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Tristan und Isolde: 11, 000 Years Old And Counting

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 31 May 2021 | 3:23:00 pm

The Ain Sakhri Lovers

It takes little for us to shoehorn another story to become one involving Wagner's work. It's also not that difficult, given how much Wagner used mythic archetypes in his work. But as we emerge from lockdown, hopefully, (as to is this site) and places we love reopen, we are taken again to, one of many, a fascinating artefact found in the British Museum. 

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3 Months Of Online Wagner Events With The Wagner Society: April to July 2021

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 28 March 2021 | 4:32:00 pm

In these very strange times, various organisations have turned to the internet to continue their work. No less so, than the Wagner Society Of London. While it remains impossible to meet up, they have lead the way here, with a constant stream of online, Zoom events with famous singers and conductors together with lectures. This continues at least until July. All highly recommended.  If you wish to join any of these events or lectures a nominal charge of £5, for members or £10 for none members is made.

For more information visit the Societies webpage here
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You Have Four Days To Watch Göteborgsoperan's Siegfried Premier, Free Online

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 27 March 2021 | 10:25:00 pm

We have been lucky enough to catch Daniel Brenna's wonderful Siegfried, live, a few years ago and cannot recommend anything he appears in enough - and this production has much else to recommend it. Provided free by Göteborgsoperan

The film was shot at the Gothenburg Opera in December 2020. The role as the Wanderer (Wotan) is played in act one and two by Fredrik Zetterström and in act three by Anders Lorentzson.

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Post Lockdown, ENO To Begin New Ring Cycle

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 14 March 2021 | 1:46:00 pm

We, shall be looking at this closely, especially if it is as good as ENO seems to think

Directed by Richard Jones and conducted by Martyn Brabbins, The Valkyrie will form the first part of a complete Ring Cycle over the next five years.

English National Opera (ENO) is to bring Wagner’s Ring Cycle to the London Coliseum, starting with The Valkyrie this Autumn, subject to any further lockdown restrictions. Directed by the award-winning Richard Jones, and marking the first time in more than 15 years since ENO last staged The Ring, all four parts of The Ring Cycle will be staged at the London Coliseum over five years. Rhinegold will premiere in 2022/23 followed by a reprise of The Valkyrie, and new productions of Siegfried and Twilight of the Gods in 2024 and 2025 consecutively. The Metropolitan Opera is co-producing.

The Valkyrie will be an unparalleled theatrical experience, which will plunge the audience into a thunderous storm of human emotion. Jones – who has won 8 Olivier Awards and has had a long and enduring relationship with the ENO – will direct an incredible cast who will rehearse in Covid-secure bubbles. Martyn Brabbins, ENO’s Music Director, will conduct the award-winning ENO Orchestra. The production will be designed by Stewart Laing; with Adam Silverman as Lighting Designer, Sarah Fahie as Movement Director and Akhila Krishnan as Video Designer. ENO have commissioned a new English language translation from John Deathridge.

The Ring feels extraordinarily of the twenty-first century yet mythological at the same time. How can love and empathy exist in a world of vaulting egos vying for infinite power?

Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director, ENO said: “It is thrilling to announce this new ENO Ring Cycle, starting with Valkyrie this Autumn. Richard Jones’s theatrical vision is designed to be emotionally and narratively gripping both for long-time Wagner-lovers and for those seeing this amazing opera for the first time. This epic story of a rebellious warrior maiden who defies the gods in defense of humanity combines myth with modernity alongside some of the most powerful and recognisable operatic music ever written. An unmissable experience for opera lovers old and new, we are delighted to welcome them all to the London Coliseum to join us at the beginning of this Wagner journey through the complete Ring over the next 5 years.”

Richard Jones, Director, said: “The Ring feels extraordinarily of the twenty-first century yet mythological at the same time. How can love and empathy exist in a world of vaulting egos vying for infinite power? Produced by two of the worlds’ great opera companies I can’t imagine a more pertinent operatic response to the times we find ourselves in.”

Stuart Murphy, CEO, English National Opera said: “There is no greater mark of ENO’s ambition than to stage Wagner’s Ring Cycle as we return to the London Coliseum stage following the pandemic. It is fantastic to be doing so with the brilliant Richard Jones. We can’t wait to welcome those new to Wagner into ENO’s auditorium and take them on an unforgettable and thrilling journey.”

Martyn Brabbins, Music Director, ENO said: “Innovation and vibrant theatricality will be front and centre of the new ENO Ring Cycle. With meticulous musical preparation and a cast of the very best singing actors we will bring Wagner’s extraordinary music vividly and beautifully to life. Our aim is to create as powerful, as immediate and as moving an experience as Wagner imagined.”

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Watch Now, Full Documentary: Pierre Boulez - Emotion and Analysis

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 14 February 2021 | 5:01:00 pm

Pierre Boulez and the Berliner Philharmoniker rehearsing and performing Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra

The conductor Pierre Boulez (1925 - 2016) best described his relationship with the music of composer Béla Bartók (1981-1945) as a “sympathy between musicians”. The Frenchman has been involved with the music of the Hungarian composer for over five decades. Bartók and Boulez belong to the 20th century’s most influential artists. A key work of Bartók is the Concerto for Orchestra, which was premiered in Boston in 1944. The Film „Emotion and Analysis“ follows Pierre Boulez in his rehearsals of this composition with the Berlin Philharmonic. 

The documentary provides a fascinating look into the methods of the great master of modern music. The rehearsals take place in the spectacular setting of the monastery Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Lisbon which was also the location of the annual European Concert of the Berlin Philharmonic for the year 2003. Pierre Boulez explains in a series of interviews the historical origins of Bartók’s late work, his own personal style of interpretation and his role as conductor as well as his love of composing. 
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Watch Now, Full Documentary: The Colón Ring: Wagner in Buenos Aires

It was an ambitious project: staging Richard Wagner's powerful music drama, the Ring Cycle, in a single day. To honor Richard Wagner's 200th birthday in 2012, Latin America's famous opera house, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, hosted this one-of-a-kind production with abridged versions of the individual operas cut down to seven hours. 

The documentary film "The Colón Ring - Wagner in Buenos Aires," directed by Hans Christoph von Bock, follows each step of this challenging project. Those steps include considerable behind-the-scenes drama - itself worthy of a Wagnerian opera - that accompanied the production. Original director Katharina Wagner quit, as well as the original conductor and some of the cast, and it looked as if the production was doomed. But the film shows how the new director, Valentina Carrasco, got things back on track, allowing Wagner's vision of "The Ring of the Nibelung" to emerge as a Gesamtkunstwerk and an all-encompassing live theatre experience.

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Bayreuth To Get, At Last, Its First Female Conductor.

A new production of the The Flying Dutchman, to premiere during the 2021 season, will be directed Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov and conducted by Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv. The 42-year-old conductor will be the first woman to take the podium since the festival was founded in 1876. The role of Senta will be performed by the Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian. The festival's managing director, Heinz-Dieter Sense, is firmly convinced the show will go on next year, even if the fight against the coronavirus continues.

Although Lyniv and Tcherniakov are debutants in Bayreuth, they are by no means strangers to the classical music scene. In their home countries, the Ukraine and Russia, as well as abroad, the conductor and opera director have earned numerous accolades. Nevertheless, both describe the invitation to Bayreuthas a career high point. Tcherniakov and Lyniv have previously worked together on productions at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

Edit: Orginal photo, featured Lola Kirke from her role in "Mozart In The Jungle". We can only blame a webmaster clearly missing said series. Apologies. 

Oksana Lyniv: 'Wagner would be proud'

Lyniv was born into a family of musicians in Brody in western Ukraine. Her teachers at the Music Academy in Lviv advised her against persuing a career in conducting, saying it was not suitable for women. Instead, they recommended she learn to play the flute. Yet Lyniv remained set on her dream of conducting and eventually prevailed. She won third prize at the conducting competition in Bamberg, Germany in 2004 and thus had the chance to continue her studies in Dresden.

From 2008 to 2013 she was the associate chief conductor of the Odessa Opera House, where she made a name for herself conducting the orchestra through daring premieres, including an opera by Ukrainian baroque composer Dmitry Bortiansky. The young conductor continued her career in Western Europe as assistant to Kirill Petrenko at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In 2017, she became the first woman to take up the post of General Music Director in Graz, Austria

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Bayreuth 2021 To Go Ahead And How To Get Tickets

At least we hope it will. Will include sections outdoors this year. You will have a very short window to buy, we suspect very limited tickets, online on June 6th.

In addition to the new production of “Der fliegende Holländer” (7 performances), there will be revivals of the productions of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” (6 performances) and “Tannhäuser” (6 performances). A special feature of this year’s festival will be two concerts under the musical direction of Andris Nelsons and one concert under the musical direction of Christian Thielemann. In special children's version of  “Tristan and Isolde,” Stephen Gould will take on Tristan, https://www.bayreuther-festspiele.de/programm/kinderoper/. The playing order, as well as full cast information, can be found at https://www.bayreuther-festspiele.de/programm/auffuehrungen/

With the “Ring 20.21”, a multimedia project of the Bayreuth Festival, realized by BF Medien, a composition commissioned and sponsored by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the Festival is preparing a special event: Three performances of “The Valkyrie” in the Festspielhaus will be framed by commissioned works in various artistic genres, which will mirror, comment on, continue or experience in a new way all parts of the “Ring of the Nibelung”. 

A musical theatre for “Das Rheingold-Immer noch Loge”, which reveals a few surprises, opens in the Festspielpark with a composition by Gordon Kampe based on the libretto by Paulus Hochgatterer, staged and realized with puppets by Nikolaus Habjan. None other than action artist Hermann Nitsch will create “Die Walküre”, and in a multimedia work (Jay Scheib) the audience can put themselves in the shoes of “Siegfried”. An installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota will conclude the cycle in the Festival Park with a work of art for “Götterdämmerung” that is as delicate as it is overwhelming and visionary. 

There will be no advance ticket sales for the 2021 season for all customers this year, which would normally have taken place in the fall. The order form will be sent in the coming weeks to the affected customers of the 2020 season who have waived their right to a refund. On Sunday, June 06, 2021, there will be an online instant purchase on our website. This ticket sale will then be available to all registered customers so that you will still have the chance to purchase tickets for the Festival in the 2021 season.

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Opera Meets Film: Yuki Mishima’s ‘Patriotism’ & Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde

We really can recommend all of this series from David Salazar. We have included the full short film below.

Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism” is arguably one of the finest cinematic adaptations of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.”

The 28-minute short silent film tells the story of Lieutenant Takeyama, a member of the palace, and his wife Reiko as they commit seppuku when Takeyama is ordered to kill his fellow mutineers. The film, set in the Noh theatre, is underscored throughout by Leopold Stokowski’s Symphonic Synthesis of “Tristan und Isolde.”
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Opera Meets Film: How ‘Promising Young Woman’ & ‘Tristan und Isolde’

We enjoyed this. Suggested.

Opera Meets Film” is a feature dedicated to exploring the way that opera has been employed in cinema. We will select a film section or a film in its entirety and highlight the impact that utilizing the operatic form or sections from an opera can alter our perception of a film that we are viewing. This week’s instalment features Emerald Fennell’s debut feature “Promising Young Woman.”
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Is Richard Wagner the Most Controversial and Influential Composer Ever?

 We didn't choose the title, indeed edited it. Ignore some of the inanities of the introduction then read Alex Ross attempt to bring some clarity to the usual tropes. The interviewer warms up well as it continues, also. 

We talked to New Yorker music critic Alex Ross about his new book on the German composer, who has helped shape everything from James Joyce’s Ulysses to Star Wars.

By Cat Zhang

Imagine an episode of Billy on the Street in which the game show’s irascible host, the comedian Billy Eichner, hounds New York City pedestrians with questions related to the 19th-century composer Richard Wagner. “Miss, for a dollar,” he booms, interrupting a frazzled accountant in the midst of eating a croissant. “Do gay people care about Richard Wagner?” The woman lowers the pastry, slowly brushing the crumbs from her mouth. “Who?” “Richard Wagner,” Eichner huffs, gesticulating impatiently. “The opera guy? You know, Tristan and Isolde, the Ring cycle, Parsifal?” “Oh,” the woman replies tentatively. “Wasn’t he a Nazi?”

Wagner, who died in 1883, was one of Hitler’s favourite composers. His “Rienzi" overture blared at annual Nazi Party rallies, and his combination of pan-German nationalism, socialism, and antisemitism—well-documented in his 1850 essay “Jewishness in Music,” published initially under a pseudonym—is said to be a precursor to Nazi ideology. A 1940 article in the New York Times deemed him the “first totalitarian artist.”

But as Alex Ross emphasizes in his voluminous new book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, there is a deeper debate over who gets to claim Wagner, politically and otherwise. In his early years, Wagner was affiliated with the left—the anarchists, the communists—and forced to flee Germany for his role in the 1849 uprising in Dresden. “You’re left with this divided legacy,” Ross tells me over the phone. Further complicating the story is the composer’s outsized impact on radical figures: philosophers and Black theorists, Soviet film directors and science-fiction novelists. The anarchist Emma Goldman allegedly remarked that Wagner’s music helped women release “the pent-up, stifled and hidden emotions of their souls.” Late 19th-century gay-rights campaigners construed him as a kind of ally; the author Hanns Fuchs classified him as a “spiritual homosexual.”

Ross’s book, then, is not so much about Wagner as it is his enduring influence on non-musicians: how his legacy has been translated and contested across identities, time periods, and artistic mediums. “He was really perceptive about how culture uses myth, and how the same patterns are replicated in one tradition after another,” Ross says. So while Beethoven or Bach may claim more influence over music, Wagner’s impact on neighbouring arts—like novel-writing, architecture, and painting—remains unparalleled. “Wagnerian” is still used as a descriptor for seemingly anything, from Travis Scott surfing on a bird to the quality of Bruno Mars’ sex. The many warring interpretations of Wagner, says Ross, reveal as much about the composer as they do ourselves.

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The Meaning Of The Ring?

There are, as many interpretations of the Ring as there are CDs. Tom Service thinks that at least he knows what it's not about - maybe: 

It’s a question that has taxed musicians, philosophers, politicians and audiences ever since its sensational premiere in 1876 in a specially built theatre in Bayreuth, a temple to the ego and ambition of its creator, Richard Wagner: what does the Ring cycle mean?

Is it an exercise in futility, as the mid-20th-century musical satirist Anna Russell says, in which you end up in the final bars of The Twilight of the Gods exactly where you started four operas earlier, with the same Rhinemaidens, the same river, the same gold? Or is the Ring a philosophical discourse on the limits of power and the limitlessness of love? Or a creation myth that contains its own destruction in the conflagration of the Gods and Brünnhilde’s suicidal immolation on the funeral pyre of her lover, the tainted hero Siegfried?

No one has found a universally accepted verdict. Yet what hasn’t been achieved in 144 years of countless books and treatises, Radio 3 listener Robert Boot attempted in just 10 words: ‘Gods homeward headed’ – that sums up the first Ring opera, Das Rheingold; ‘Close relations wedded’ – that’s Die Walküre, as Siegmund and Sieglinde consummate their incestuous love; ‘Auntie bedded’ – the third opera, Siegfried, since Brünnhilde and Siegfried are aunt and nephew through Wotan, the leader of the Gods; ‘Hero deaded’ – that’s the trajectory of The Twilight of the Gods.

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Rolling Stone Magazine Includes Wagner Book In Its "Best Music Books Of 2020"

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 7 December 2020 | 11:58:00 pm

It's not that often Rolling Stone Magazine features Richard Wagner, but I think we can never recall it featuring a book about Wagner in its "Music Books Of The Year" round-up. However, this year sees Alex Ross' "Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music" on that list.

Rolling Stone supported its inclusion with these words "Not an opera fan? Unfamiliar with the works of Richard Wagner? Not to worry. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross is one of the best music writers in the business, and his latest is a sweeping (operatic?) history of artistic culture in the West during Wagner’s life. The German composer and his music serve as the focal points around which Ross constructs a nuanced cultural history involving a constellation of bright artistic lights, from Nietzsche and Cézanne to Baudelaire. The author doesn’t neglect Wagner’s vocal anti-Semitism, weaving in a cogent discussion of the complex, often messy interplay between art and artist. This is a spirited history of music — and art in general — amid a particularly fertile historical period."

We waited a long time for Mr Ross' book but it seems even Rolling Stone thinks it was worth it. Well done Alex. 

The full selection can be found here

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Richard and the revolutionaries: why did lefties love Wagner? Alex Ross

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 6 December 2020 | 5:58:00 pm

In 1883, the year of Richard Wagner’s death, the theatre critic William Archer noticed a red-haired, bearded youth who was sitting day after day in the British Library with two volumes open on his desk: the French edition of Das Kapital, which Karl Marx had written in the same library decades earlier, and the full score of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. The young man was George Bernard Shaw, a staunch leftist who saw no conflict between the composer’s Romantic mythology and Marx’s historical materialism. In The Perfect Wagnerite, his anticapitalist reading of The Ring of the Nibelung cycle, Shaw wrote that the descent into Nibelheim, the realm of the enslaved dwarves, is “frightfully real, frightfully present, frightfully modern”. Both Wagner and Marx bear witness to the “predestined end of our capitalistic-theocratic epoch”.

Shaw’s perusal of Wagner and Marx must have raised eyebrows in 1883. It seems even more surprising now, given Adolf Hitler’s success in convincing posterity that the composer belongs exclusively to the extreme right. The Perfect Wagnerite was no isolated event, however. In recent decades, scholars have reconstructed a school of Wagnerian leftism, which gained purchase in Europe and America at the end of the 19th century. Socialists, communists, social democrats, and anarchists all found sustenance in Wagner’s work. After the Bolshevik revolution, Wagner had a brief vogue as a figurehead of proletarian culture.

The starting point for the Wagner left was the composer’s own revolutionary activity in 1848 and 1849, which forced him into exile for many years. His writings Art and Revolution and The Art-Work of the Future were classic, if eccentric, articulations of the idea that art could play a leading role in the struggle for social equality. His own work became a kind of dream theatre for the imagination of a future state. Of course, other ideologies exploited the composer in the same way. It would be a mistake to say that Shaw and his fellow leftists found the “true” Wagner. But it would also be a mistake to say they misunderstood him.

Although Wagner never mentioned Marx by name, he made scattered references to communism – occasionally positive, more often dismissive. The Wagner biographer Martin Gregor-Dellin heard a Marxist echo in notes that the composer made in the summer of 1849: “A tremendous movement is striding through the world: it is the storm of European revolution; everyone is taking part in it, and whoever is not supporting it by pushing forward is strengthening it by pushing back.” Wagner’s fanfare sounds more than a little like The Communist Manifesto’s introductory lines: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.”

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Listen now: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen – Explorations

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 5 December 2020 | 3:38:00 pm

We recommended this audio exploration of the Ring on release in 2013 - and we still do, although it's still not always easy to get outside of Australia. We noted then: "Recorded for the Decca label by Australian Wagner scholar, author and lecturer Peter Bassett, as an introduction to and commentary on Richard Wagner’s great cycle of four music dramas: Der Ring des Nibelungen. The recording uses extensive musical excerpts from the famous Decca recording featuring the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Georg Solti. The set is distinguished from the fine introduction to the system of leitmotifs recorded by Deryck Cooke in 1967 by addressing Wagner’s magnum opus more broadly through its narrative, intellectual and aesthetic qualities"

If you still have not bought or listened to it, we recently discovered that it is available on only one streaming music site, the classical music only streamer, Primephonic.  Should you wish to listen to it - and try the service for two months free - a good friend of the site has provided a link to a two months free Primephonic subscription.  Click this link to take advantage of this, if you are not already a member.  Failing that, just go out and buy the four cd set. 

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Watch Now: World and Revolution of Richard Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 30 October 2020 | 2:32:00 am

From Michigan Opera: an overview of Wagner, his work and times. MOT at Home is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities
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Richard Wagner and the Twilight of Western Civilization

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 13 October 2020 | 5:29:00 pm

Written By: Peter Isackson

According to Alex Ross in his book, “Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music,” Richard Wagner was more than the composer who dominated German music in the second half of the 19th century. He became a towering cultural icon who transformed the way culturally influential people and even politicians thought about art and the values associated with it.

His influence wasn’t limited to the arts. His reputation had the misfortune of becoming tarnished by an association with Naziism. Wagner himself cannot be held responsible for the association with Adolf Hitler since the composer died six years before Hitler was born. But though Wagner’s anti-Semitism must have pleased Hitler, the Fuhrer admired the music for other reasons, more closely linked with its patriotic mythology. It is no coincidence that Wagner’s art belongs to an era that privileged aggressive racist nationalism in Europe.

Wagner was unquestionably an innovator. Any musician who listens to even random excerpts of his orchestral music and opera scores cannot but be impressed by the subtle complexity of his art. Thanks to his Promethean ambition, Wagner achieved the singular feat of both subverting the inspired individualism at the core of his century’s romantic tradition and fulfilling the romantics’ paradoxical ambition of formulating new principles for achieving collective domination.

He rejected the social drama of the Italian masters of opera — Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti — who worked in a tradition perfected by Mozart. The Italian tradition used melody and recognizable harmonic structures as the structuring factors that permitted the expression of human pathos. Wagner’s sense of drama replaced social conflict with idealized quests aimed at reordering the world. These were the very forces driving European nationalism at the time.


 Wagner clearly broke from recognized traditions and produced an art that was not just different but in purely musical terms always rich with surprises. But was this what people expected from music? One famous ironic remark by a pragmatic 19th-century American sums up Wagner’s effect on the average person, even today. The humorist Bill Nye is credited with the remark, “Wagner’s music, I have been informed, is really much better than it sounds.”

Examining Wagner’s legacy across Western culture right up to modern times, Ross tends to give Wagner too much credit. Convinced that the composer was the agent who shaped the culture around him, he tends to neglect the evidence showing how the ambient culture shaped Wagner. At one point, he claims that in his opera, “Tristan und Isolde,” Wagner “set the course for an avant-garde art of dream logic, mental intoxication, formless form, limitless desire.” In other words, Ross attributes to Wagner the creation of some of the most salient features of the modern world.
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Grace Bumbry: Black Venus, White Bayreuth, Race, Sexuality And Wagner

Grace Bumbry as Venus in Wagner's "Tannhäuser"

Originally published in German Studies Review, 2012. Written by Kira Thurman, assistant professor of German and history at the University of Michigan.

Black Venus, White Bayreuth: Race, Sexuality, and the Depoliticization of Wagner in Postwar West Germany

African American soprano Grace Bumbry sparked controversy in West Germany when she became the frst black musician to sing at the Bayreuth Festival Opera House in July 1961. This article demonstrates how race served two separate functions for the Bayreuth Opera Festival and its postwar audience. For opera director Wieland Wagner, hiring a black singer was part of a larger agenda to sever Bayreuth’s ties from its most recent and turbulent past. German audiences discussing this historical moment, however, expressed concern that protestors of this performance were preventing Germans from moving forward into a new, democratic, and racially accepting Germany.

When the Bayreuth Festival Opera House began receiving letters warning them that the composer Richard Wagner would soon “turn in his grave,” they knew they had a problem. When hundreds of letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and news briefs fooded the German media, the Bayreuth administration realized they were witnessing the makings of a national scandal: on July 23, 1961, American soprano Grace Bumbry became the first black singer to appear at the Bayreuth Festival, singing the role of Venus from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser

The event created an uproar, and everyone from revered music critics to housewives in the Rhineland squabbled about the significance of Bumbry’s debut in the hallowed halls of Bayreuth. While music
critics debated the virtues of “New Bayreuth” director Wieland Wagner’s modernist vision, many editorials also chided those who protested the performance by a black singer. One theme that remained consistent throughout the month of July was that Germans were discussing this musical event within a national context.

Race served two separate yet equally fascinating functions for the Bayreuth OperaFestival and its audience in the summer of 1961. For Wieland Wagner, opera director of the Bayreuth Festival and the grandson of Richard Wagner, hiring a black singer was part of a larger agenda to sever Bayreuth’s ties from its most recent and turbulent past and ensure its preservation in the future. Although Wieland vigorously denied that he had hired Grace Bumbry to perform as Venus solely because of her race, this article suggests otherwise. African American soprano Grace Bumbry’s blackness was essential to his production of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, and to his aesthetic and political strategy to separate Bayreuth from its recent Nazi legacy.West German audiences discussing this historical moment, on the other hand, also practised a different kind of Vergangenheitsbewältigung or coming to terms with the past, expressing concern that protestors of this performance were preventing Germany from moving forward into a new, democratic, and consequently racially accepting Germany. Both the production and the reception of the Bayreuth FestivalOpera House’s staging of Tannhäuser reveal new and sophisticated ways in which race coloured different processes of Vergangenheitsbewältigung in postwar West Germany.

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Watch Now: A New, Brief, Wagner Video Biography


A brief, potted, biography of Wagner and his work from Biographics. 

Richard Wagner: A Controversial Titan of Classical Music
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Stephen Fry talks to Alex Ross About His New Book "Wagnerism"

Stephen Fry joins the Royal Philharmonic Society for a very special conversation – with the author and music critic for The New Yorker, Alex Ross, about his latest book: 'Wagnerism'. 

Just over a decade ago, Alex’s book The Rest Is Noise caused a sensation in its breathtakingly epic account of music’s power and impact through the 20th Century. It won an RPS Award and the subsequent concert series of the same name, based on the book, at Southbank Centre also won an RPS Award in 2014. In September 2020, Alex returns with his biggest book yet: Wagnerism. No mere biography, it sets out to chart the extraordinary influence that one musician – the composer Richard Wagner – can have on the world, on art, on politics, and on so many facets of life. It’s a unique narrative, as much for those wary of Wagner as those who cherish him, not remotely shying from his startling beliefs and veneration in Nazi Germany, as much as his spell over countless artists since from Virginia Woolf to James Joyce, to anarchists, occultists, feminists, religious and politic leaders, and of course Hollywood. Renowned for his own musical passions, Stephen talks to Alex about this cultural colossus, his complex legacy, and his extraordinary, enduring music.

It’s fitting that the RPS should host such a conversation, as Wagner himself played a part in its history, coming to London to conduct all the concerts the Society presented in 1855. 

If you enjoy this conversation, you may like to become an RPS Member, enabling you to access and enjoy other regular conversations involving great musical minds and personalities, amid other opportunities to further your curiosity and love for classical music. Go to the link below to find out more: 

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Two None Wagnerians Discuss Alex Ross "Wagnerism"

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 7 October 2020 | 11:01:00 pm

In his first book, Alex Ross introduced more people to "modern" classical music then NPR and the BBC had managed to do in both organizations existence. He made Schoenberg, Weber and the band not only interesting but approachable for a listener perhaps more comfortable with Mozart's Greatest Hits, the Four Seasons or the first and last movements of Beethoven's 9th (not that there is anything wrong with any of those). In "The Rest Is Noise" he somehow, stripped away decades of obtuse, perhaps even intimidating, music discussion. This, then,  seemed to allow people to find the sheer joy that exists in "modern" music. I might argue that the growing popularity of "modern" classical both in the concert hall (remember those?) and on record, was begun by Ross' book.  My hope is that he manages to do similar for Wagner in his new book Wagneriams. Not only that he can deconstruct and strip away, many of the common misconceptions about Wagner but he, too, increases his popularity among those that would rarely, if ever, consider listening to Wagner's work. As to whether he does either?  Well, it is perhaps too early to say, but an indicator may be that more general podcasters, with no real interest in Wagner, are discussing this book. An example of which is below, with presenters so unfamiliar with Wagner that it begins with a debate on how to pronounce Wagner's name! 

I think this is interesting to both those with a strong knowledge of Wagner and those without. From "BookMusic.Com".

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Two Wagner Books You Must Buy This Month

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 13 September 2020 | 2:45:00 pm

It has been a few years since two books about Wagner and his work have been published in the same month, it has been even longer since both were published by authors of a certain pedigree. However, we are pleased that this month is different.  First to be published is the long, long, awaited new book from Alex Ross: 

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music

According to the author, this is a book that examines:

"For better or worse, Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and American culture. Such colossal creations as The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal daring, mythmaking, erotic freedom, and mystical speculation. A mighty procession of writers, artists, and thinkers, including Charles Baudelaire, Virginia Woolf, Isadora Duncan, Wassily Kandinsky, and Luis Buñuel, felt his impact. Anarchists, occultists, feminists, and gay-rights pioneers saw him as a kindred spirit. Then Hitler incorporated Wagner into the soundtrack of Nazi Germany, and the composer came to be defined by his ferocious anti-Semitism. For some, his name is now synonymous with artistic evil.

Wagnerism restores the magnificent confusion of what it means to be a Wagnerian. A pandemonium of geniuses, madmen, charlatans, and prophets do battle over Wagner’s many-sided legacy. The narrative ranges across artistic disciplines, from the architecture of Louis Sullivan to the novels of Philip K. Dick, from the Zionist writings of Theodor Herzl to the civil-rights essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, from O Pioneers! to Apocalypse Now. In many ways, Wagnerism tells a tragic tale. An artist who might have rivalled Shakespeare in universal reach is implicated in an ideology of hate. Still, his shadow lingers over twenty-first-century culture, his mythic motifs coursing through superhero films and fantasy fiction. Neither apologia nor condemnation, Wagnerism is a work of intellectual passion, urging us toward a more honest idea of how art acts in the world."

As a side note, Ross has produced a free audio-visual resource to accompany this work. This is available free now and can be found at this link. Book published on 15/9/2020.

Next, we have the Mark Berry and Nicholas Vazsonyi edited:

The Cambridge Companion to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

Again, according to the publishers, this is:

"The Companion is an essential, interdisciplinary tool for those both familiar and unfamiliar with Wagner's Ring. It opens with a concise introduction to both the composer and the Ring, introducing Wagner as a cultural figure, and giving a comprehensive overview of the work. Subsequent chapters, written by leading Wagner experts, focus on musical topics such as 'leitmotif', and structure, and provide a comprehensive set of character portraits, including leading players like Wotan, Brünnhilde, and Siegfried. Further chapters look to the mythological background of the work and the idea of the Bayreuth Festival, as well as critical reception of the Ring, its relationship to Nazism, and its impact on literature and popular culture, in turn offering new approaches to interpretation including gender, race and environmentalism. The volume ends with a history of notable stage productions from the world premiere in 1876 to the most recent stagings in Bayreuth and elsewhere."
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Join Us Sunday, 10 May To Watch and Chat: Die Walkure, Act One. 5 PM (British Summer Time)

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 7 May 2020 | 11:30:00 pm

Join us over at Twitch for video "watch party" of act one of Walkure. Meet some new friends, chat with some old ones and most importantly, watch act one of Die Walkure, (English subs). Preshow, mini-documentaries included. Click here to register, watch or view brief highlights of last weeks Tristan,
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Opera Australia launches free online streaming platform with Joan Sutherland in the starring role

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 3 May 2020 | 4:27:00 pm

Unable to perform live while the country is in COVID-19 lock-down, Opera Australia has created another way to share their performances with opera fans, today launching OA | TV: Opera Australia on Demand, a free online streaming service.

OA | TV will feature exclusive content from its back catalogue that includes the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dame Joan Sutherland performances on video and Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, plus a series of chat show style interviews called In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini and unique ‘behind the scenes’ footage.

Each week OA will add new content to the platform. The launch will feature one of Dame Joan Sutherland’s most celebrated performances, that of Hannah Glawari in the 1988 production of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow, performed at the Sydney Opera House, directed by Lofti Mansouri and conducted by Richard Bonynge.

Also available on the platform from today, the full length production of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s inaugural 2012 season of La Traviata, that was due to be revived in 2020 before being cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The first instalment of the In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini series with OA’s Concert Master Jun Yi Ma, reveals his fascinating journey from being handpicked for specialist coaching at age five in China, performing for President Reagan at the White House aged 12 years, to landing the role of Concert Master for the Tasmanian Symphony before being enticed to join OA by Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini.

"Opera Australia is renowned for defying international trends of declining audience numbers and is constantly evolving its programming in an endeavour to broaden its audience but the coronavirus was not part of the plan" says Mr Terracini. “Understandably it’s been devastating for everyone at the Company not being able to perform through this crisis, and we know our fans are missing us as much as we’re missing being on stage. We’ve actually been wanting to launch OA | TV for some time, and now we have the right digital platform and the time to develop it, so we can share not only our rich history with our fans, but also it’s an opportunity for them to meet some of our incredibly talented artists as well as some of the key people working behind the scenes, with a series of interviews we’re going to do. “OA has an extensive archive of legendary operatic performances. We’ve got the largest collection of Joan Sutherland videos in the world, and it’s such a great honour to be able to share these gems with her fans,” he said.

OA | TV will launch with four program categories; In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini, Opera in the Sydney

Opera House, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and The Best of Dame Joan Sutherland, a collection of her most famous arias that transformed her into Australia’s most loved opera singer and a world-wide operatic sensation.


Note: OA | TV will not be live until midnight Sunday 3 May 2020
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Join Us Sunday, 3 May For A Free One Day "Live" Online Little Bayreuth

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 1 May 2020 | 11:54:00 pm

Bayreuth, as you know is cancelled, as are all other performances. The world is in a temporary turmoil. People are locked in or if they go to work are separated from those places where they may meet people to discuss their passions. 

And yet, we believe that it may be possible to use technology to go, a little bit at least, towards capturing the social, - and thus emotional and intellectual -  experience of a visiting a live performance - in some way, perhaps more so.   

With that in mind, we would like to do something online: interactive, social, recorded video performances of Wagner's work.  A mini online Bayreuth if you like. Indeed, we did a little mini-trial a few weeks ago with a small few people to test the technical capabilities of the platform we wish to use - with some success. We then asked on twitter if people would be interested and more importantly take part by joining in and chatting, a108 voted yes.

So, with that in mind, we would like to do a full trial, broadcasting a famous performance of one of Wagner's works - Tristan und Isolde - in full this Sunday. We will be rebroadcasting live from youtube, a performance made available there, by the copyright holders. The reason we will be broadcasting live from youtube is that although we have good technical equipment and band weight to broadcast ourselves should we encounter any technical difficulties,, you should at least still be able to watch and chat. 

We will be using a video/social broadcasting platform called Twitch. Normally considered a platform for gamers to broadcast gameplay, but in truth, it is used for other forms of the arts also - more so during this pandemic.  To watch the broadcast, you simply need to visit the channel at the time given below. However, we are hoping that you will join us in the chat that will run live at the side of the performance - especially during the intervals. We think that this experience can only be raised from simply watching a youtube video by your considered thoughts and insights. To do this, you will need to register an account with Twitch. This is free,  quick, simple, only requires an email address - any will do if you wish to make one just for this - and is unobtrusive. 

There may be teething problems, although hopefully few.  if any. You will need to bring your own ice cream and cushion.

An Online Mini Bayreuth (Test)

Work: Tristian und Isolde (Sadly, at this stage, not a Bayreuth performance)

Time: Join us at 3.00 PM BST on Sunday 3 May (Bring your own cushion)

Place:  Twitch Click this link (might be a good idea to register in advance if you want to chat but will only take a few minutes on the day)

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£400 Of Free Hi-res FLAC Download Albums For Every Reader (Including Booklets) QOBUZ

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 30 April 2020 | 9:48:00 pm

We know that things are, to put it mildly, difficult for so many of you at the moment; for both those unable to leave home and those having to go out to work in what can be very dangerous conditions. Especially for those that love Wagner we are planning something, we think is rather special shortly, keep your diaries free Sunday - to begin with. However, in the meantime, we would like every reader to find their way to some free, high-quality albums - classical and otherwise -  made available by the excellent music streaming service and digital store QOBUZ. Worth £400 they include:

Debussy, Szymanowski, Hahn, Ravel
Fanny Robilliard

Carl Nielsen : Concertos (Live)
Alan Gilbert

Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 7
Philippe Herreweghe

Paul Dukas - Maurice Ravel - Charles Koechlin
Marc Albrecht

Johannes-Passion - Die Sieben Worte
Paul Hillier

Plus, 22 more albums. They will be available till May 15 2020.

To get them, simply signup for a free Qobuz account - no need to subscribe to the streaming service and download them. However, as our review found last year, Qobuz streaming service is also worth investigating and is now only 14.99 a month. But that is entirely up to you. 

To download, simply CLICK THIS LINK
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Das Rheingold: Coronadämmerung

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 | 8:08:00 pm

This is excellent! And should you enjoy it, and you can, please give to https://artistrelieftree.com/. The gods need you!

Jamie Barton, Mezzo Soprano
Ryan McKinny, Bass Baritone
Kathleen Kelly, Piano
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Bayreuth 2020 Cancelled And Disruption To Next Two Years Program

From the festival:

In view of the effects of the Corona crisis on the operations of the Bayreuth Festival GmbH, the management and the shareholders of the Bayreuth Festival GmbH – the Federal Republic of Germany, the Free State of Bavaria, the City of Bayreuth and the Society of Friends of Bayreuth e.V. – regret that the Bayreuth Festival 2020 will have to be suspended next summer. This means that the following festival years will have to be rescheduled. In the 2021 season, in addition to the planned new production ‘Der fliegende Holländer’, the programme will include the revivals of ‘Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg’, ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, ‘Lohengrin’ and three concert performances of ‘Die Walküre’. The new production ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ planned for this season will probably not be able to celebrate its premiere until 2022 due to rehearsal planning.

In principle, tickets already purchased for 2020 remain valid for the 2021 Festival. In order to clarify the modalities regarding concrete dates etc., the ticket office will contact all ticket purchasers for the 2020 Festival in the coming weeks.

Bavaria’s Minister of Art Bernd Sibler emphasizes: “As an enthusiastic supporter of the Bayreuth Festival and the expressive music of Richard Wagner, I very much regret that we will not be able to enjoy the performances on the Green Hill this year. For cultural life, the cancellation is a bitter loss. The long festival tradition has a high value in the Bavarian cultural state”.
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The Bayreuth Festival Suspends Ticket Sales. Longborough Awaits Advice

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 | 6:50:00 pm

Perhaps it should come as little surprise but Bayreuth continues to review this year's festival in light of COVID-19. With this in mind, the festival has suspended all online ticket sales - not that there was much to buy anyway - until the end of May. Said Festival Director Katharina Wagner, ‘We are currently in close consultation with our committees and the relevant authorities and will provide you with information on our website as soon as possible. Naturally, the health of our guests, all participants and staff is our top priority.’

Further updates will be found at the festival website here as things develop.

Over at "Britain's Bayreuth", The Longbourogh Opera Festival, ticket sales have not been suspended but the festival notes, "We are carefully considering the COVID-19 guidance of March 16 from the Government. Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of our audience and company members.

Similar to other theatres, we await more specific rulings from HM Government later this week. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this unprecedented time and we will share a further update in the coming days."

Again, updates can be found by clicking here

We would also like to remind everyone that many small companies, orchestra's, quartets, choirs less known artist, etc, will be suffering especial financial hardships at this time - not all may survive as artistic groups. If you can support them in any way, we are sure it would be appreciated. 

Finally, we would also take this opportunity to ask all readers to stay safe and follow health advice.   
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How To Get The Best Sound Quality Out Of Spotify: For Wagner Or Anyone

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 7 March 2020 | 10:11:00 pm

We are aware that a lot of our readers use Spotify (many other - even better - classical music services are available, but that is for another day). However, given how "vague" (perhaps occulted or esoteric would be better words?) Spotify is about how to get the best sound quality from its service, we thought we would put together a short, handy guide to greatly improve the sound quality you can get from Spotify. Do these three things and you should get even more enjoyment from the most popular of music services.

1 - On PC/MAC/Linux, download the Spotify "App"/Client/program (delete to your preference). Apart from brief samples never listen to Spotify in a web browser. If, as is likely, you pay for Spotify, no matter your browser, music will be streamed at around half the top quality (bitrate) that it will be in its app). It's horrible! Don't do it!

2 - Of course, once you have downloaded the app you will need to go into settings (3 dots, top lefthand corner of the client and then, "edit" and then settings. Here change the "Music Quality" to "Very High" (may read "extreme" depending on Spotify's mood). Note: if you are streaming on a mobile device this will use more of your bandwidth. And while you are in "settings"  stay there. You will need to be here for the other recommendation.

3 - In settings, unclick/switch off "Normalise Volume". Seriously, just switch this off. Try a track with it on and then off. If you hear no difference, then fine, but we will be surprised if you don't.

And here are some playlist for you to test out your new settings:
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Wagner The Ring: A Synopsis In Prose, Images And Music

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 29 December 2019 | 6:11:00 pm

Just wonderful. Comic Strip art by William Elliott. Originally published at the now long gone,  sinfinimusic.com - at least the comic strip was.

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A Happy, Melchiorian Christmas/Yuletide

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 23 December 2019 | 8:24:00 pm

Its that time of year again and we wanted to say we have, once again, enjoyed your company, whether as emails, twitter, facebook comments, etc. It's always nice. We hope, you all have a happy holiday and a wonderful new year.

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Heroic Voices. London July July 4 2020

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 10 December 2019 | 7:18:00 pm

Heroic Voices
Wagner, Strauss and the rise of dramatic song

Laure Meloy dramatic soprano
Lee David Bowen heldentenor
Kelvin Lim pianist

Rising heldentenor Lee David Bowen and dramatic soprano Laure Meloy join Wagnerian specialist repetiteur/conductor Kelvin Lim in a programme exploring music for dramatic voice. Scenes from favourite Wagner, Strauss, Puccini, and Verdi operas (including Brünnhilde and Siegmund’s duet from Act II of Die Walkure), along with other repertoire by late Romantic composers illustrate the rise of the heroic operatic voice at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

Event Details
Doors Open at 6:30PM
Starts at 7:30PM
1901 Arts Club, London, SE1 8UE

Ticket price
£22.00 - £25.00*
*booking fee applies

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HEROIC VOICES Wagner, Strauss, and the rise of dramatic song. London July 2020

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 9 December 2019 | 1:09:00 pm

Rising heldentenor Lee David Bowen, and dramatic soprano Laure Meloy join Wagnerian specialist repetiteur Kelvin Lim in a programme exploring music for dramatic voice. Scenes from favourite Wagner, Strauss, Puccini, and Verdi operas (including Brünnhilde and Siegmund’s duet from Act II of Die Walkure), along with other repertoire by late Romantic composers illustrate the rise of the heroic operatic voice at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

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How Wagner Influenced The "Club Scene"

Ok, it's only loosely connected to Wagner, but a fascinating article, about a fascinating exhibition, of a fascinating subject with wonderful images. 

"Female performers made a significant contribution to the Cabaret Fledermaus, which opened in Vienna in 1907, as a realisation of the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) proposed by the composer and theatre director Richard Wagner."

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Wagner And Theology

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 8 December 2019 | 11:48:00 pm

A fascinating resource, audio lecture and article series by Professor Richard Bell. Richard is investigating Wagner's theological, ethical, and artistic interests. We think the video below provides an excellent introduction as to what you might expect.

A major outcome of the project will be a two-volume work exploring the theology of the Ring cycle, exploring Wagner's work and its relationship to Christianity.

The link below to the full series of lectures and articles. An invaluable resource. 

From section one:

Wagner was one of the few composers to read avidly in the areas of Theology and Philosophy. He was especially interested in German Idealism but he was always creative in appropriating the thought of figures such as Hegel, Feuerbach and Schopenhauer.

It includes audio lectures that include:
The humanization of God in Wagner’s Ring Cycle: The composer’s appropriation of the theology and philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach.
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