, Lioba Braun, Graham Clarc, Lance Ryan, Stefan Vinke, José Cura, Franz Grundheber, Simon Estes, Matti Salminnen, René Pape, Kurt Moll, Torsten Kerl, Gerhard Siegel, Catherine Foster, Jennifer Wilson, Ricarda Merbeth (Role debut Brünnhilde, Deutsche Oper) a.o.

Teaching and more

Jasmin Solfaghari is giving masterclasses and is holding lectures in Italy, Brasil, Israel, Germany, USA and China.

2012-2016 Teaching assignment at Hochschule für Musik Dresden.

2006-2011 Professor at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig (interimistic).

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Watch Now: The Flying Dutchman. Latvian National Opera and Ballet (Eng Subs)

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 5 January 2019 | 10:22:00 am

Available till match 2019.  We rather enjoyed this.


The Dutchman: Egils Siliņš

Senta, Daland's daughter: Vida Miknevičiūtė
Daland, a Norwegian sea captain: Ain Anger
Erik, a huntsman: Corby Welch
Mary: Ilona Bagele
Steersman: Mihail Chulpaev
Chorus: Chorus of the Latvian National Opera
Orchestra: Chorus of the Latvian National Opera
Music: Richard Wagner
Text: Richard Wagner
Conductor: Mārtiņš Ozoliņš
Director: Viestur Kairish
Set Designer: Reinis Dzudzilo
Costume Designer: Krista Dzudzilo
Lighting Designer: Oskars Pauliņš
Choreographer: Elīna Lutce

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Richard Wagner - Power, Sex And Revolution

It would seem the BBC has once again, made Paul Mason's 2013 Radio 4 documentary available for free, on-demand listening. Details below.

Two hundred years after the composer's birth, Paul Mason takes a fresh look at the man whose music has gripped him for as long as he can remember. The megalithic fifteen hours of The Ring cycle dominate our view of Wagner, but behind it lies a man whose complex personality leaves us still struggling to understand him. He was a revolutionary, not just in music but also in politics, even finding himself a wanted man in exile. He was determined to transform drama into something which would be a powerful force in society, and a man driven by ambition to revitalise a Germany which he saw as critically unwell. And there were the darker instincts, not least an attitude to racial purity which leaves deep questions about his validity as an artist. In the first programme Mason peers into the murky depths of a tale of desire and obsession. 'Tristan and Isolde' takes us deep into the mind of its composer, a man with powerful sexual urges of his own, and whose approach to life was totally reshaped by his discovery of one of the greatest philosophers of his age. We hear from those who have sung and studied the work, and also a man so captivated by the power of opera, and Wagner in particular, that he built his own opera house in which to stage these giant and ever-challenging works.

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LFO To Begin A New Ring Cycle In 2019

Longborough Festival Opera will continue its strong tradition of annual Wagner productions with its second Ring cycle, to begin with, Rheingold in 2019.

Its previous ring was met with much critical acclaim only a few short years ago - even here at the Wagnerian. Once again, LFO will bring the Ring to its unusual stage in the "heart of England", with a new production from Amy Lane, staff director at the ROH. Lane, a former opera singer, most recent work for the ROH includes the revival of the Royal Opera's Don Giovanni(Houston Grand Opera) and its Joint Associate Director on Die Walküre, Associate Director on Götterdämmerung and an Assistant Director for Hansel and Gretel.

Cast details below:

Conductor - Anthony Negus
Director - Amy Lane

Principal casting includes:

Wotan - Darren Jeffery
Alberich - Mark Stone
Fricka - Madeleine Shaw
Loge - Mark Le Brocq

Performance dates:

June 5, 7, 9 and 11 2019. Booking available from March. 

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A Wagnerian of the Past Remains Unmatched in 'Parsifal'

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 25 December 2018 | 4:08:00 pm

An article in the New York Times from 1993.

The conductor Hans Knappertsbusch had an unmatched way with Wagner's "Parsifal." Now two important recorded documents of that mastery have reappeared in the record stores: the old Decca/London album of the 1951 Bayreuth Festival production, which reopened that shrine after World War II, and an account of a 1943 (or 1942; the notes are contradictory) Berlin performance of Act III with the same Gurnemanz, Ludwig Weber.

I heard Knappertsbusch conduct "Parsifal" at Bayreuth, but I never saw him there. At Bayreuth, the sunken orchestra pit masks both conductor and orchestra, and after "Parsifal" there are no curtain calls. So my favourite Knappertsbusch sighting remains one from 1962 in the Prinzregenten Theater in Munich, a wooden structure modelled after Bayreuth but without the sunken pit.

The opera was Wagner's "Fliegende Hollander," whose overture begins full tilt, plunging into a mid-oceanic maelstrom of furiously sawing strings and thundering brass. As the lights dimmed, the audience settled down, awaiting the stately arrival of the conductor -- who was, after all, 74 years old. (He died in 1965.)

Suddenly there was a loud bang -- the sound of the door through which Knappertsbusch had emerged slamming shut. The conductor, all six feet, four inches of him, was forging through the startled players, brushing them aside as if he did not even see them. Baton held high, he gave the downbeat when he was still a good 15 feet from the podium, and the musicians hurled themselves onto Wagner's stormy seas in the most thrilling beginning to an opera that I ever hope to hear.

Knappertsbusch is legendary today as one of the last Teutonic musical mystics, conductors who protracted Wagner's ruminations to extreme length but sustained a solemn rituality that brisker modern maestros miss. That was true, although both Arturo Toscanini and James Levine have conducted "Parsifal" even more slowly at Bayreuth.

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A Happy Wagnerian Christmas

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 24 December 2018 | 11:16:00 pm

In these trying times our daily chats and communication with our readers, either via email here, or on twitter or facebook, are a constant reminder of how pleasant people that like Wagner are. We may not agree on everything but when we do not agree, we do so in the most civil and pleasant of manner. This remains an unusual occurrence in a century that seems to have lost much of its civility and we thank you all for this. Indeed, it is unlikely that we would continue the Wagnerian if it was otherwise. For this, we would like to thank you all and wish you the most pleasant of holidays. As a way of thanks, we include a little gathering of Wagner miscellanea below. Think of them as a smattering of presents under the tree.  We hope you find something of interest.
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New Wagner Book: The Trouble With Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 17 December 2018 | 6:56:00 pm

There is a long line of Wagner books to be reviewed. We have this and will attempt to do so. In the meantime, this is from the publisher. Although, we have to point out that nearly £30 for such a slim volume seems "extravagant". Sample below 

In this unique and hybrid book, cultural and music historian Michael P. Steinberg combines a close analysis of Wagnerian music drama with a personal account of his work as a dramaturg on the bicentennial production of The Ring of the Nibelung for the Teatro alla Scala Milan and the Berlin State Opera. Steinberg shows how Wagner uses the power of a modern mythology to heighten music’s claims to knowledge, thereby fusing not only art and politics, but truth and lies as well. Rather than attempting to separate value and violence, or “the good from the bad,” as much Wagner scholarship as well as popular writing have tended to do, Steinberg proposes that we confront this paradox and look to the capacity of the stage to explore its depths and implications.

Drawing on decades of engagement with Wagner and of experience teaching opera across disciplines, The Trouble with Wagner is packed with novel insights for experts and interested readers alike.
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Watch Now: Prelude to Tristan und Isolde Arranged By Terje Tønnesen

Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. Terje Tønnesen, conductor. We greatly enjoy chamber arrangements of Tristan. This one is worth your attention.

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A Must See: A Brief Introduction To Der Ring des Nibelungen

If this doesn't make you want to pop on your favourite Ring on CD, DVD or travel the world to see it live, nothing will. 

A brief introduction to Richard Wagner and the creation of his pioneering opera The Ring of the Nibelung.

Screened before the Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s adaptation of The Ring, performed at the BOZAR in Brussels, March 2015.
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Wagner's Life In Miniature

A Wagner biography in one and a half minutes? 

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Watch Now: Birgit Nilsson 100 Years

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 7 November 2018 | 5:03:00 am

Tonight we are feeling hopeful for the future of a united humanity. A time where we may, eventually perhaps, see our species have a respect for each other, no matter race, gender or sexual preference. A future were one's spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, are both respected and not just tolerated or worse, condemned. We also have some hope for a humanity that regains its respect for our seemingly unique planet and all of its inhabitants - and not just its human inhabitants. And a joint humanity that finally fully recognises the long-term damage it is causing to our planet. A change that it is easily within our reach, if not reverse, then at least stop what is being called the "6th extinction" or Holocene extinction.

Too hopeful? Nieve? Perhaps. And we are certainly nowhere near, but one can throw the runes and find the odd positive indicator. And it is better to remain hopeful then fall into the sea of negativity that seems to have overtaken our world and that seems to draw out the worse in our species.

And with that in mind, we present the following three hours of Wagner in memory of the great Birgit Nilsson.

Birgit Nilsson was indisputably the outstanding dramatic soprano of the second half of the 20th century. Her top notes had an unequalled power and brilliance. Her personality commanded the stage. Long associated with the Royal Swedish Opera, it is this Opera in the Swedish capital that celebrates what would have been her 100th birthday in May 2018.

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An Interview With Allan Leicht. Author Of "My Parsifal Conductor"

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 | 2:04:00 pm

We recently had the opportunity to catch-up with Allan Leicht, the Emmy award-winning author of the unusual, off-Broadway play "My Parsifal Conductor", As we have already noted, the play is based around the premise that, Wagner and Cosima, find themselves in a moral, political and musical dilemma when King Ludwig II of Bavaria insists that Hermann Levi, the son of a rabbi, conduct Wagner's final masterpiece, Parsifal.

"I am Wagnerite, with all the doubt and enjoyment that comes along with it" Allan Leicht

Given that Allan kindly agreed to this interview during rehearsals, and just prior to opening, this might seem a little shorter than our usual interviews, but given the circumstances, we think this is understandable.

Allan is a multiple Emmy Award, Writers’ Guild Award, Christopher Award-winning writer of, mainly, TV movies, including most notably, Adam, starring Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams, and Lady in a Corner, starring Loretta Young and Brian Keith, several comedy series, including Kate and Allie, and The Thorns, in collaboration with Mike Nichols; dramatic series, most notably, Mariah  and daytime dramas Ryan’s Hope and One Life to Live. As a director, he brought William Golding’s comedy, The Brass Butterfly, to the New York stage. His musical, The Adventures of Friar Tuck, for which he wrote book and lyrics, premiered at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. He produced Rashi, A Light after the Dark Ages, a video production starring Leonard Nimoy and Sir Paul Scofield and Rambam, The Story of Maimonides with Mr Nimoy and Armand Assante. Allan divides his time between New York and Jerusalem, where he recently appeared as an actor in Shakespeare’s Henry V. He is married to actress and designer Renee Lippin Leicht and they have three children and two grandchildren.

TW: Allan, first thank you for taking the time to talk to us during what I know is a very busy time for you. You have had a long and successful career, but can I ask, what have been the most important events to you?

AL: To me that I am a grandfather is most important. I wrote a movie called Adam. That was important. Adam did what writing wants to do: change things. (Adam was a 1983 movie that dealt with the real world horrendous kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh along with its impact on his parents. Broadcasts of Adam were followed by pictures and descriptions of missing children, with a hotline being available to take calls regarding the children. This was ultimately credited with finding 13 of 55 children from the 1983 broadcast, and more after each repeat)

TW: Wagner as a subject, and the first performance of Parsifal especially, are unusual subjects for a playwright in the 21st century.- at least outside of Germany, Do you have a particular interest in Wagner, or did something else bring you to this subject?

AL: I am Wagnerite, with all the doubt and enjoyment that comes along with it. In Richard Wagner we learn that genius can have its dark side; in Wagner’s case, the dark side was anti-Semitism and also an insatiable libido (or maybe that was his light side): a great amoral artist torn emotionally by every religion of which he was aware. But that music! That music! As our character of Hermann Levi says in the play, “How blithe we Jews are to judge men by their music.”

TW: What sources have you consulted in the creation of the work?

AL: He smiles, "Please, plays do not require footnotes. Nevertheless, I relied on Cosima’s diaries. Magee, Millington, Bremer, Carr, etc., Haas’ biography of Hermann Levi, My Life by Richard Wagner, several motion pictures, and most crucially an essay by the very eminent, late literary critic and scholar Peter Gay, in his collection of essays Freud, Jews and Other Germans. As Professor Laurence Dreyfus writes in his study, Hermann Levi’s Shame and Parsifal’s Guilt, Dr Gay takes Hermann Levi to severe task for being Jewish and a Wagnerite: a traitor to his people (not to mention Brahms). I was uncomfortable with that. I wanted to better understand Hermann Levi. How could the descendant of a long line of German rabbis dine at the Wagners’ Wahnfried table and conduct “a festival play for the consecration of the stage” that plumbs the depths of Christian mystery? That to me was, is incongruous. And incongruity is comedy. My Parsifal Conductor is a very funny Wagnerian comedy".

TW: There is strong academic evidence that this incident never took place and was instead created by the even more anti-Semitic "Bayreuth Circle" after Wagner's death (it is not even mentioned in Cosima's diaries). I am sure you are aware of this, so what made you concentrate on this? Are you applying the same artistic license that Peter Shaffer applied to his, highly enjoyable, Amadeus? Do you believe the incident happened? Or are you using it to address Wagner and Cosima's anti-Semitism in general?

"I would seem to be weak-minded, even mad to go to the extravagance of an additional, superfluous, inferior conductor."

AL: My Parsifal Conductor more closely resembles, at least in structure, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol than it does the marvellous Peter Shaffer’s marvellous Amadeus. Of course, Amadeus and My Parsifal Conductor are both about composers, but My Parsifal Conductor springs from incongruity — the incongruity of anti-Semitism, Judaism, German opera, Germans, Jews and Cosima’s judgment night, her last night on earth, April, 1930, the stuff of comedy; and with what was going on outside her bedroom windows, a comedy about anti-Semitism. It is about the irrationality of anti-Semitism. Yes, I do believe the incident happened. As Ludwig says to Wagner in My Parsifal Conductor, "I would seem to be weak-minded, even mad to go to the extravagance of an additional, superfluous, inferior conductor."

TW: This entire subject is not one that seems to lend itself easily to comedy. Why and how have you addressed this?

AL: I hope I have addressed the comedy question already. But my inclination is comedy. I like to believe there is truth in laughter, especially the laughter connecting heart and mind. We have a phenomenally talented cast of New York actors, a brilliant director, and unstintingly loyal producers. I wrote what I knew is a very tricky, even dangerous play. Claire Brownell and Eddie Korbich play Cosima and Richard Wagner, unapologetic anti-Semitic pre-Third Reich elites. The Wagners were no mere meat-pie making cannibalistic Sweeney-Todd-Mrs. Lovitts, these Wagners are Geniuses! Anti-Semitic geniuses akin to Dostoevsky or Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot (who also admired Groucho Marx). Please, fact check this for me, but I recall that one-third of Third Reich concentration camp commandants were PhDs. Why is it that high, even the highest, cultures ultimately become anti-Semitic? Funny. (Ed: And sadly more racist in general. An inclination more evident than ever these last few years)"

We conclude and I allow Allan to get on with the important work of fine-tuning his work. However, as he gets up to leave, he turns and leaves us with the following thought, "We’re in rehearsal. Come to see the show. Or it may come to England, where the subject is making current headlines (Allan means antisemitism which, has raised its ugly head once more in politics here in the UK.

We hope the play does reach the UK, especially given how rare such projects are outside of Germany. If you want to see it now, and can get to New York, My Parsifal Conductor will be running till November 3. More information, including booking details, click here:
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A New Wagnerian Music Friday

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 14 September 2018 | 7:16:00 pm

We see this sort of hashtag trending frequently on social media and so thought, we might try something new. Its debatable whether these are "new" but newly released in this format/remaster or with this CD cover at least.  Playlist put together in Spotify. If anyone would like it in Tidal or Qobuz also let us know and we shall do - if we can.

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Listen Now: Jonas Kaufmann Discusses Tristan and Performing The Role In Full In Three Years

Or at least he hopes to perform the role in full in three or so years time. But given how far ahead performers like Kaufmann are booked in advance, it seems perhaps more certain than it sounds.  Ignore the German in the video title. The interview in English.
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The Jury Is In: Spotify, Tidal Or Qobuz. Which One Is The Best

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 3 September 2018 | 5:47:00 am

Part one is here, offering an overview of streaming services
Part two  looks at Tidal's features in detail here
Part three looks at Qobuz features in detail here

We noted in part one of this, now a four-part feature, that we are unlikely to leave Spotify. However, for us this is a very specific reason: it allows us to share various recordings with the widest group of people, even if they are using the free Spotify service. When we started this meant that there was really only one other reason to even consider Tidal or Qobuz and that was that they offered lossless streaming - at an additional cost. However, having used both services now for some time, we have found an additional reason to move to at least one of them, but more of this later.

Available music

During our time with both services, we have never found a time where there was something that we wanted that was not on both - and was also on Spotify. There was a great difference in how quickly and easily we were able to find music, as we noted when discussing how each platform managed meta tags and how well they were clearly maintained and curated. Within classical music, Tidal was simply not as good as Qobuz. Indeed, given that it struggles with even playing some classical multidisc sets in the correct order, it was sometimes much worse than Spotify. But when it did work, which is most of the time, it did so well


As we have noted, both offer apps across a range of platforms and also allow web access via a browser. Both services take a very different approach to how these are laid out. Tidal is clearly closely inspired by Spotify, while Qobuz offers a cleaner, approach, where releasing screen space is key. Again, both work well across a range of platforms that we tested and which one you prefer will be a matter of personal choice. In our opinion Qobuz does have the edge here for two reasons: it offers the ability to view and read the CD booklets where available and it also allows you to click on a record labels name which will then bring up all of that labels recordings. The first is an impressive addition and one we greatly valued. The second is something that all services should have, but only Qobuz offers. 

Music Audio Quality. 

Both services offer streaming and offline playback in lossless format and both at the same monthly cost. While both are very good we noted a difference in that Tidal seemed to favour mids and highs while Qobuz seems to favour a more rounded, warmer sound stage natively (any of this can be changed to some degree with a graphic equaliser of course).  As to which one you might prefer is a matter of personal choice but as both offer a month's free trial this would be easy to decide. Tidal does have an advantage here, in that it offers to stream at greater than CD quality - studio master quality if you will - and this is included at the monthly price of 19.99. Qobuz also offers this but at what we consider an excessive annual only cost of 349. 99. Yes, it does give you the opportunity for significant discounts when buying studio master quality recordings but so does its more affordable annual subscription of  219.99 (which is also cheaper than the monthly cost of 19,99). There is, however, something that needs to be taken into account with Tidal's "Master" quality recordings. Because they use MQA, and because MQA needs a decoder at your side to play the tracks, this master quality is only available in the Tidal App. If you want to playback in a web browser or in Linux, then you can only do so at a maximum CD quality stream. Still, it is affordable

Music Discovery

To me, there are two main reasons for using a service like Tidal or Qobuz, or indeed any other: convenience and discovery. It's simply convenient that I don't have to access a particular drive that contains the music I want at home, or copy them to my music player when I go out or travel (21-century problems. Terrible isn't it?). But of course, there are ways around, even this - cloud storage for example. The second reason is not so easy to circumnavigate, however, and that is discovering and trying new music. Both services are good at this, but for different genres and one is simply better at all.
Tidal seems a Hifi service in search of an audience that may not need it.  As I type, Tidal's front page is trying to point me to its live stream of  Made In America 2018. The performer on the "Rock and Liberty stage (there are three different stages) has just stopped the audio track of her (I have come in late and it doesn't indicate, but I am certain it is Niki Minaj) "live" performance", telling her technical crew  "I'm feeling too sexy for this one. Let's move to the next" And so a highly appreciative audience is now singing along with her, while she clearly mimes something else from her new |CD (By the way, the opening track"Ganaja Burns" is the only good track on her new album. A classic modern pop song in my opinion,.If that doesn't appear on the soundtrack of the next GTA game I will eat my copy of  Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) As another aside, we have  reached an odd place in popular music where the only people singing live at a concert are the audience. Apart from this, the main landing page recommends 5 different Michael Jackson playlists, one of Jean-Michel Jarre, one of Kanye West and the American Billboard 100. This represents how good Tidal is at highlighting and attempting to funnel you to the most popular of popular, American,  contemporary pop music while doing a much poorer job with Classical, Jazz, or experimental R&B, ECM or Rap. Or indeed, pop music that has not reached the USA  The trouble, if that is the word, is that these areas are already covered so well by Spotify. Worse, online sales and indeed piracy, tell us that most people that listen to this type of music are happy to do so in MP3. Most "lossless" quality sales are in Classical,  Jazz, Classica Rock, Metal and experimental music (Pop, Rap,  ECM or otherwise). Other music, especially Classical, is of course well represented on Tidal but you have to know what you are looking for in advance, especially what albums. And once you find them, Tidal gives you very little information about them, apart from track information, performers and brief review (Sadly it is not so good at telling you which recording you are listening to if you find, for example, a conductor who has recorded a cycle more than once. For example, according to Tidal, all four of its Karajan Beethoven symphony cycles, within its library, are his 1963 cycle - despite the fact they clearly are not. Tidal saddens me for this reason. An excellent audio quality service with a stable app, chasing a market that is most likely unappreciative of it. And if all you are interested in is listening to MP3, why move to Tidal's 9.99 MP3 only services while Spotify or any other numerous services exist, and with bigger libraries? 

Qobuz is a very different proposition, however. For example, upon landing on its homepage, it makes the following suggestions - when not filtered by a particular genre: 

A Kendric Lemar discography
A feature on "The paradox of Esa-Pekka Salonen studio"
A playlist and feature on Classical label Panclassics
A feature and playlist about Herbie Hancock
A feature and listening recommendation titled"Paul Van Nevel, the ancient music craftsman"

And so on, and so on.

And if I filter to Classical, a brings up not only new releases but official recommendations from Gramophone Magazine (updated monthly and in association with Gramophone) and other magazines. More importantly, to me at least, a wealth of feature articles exist on classical music and are well integrated with its music archive. Indeed, it is less like a straightforward streaming site but does this and combines it with a rather good music magazine. And the same attention to detail can be found in every genre. Indeed. it is this fact that would allow me to happily recommend changing to its 9.99 MP3 only services, from any other MP3 streaming. if you are not interested in its CD-quality streams service. The extra content is simply more than worth it, at least if you are interested in more than the UK Top 40 or Billboards 100. 

So, to conclude, while both services offer good quality sound streaming and a large archive, Qobuz easily beats not only Tidal but many other services. This is by understanding its audience and the many extras that it offers. But, if you are interested, it is easy to try both services as each offer a one months, unrestricted,  free trial, Alas, American audiences will have to wait till October when Qobuz launches there.

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Spotify, Tidal & Qobuz: A Comparison & Review. Part Three: Qobuz

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 1 September 2018 | 10:46:00 pm

Despite not  being as well known, Qobuz has been around longer than not only Tidal but even Spotify, A French company, it launched in 2007 and was originally only available in French, Later it expanded to the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. In October, it finally launches in the USA and seems determined to expand to other nations. It is better known as a company that specialises in classical music and jazz, although a quick look at its catalogue will show it has the same range of artists and genres as both Spotify or Tidal,

Like most other services, it has a web player and apps for Windows, Mac, and Android. Also, like Spotify, but not Tidal, it does have an unofficial Linux program. Alas, this is not available from their website but can be downloaded from GitHub and can be found in some repositories.

It can also be found supported by a bewilderingly large range of Hifi equipment and manufactures where it often offers full integration.

As it does not use MQA, it differs to Tidal in that all of its audio streams - from 320 kbps to FLAC 24-Bit up to 192 KHz - can be played in any browser or OS.

All music is available to stream, download and buy. 

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Spotify, Tidal & Qobuz: A Comparison & Review. Part Two: Tidal

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 31 August 2018 | 11:25:00 am


Tidal is, or at least was a Norwegian company. Launching in 2014, it is one of the newest of the streaming services and yet one of the fastest growing and better-known. There are three reasons for this: it quickly expanded to include 52 countries, including the US, which has helped spread its brand quickly. It is one of only a small few services to offer not only a lossy streaming service but also lossless, CD-quality. It also offers a CD quality plus, but more on that shortly. Finally, in 2015 it was sold to a company led by Jay-Z, but including other artists on its board, who gave their full, and powerful, media presence to promote it.

Like Spotify, it has a web player (which allows you to log in and play tracks or albums in your web browser), but it also has its own set of "apps" for Windows, Mac, and Android. Sadly there is no separate Linux program, which means that its top-tier audio cannot be played on Linux machines (To Linux users: it seems the program will also not run in WINE. Perhaps due to the use of MQA?). This top tier is often thought to be streaming at 96 kHz / 24 bit. Although, as it uses MQA this may not be entirely accurate. Indeed, the fact that it uses MQA, maybe the reason that you cannot listen to its top-tier audio stream in a web browser. MQA needs MQA's own technology to decode it, and that is only present in the Tidal apps and certain audio equipment at present.

There are two membership types:

Tidal Premium.

Streaming at 320 kbps (Either MP3 or AAC - it is difficult to confirm which codec is used and may differ between platforms). This is Tidal's "lossy" streaming service. Comparable to Spotify.  This is priced at 9.99 a month.

Tidal HIFI

This is Tidal's "lossless" streaming format and comes in two "flavours" which the user chooses and can swap between at will:

First there are  Flac files at 16 bit 44.1 kHz - basically CD quality. In its app, and elsewhere, tidal names this service "HiFi Lossless" 

It also offers higher quality streams and downloads which it calls "Masters". Again, it seems that there is some confusion around these, with the assumption - not easily clarified by Tidal -  these are Flac files encoded at 96 kHz / 24 bit. But this is not necessarily correct as they use the MQA processing (See here for a discussion of MQA) MQA is actually lossy. As Tidal state on their website in their QA: "Tidal has partnered with MQA to deliver an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit), ". Confusing isn't it? But then, the entire industry seems confused about MQA. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that it should be significantly above 16 bit 44.1 kHz, but not a consistent 96 kHz / 24 bit. It should also be noted that the MQA software is reencoding and "enhancing" the track and indeed without this, the audio would be distorted. Clear as mud, isn't it? This service is priced at 19.99 a month.


On logging in the app is very similar to Spotify's (see image below) and anyone coming from Spotify will feel comfortable. However, having tested it on Windows (i5, 8 gig Ram) and Android (S9 Plus), I would say that it is more stable and responsive then Spotify's window or android apps. However, it does not have many of the social media/community aspects that Spotify does. No list of what your friends are playing on the right-hand side of the app, for example.

The service has over 48.5 million tracks and 175,000 music videos - although these videos are mainly Pop, Rap, Rock, R&B and Metal. There is little here for classical music or jazz lovers. Luckily, it does hold a significant classical music catalogue, and while nowhere near as extensive as Spotify's you will normally find what you are looking for. At least, as long as the Tidal's search engine can track them down, which often needs more than one try and the use of some imagination.

It quickly becomes apparent that Tidal is aiming its sights at the American "youth" market, with great emphasis on Rap, Pop and modern R&B.

Click on any category and you will be met with a similar layout (see image below). Starting at the top this will be: Curated Playlists, New Tracks, New Albums, An artist of the week, two record labels which in the classical section do not seem to change (DG and ECM) and finally a set of "guest playlists" although this last section is not to be found in the classical section.

Music Discovery.

The best streaming services offer some ways of helping you discover music that you might not otherwise. Spotify does this, not brilliantly, but other users playlists can turn up the odd gem. Sadly in the classical music section, Tidal does nothing of any use - apart, perhaps, for the odd thing to be found the ECM or DG listings or "classic recordings". And of course, "New Releases". The "curated" classical music playlists are generally the usual nonsense put together by someone whose experience of classical music is "Mozart for your baby" and "Classical Music to help you study/sleep" (delete as appropriate). Even the lest moderately experienced classical music "fan" will find little new or interesting here. Unless you are keen to discover - and I am not making this up -  "Classical Meets Pop"

Meta Tagging

If you are not aware, all of your music contains "hidden" information known as metadata. This information typically lists: 

Song title
Band or artist's name
Album name that the song originates from
Type of music (genre)
Album track number
Year the song was released

Different programs tend to read this data slightly differently, and different record companies fill this data differently and for various reasons, some programs struggle with classical music meta tags. Sometimes this can be funny. Sometimes it can make looking for CDs difficult. It may have been rectified now but it was once extremely difficult to find all of the Goodall or Haitink Ring cycle for this reason in Spotify. But I don't think I have ever seen a service deal with this as badly as Tidal.  And this is important. To help with search and even playback, a program must be able to read this metadata correctly - sometimes trying to interpret what the record label is trying to say. Sadly, Tidal fails at this repeatedly in its classical music section. For some reason, it especially cannot cope with multi-disc classic music sets. 

Take the example below of the recent live Janowski Walkure on Pentatone. 

It starts by playing midway through act two! Hinweg! Hinweg! Flieh die Entweihte! It then moves on to the act one "prelude"! And off it goes once again on its magical mystery tour, where it stops, nobody knows. It's clear that it is, for some reason, putting all of those tracks labelled as track one and playing them together - in any order. And so on. Thankfully, it does not do this all the time and on most CDs, but you come across it enough to both worrisome and annoying. For example, see below what it does to the excellent Michael Gielen Edition Vol. 6 / Mahler making his entire Mahler cycle unlistenable. I came across this nearly two months ago and reported to Tidal but as you can see nothing has been done.

Sound quality.

Excellent. there is little else to say. CD quality sounds like a CD and very similar to those that I might burn myself at home.  HiFi Plus is a little better if not as impressive as I thought it might be given these are supposed to be studio masters. Don't get me wrong, they are good, but there is a slight tendency to exaggerate the mids and highs more than one might expect.  One assumes this is something to do with the encoder that Tidal uses - the CD  files also complement mids and highs but not to the same degree. But overall very good. Listen to something on here then listen to the same thing on Spotify and it sounds like someone has thrown a blanket over the speakers - and Spotify is one of the better lossless services.

And that concludes our tour of Tidal. Next up is Qobuz and finally a summary,  my thoughts and recommendations. 

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