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Wagner on Bakunin vs Bakunin on Wagner

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

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

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

My Life: Vol 1 - Richard Wagner

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

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



THOMAS MANN TO THEODOR W. ADORNO
ZURICH, 30–31.10.1952

Dear Dr Adorno,

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

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

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

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

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

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Originally posted Sept 2015

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

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

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




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We Need Your Help To Choose The Best Ring Cycle On DVD

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Listen Now: Bayreuth Parsifal 2016 - On-Demand

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



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

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Eric Laufenberg Explains The Meaning Of His Parsifal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOE

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Wagner Quote Of The Week: Nietzsche

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

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

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



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

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


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Where To Hear This Years Bayreuth Festival

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

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

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

(Note: there is also a video feed of this broadcast. See here)









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Watch The Premiere Of The Bayreuth Parsifal - Free


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

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

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

To Watch CLICK HERE

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Deconstruction and the Modern Bayreuth Festival

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

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

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


Highly recommended. 
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New Issue Of The Wagner Journal


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

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

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

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

DVDs of various productions at Bayreuth over the last decade

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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Watch Now: Die Walkure. Dutch National Opera. Haenchen

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


Again, brought to us by The Opera Platform

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

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



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

Details:


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

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



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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A rich tradition of Bayreuth cancelations

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

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


Continue Reading






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Listen To Opera North's Ring Cycle - On Demand


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


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Watch Glyndebourne’s Meistersinger - Free


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

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

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Black Mountain - A Reinterpretation Of Parsifal

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

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

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

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

Rodger Scruton:

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading Here
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As its Mahler's birthday

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



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

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

Bernstein



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Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

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

 
 
Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

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

Abstract

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

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



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

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

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

ABSTRACT

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

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

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

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

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

All links and videos are public domain.

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

Derek Williams: http://www.derekwilliams.net
Wagner Society of Scotland: http://www.wagnerscotland.net 


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Wagner's Parsifal and the Challenge to Psychoanalysis

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

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

Location: The Freud Museum, London
July 3, 2016

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

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


PROGRAMME

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


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

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


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

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

Tom DeRose
Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche in Berlin


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

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

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

Patrick Carnegy
Syberberg's Parsifal and the soul of Germany


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

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


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

Karin Nohr and Sebastian Leikert
Dr Kundry's Failure


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




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Bayreuth Ring 2016: TV Broadcast Of Entire Cycle

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

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

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Michael Portillo On Richard Wagner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publisher's details: 

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

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

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

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

Well worth watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newly translated to English.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

More at the Wagner Society (London)

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

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


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

To listen, click here
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