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Missed A Bayreuth Live Broadcast? Then Listen to them here - while you can

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 31 July 2011 | 7:47:00 am

Bayreuth has now completed its first cycle this year and every opera has been broadcast. But wait. What if you missed one? Don't worry, you can still listen to them for a little bit longer and on demand. How? By going to Bartok Radio clicking the date of the opera you want, then clicking play at the program starting at 15:55. Simples!

What? Can't be bothered to go and find out the date of the opera you want? What? Can't be bothered to navigate the Bartok site? Ok. Ok. I'll tell you what:. go to the opera you want below, click Listen Now and it will take you to the correct Bartok page. You will still have to click play at the item at 15:55 though.


Monday 25. July,                               Tannhäuser                                       Listen Now


Tuesday 26. July,                              Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg        Listen Now


Wednesday 27. July,                          Lohengrin                                         Listen Now


Thursday 28. July,                              Parsifal                                             Listen Now


Friday 29. July,                                  Tristan und Isolde                             Listen Now

For cast details click the opera concerned




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Karajan audio feature, Mutter interview and Karajan live at the Salzburger Festspiele l1966

This is an article, documentry and interview with Mutter about Karjan from NPR in  2008. I found the Karajan live(Beethoven Symph 1) at Salzburg 1966 on youtube.

To hear the Karajan documentary and Mutter Interview Click Here


Karajan live at the Salzburger Festspiele l1966

The brilliant but controversial Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan was born 100 years ago Saturday. To commemorate the occasion, his record labels have been busy reissuing much of Karajan's vast catalog of recordings and videos, which span from the mid-1940s until he died in 1989.

There's enough drama in Karajan's life to make a movie. In Hollywood, the pitch might go something like: "Ingenious young conductor from Mozart's hometown joins Nazi Party to further career, then bulldozes his way to the top, conducting Europe's powerhouse orchestras."

"There's this wonderful joke," violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter says, "where apparently Karajan landed in Berlin, and he took a cab and the cab driver asked him, 'Where to, maestro?' And he answered, 'Oh, it doesn't matter. They need me everywhere.'"

Mutter had read all about Karajan's glamorous lifestyle by the time she auditioned for him in 1977 at age 13 — the fast cars, yachts, airplanes and his immense musical empire. Karajan had a keen nose for talent, and he launched Mutter's international career.

Amassing Musical Power

Karajan bolted to the top in the mid-1950s, when he took over three monumental institutions: the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera and, most importantly, the Berlin Philharmonic, with a contract he demanded "for life."

But Karajan wasn't amassing power for power's sake. Mutter says he was obsessed with making sound that was perfectly beautiful.

"And with beauty he didn't mean Botox beauty," she says. "He meant beauty of soul, beauty of art."

Karajan rehearsed his orchestras for hours on end, and, when it came time for a concert or recording session, he could simply stand on the podium and conduct the musicians with his eyes closed, as if in a trance. Some compared the sheen and elegance of the so-called "Karajan sound" to a Rolls Royce.

"If you talk about Rolls Royce," Mutter says, "you should not forget the Ferrari underneath. If I think about the low strings — the double basses and the celli — it's just amazing how these guys could blow your hair off."

That rich, lush sound can be heard in any number of recordings that Karajan made of the ultra-romantic repertoire, including symphonies by Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler — and especially in the music of Richard Strauss. His tone poem called A Hero's Life is, on many levels, Karajan's own musical autobiography. Especially the section Strauss titled "The Hero's Adversaries.".


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Watch Free: Fleming, Thielemann, Vienna Philharmonic - Strauss @ Salzburg Festival

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 30 July 2011 | 11:11:00 pm

Edit: 08/08/11: Seems Medici have put this on their free "on-demand" service


Good old Medici, what would we do without their free concert broadcasts? Its a pity that some of their subscription only operas cannot be viewed in the UK. Now if they sorted that out....

When?
8/8/2011

Where?
Salzburg Festival (although of course already sold out)

Where to Watch Free?
Over at Medici TV - online. Click here and bookmark the page (8.00 pm (CET)

What does Salzburg say
"During the prestigious Salzburg Festival, the famous soprano Renée Fleming performs with Christian Thielemann as the Wiener Philharmoniker's conductor.

From Strauss' poetic and intimist lieder to his great Alpensinfonie, this programme explores the multiple character traits of the German composer."


What's on the program?

RICHARD STRAUSS • Freed, Op 39 / 4

RICHARD STRAUSS • Winter Love, Op 48 / 5

RICHARD STRAUSS • Dream through the twilight, Op 29 / 1

RICHARD STRAUSS • Vocal priestess of Apollo, Op 33 / 2

RICHARD STRAUSS • Scene from the opera Arabella

RICHARD STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony, Op 64 •



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Sick Of Mice & Biogas? Watch Valery Gergiev conduct Die Walkure (act 1) Plus Struass


The one I have to say I have been waiting for: Live from Verbier, at 6.00pm CET and ondemand for 30 days there after - free.

With:

Eva-Maria Westbroek
Frank van Aken
Matti Salminen


To watch, and for more information, click here


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A None Review: Siegfried Longborough (LFO) 2011

"Friend Seidl tells us about the performance of Siegfried in Munich, which to judge by his report, must have been thoroughly bad - they have gone out of their way it seems to do everything differently from Bayreuth. "I don't want to hear a word about it." R (Wagner) exclaims, and "What a curious fate these works have had" Cosima Wagner: Diaries - June 17 1878 (Trans: Geoffrey Skelton)



Longborough, Siegfried 23/07/11:

Going to the opera can be a traumatic experience - as visitors to Bayreuth's new  Tannhäuser production  have discovered this week.One can never can be sure before hand what sort of production to expect.  For those going to Longborough's Siegfried it is fairly safe to say they can expect a production that sits firmly in the mould of the neo-traditional Ring staging, verging on the traditional.  Alan Privett’s direction, and Kjell Torriset’s designs, allow Wagner’s music; the wonderful Negus and his orchestra; and the cast to tell this story – for this is a collaborative event. And it is also the story that Wagner wrote - not one imposed upon it by yet another opera director that feels that they know what it is all about , (or in many cases what they feel it should have been about). Now, this is not to say that the Ring is nothing more than a “fairy tale” – for it certainly is not – but, as I have said, Wagner wanted the audience to come to it’s true meaning without guidance – assuming of course by the end even he was still aware of it’s true meaning. As Wagner said himself, “I shall within these four evenings succeed in artistically conveying my purpose to the emotional -- not the critical -- understanding of the spectators.”  Myths and fairy tales are always about more than what they appear on the surface.  If they have a purpose other than to entertain, it is to “teach” us lessons, express our own inner desires and fears, etc. Within their pages – should we wish to look – they encompass the whole of human experience. But as I repeat constantly, we are all very different and how we perceive these lessons – and indeed what knowledge we take - is an individual processing event.  The point of myth and fairytales is not to impose a lesson but to allow the listener to acquire  knowledge on their own, and sometimes that knowledge may be outside of normal reasoning processes. This is what Privett seems to allow.

Using limited resources and space (compared to the MET or ROH for example) Alan Privett and Kjell Torriset emphasis the dreamlike quality of the ring – especially up to Brunnhilde’s awakening where Siegfried reaches maturity. Until this point, much of the stage is only partly lit (which has the effect on occasion of making things seem claustrophobic. I am still unsure whether this is deliberate or accidental). Shadows dominate – as they can do in darkest of dreams and the furthest reaches of consciousness. In act two for example, rope netting hangs across the front of the stage and until Siegfried arrives it stays this way (although occasionally being partly moved aside).  While this may be to simply emphasis the fact that we are in a forest with a dense growth obscuring our view it equally tends – at least to me – to emphasis the dream/myth like quality of what is taking place – especially at the beginning of this act where the only communication is between purely mythical constructs: dragons, gods, dwarfs and even the very forest itself. We are seeing things through the veil of myth perhaps? Possibly, it is certain that the forest itself in myth is a metaphor.

It is only in the final act that full use of light and the full area of the stage itself are used – in a manner reminiscent of the earliest “Wagner Brothers” New Bayreuth productions (there is even a small disk in the middle of the stage although this is not used in the same way as it was at Bayreuth). Siegfried has now fully awoken from his boyhood, he stands in the “light” suddenly he is no longer purely part of myth and legend but he is now making a new legend.  Indeed, we shall find in the next opera how greatly what he – and ultimately Brunnhilde – have done to begin to deconstruct the old myths and ultimately destroy them – although they are still not truly free of the Norn’s ever watchful gaze.

Ever present throughout the productions are the three silent Norns of Suzanne Firth. They have had a mixed reaction from the reviewers with only one, Nicholas Wroe at the Guardian, being highly enamored with them. I have to say that I do become nervous whenever I find extra members added to the cast (mimes, dancers or whatever) a la Grange Parks’ Tristan (Sorry Grange Park – I loved the production except for that – and the cardboard cutouts of course – see here). However,  at Longborough they worked remarkably well. Not only do they add to the staging but they  are without doubt central to its success – and hence I discuss them here within the context of the production design rather than with the cast. Ever present, yet not obtrusively so, they have multiple functions:  First they manage lighting (wonderfully), effects and scenery change. Second, they help remind us of an important part of the Ring: from the moment Alberich meets the Rheinmaidens every character's future is set -  with the exception, in part, of Siegfried and certainly Brunnhilde. The wheel of destiny is set in motion and no-one – even Erda, as we discover in Siegfried – can do anything to stop it. In Die Walkure, when Wotan tries to bring about Siegmund’s “free will” recovery of the ring, Freya points out that this has been manipulated by Wotan – Siegmund and Sieglinde have no more free will than the gods. Everything is predicted, everything is known.  The Norns in this production remind us of this and in a real sense become both the storytellers and observers they really are – or at least they will be until Gotterdammerung.   But thanks to Suzanne Firth’s wonderfully unobtrusive choreography they never dominate.  On a technical level, it is also difficult to see how Guy Hoare could have achieved some of the lighting effects he did without them or how many of Wagner’s demanding scene changes could have occurred.

This of course is not to say that the production is  without faults – even if they are minor. Up to the wonderfully realized  last act there can be a certain “rough around the edges” feel to some parts of the set – although this is not anywhere near  enough to distract from the opera as a whole. But one feels that this will easily be rectified as the season continues and will certainly be resolved for the full cycle in 2013. This is after all a massive drain on any opera house (SO’s ring cycle nearly bankrupted the company for example and Bayreuth has been bankrupted by the Ring at least once in its history).  The program contains the set designs for Siegfried and it is clear from these exactly what needs to be done to turn this into a highly attractive set indeed.  If I was to make one recommendation it would be that the first act is slightly cluttered and the removal of the odd extra bit of scenery would help greatly – but then this is only my opinion of course. Wagner needed to build an opera house to stage the Ring – and to call on the monetary resources of the royal families of Europe. To do what the Grahams have done at Longborough is extraordinary.

The costuming is in keeping with a traditional Ring staging – Brunnhilde even has a breastplate!  The only thing not expected is Mime’s costume which looks like it has come from a Mad Max movie. And yet, within the industrial setting of act one it works well. Siegfried may well be born of the natural world so loved by the Romantics – and his costuming suggests this – Mime is clearly of the industrial revolution – whose oppressiveness was so hated by the Romantics and Wagner especially.

Cast:

We only really get to be with the “real” Mime once in the entire opera, right at the beginning of the first act, when he is alone. Once again trying to forge a sword  that Siegfried will not break within moments. For the rest of the opera we see  and hear only the “public” face of Mime, the one who manipulates Siegfried and has been doing so all of his life.  The other Mime that we see - even when talking to Wotan in some respects – is the public Mime ,the frankly rather whiney, “caring”,  hard done by Mime (or so he pretends). As Siegfried mocks, cruelly, “… that shuffling and slinking, those eyelids blinking…”. Of course all of this is part of Mimes manipulation. I think for us to believe that Mime has managed to manipulate even the frankly dumb Siegfried, for his whole life, we must believe that the “real” Mime is able to do this. This is reflected in the opening of the ring and requires a good actor – both vocally and physically – to reflect this. Colin Judson manages to achieve this well and undergoes the transformation to the public Mime with skill – both vocally and physically. He is a great actor and his previous experience of this role is easy to see. Someone else has said this already, but it is indeed sad to see him go in act 2. Mime, if he is convincingly performed,  can “grow on you” despite his inherent evil. It does take a good performer to make this take place and Colin Judson is indeed such a performer and a fine singer also.

Was Wagner really thinking with any logic when he created and wrote for Siegfried?  Let us think about the demands for a moment. The role requires a heroic tenor able to sing for nearly five hours, act convincingly – and with great physicality – sound,  look and act for two and a half acts like an overgrown schoolboy, who then transforms in act 3 into a man  - and indeed the ultimate hero . Who must after hours of hard singing, sing alongside a soprano who has had a good sleep for the rest of the opera! It is for this reason that Siegfried is so difficult to cast in live performance - as so many reviews, listening to live broadcasts or going to the opera will tell you.  So, how is it that Longborough have managed to find one of the most amazing Siegfried’s in modern opera history? A tenor no one – including me – had ever heard of? A tenor who despite excellent previous reviews is unrecorded – anywhere?  A tenor who reminded one reviewer , partly, of Melchior (and there are similarities – he certainly shares the energy ,  heroism and vocal expressiveness and power of a young Melchior  - if, at the moment, he is  lighter of tone for what perhaps would be considered a typical  Wagnerian heldentenor).  Indeed, I have searched a rather extensive library of Wagner recordings here in an attempt to find anyone like him – and have had to go back to early 20 century recordings to find anything even close.  He  sings and acts with such energy that I thought in the beginning he was making the classic mistake of not pacing himself – but no. He maintained the same lyricism and energy (and excellent German) right through to the last act – only once or twice showing signs of tiredness when facing the fully refreshed – and always wonderful - Mellor. And what a joy to see a modern Siegfried so obviously enjoying himself  (even in the last act), able to act and manage to make us believe, both psychologically and vocally, the change in Siegfried in act three!  He even somehow manages to make Siegfried likable, or at least understandable – no easy task. Wherever you get the chance,  see this young man. 

Yesterday, Domingo announced his fight against classical music piracy – proven by falling record sales. Perhaps the classical recording industry would not be facing falling sales if they recorded more unknowns like Brenna instead of the same reworked  CDs by the same limited number of  – but well known – performers. And BBC Radio 3? Where were you? Would it really have been that much bother and cost to have recorded and broadcast this performance?  Do we really need to hear another Boheme from the ROH or Butterfly from the MET featuring more over exposed “stars”?

Phillip Joll is of course something of a legend to British Wagnerians and what a joy it was to see him back on form as Wotan – and much more impressive vocally than the last time I saw him a few years ago. Wotan is a role that he could no doubt do in his sleep and yet the energy,  gravitas and nobility that he brought to the wanderer was a joy. His encounter with Mime was excellently done. With Alberich in act 2 – the person responsible for so many of his problems – it was like two old enemies meeting again and handled wonderfully to construct a believable relationship. This was helped greatly by Nicholas Folwell’s fine Alberich – an Alberich that still has not learned anything even when confronted by Joll’s Wotan – a Wotan who has clearly grown to become wiser and more world weary than when they last met. At curtain call he seemed genuinely surprised with the rapturous greeting that met him – he should not have been.

I have already mentioned Nicholas Folwells fine Alberich. He is a suitable and menacing Alberich, convincingly sung and acted. I have always had a soft spot for Alberich and Folwell is believably both menacing and rather tragic a figure.

Julian Close makes his entry as Fafner on a piece of moving scaffolding (those poor Norns). It reminded me a little of the cranes that suspended so many of the performers at the Valencia Ring. Did it work? All companies struggle with the Dragon – even the METs from ’89. With all of its budget, Fafner  looked like an escaped monster from a 70’s TV science fiction series. Let me put it this way, I often find myself suppressing a giggle when yet another silly dragon appears on stage – I didn’t need to do that this time. Julian is a fine actor and played the role well – with wonderful power and tone. But then, as he is the METs Fafner in Lepage’s Siegfried next season perhaps this should not come as a surprise.

It’s always difficult for directors to know what to do with the Forest Bird. Stick her  up on a crane? Hang her from the rafters? It’s a brave performer that takes this role, but at least this time Allison Bell did not need to fear for her safety. She begins off stage and then enters stage left, dancing her way around Siegfried for all the world like Kate Bush in one of her late 70s videos! Oddly enough, she looks a little like a young Kate Bush – which is no bad thing. It is unusual to find a soprano that can also perform “modern” dance and was a refreshing change. She makes a more than pleasant Forest Bird vocally also.

And finally act 3 (the act that I know is the only reason some people go to Siegfried) The entrance of Evelyn Krahe’s Erda is done masterfully (act three is the most successful visually of this production).   It is simply too complex to describe, but Krahe’s frankly ill and somewhat statuesque entrance to Wotan’s command – being led by her three daughters – needs to be seen. Krahe’s frail and obviously “dying” Erda is something that must be seen and heard. The entire scene is well conceived and the interaction between Krahe and Joll believable.

Next, Alywn Mellor’s Brünnhilde!  One of the reasons that I went to Longborough was to see Mellor’s Brunnhilde following her magnificent Isolde at Grange Park (Oh dear, one hopes one is not becoming star stuck at my age) . My intent was to wait till 2013 and see the entire Ring at Longborough then.  Although after Siegfried I will be returning next year with no hesitation – the dates are already blanked out in my diary.  But what can I say? Magnificent?  Sublime? I have already said enough I think in my thoughts on her Isolde – see here. And yet, perhaps vocally she was on even finer form – and now against the forces of a greater and more powerful orchestra, under the control of one of Britain’s leading unsung Wagnerian conductors  and a wonderful Siegfried. Top, middle and bottom of her register were magnificent. Even with the excellent cast that the Grahams had somehow managed to assemble, on awaking it is as if a Brunnhilde of legend has entered the stage. It is no wonder that Seattle have selected her as their Brünnhilde for 2013. I think that not everyone is convinced by what I write about Mellor.  Well, you will have the chance to hear for yourself shortly as she is Sieglinde (once more working alongside the extraordinary Clive Bayley as Hunding) in Die Walkure in Opera North’s ongoing Ring Cycle. This I believe, like the Rheingold, will be broadcast live June 2012.

Anthony Negus and the LFO orchestra. What was most amazing was that it was nearly impossible to tell that you were listening to an orchestra nearly half the size as specified by Wagner. A reviewer somewhere mentioned it being a chamber orchestra – but this, thanks to Negus’s wonderful management - is a chamber orchestra in name and size only, but certainly not in sound.  While performing in an opera house that was built to deliberately mirror Bayreuth helps (or perhaps hinders  - see below),  there was all of the lushness that you would expect from a full sized world class, Wagner orchestra.  Negus – and the LFO orchestra - cannot be commended enough. And while it is true that there was a fine cast, one wonders, given the inexperience of Brenna in the role of Siegfried  for example, if they would have been as good under a lesser conductor. What is surprising about Negus is that although he received much of his Wagner training under Goodall (although of course he was also assistant conductor at Glyndebourne’s Meistersinger this year and has worked with many other world class conductors), his tempos are nothing like Goodalls. His command and understanding of Wagner’s opera may be similar, but he has far more forward momentum then Goodall - even in his later years. Goodall was “discovered” relatively late in his career as the conductor that he was, one wonders if it is a pattern repeating itself with Negus? If you wish to see him on the podium before LFO next year, he will be conducting WNO Marriage of Figaro February through to April next season.

And Finally, LFO itself. It is unusual for me to comment on a “venue” but LFO needs to be discussed a little before I conclude. There has been much made of LFO’s “amateurish nature”, that the opera house is a former “chicken shed”, that it is all highly “eccentric” etc. This needs to be clarified and addressed. If LFO was indeed ever a “chicken shed” it in no way resembles one now. Instead, you are met with a highly professional opera house – if one on the scale of Grange Park (they have similar capacities). What is extraordinary about it is its similarity – acoustically – to Bayreuth.  Bayreuth is designed (whether accidently or intuitively by Wagner is a matter of debate)  to add a certain “lushness” to the orchestra while at the same time favouring the voice (to some conductors disdain) . LFO is the same. Nowhere in England – and possibly anywhere in the world outside of Bayreuth – will you hear Wagner (and especially the Ring and Parsifal) sound the way Wagner intended them to be heard. This may sound like an exaggeration but it is true nevertheless.   Read any of the reviews and you will hear comments that the voice is favoured at LFO. It is the same at Bayreuth – only it is now so well established that few comment upon it. This allows LFO to use voices that anywhere else simply would not have the raw “power” to be heard against Wagner’s orchestral forces. It is thus possible for LFO to use singers who are highly lyrical but elsewhere would simply not have the vocal “heft” to succeed in Wagner – and this adds a very special dynamic. 

Even more extraordinary is the sheer determination of the Grahams. Within a few years they have gone from staging Mozart in their living room to building an opera house specifically to stage Wagner and then begin to stage a full Ring Cycle! Sheer insanity and yet they have done it. And the opera house itself is constantly developing,  only a few years ago the roof was raised – literally. And one senses they have not finished yet.

And finally for the British Summer Opera Festival “snobs” among you  - you know who you are. Yes, you with  Debrett’s Social Season page set as your homepage.  LFO offers the “full” experience. Set in fine gardens, in the middle of lush rolling countryside, it is easily on par with the Glyndebourne or Grange Park “experience”.

As noted in my opening remark – Wagner was often dismayed with what happened to his operas once they left his control. And Siegfried perhaps above all of his mature works, is the most difficult to stage. What is certain is that at LFO Siegfried is in safe and confident hands. Roll on 2012.

Disclaimer: There is a debate taking place about "sponsored" blogs over at Twitter at the moment - an unhealthy practice in my opinion. With that in mind I thought it worth making the following clear: I have no associations - monetarily or socially (except of course when I buy tickets from them) with LFO, the Grahams or anyone - as far as I am aware - associated with LFO). LFO has not approached me in  any way while I produce any article about it . I happen to be in the relatively comfortable position to be able to do this stuff purely for pleasure. Indeed, if I feel that I might write about an event I try to remain as far away from it's organisers as possible. While at Longborough for example,  we were sitting in a box very close to the Grahams but we did not even go and congratulate them on the performance - for this reason (well I am also an unsociable old so and so and a tad mean - it would be terrifying if I had to buy them drink -  but that's another issue).

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Bayreuth: Why would anyone go for the music?

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 29 July 2011 | 4:12:00 am

Kate Brown goes to Bayreuth on behalf of DW and finds much more than opera - or giant penises for that matter


Bottoms up, Wagner
The Bayreuth Festival means sore bottoms and fashion faux-pas - so why do so many bother going? DW's Kate Bowen went to the Wagner capital to find out.

"Wagner isn't really my thing," said the waitress at the small café, which serves lattes in pink mugs across from Bayreuth's main train station. As a Bayreuth native she had grown up in the shadow of the maestro.

I'm not sure I've ever actually heard anyone admit that Wagner is their thing. So, given that the 30-day opera marathon is celebrating its 100th edition this year, there must be plenty of other draws to the tiny Franconian village of Bayreuth.

Saddle-sore

However, as I discovered on my first visit during premiere week, there are actually plenty of reasons not to enjoy the Bayreuth Festival.
Firstly, there is the theater. Or, more specifically, the seats in the theater. Try to imagine how your rear end would feel after taking a train from Madrid to Siberia. That's how mine felt - after the first act. And there are three.

Not only would the wooden folding chairs give your chiropractor nightmares, the fact that your cliché opera diva wouldn't even fit in one means you get to know your neighbor frighteningly well during the six-to-seven-hour affair.
While I don't doubt that this may have led to a romance or two since the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, any chance of that was scratched when my long-legged, broad-elbowed neighbor asked before the overture whether I was a Democrat or a Republican. Indeed, Wagner is no stranger to political statements (his politics having sullied his reputation as a composer), but the immediate personal intrusion was a bad omen for the long evening.

Before the third act I found out that my neighbor, a repeat Bayreuth-goer, preferred Queen Elizabeth to the pope and had once sent a bouquet of roses to his favorite soprano. But apart from pretending to focus his non-existent opera glasses throughout the entire performance, I was grateful that the annoyances remained at a minimum.

Bring your own

Then there is the food. After a long day of traveling to Bayreuth, I became hungry. Bad idea.

Admittedly, Bavaria (where Bayreuth is located) is better known for Weisswurst sausages and soft pretzels than for anything containing vitamins. By the first intermission on the warm July evening, I was dying for something both refreshing and filling and would have gladly paid the exorbitant Bayreuth prices for a chicken salad, especially considering I had nearly five more hours to go.

When I spotted a few people unpacking picnic baskets on the lawn in the front of the theater - while wearing elegant evening gowns and tuxedos and sprawled out on the grass as if out of a Renoir painting -, it dawned on me that no one had groped through my bag at the door like they do at the movie theater. Clever Bayreuth veterans! Whether they might share a bit of their chicken salad?

The catwalk


What world economic collapse?
Two lengthy intermissions allow for plenty of opportunity to extensively observe the third downside of the Bayreuth Festival: the fashion faux-pas. As one of the largest see-and-be-seen events in the music world, there is, well, plenty to see - but a good 80 percent of it you'd probably rather not.

There are those who must have been so eager for a chance to put on the Ritz that they dove off the deep-end, with hideous flower and gem-studded bodices, and big-bellied middle-aged women in stretchy fluorescent tops three sizes too small.
At the other end of the spectrum were those who never intended to make a conspicuous fashion statement, but did so nevertheless by means of major no-goes like reinforced-toe stockings with sandals or Teva's with a sport coat.

Don't fool yourself: There is no hiding at Bayreuth.


Bottoms up, Wagner

Despite all the reasons not to go to the Green Hill, people still do. Sure, they want to be scandalized yet again by naked penises on stage and they think booing at a production by Wagner's great-granddaughter Katharina makes them look like opera experts.


Continue reading

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Romanticism vs. Modernism at the Royal Opera House

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 28 July 2011 | 1:45:00 am

Given the"controversy" around newer productions at Bayreuth, I thought this extract from the late 90's BBC documentary about the ROH might be of interest. Includes their soon to be revived Meistersinger and Ring Cycle

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Bayreuth 2011: 27/07/11 - Lohengrin - Listen Live and on demand there after.

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 | 2:16:00 pm

I have been trying to keep only to Bayreuth Broadcasts from BR-Klassik. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • The broadcasts are in a high bit-rate
  • The introductions are multilingual
  • The website is easy to negotiate for none German speakers.
The downside, of course, is that they do not broadcast all of the operas live - but sometimes leave a few days in between.

So, as people are keen to hear these as they are performed I believe I have selected the best places to hear each one as it broadcast. The selection criteria used were:
  • A good bit-rate
  • Ease of navigation for none native language speakers
  • Archive if available

Based on these criteria I would suggest:

Bartok Radio Click here to go directly to the relevant page. Bartok archives it's programs after they are broadcast (indeed, if you click on "calendar" in the top right hand corner and chose July 26th you can listen to yesterdays broadcast of Meistersinger or click the 25th for Mondays Tannhauser) so click play against Lohengrin at the correct time (15:55 CET) Alternatively, there are many other places to hear this - chose the one best for you

To clarify:  Click here




Cast
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The Wagner Journal: Fancy a free copy guv?

Lets be honest, only rarely do composers get their own published, professional - and somewhat academic -Journal. Beethoven of course, Bach it would be of no surprise (although, as far as I am aware not Mozart!). With this in mind, it should not be a susrprise that Wagner also has his own English language journal, named, unsurprisingly, The Wagner Journal.

Published three times a year ( (March, July and November) and edited by Barry Millington, it features articles and reviews.

Previous articles have included:


'Operation Walküre': The Movie and the History
A Tale of Two Sisters: Brünnhilde, Waltraute and the Fate of Valhalla
Voicing Mathilde: Wagner’s Controlling Muse

The present edition includes:

• in 'Wagner's Voyage from Der fliegende Holländer to Parsifal', Edward A. Bortnichak and Paula M. Bortnichak reappraise the importance of Capt. Marryat's novel The Phantom Ship to Wagner.

• Alexander Shapiro argues that Ian McEwan's novel Atonement draws its defining concept from Tristan und Isolde, and is also a homage to E.M. Forster's Howards End, presenting Wagner, Forster and McEwan as a remarkable constellation that stretches ‘across the divide of the 20th century’.

• J.P.E. Harper-Scott takes issue with Laurence Dreyfus's new study Wagner and the Erotic Impulse, urging an ideological critique that takes account of capitalistic exploitation of sex

• Jerry Floyd talks to Francesca Zambello about her production of the Ring for San Francisco.

plus reviews of:

Die Walküre from the Met, and Parsifal from London, Barcelona and Brussels

CDs of the 1953 Krauss Ring and the first postwar Parsifal in Paris under Ferdinand Leitner

A DVD recording of Katharina Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Anyway, it seems they are giving a free introductory copy to anyone that requests one - no creditcard details required it would seem.

Go to the Journals home page to find out how you can get your free introductory copy.


By the way: There seems to be a debate taking place at the moment about "bloggers" declaring any monetary or other form of economic interest in "products" or "services" they "blog". So, just to confirm, we have no association with the Journal and are not being "paid" to "promote it". This is the same with anything on this site. Thought it worth clearing that up.. 
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Baumgarten blames lack of rehearsal time on Tannhäuser Boos? Bayreuth 2011


Tannhäuser fights for his "morals" - in his pants
Really? It takes Baumgarten, according to an interview today, years to rehearse and prepare his productions? He might be in the wrong business. But of course, that explains the reason this production is getting such a bad press - doesn't it?.

DW - World looks at the opening of that festival.


Bayreuth Festival opens among mixed reactions

The 100th Bayreuth Festival opened on Monday evening with a new staging of Richard Wagner's romantic opera "Tannhäuser." But many audience members were shocked at its modern and unusual interpretation.


Boos from the audience are almost a standard occurrence with every new production that kicks off at the Bayreuth Festival. This year's opening on July 25, featuring the new production of "Tannhäuser" directed by Sebastian Baumgarten and conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock, was no exception. Still, the reaction in the audience - which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, some of her cabinet members and an array of celebrities - must have been hard to swallow, even for the most experienced in the director's team.

A pregnant Venus, an Elisabeth who enters a recycling center and allows herself to be disintegrated, main character Tannhäuser in his underwear, video projections displaying digestion processes and the fertilization of an egg, copulating animals in a cage - and in the midst of it all, members of the audience sitting on the stage. All that can be found in the production and has little to do with romanticism.

An art installation by stage designer Joep van Lieshout reveals a world unto itself: an industrial plant which takes care of various human needs, from eating and drinking to sexual satisfaction. In a perfect cycle of sustainability, even human excrement is collected here and used to generate energy.

Thought-provoking?

"I'm used to doing Brecht theater," director Sebastian Baumgarten told Deutsche Welle in an interview. "I'm interested in systems that are intricately connected and how various figures act within them. We are trying to implement this form of performance here."

However, according to Baumgarten, there was not much time for rehearsals. He explained that it usually takes years to create the right level of intensity in a piece of this sort and to direct the cast as effectively as possible.

"If you only rehearse for seven, eight weeks, you're not at the level that you're used to reaching as a director," said Baumgarten.

That is perhaps a way of explaining or excusing any directing glitches. Singer Michael Nagy also seems to feel a need to explain things.

"This production poses many questions and gives few answers," said Nagy. "A lot of the work is left to the viewer. I find that this is exactly the right process on the path of authenticity."
In any case, "Tannhäuser" provides the audience with a lot of drama. It tells of a singing contest in the Middle Ages, in which the main character violates societal values with his profane songs.

A trend for the new and different

Despite its 100th anniversary, the Bayreuth Festival - which runs through Aug. 28 - will not celebrate in any special way this year. But a new feature this time is a performance by the Israeli Chamber Orchestra in Bayreuth's town hall on July 26. It is the first performance of this kind, as Wagner's music is frowned upon in the Jewish community due to the fact that he was admired by Hitler and other Nazi officials.

At the press conference preceding the festival, Katharina Wagner - the event's co-director and Wagner's great-granddaughter - announced that the director of the 2013 staging of the epic "The Ring of the Nibelung" operas would be Hans Castorf. Known for his provocative productions with embedded political critique, it will be no surprise if Castorf also manages to fan the flames of controversy. However, one thing is certain: the plot of the operas will not be changed, as official regulations prohibit this.

Author: Rick Fulker / ew
Editor: Louisa Schaefer
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Siegfried: Longborough Festival Opera - Review of the Reviews

Yes, it's that time again. The critics have digested their picnics, metabolised their no doubt unhealthy consumption of alcohol (I will write an ode to the expense account one day - or failing that, to the liver of a journalist) returned their rented evening wear to Moss Bros (why are most arts reviewers male?) and faced off with their editors about word limits (not something that I would envy - as readers of my more than verbose ramblings will attest). Emerging from darkened, smoke filled rooms, copy in hand (well in the 21st Century they are more likely to have pressed "send" on their Apple Note Books, but you know what I mean) the votes are in. Rising majestically from their royal seats, togas flung nonchalantly to one side (although not to far to one side one hopes), thumbs posed - up or down?

But, before we start, the usual words of warning: Perception and information processing is not uniform across all individuals (after all, isn't that what makes us "individual" and why Buddhists spend so much time in meditation?). Each reviewer is influenced, as I know you are aware but is so easy to forget, by their past present and even perhaps future experiences, a repository of all those little quirks , likes and dislikes, physiological and psychological perfections and indeed imperfections. Look for patterns in reviews is my motto - look for patterns and therein may lay some resemblance of the "truth" - whatever that may be. One might also notice that the Times and the Telegraph are conspicuous by their absence. This is no doubt because they are simply slow typists (I know from twitter that the Telegraph descended on LFO yesterday) I was going to wait but alas my own "none review" is growing impatient to be typed - and I wished to do this first. Also, there is both enough quantity and quality already here to do - although it would have been nice to add Michael Tanners thoughts over at the Spectator. Perhaps later. So, with that in mind, onward to the judges.


Production

Given the limited budget that LFO operates under and the size of the stage there was bound to be some disagreement about the staging one supposes - but then in opera productions - especially Wagner - there is never likely to be agreement.

Nicholas Wroe at the Guardian (NW-G) enjoyed the simplicity of the sets saying: "Kjell Torriset's set contrasts hard scaffolding with the softness of fabric, Guy Hoare's lighting adds depth, and the balance of stark simplicity against the richness of the score, with all its psychological and metaphorical allusions was always artful." Of the "Norns" (every present at LFOs ring cycle) he was equally impressed and indeed found them central to the production: "Key to the integrity of this staging is the role of the three Norns, the mythological spinners of the thread of life: an almost constant presence in head-to-toe black, subtly choreographed by Suzanne Firth, observing and assisting, moving props and scenery, they point up the centrality of the emotions with great economy of line"

Over at the Stage George Hall (S-GH) was equally impressed although not as enamoured with the Norns: "Alan Privett’s staging, designed by the Norwegian artist Kjell Torriset, has some sparse, limited sections - the three additional actors, dressed like stage attendants in a Noh production, can seem intrusive. Yet scene after the scene realises the essential meaning of the work in a semi-traditional, simple way. The entire third act is a triumph."

At The Arts Desk, Stephen Walsh (AD-SW) finds "'Nature, such a crucial aspect of Wagner’s dramaturgy, is nowhere to be seen' He goes on: Like many modern directors, Privett (with designer Kjell Torriset) rejects the great outdoors in favour of quasi-interiors littered with bric-a-brac, not all of it obviously relevant to the plot in hand, so that an already cramped stage becomes an obstacle course of gantries and scaffolding, criss-cross ramps, and in the first act a huge furnace door, far downstage, which also oddly enough serves as an entrance and exit." He wasn't keen on Fafner either: "Fafner the dragon, grandly sung by Julian Close, trundles on atop a cherry-picker scaffold tower, a most disappointing adversary for our eager young hero"


At the other stage - Whats On Stage - Simon Thomas (WOS - ST) considered the staging merely "functional" and even went as far as to suggest the second act was "semi-staged" (What would he have made of the Wagner Brothers "New Bayreuth Style"?). But then suggests that: "Alan Privett’s production is strictly functional, beginning with bare scaffolding combined with a burnished disc which harks back to the industrial setting of Patrice Chereau’s 1976 Bayreuth cycle"! Going on to say: "The opening of the final act is the most pleasing visually, with a raked platform that slides apart to let out an eerily effective Erda" So he might have liked the the Wagner Brothers productions after all.

Mark Ronan (MR) at his Theatre Reviews blog is more interested in the performance (not a bad thing) only commenting on the act one staging: "The Act I set with its huge circular furnace door makes a strong impression, and in forging the sword, Siegfried hammered like a percussionist with fine musical effect"
Performance:

Daniel Brenna - Siegfried

It must be said that everyone was unanimous in their praise for this productions Siegfried:

Says WOS-ST: "The casting of the central role in Siegfried, a headache for any opera company these days, is a considerable challenge for a small house like the Cotswolds-based Longborough Festival Opera. What a coup if they could not only cast it but unearth a new tenor who will go on to shine in the role around the world. They might just have done that."

He goes on: "American tenor Daniel Brenna bounds on in Act 1 and bounces around like a chubby schoolboy, showing so much youthful exuberance that you can’t help wondering if he’ll last the night. But, apart from showing signs of wear at the very end of this first performance, he certainly stayed the course. The paradox of the role is that the voice needs maturity, which Brenna’s bright, sweet sound will gain over time but, in the meantime, how refreshing to have a Siegfried who actually looks as though he could be Brünnhilde’s nephew rather than her father. His acting needs some attention (far too much teenagerish flouncing and grimacing which fails to convince) but a new, genuinely youthful Siegfried has arrived and it’s something to be celebrated"

While over at the Guardian: In Daniel Brenna, Longborough has a young Siegfried of irrepressible physical and vocal energy. Tall and impetuous, his journey from petulant youth towards manhood and love was wholly confident, only less convincing expressive lyrical moments betraying debut nerves. The final scene when he awakens Alwyn Mellor's voluptuous-sounding Brünnhilde to ultimate rapture had a slight gaucheness, only partially implied by Wagner

And more praise over at the Stage:"Vocally, too, this is a remarkable evening. The young American tenor Daniel Brenna looks and acts the callow hero impressively and his tone remains convincing to the close."

And at the Arts Desk? What did you find Mr Walsh?

 "At its head is a young American Siegfried, Daniel Brenna (main picture), who as far as I know is completely new to the British stage. From his first “Hoi-ho” it’s instantly apparent that he’s a Wagner tenor of outstanding promise, a natural with a brilliant, easy top to the voice that half-recalls Melchior, strong projection throughout the range, excellent German and a completely unforced stage presence." 
Lauritz Melchior -"Notung! Notung!"- Siegfried

Wait did you say that Brenna reminds you of MELCHIOR? Now if that were correct... But he is not finished yet: "...it’s great to hear this difficult, taxing music sung so uninhibitedly, and without a trace of exhaustion to the very last phrase of his final-act duet ..."

Melchior? Sorry, still taking that in - give me a minute...

Ok, recovered. Onwards, like Siegfried through the forest of his unconscious. Sorry! went all Freudian there for a minute. Melchior? Still in shock it would seem. Anyway, onto to Mark Ronans perceptions:"It seemed incredible that a mere twenty-something could be singing Siegfried, though Daniel Brenna is in fact in his early to mid-forties despite his brilliant portrayal of a rambunctious young man. His enunciation of the words was so strikingly good that I needed no surtitles — it was as though he were merely speaking, yet with excellent pitch and an admirable heroic tone"

And trust me, this goes on and on with all of the reviewers that I have found. Lets stop there - lest Brenna is snapped up by one of the major (ie those with tons of money) opera houses before he can return for the final part of the Ring - lets call it the "Mellor effect".


Colin Judson - Mime

It seems Simon Thomas' editor over at WOS gave him very limited copy space that ment he had little space left for the rest of the cast: "Colin Judson is a bright, sharply characterized and sung Mime"

Mark Ronan gives himself a little more space

:"Colin Judson was equally superb in his portrayal of the insecure and dissimulating dwarf Mime. Of course he deserves to die in Act II after inadvertently expressing his true feelings, but from a vocal point of view I was sorry to see him go."

However, the Guardian's reviewer only got space for: "All the frustration and angst of Siegfried's relationship with the wily Mime (Colin Judson), and of Mime with Alberich was cleverly handled"

Says This is Gloucestershire in its frankly wonderfully concise review: "Colin Judson, another fine singer, is a convincing Mime with his twitches and other irritating mannerisms."

And finally the Arts Desk: "the Mime of Colin Judson, a clever, witty character tenor, more likeable, maybe, than this slimy, manipulative dwarf should be, brilliantly watchable in his scene with the Wanderer (Philip Joll), voice and face reflecting exactly the ebb and flow of the riddles which will in the end cost him his life"

Phillip Joll - The Wanderer

Philip Joll - a legend among British Wagnerians especially - after all these years what did the press think?

Mark Ronan: "As the Wanderer, Phillip Joll showed power and gravitas, particularly in his Act II dialogue"

The Guardian? "Philip Joll as the Wanderer – the god Wotan in disguise – was always forceful and imposing, if indeterminate of pitch" And yet over at WOS: "Philip Joll is a vintage Wotan and his Wanderer sounds in surprisingly good shape"

Equally, Roger Jones: "The excellent Phillip Joll as Wotan seems to be a cut above the others – he is a god, after all – and his rich baritone voice lends him an air of authority."

And Finally the Arts Desk:

"(Phillip) Joll himself, a voice from the past in this role as far as I’m concerned, turns out to be still in fine fettle, superb especially in his third-act confrontations with Erda and Siegfried – the only music Wagner wrote for the Ring’s ambiguous, Zeus-like hero after picking the work up again post-Tristan and Meistersinger"

Alwyn Mellor - Brunnhilde

To be honest, all of the reviewers said much the same and, like with Brenna, are unanimous in their praise. : 

Says WOS: "Alwyn Mellor, so impressive as Isolde at Grange Park earlier in the season, is a fresh voiced and attractive Brünnhilde"

The Guardian: "...Alwyn Mellor's voluptuous-sounding Brünnhilde..."

Roger Jones: "We have to wait till the end of the opera to glimpse Alwyn Mellor in the role of Brünnhilde, but she is well worth waiting for. Passionate and feisty, the iron maiden demonstrates she is no push-over as she thrills the audience with her top Cs."

The Stage: "British soprano Alwyn Mellor adds further to her Wagnerian reputation with her confident Brunnhilde." 

The Arts Desk: "Alwyn Mellor, who herself sings Brünnhilde with radiant tone and vivid dramatic intensity"

And finally, least it all go to her head, Mark Ronan:
"Alwyn Mellor showed immense power and presence as Brünnhilde, and although Longborough has only 500 seats, she will sing the same role in The Ring at Seattle in 2013, in an auditorium for 2,500.

The Rest Of The Cast: (sorry for the limited space - seems editors are strict about word counts. I shall try to make amends in my future "none review" and address the cast fully.

The Guardian:  "Evelyn Krahe was a very fine Erda and Julian Close a fearsome Fafner"

Mark Ronan: "Nicholas Folwell’s strongly sung Alberich, and when he wakes Fafner, we hear the deep voice of Julian Close who will cover the same role at the Metropolitan Opera next season". "...woodbird in her pretty skirt and flighty movements, delightfully sung by Allison Bell"

"In her Act III portrayal of Erda, Evelyn Krahe’s slow movements and almost ghostly appearance, helped give a sense of power to the role..."

The Arts Desk: "Evelyn Krahe’s Erda admirably statuesque, dark-voiced, but beautiful enough, in a cadaverous sort of way..."  "Nicholas Folwell, also rather well directed, remains one of the best Alberichs imaginable: a dark, virile baritone, remorseless in his exposure of Wotan’s hypocrisies, yet in an odd way vulnerable..."

"the Woodbird is a pretty singing dancer, Allison Bell, not very feathered, though mildly avian in tone and tuning.

The Stage:

"Vocally, too, this is a remarkable evening". "Nicholas Folwell makes a striking Alberich, Evelyn Krahe a resplendent Erda and Allison Bell a delightfully fresh Woodbird"


The Conductor and Orchestra.


The Guardian: "Negus's profound musicianship carries the day and the audience rightly roared its approval' 


"Both words and plot were delivered with a immediacy in itself refreshing and often witty, allowing conductor Anthony Negus to reveal the further motivations and machinations embedded in the infinite layers of Wagner's musical characterisations"


Mark Ronan: "The orchestra of about 65 members played Wagner’s music beautifully under the sensitive direction of Anthony Negus"

The Stage: "What is remarkable about this year’s Siegfried, the third section of the cycle, is just how much is achieved. The 66-piece orchestra, conducted with authority by Anthony Negus, rises ever more confidently to the challenge and is regularly superb"

WOS:  "Anthony Negus draws luscious playing from the orchestra, especially in the love duet, which leaves the audience as fresh and invigorated at the end of the six hours as at the beginning."

Conclusion: Over-all high praise indeed, a Ring Cycle to watch closely it would seem. More, when I ramble on for hours - soon. Did some one say Melchior...?


Lauritz Melchior - Mein Lieber Schwan

Links to the full reviews below:

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The Wagnerian on Facebook

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 | 5:47:00 pm

We don't really like Facebook to be honest, however, as a lot of people do:

The "Wall" is the most important part as it is set-up to automatically update on new posts and tweets. So, if you want to stay updated on the nonsense that is put up both here and on Twitter, you can find the facebook page by following the link below - all automated however, so unlikely to actually get a reply.

The Wagnerian On Facebook

Or alternatively one could join the "We hate facebook", um, facebook page

.
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Where and when to listen to: Bayreuth 2011: Tristan und Isolde

"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true. --Spock in 'Amok Time'

Following yesterdays Tannhauser, next-up (well to be broadcasted anyway): another revival of Christoph Marthaler's Tristan und Isolde for Vulcans (I.E. Tristan without emotion - you see there was a reason for the Spock quote). By the way, the next new production of Tristan at Bayreuth (they do so love a revival after all) will not be until 2015's Katharina Wagner's production - papier-mâché mask makers; get your tenders in now.


Of course, this production is now available on DVD so at least you need not struggle to find out what is happening on stage as you listen. There is a good  overview (at least it is balanced) of the production over at Musical Criticism - click here to read. Obviously, there are a lot of snippets on youtube and I include some here for your consideration.

So without fiurther ado, where, when and who:

When to Listen:

Friday, 29 July, from 15.57 (CET)


Where to Listen:

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Bayreuth 2011: Tannhäuser - A Picture Feature. Watch while you listen

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 25 July 2011 | 5:04:00 pm



So, Sebastian Baumgarten's unveils his new production of Tannhäuser. If you are listening to this but cannot see it, I present a Special direct from Bayreuth: Sebastian Baumgarten's Tannhäuser - a feature in Pictures. Now if you recall a few weeks ago I mentioned that this would be a Tannhäuser in red pants? Well, ok he changed the colour but the pants are still evident (he likes Tenors in pants does our Seb). Remember, you heard it here first.


(All images copyright Bayreuth)




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Melchior and Easton: Siegfried Act 3 Scene 3 (1932)



Excellent quality. The youtube uploader has dated this as 1931 but as far as I am aware this should be dated 1932. If anyone could confirm?

Details (for the full set):

Siegfried on HMV, Berlin and London 1927-32


Full Cast and recordings:

* Siegfried: Lauritz Melchior
* Brünnhilde: Florence Easton
* Der Wanderer: Friedrich Schorr, Rudolf Bockelmann, Emil Schipper
* Erda: Maria Olszewka
* Mime: Heinrich Tessmer, Albert Reiss
* Alberich: Eduard Habich
* Fafner: Eduard Habich
* Waldvogel: Nora Gruhn

It was recorded as following:

* Vienna 1927, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Karl Alwyn
* London 1929, London Symphony Orchestra, Albert Coates
* London 1930, London Symphony Orchestra, Robert Heger
* London 1931, London Symphony Orchestra, Robert Heger
* London 1932, Royal Opera Orchestra, Covent Garden, Robert Heger

The 37 78rpm sides, originally issued in five different sets, represent a good two-thirds of the full Siegfried score, and Act 3 is almost complete.

Act 1 1931 DB 1713, 2B 529 DB 1578-81, 2B 528-34
1929 D 1690-1, CR 2197-2200
Act 2 1931 DB 1582, 2B 554-5
1929 D 1692, CR 2401-2
1931 DB 1583, 2B 556-7
1929 D 1693, CR 2403-4
Act 3 1927 D 1533-4, CK 2938-9, 2899-2900
1929 D 1694, 1836 CR 2405-6, 2498
1930 D 1836, CR 2499 D 1837, CR 2500
1932 DB 1710-13, 2B 2896-2902

Source

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Kirsten Flagstad: "I am not a teacher:

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 24 July 2011 | 7:34:00 pm




Kirsten Flagstad's advice for young singers who want to sing Wagner. Recorded 1950
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Israel and Wagner: Together at last?


"It was a very difficult and rocky path to get to this point," Paternostro said earlier at a news conference. "There wasn't a moment when I had any doubts about this project."
"However, the conflicts and emotions associated with the history of Wagner are exactly those which make it so special for us," 
Source: Reuters

Israeli ensembles rarely play Wagner because of the seminal 19th century composer's anti-Semitism and the appropriation of his music by by the Nazis, calling it insensitive to Holocaust survivors.

But orchestra conductor Roberto Paternostro said on Sunday it was time to separate Wagner's worldview from his music.

Roberto Paternostro
"Wagner's ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but on the other hand he was a great composer," he told Reuters. "The aim is in the year 2011 to divide the man from his art."

The orchestra will play Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, an orchestral piece, in Bayreuth, Germany, famous for its annual Wagner opera festival in July and August.

It will be the first time an Israeli orchestra plays Wagner in Germany.

"It was a very difficult and rocky path to get to this point," Paternostro said earlier at a news conference. "There wasn't a moment when I had any doubts about this project."

"It was my greatest conviction to bring together these two sides -- Israel and Wagner," said Paternostro, who is Jewish and whose mother and other relatives were Holocaust survivors. "For me it wasn't much of a problem."

Attempts over the years by some musicians in Israel to perform Wagner's music have caused audience members to walk out in protest and have triggered heated public debate.

Wagner is also taboo on state-owned media in Israel which largely keep his work off the air.

TIME TO CONFRONT WAGNER

"I know that in Israel this isn't accepted," Paternostro said. "But many people have told me,'it's time we confront Wagner', especially those in the younger generation."

Still, not enough time has passed for a performance in Israel, he said. The orchestra did not even rehearse the music in the country.

Roberto Paternostro & the Israel Chamber Orchestra in rehearsal

Even though Wagner died half a century before Hitler rose to power, the Nazi dictator was a fervent admirer and drew on the composer's writings in his own theories on Germanic racial purity.

Aside from anti-Semitic overtones in some of his operas, Wagner also penned a number of polemics raging against the corruption of music and the "German spirit" by Jews.

The unofficial ban on Wagner predates Israel's creation in 1948. The Israel Philharmonic under its former name, the Palestine Orchestra, imposed it in 1938 after Nazi attacks on Jews in Germany.

Dan Erdmann, a clarinetist in the Israel Chamber Orchestra, said his fellow musicians understood the history that is linked to Wagner's music.

"However, the conflicts and emotions associated with the history of Wagner are exactly those which make it so special for us," he said.

The orchestra's performance is part of a fringe festival here linked to the annual Wagner opera festival that attracts thousands of opera fanatics and celebrities each year.

They will also play a piece by Israeli composer Zvi Avni and music by German-born Felix Mendelssohn and Austrian-born Gustav Mahler, two of the most prominent Jewish-born composers.

(Editing by David Cowell)
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Why Nike Wagner feels closer to Liszt than her Great Grandfather

Nike Wagner: Still in the hot seat?
I was half way through translating this when SPIEGEL ONLINE have just gone and done it for free - story of my life really. Nothing that most of you would not already know - especially if you have read her book (looks over at bookshelf to confirm title) "The Wagners: the dramas of a musical dynasty" (Which surprisingly fewer people have read than one would imagine and thus I add a link for an overview).  Although less known perhaps would be the Nike Wagner's request to open Bayreuth In October in memory of Lizt - and the response. Also of interest: why she believes Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking a risk being so closely associated with Bayreuth,  more of Bayreuth's 2013 missing Ring Cycle director and of course Weimar

SPIEGEL: Ms. Wagner, you are descended from two important composers. Are you closer to your great-great-grandfather, Franz Liszt, whose 200th birthday is this October, or his son-in-law, Richard Wagner?


Wagner: Definitely Liszt, even though I discovered him late in life -- and then only through the praise of composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. What a multifaceted, fantastic and experimental body of work he created! I have therefore put Liszt at the center of my art festival in Weimar for years now. I like his spirit: Noble, eccentric, European.

SPIEGEL: Many people consider his work to be second-class.

Wagner: His works may not all be of the same quality, but Liszt is underestimated and underrepresented in our concert halls. His contemporaries loved his virtuosity. He made them ecstatic in a way matched only by Paganini. The musicians he promoted -- Wagner, Schumann and Berlioz -- did nothing for him, and his revolutionary late works were decried as the product of a senile old man. What's more, two world wars changed musical tastes. Eventually Liszt was seen as too emphatic, too loud, too pious. It's also quite possible that the heavyweight Wagner deliberately tried to overshadow Liszt.

SPIEGEL: How did Liszt meet Wagner?

Wagner: He had heard his opera 'Rienzi,' whereupon he considered Wagner a genius. And Liszt stood by this assessment, no matter how badly Wagner behaved. Liszt kept his friend above water both financially and emotionally, especially in the ten years of Wagner's political exile. During that time, Liszt performed his friend's works in Germany, and defended him. In fact Liszt -- the most famous of the two composers -- stood by Wagner's side right up until the Bayreuth Festival was founded. But from Bayreuth's point of view, Liszt only ever gave Wagner a leg up, and that's the image that has persisted and been passed down, an injustice that Liszt's daughter Cosima -- Wagner's wife -- also helped to perpetuate.

SPIEGEL: She put down her father for her husband's benefit?

Wagner: Perhaps she felt the need to prove that she had married the greater composer.

SPIEGEL: What did people say about Liszt in your home, the Villa Wahnfried?

Wagner: He never counted for anything in the Wagner household. In fact, people would poke fun at him now and again, calling him 'the abbot' or dismissing him as a mere drawing-room performer. Richard Wagner despised that kind of musician and considered them to be nothing more than a showman. He also despised Liszt because he composed symphonies and religious works [which he did not consider to be serious enough]. Wagner thought Liszt was crazy in his later years. And yet his late works and their emerging atonality were far more modern than Wagner's. But it's true that Richard loved and always respected Franz. Liszt's music wasn't buried until after his death.

SPIEGEL: In July 1886, Cosima refused to halt the festival even though her father was dying in Bayreuth. His death was kept secret.

Lizst: Photo
Wagner: He died in the house next door, poorly looked after, and in great pain. Suddenly, the loneliness that the restless Liszt had presumably always carried around became visible. Maybe the somewhat formal way he addressed people, which was seen as coldness on his part, was simply a form of escape. Indeed Liszt appears far more mysterious today than the ever-exuberant Wagner, who externalized everything. Liszt was discreet. His ego was delicate, and he never forced himself center stage, an interesting contrast to his skillfully executed public performances.

SPIEGEL: He supported his son-in-law unreservedly.

Wagner: Wagner felt guilty about Liszt all his life. He knew he was indebted to him. He also said so in public time and again, especially after he had made the breakthrough in Bayreuth.

SPIEGEL: Although it's the 200th anniversary of Liszt's birth in October, the festival isn't marking the occasion.

Wagner: That's incomprehensible, embarrassing and scandalous. The city of Bayreuth does this and that, but it doesn't owe Franz Liszt anything. That's the exclusive responsibility of the Wagner family. The Wagners are deeply indebted to Liszt. It would be historically irresponsible to deny that. I was deeply hurt that my cousins were deaf to my appeals to open up the concert hall for a major festival and birthday concert on October 22. It would have been a wonderful event, as well as a way to start repaying that debt.

SPIEGEL: Liszt was Catholic and had received his minor orders in Rome. Wagner was Protestant. What was your childhood like from a religious point of view?

Wagner: Traditionally Protestant. But probably only because of Johann Sebastian Bach.

SPIEGEL: So you believe in the spirit of music?

Wagner: My siblings and I were given a kind of mass christening at the Villa Wahnfried when we were aged between five and 10, together with a house concert. But our father saved us from having to go through confirmation. Our household was completely liberal. Religion was treated as a part of our culture that was merely required to understand masterpieces.

SPIEGEL: But God existed in your household?

Wagner: In the form of annoying religious services. Wagner's religious period was long gone. Bach and Beethoven's music lay all around. Our upbringing was typical of the educated middle class. At Christmas we had to perform at the piano, and the presents remained unopened until we were done.

SPIEGEL: And was Grandma Winifried, Hitler's loyal friend, with you?

Wagner: Of course. After all, she lived next door. And Christmas isn't Christmas without grandparents. My father had a wall built to divide our joint garden the rest of the year.

SPIEGEL: Was she warmhearted?

Wagner: No, she was pragmatic. We were never close.

SPIEGEL: When did you first discover that Winifried was extremely friendly with the Nazis?

Wagner: Families don't really try to expose relatives, but my father's comments told me quite a lot. 'She still thinks we could win the war!' he joked about his mother in the 1960s. That's why he never went next door, and avoided her afternoon teas with her fellow Nazi sympathizers. As teenagers we were shown Erwin Leiser's documentary about the Third Reich at school, and I remember being shocked by the footage of the piles of corpses at the concentration camps. That prompted some questions for this friend of Hitler's.

SPIEGEL: Did you challenge her?

Wagner: We asked her if she had seen the film or whether we could take her to see it some time because she might be able to learn something from it. 'It's all American propaganda,' she said dismissively. She closed up. If she hadn't, she would probably have had to question her own life and her beliefs.

SPIEGEL: Did you speak to your father, who was also close to Hitler?
Wagner: My father was very introverted, and didn't speak that explicitly. We never asked him directly like we'd asked grandma. Maybe because we thought we were on the good side as Wieland's children. The 'old Nazi,' as my father called his mother, sat next door in the other house. We also saw how terribly conflicted my father was about his mother. So the basic structure of things seemed to be alright. We also understood that he publicly demonstrated his growing realization and guilt about the Nazi atrocities by working with formerly ostracized left-wingers, Jews and modern people and in the medium of aesthetics.

SPIEGEL: Do you mean that your father's much-praised modernization of Bayreuth, in which he cleared everything folksy off the stage, was a case of pure de-Nazification?

Wagner: It's very complicated because the aesthetic aspects also developed their own dynamic. But Wieland was only able to find his own artistic niche and free himself by resisting everything that came before. I know he didn't like the post-war Germany of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer because former Nazis were filling posts all over the place.

SPIEGEL: Hold on. He was involved too. He was 28 at the end of World War II, and he and his brother Wolfgang were also close to Hitler.

Wagner: Correct. He was mixed up in his mother's dealings with Hitler, and was pleased by Hitler's praise. That's something he couldn't talk about after the war. Instead he cleaned up the Wagnerian stage. Incidentally, the new Bayreuth and Liszt are similar.

SPIEGEL: How so?

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