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Richard Wagner - Liebestod - Sylvain Blassel

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 23 February 2015 | 7:29:00 am

Sylvain Blassel (Harp, Arranger)

Born: 1976 - France

The French harpist, Sylvain Blassel, graduated in 1998 from the Lyon Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse (Lyon CNSMD) under Fabrice Pierre.

Following his graduation Sylvain Blassel was hired as an assistant conductor by the Ensemble Intercontemporai. He works mostly with David Robertson and Pierre Boulez, but also for Péter Eötvös, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Markus Stenz, Jonathan Nott and Hans Zender. This has given him the chance to meet such composers as György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Pascal Dusapin, Emmanuel Nunes, and Ivan Fedele.

As a harpist, Sylvain Blassel plays with numerous orchestras and conductors such as Michel Plasson, Emmanuel Krivine, Alain Lombard, Iván Fischer and Marek Janowski. His interest in contemporary repertoire has led him to premiere works by Jacques Lenot, Francesco Filidei, Pierre Jodlowsky, Vincent Carinola and Oliver Schneller. In a continual drive to widen his repertoire he has transcribed many works either for solo harp or for chamber ensemble including the harp.

With a passion for old harps, Sylvain Blassel restores and adjusts his own harps under the guidance of Alexandre Budin.

Sylvain Blassel teaches the harp at Lyon CNSMD along with Fabrice Pierre and teaches musical analysis at the Rennes Conservatoire.


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New Wagner Publication: Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 13 February 2015 | 2:06:00 pm

 
Understanding the Leitmotif
From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

Author: Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
Publication planned for: April 2015
availability: Not yet published - available from April 2015
format: Hardback
isbn: 9781107098398
 
The musical leitmotif, having reached a point of particular forcefulness in the music of Richard Wagner, has remained a popular compositional device up to the present day. In this book, Matthew Bribitzer-Stull explores the background and development of the leitmotif, from Wagner to the Hollywood adaptations of The Lord of The Rings and the Harry Potter series. Analyzing both concert music and film music, Bribitzer-Stull explains what the leitmotif is and establishes it as the union of two aspects: the thematic and the associative. He goes on to show that Wagner's Ring cycle provides a leitmotivic paradigm, a model from which we can learn to better understand the leitmotif across style periods. Arguing for a renewed interest in the artistic merit of the leitmotif, Bribitzer-Stull reveals how uniting meaning, memory, and emotion in music can lead to a richer listening experience and a better understanding of dramatic music's enduring appeal.

  • Explains the concept of the leitmotif, adopting a new developmental approach to understanding its form and function
  • Explores the themes and associations of modern-day film music and the widely enjoyed musical genres of nineteenth-century dramatic music, such as program symphonies, tone poems, opera, and lieder
  • Provides a cross-disciplinary perspective that will be of interest to scholars of music theory, musicology, film studies, cultural studies, and comparative literature


Table of Contents
1. Introduction: the leitmotif problem
Part I. Musical Themes:
2. Motive, phrase, melody, and theme
3. Thematic development, thematic identity: musical themes and the prototype model
Part II. Musical Association:
4. The phenomenon of musical association
5. Piece specifics, cultural generics, and associative layering
6. From 'Nibelheim' to Hollywood: the associativity of harmonic progression
Part III. Leitmotifs in Context:
7. The paradigm of Wagner's Ring
8. Leitmotif in Western art music outside the Ring
9. The modern-day leitmotif: associative themes in contemporary film music
 

Matthew Bribitzer-Stull is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota. He has presented and published widely on Wagner, nineteenth-century chromatic tonality, musical association, and music theory pedagogy. His articles have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, Music Analysis, Intégral, the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, the Journal of Musicological Research, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, and The Legacy of Richard Wagner, among others. He is author of the Anthology for Performance and Analysis (2013) and co-editor of Richard Wagner for the New Millennium: Essays on Music and Culture (2007, with Alex Lubet and Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of the composer). Winner of the Society for Music Theory Emerging Scholar Award, he has also received a number of teaching awards.
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Tannhauser: "Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t"

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” A counterfactual analysis of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

Chrissochoidis, I.; Harmgart, H.; Huck, S.; Müller, W.; (2010) “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” A counterfactual analysis of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. (ELSE Working Papers 377). ESRC Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution: London, UK.

Much like Wagner himself, the eponymous hero of Tannhäuser treads a path of stark contrasts and rapid swings. From Wartburg to the Venusberg and to the Vatican, the gifted bard transforms from self-centered artist to seduced disciple, disillusioned devotee, hopeful lover, self-loathing pilgrim and finally redeemed martyr. He tries everything and everything is trying. These contrasts reach a peak in the opera‟s central episode, the song contest at Wartburg. Tannhäuser has just been welcomed at the court, received Elisabeth‟s favor and affection, and is ready to compete for the contest‟s prize, one as lofty as possibly the princess‟ hand. Instead of securing his reintegration to Wartburg with a brilliant performance, however, he spoils the event with insolent remarks and the exhibitionist disclosure of his Venusberg experience. His behavior offends his peers, scandalizes the court, breaks Elisabeth‟s heart, and brings him to the edge of death. Why would Tannhäuser sacrifice everything for nothing?

LANDGRAF
... Have you returned to the circle
you forsook in haughty arrogance?
WOLFRAM
... when, in haughtiness, you left us,

In the Venusberg, we find him incapable of fulfilling his duties (all attempts to praise the goddess end
up in complaints and self-pity) and his betrayal of Venus with the Virgin Mary (“mein Heil ruht in
Maria!” [my salvation rests in Mary!] Act 1, sc. 2, l. 302) is followed by swapping the latter for
Princess Elisabeth and then her, too, for a limelight moment of swaggering self-adulation. This, in
turn, he publicly regrets preferring penance over sin, a penchant he is no longer sure of when he finally returns to Wartburg. Thus, Tannhauser‟s irrational behavior in the song contest is not
surprising; indeed, it prepares us for the opera‟s tragic end. A man of such swings of mood and action will never find peace in this world.

Another explanation points the finger to Wagner himself, who forged a story out of two loosely
connected tales, recorded in the opera‟s title (Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg). The
need for formal discipline (for example, having the big climax just before the end of Act 2) overrode
that for dramatic conviction. Whether for structural or philosophical reasons, Wartburg had to appear
midway between the Venusberg and Rome, the song contest should stand between a life of sin and
one of redemption, and Elisabeth had to become “the woman who, star-like,” leads Tannhäuser “from
the hot passion of the Venusberg to Heaven”.

Both explanations are valid and offer insights into Tannhäuser‟s reckless behaviour. Like most
exegetical efforts on the opera, however, they take for granted the hero‟s hyper-emotional nature,
compulsiveness, and spontaneity.3 Issues of choice, planning and strategy, are left out of the picture, as if his actions are involuntary responses to external stimuli and his decisions lack any kind of mental
processing. Yet his departure from the Venusberg is a conscious choice arrived at through rational
thinking. Memories of his past life interlace and clash with his present Venusian experiences, leading
to comparison and, ultimately, preference for the one over the other. His longing for change and
freedom in Act 1 shows an active mind capable of choosing between alternatives. This is indeed the
subject of his lengthy argument with Venus (reminiscent of the Orpheus-Euridice confrontation in
Gluck‟s Orfeo). Tannhäuser abandons the Venusberg fully aware of the privileges he leaves behind
and the hardships lying ahead:

TANNHÄUSER
for freedom, then, I long,
for freedom, freedom, do I thirst;
for struggle and strife I will stand,
though it be, too, for destruction and death:
from your kingdom, therefore, I must fly,
(Act 1, sc. 2, ll. 209-13)

Similarly, in his encounter with the knights, we find him resisting their offer, which shows at least
knowledge of two alternative paths. He agrees to join them only when Wolfram reveals Elisabeth‟s
favorable response to his songs. In what statisticians call Bayesian updating,4 Tannhäuser revises his
beliefs about Wartburg and his decision not to look back (“denn rückwärts darf ich niemals seh‟n.”
Act 1, sc. 4, l. 424). Learning about Elisabeth‟s feelings makes a return to Wartburg into a compelling choice (“Ha, jetzt erkenne ich sie wieder, / die schöne Welt, der ich entrückt!” [Ha, now I recognize it again, the lovely world that I renounced!] Act 1, sc. 4, ll. 474-75).

Pursuing this line of inquiry, this paper offers a new reading of the Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg. We
propose that Tannhäuser‟s seemingly irrational behaviour is actually consistent with a strategy of
redemption, in ways that recall Polonius‟s famous diagnosis of Hamlet “Though this be madness, yet
there is method in‟t.”5 We also suggest that he consciously disrupts the contest, knowing that only a
public disclosure of his sinful past can propel him on the path of redemption.

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Salzburg Marionettentheater's Der Ring des Nibelungen - An Overview



Highly recommended should you ever get the chance to see this - or their Magic Flute,  Don Giovanni and much else. To track down a performance close to you, we suggest that you visit this page.

The video below, which provides an overview, references a worldwide tour from a few years ago.
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In Performance: Parsifal - 2015




Only productions that have announced their principal casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before making any booking
  
Oper Frankfurt

Dates:

15, 21, 29 March, 3, 6 April 2015


Amfortas - Johannes Martin Kränzle
Titurel - Magnus Baldvinsson
Gurnemanz - Franz-Josef Selig
Parsifal - Frank van Aken
Klingsor - Simon Bailey
Kundry - Claudia Mahnke
1. Gralsritter - Hans-Jürgen Lazar
2. Gralsritter - Iurii Samoilov
1. Knappe - Elizabeth Reiter
2. Knappe - Jenny Carlstedt
3. Knappe - Michael Porter
4. Knappe - Michael McCown
1. Flowermaiden - Louise Alder
2. Flowermaiden - Karen Vuong
3. Flowermaiden - Judita Nagyova
4. Flowermaiden - Eizabeth Reiter
5. Flowermaiden - Jenny Carlstedt
6. Flowermaiden - Maria Pantiukhova

Conductor: Bertrand de Billy
Director: Christof Nel
Set Designs: Jens Kilian
Costumes: Ilse Welter
Lighting: Olaf Winter

----------------------------------------------------------------

Staatsoper Unter den Linden

    
New production

Dates:

28, 31 March, 3, 6, 12, 18 April 2015


Amfortas - Wolfgang Koch
Titurel - Matthias Hölle
Gurnemanz - René Pape
Parsifal - Andreas Schager
Klingsor - Tomas Tomasson
Kundry - Anja Kampe
1. Gralsritter - Grigory Shkarupa
1. Knappe - Sonia Grané
2. Knappe - Annika Schlicht
3. Knappe - Stephen Chambers
4. Knappe - Jonathan Winnell
1. Flowermaiden - Julia Novikova
2. Flowermaiden - Adriane Queiroz
3. Flowermaiden - Sonia Grané
4. Flowermaiden - Narine Yeghiyan
5. Flowermaiden - Annika Schlicht

Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Director: Dmitri Tcherniakov

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Vienna State Opera

Dates:

2, 5, 8 April 2015


Amfortas - Michael Volle
Gurnemanz - Stephen Milling
Parsifal - Johan Botha
Kundry - Angela Denoke

Conductor: Peter Schneider
Director: Christine Mielitz
Set Designs: Stefan Mayer
Costumes: Stefan Mayer

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hungarian State Opera


Dates:

3, 6 April 2015


Amfortas - Levente Molnar
Titurel - Istvan Kovacs
Gurnemanz - Eric Halfvarson
Parsifal - Istvan Kovacshazi
Klingsor - Sandor Egri
Kundry - Judit Nemeth
1. Gralsritter - Peter Kiss
2. Gralsritter - Lajos Geiger
1. Knappe - Erika Markovics
2. Knappe - Krisztina Simon
3. Knappe - Istvan Horvath
4. Knappe - Jaos Szerekovan
1. Flowermaiden - Zita Varadi
2. Flowermaiden - Kinga Kriszta
3. Flowermaiden - Krisztina Simon
4. Flowermaiden - Gabi Gal
5. Flowermaiden - Timea Balog
6. Flowermaiden - Eva Varhelyi
Alto solo - Atala Schöck

Conductor: Christian Badea
Director: Andras Miko
Set Designs: Gabor Forray
Costumes: Peter Makai

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nationaltheater Mannheim


Dates:

3 April, 4 June 2015


Amfortas - Thomas Berau
Titurel - Sebastian Pilgrim
Gurnemanz - John In Eichen
Parsifal - Michael Baba
Klingsor - Thomas Jesatko
Kundry - Edna Prochnik
1. Gralsritter - David Lee
2. Gralsritter - Sebastian Pilgrim
1. Knappe -  Astrid Kessler
2. Knappe - Evelyn Krahe
3. Knappe - Uwe Eikötter
4. Knappe - Ziad Nehme
1. Flowermaiden - Astrid Kessler
2. Flowermaiden - Estelle Kruger
3. Flowermaiden - Dorottya Lang
4. Flowermaiden - Vera-Lotte Böcker
5. Flowermaiden - Ludovica Bello
6. Flowermaiden - Evelyn Krahe
Alto solo - Evelyn Krahe

Conductor: Alois Seidlmeier
Director:Hans Schüler
Set Designs: Paul Walter
Costumes: Gerda Schulte

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Theater Chemnitz

Dates:

3, 12(m), 26(m) April 2015


Amfortas - Roman Trekel
Titurel - Thomas Mäthger
Gurnemanz - James Moellenhoff
Parsifal - Burkhard Fritz / Frank van Aken
Klingsor - Hannu Niemelä
Kundry - Susanne Schimmack
1. Gralsritter - Edward Randall
2. Gralsritter - Kouta Räsänen
1. Knappe - Franziska Krötenheerdt
2. Knappe - Tiina Penttinen
3. Knappe - André Riemer
4. Knappe - Levy Sekgapane
1. Flowermaiden - Guibee Yang
2. Flowermaiden - Maraike Schröter
3. Flowermaiden - Tiina Penttinen
4. Flowermaiden - Sarah Yorke
5. Flowermaiden - Franziska Krötenheerdt
6. Flowermaiden - Cordelia Katharina Weil
Alto solo - Tiina Penttinen

Conductor: Frank Beermann
Director: John Dew
Set Designs: Heinz Balthes
Costumes: José-Manuel Vázquez

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oper Leipzig

Dates:

3 April, 22 May 2015

Amfortas - Tuomas Pursio / Mathias Hausmann
Titurel - Milcho Borovinov
Gurnemanz - Runi Brattaberg
Parsifal - Daniel Kirch
Klingsor - Jürgen Kurth
Kundry - Kathrin Göring
1. Gralsritter - Keith Boldt
2. Gralsritter - Milcho Borovinov
1. Knappe - Olena Tokar
2. Knappe - Jean Broekhuizen
3. Knappe - Sebastian Fuchsberger
4. Knappe - Tommaso Randazzo
2. Flowermaiden - Jennifer Porto
3. Flowermaiden - Jean Broekhuizen
4. Flowermaiden - Olena Tokar
6. Flowermaiden - Sandra Janke
Alto solo - Sandra Janke

Conductor: Ulf Schirmer
Director: Roland Aeschlimann
Set Designs: Roland Aeschlimann
Costumes: Susanne Raschig
Lighting: Lukas Kaltenbäck

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Teatro Colón
    
New production

Dates:

4, 6, 9, 11 December 2015


Amfortas - Ryan McKinny
Gurnemanz - Stephen Milling
Parsifal - Christopher Ventris
Klingsor - Kay Stiefemann
Kundry - Iréne Theorin

Conductor: Roberto Paternostro
Director: Marcelo Lombardero
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In Performance: Tristan Und Isolde - 2015


Only productions that have announced their principal casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before making any booking

Only productions that have at least announced their principle casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before booking. We will attempt to add video and photos as time allows.  If you believe we have missed a production - and we have no doubt that that is the case -  please get in touch and let us know: where, when and who. - See more at: http://www.the-wagnerian.com/2012/12/complete-ring-cycles-productions-2013.html#sthash.UTjpJxrV.dpuf
Staatstheater Nürnberg

Dates:
1, 8, 22 February, 8, 22 March 2015

Tristan - Vincent Wolfsteiner / Tilmann Unger
Isolde - Claudia Iten
König Marke - Pavel Shmulevich / Woong-Jo Choi
Kurwenal - Jochen Kupfer
Melot - Hans Kittelmann
Brangäne - Roswitha Christina Müller
Ein Hirt - Kwonsoo Jeon
Ein Steuermann - Sébastien Parotte / Daniel Dropulja
Ein Junger Seemann - Kwonsoo Jeon

Conductor: Markus Bosch
Director: Monique Wagemakers
Set Designs: Dirk Becker
Costumes: Gabriele Heimann

----------------------------------------------

Teatro di San Carlo

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Dates:

22, 25, 28 February, 3, 5 March 2015

Tristan - Torsten Kerl
Isolde - Violeta Urmana
König Marke - Stephen Milling
Kurwenal - Jukka Rasilainen
Melot - Alfredo Nigro
Brangäne - Lioba Braun

Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Director: Lluis Pasqual
Set Designs: Ezio Frigerio
Costumes: Franca Squarcipiano

---------------------------------------------

Opéra national du Rhin
New production

Dates:
18, 21, 24, 30 March, 2, 17, 19(m) April 2015 (Strasbourg & Mulhouse)

Tristan - Ian Storey
Isolde - Melanie Diener
König Marke - Attila Jun
Kurwenal - Raimund Nolte
Melot - Gijs Van der Linden
Brangäne - Michelle Breedt
Ein Hirt - Sunggoo Lee
Ein Junger Seemann - Sunggoo Lee

Conductor: Axel Kober
Director: Antony McDonald
Set Designs: Antony McDonald
Costumes: Antony McDonald

----------------------------------------------------------

The Royal Swedish Opera

Dates:

24, 27, 30 March, 2 April 2015

Tristan - Michael Weinius / Niklas Björling Rygert
Isolde - Emma Vetter
König Marke - Lennart Forsen
Kurwenal - Johan Edholm
Melot - Magnus Kyhle
Brangäne - Katarina Dalayman
Ein Hirt - Niklas Björling Rygert
Ein Steuermann - John Erik Eleby

Conductor: Lawrence Rennes
Director:Hans-Peter Lehmann
Set Designs: Olaf Zombeck
Costumes: Olaf Zombeck
Lighting: Linus Fellbom


-------------------------------------------------------------


Opéra national de Bordeaux
    
New production

Dates:
26, 29(m) March, 1, 4, 7 April 2015

Tristan - Christian Voigt
Isolde - Alwyn Mellor
König Marke - Nicolas Courjal
Kurwenal - Brett Polegato
Melot - Guillaume Antoine
Brangäne - Janina Baechle
Ein Hirt - Simon Bode
Ein Steuermann - Jean-Marc Bonicel
Ein Junger Seemann - Simon Bode

Conductor:Paul Daniel
Director: Giuseppe Frigeni
Set Designs: Giuseppe Frigeni
Costumes: Lili Kendaka
Lighting: Giuseppe Frigeni

------------------------------------------------------------

Longborough Festival Opera
  
New production

Dates:
12, 16, 18, 20 June 2015

Tristan - Peter Wedd / Neal Cooper
Isolde - Rachel Nicholls / Lee Bisset
König Marke - Frode Olsen
Kurwenal - Andrew Slater / Stuart Pendred
Melot - Ben Thapa / Stephen Rooke
Brangäne - Catherine Carby / Harriet Williams
Ein Hirt - Stephen Rooke / Edward Hughes
Ein Steuermann - Thomas Colwell
Ein Junger Seemann - Edward Hughes

Conductor: Anthony Negus
Director: Carmen Jakobi
Set Designs: Kimie Nakano
Costumes: Kimie Nakano
Lighting: Ben Ormerod

------------------------------------------------------------

Munich Opera Festival

Dates:
8, 12 July 2015

Tristan - Peter Seiffert
Isolde - Waltruad Meier
König Marke - René Pape
Kurwenal - Alan Held
Melot - Francesco Petrozzi
Brangäne - Elisabeth Kulman
Ein Hirt - Kevin Conners
Ein Steuermann - Christian Rieger
Ein Junger Seemann - Dean Power

Conductor: Philippe Jordan
Director: Peter Konwitschny
Set Designs: Johannes Leiacker
Costumes: Johannes Leiacker
Lighting: Michael Bauer

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Tiroler Festspiele Erl

Dates:
10, 18 July 2015

Tristan - Michael Baba / Gianluca Zampieri
Isolde - Bettine Kampp / Mona Somm / Nancy Weissbach
König Marke - Franz Hawlata / Jens Waldig
Kurwenal - Frederik Baldus / Michael Mrosek
Melot - George Humphrey / Wolfram Wittekind
Brangäne - Hemine Haselböck / Rita Lucia Schneider
Ein Hirt - Ulfried Haselsteiner / Markus Herzog
Ein Steuermann - Frederik Baldus / James Roser
Ein Junger Seemann - Giorgio Valenta / Wolfram Wittekind

Conductor: Gustav Kuhn
Director: Gustav Kuhn
Set Designs: Ina Reuter
Costumes: Lenka Radecky
Lighting: Gustav Kuhn

-------------------------------------------------------------

Bayreuth Festival
New production

Dates:

25 July, 2, 7, 13, 18, 23 August 2015

Tristan - Stephen Gould
Isolde - Anja Kampe

Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Director: Katharina Wagner
Set Designs: Frank Philipp Schlößmann / Matthias Lippert
Costumes: Thomas Kaiser
Lighting: Reinhard Traub
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Wagner, The Ring and Call Of Duty?

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 9 February 2015 | 10:19:00 am

OK. We  are going to try and explain this, briefly, for most of our readers (the rest of you can go straight to the end): "Call Of Duty" is a "video game". Yes, one of those things your young nephew nodoubt tries to go back after feigning interest in your latest visit (Don't blame them. You play GTA 5 in first-person mode on a next gen console and imagine how interested you would be in them visiting you). Not just any video game, but part of that most insidious, insipid sub-genre; the FPS (First Person Shooter). For reasons only understood by COD and Battlefield players, this sub-genre is incredible popular and successful.

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Opera North Announce 2016 Ring Cycle Dates & Locations

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 22 January 2015 | 6:20:00 pm


After four years of individual performances of each part of Der Ring des Nibelungen in concert - although semi-staged - ON have now announced the dates and locations of the full cycle, to be performed in 2016.


Leeds Town Hall:
Cycle 1: Sat 23 April 2016 - Sat 21 May 2016
Cycle 2: Tue 24 May 2016 - 29 May 2016

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham:
Mon 6 June 2016 - Sat 11 June 2016

The Lowry, Salford Quays:
13 June 2016 - Sat 18 June 2016

Southbank Centre, London:
Tue 28 June 2016 - Sun 3 July 2016

Sage Gateshead:
Tue 5 July 2016 - Sun 10 July 2016

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Win Two VIP Tickets To Meistersinger in London

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 | 2:55:00 pm

This year,  during February and March, will see the London premiere of Richard Jones’s acclaimed staging of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.  Conducted by Edward Gardner, with a fine cast that includes Iain Paterson performing his first Sachs, Andrew Shore making his stage role debut as Beckmesser and the wonderful Rachel Nicholls performing Eva (you can read an interview with Rachel we conducted earlier in her Wagnerian career, here). Full details can be found below.

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Watch Now: Siegfried Act 1.

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


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

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Who Is Richard Wagner? Paul Dawson-Bowling

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


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

The Wagner Experience

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

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

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

Uwe Eric Laufenberg -sans mother or swastikas

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Continue Reading
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Lyric Opera's Ring - Reinterpreting Wagner?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

THE WAGNER EXPERIENCE BY PAUL DAWSON-BOWLING:

THE PERFECT GIFT, THE PERFECT POSSESSION

Dame Gwyneth Jones

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

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Latvian Wagner Coin Wins International Award

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

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

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

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



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The Wagnerian's Reader Choice Awards - 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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


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

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



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

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Now Available: Wagner Journal November 2014

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


Contents:

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


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


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


plus reviews of:


the Hans Castorf Ring in Bayreuth


Der fliegende Holländer in Copenhagen


Tristan und Isolde in Lübeck and Florence


a concert performance of Götterdämmerung in Leeds


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


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


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

More At: The Wagner Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details below:

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

Wednesday 5 November 2014 - Das Rheingold - 7.30pm

Thursday 6 November 2014 - Die Walküre - 5pm

Saturday 8 November 2014 - Siegfried - 5pm

Sunday 9 November 2014 - Götterdämmerung - 5pm

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

* Terms & Conditions:

No refunds, transfers or exchanges;

Tickets can only be used by named applicant;

Tickets void if resold for profit.

Successful applicants only collect tickets with ID on the night.

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

Unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Hannah Chan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here To Download .








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

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

Robert Cowan

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

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

Introduction: How to Achieve Transcendence

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

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Book Of The Month:Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire

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

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

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

Mark Berry, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

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



From those very kindle volunteers at LibriVox.

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

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

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

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

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LFO Announce Cast Of New Tristan Und Isolde - 2015

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

12, 16, 18, 20 June

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

Sung in German with English surtitles.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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