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Video Of Castorf/Bayreuth Ring - 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 31 December 2013 | 8:13:00 pm

It has just been noted that although many people outside of Germany have seen photos of the 2013 Castorf Ring few have seen video of the four dramas. And so with that in mind, the following video may give you a little better idea of what you missed. Still, there's always next year...

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Der Ring des Nibelungen (Complete) Performances - 2014

Der Ring des Nibelungen 
Deutsche Oper Berlin
21 September 2013 to 12 January 2014 (two cycles)
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Lohengrin Performances - 2014

Nationaltheater Weimar
New production
7 September 2013 to 18 April 2014

Opernhaus Graz
New production
28 September 2013 to 30 May 2014

Mainfranken Theater Würzburg
New production
29 September 2013 to 31 January 2014

Theater Basel
New production
20 October 2013 to 15 June 2014

Hamburg State Opera
22 December 2013 to 12 January 2014

Deutsche Oper am Rhein
New production
18 January to 15 June 2014 

Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet
30 January to 21 May 2014
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Tristan Und Isolde Performances - 2014

Tristan und Isolde 
Theater Lübeck
New production
6 October 2013 to 11 May 2014

Tristan und Isolde 
Das Meininger Theater
1 November 2013 to 9 January 2014

Tristan und Isolde 
Teatro Real, Madrid
12 January to 8 February 2014
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Tannhauser Performances - 2014

We are beginning our performance calender for 2014. Alas, with a number of other projects on the go at the moment - including the Readers Choice Awards - these will not be as detailed at this stage as normal. However, full details - including photos and videos - will be added shortly.

Estonian National Opera
14 November 2013 to 5 June 2014

Opernhaus Dortmund
New production
1 December 2013 to 11 May 2014

The State Opera, Prague
New production
11 January to 13 June 2014

Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe
9 February to 20 April 2014

Theater Freiburg
New production
22 February to 23 March 2014

Staatsoper Unter den Linden
New production
12 to 27 April 2014

The Royal Swedish Opera
14 April to 2 May 2014

Theater Chemnitz
18 April 2014

Theatre Royal Norwich
Jul 27 - July 28

Bayreuth Festival
25 July to 28 August 2014

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A Very Wagnerian Christmas Present: Siegfried Idyll

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 24 December 2013 | 5:21:00 pm

Never let it be said  that we would forget about the many, many thousands of you that find things of interest here each month. For putting up with our verbose ramblings alone, we must wish you a good and peaceful holiday and even better, Wagnerian,  new year. Indeed, while 2013 may have been Wagner's bicentennial year we can assure you that 2014 has even more interesting things in store.

But let us run-up to the end of this year with a special present: a rather remarkable remaster of the Felix Weingartner/ London Philharmonic Orchestra recording of Siegfried Idyll from 1938.  To listen, click the player below and to download and keep follow the link. And should you not be familiar with Weingartner, a brief bio follows. 

(If you are reading this in the newsletter, please click the title to be taken to the main site to listen) 

To download Click Here (Courtesy of the Internet Archive)

Felix Weingartner (2 June 1863 – 7 May 1942) was born in Zara, Dalmatia, Austria–Hungary (now Zadar, Croatia), to Austrian parents. The family moved to Graz in 1868, and his father died later that year. He studied with Wilhelm Mayer (who published his own compositions under the pseudonym of W. A. Rémy and also taught Ferruccio Busoni). In 1881 he went to Leipzig to study philosophy, but soon devoted himself entirely to music, entering the Conservatory in 1883 and studying in Weimar as one of Franz Liszt's last pupils. Liszt helped produce the world premiere of Weingartner's opera Sakuntala in 1884 with theWeimar orchestra. According to Liszt biographer Alan Walker, however, the Weimar orchestra of the 1880s was far from its peak of a few decades earlier and the performance ended up poorly, with the orchestra going one way and the chorus another. Walker got this account from Weingartner's autobiography, published in Zürich and Leipzig in 1928-1929. The same year, 1884, he assumed the directorship of the Königsberg Opera. From 1885 to 1887 he was Kapellmeister in Danzig, then in Hamburg until 1889, and in Mannheim until 1891. Starting that year, he was Kapellmeister of the Royal Opera and conductor of symphony concerts in Berlin. He eventually resigned from the Opera post while continuing to conduct the symphony concerts, and then settled in Munich, where he incurred the enmity of pundits like Rudolf Louis and Ludwig Thuille.

Felix Weingartner 1890
In 1902, at the Mainz Festival, Weingartner conducted all nine Beethoven symphonies. From 1908 to 1911 he was the principal conductor of theVienna Hofoper, succeeding Gustav Mahler; he retained the conductorship of the Vienna Philharmonic until 1927. From 1912 he was again Kapellmeister in Hamburg, but resigned in 1914 and went to Darmstadt as general music director while also often conducting in the U.S. for the Boston Opera Company between 1912-1914. In 1919-20, he was chief conductor of the Vienna Volksoper. In 1920, he became a professor at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. From 1927 to 1934 he was music director of the Basel symphony orchestra. He made many outstanding Beethoven and Brahms symphony recordings in Vienna and London between the mid-1920s and his last recording session with the London Symphony, including an electrifying Brahms Second to complete the historic Beethoven-Brahms symphony cycle he began in the 1920s (see below), on February 29, 1940. He gave his last concert in London that year and died in Winterthur, Switzerland two years later.

Weingartner was the first conductor to make commercial recordings of all nine Beethoven symphonies, and the second (to Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia) to record all four Brahms symphonies. In 1935 he conducted the world premiere of Georges Bizet's long-lost Symphony in C. His crisp classical conducting style contrasted with the romantic approach of many of his contemporaries such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, whose conducting is now considered "subjective" on the basis of tempo fluctuations not called for in the printed scores; while Weingartner was more like Arturo Toscanini in insisting on playing as written. His 1935 recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, for instance, sounds much more like Toscanini's 1936, 1938, 1939 & 1952 renditions (only the last of which was recorded in a studio rather than at a concert) than Furtwängler's far more expansive readings.

He taught conducting to students as eminent as Paul Sacher, Charles Houdret, Georg Tintner and Josef Krips. He experimented with films of himself conducting (such as in his only recorded performance of Weber's overture to Der Freischütz) as a tool in "orchestral training".[2]

He was married five times, to Marie Juillerat (in 1891), Baroness Feodora von Dreifus (1903), mezzo-soprano Lucille Marcel (1912; died in 1921), actress Roxo Betty Kalisch (1922), and Carmen Studer (1931).

Weingartner was early interested in the occult, astrology, and Eastern mysticism, which influenced his personal philosophy and his music to some extent. He was himself a prolific writer who published a poetical drama, Golgotha, in 1908. He wrote copiously on music drama, on conducting, on the symphony since Beethoven, on the symphonies of Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann as well as on art and esoteric subjects.
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"None" Wagner Concert Disrupted But Not Stopped

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 22 December 2013 | 2:49:00 pm

Peaceful protesters outside of the event
As previously noted, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, found that the only way it could note Wagner 200 in Israel was by not playing his work. Instead they chose to stage a concert program named, "The Case: Wagner" During this, rather than Wagner, they looked at those thought to have influenced or been influenced him. This was accompanied with a conference entitled “Talking about Wagner” wherein there was an analysis of Wagner's writings, thoughts and music (if not performed) - all within the context of his times. It then concluded by debating whether the boycott in Israel of Wagner's music should  continue.

As one might expect, anything do with Wagner draws controversy in Israel. This was represented by a peaceful protest outside of the venue by a small group of youthful protesters. However, less welcome in a democratic country such as Israel, was Ram Carmi, the owner of a Jerusalem music shop, who climbed the stage shouting, "Dachau, Auschwitz, Kapos" According to Haaretz he then proceeded to sing Israel’s national anthem and , threatened to fight anyone who might try to remove him.

He responded to panel members trying to calm him by accusing them of being Nazi sympathisers. He told Yair Stern, CEO of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, "You defile the memory of your father, who was murdered so I could speak here today"

He was eventually removed by the police.

Haaretz carried the following video of the disruption, A review of the event can be found by clicking the following link: The Jerusalem Post

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Lyric Opera Of Chicago Announce New Ring Cycle

Alas, very little information at the moment apart from that below.

Lyric Opera of Chicago will present its second new production of Richard Wagner’s massive “Ring” cycle in one or more future seasons, the company said on Friday. It will announce details and unveil its creative team and key cast members at a press announcement Jan. 17.
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Wagner at the cinema - warts and all - win viewers

Perhaps the most famous kiss in opera, when the temptress witch Kundry seduces the know-nothing hero of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal", went off without a hitch in a close-up shot for a global live transmission from the Royal Opera House in London.

Then came the glitch.

"Where is the follow spot?" exasperated live transmission director Jonathan Haswell, monitoring the outgoing feed in a studio deep in the bowels of the opera house, grumbled to his small crew hunched over vision mixers and a "Parsifal" score.

Spotlights above the stage had failed to come on instantly to track New Zealand-born tenor Simon O'Neill and German soprano Angela Denoke disengaging from one another.

They flicked on within seconds and it is unlikely that many in the Covent Garden audience earlier this month, or in the cinemas in 28 countries where the Royal Opera screened the transmission, noticed much, if anything, amiss.

But the incident showed the intensity of the effort behind the scenes to bring live performances to audiences in cinemas where the camera reveals intimate details - and snags - invisible even from the best opera house seats.

It underscored what Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and acknowledged global guru of live opera broadcasts, has called their "reality show" allure.

"There is this cultural kind of gladiatorial aspect to opera singing and opera singers because they are out there, they are singing into (hidden) microphones for the purpose of the audiences in movie theatres but they are not being amplified, they are on their own," Gelb, 60, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Continue Reading
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The Wagnerian Readers Choice Awards - 2013. Stage 1 Semi Finals: The Singers

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 16 December 2013 | 3:39:00 pm

Most awards in the arts are provided by experts and critics in that field. Alas, few, if any, rely on the opinions of those that listen to and attend performances - the odd "listeners/readers" choice winner aside. However, we are more than aware of our many readers expertise in the area of Wagner performances, recordings, artist, books, etc. We thus present the first annual "The Wagnerian Readers Choice Awards" dedicated to those that have "shone" in some part of the "Wagnerian world"

With this in mind, we  recently asked readers on both Twitter and Facebook, to nominate performers for the categories of both Male & Female Wagner Artists Of 2013 - those performers of whom readers felt merited special attention for their work in 2013. The aim of this was to then enter these to a readers poll made available to all readers. The responses were many and various and left us with so many artists that we felt asking readers to select one in the final poll was somewhat unfair.

With this in mind, we now ask all readers  to take just one minute to complete the following poll, selecting at the most six of the various artists initially put forward. Those 6 with the greatest number of votes will then enter the final poll to begin shortly - most likely now in January.

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Listen To: ROH Parsifal (2013) Ondemand For 5 Days

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 13 December 2013 | 9:01:00 am

Care of BBC Radio 3. Click the link below to listen.

Parsifal.....Simon O'Neill (tenor)
Kundry.....Angela Denoke (soprano)
Gurnemanz.....Rene Pape (bass)
Amfortas.....Gerald Finley (baritone)
Klingsor.....Willard W. White (bass)
Titurel.....Robert Lloyd (bass)
First Knight.....David Butt Philip (tenor)
Second Knight.....Charbel Mattar (bass)
First Esquire.....Dusica Bijelic (soprano)
Second Esquire.....Rachel Kelly (mezzo-soprano)
Third Esquire.....Sipho Fubesi (tenor)
Fourth Esquire.....Luis Gomes (tenor)
First Flowermaiden.....Celine Byrne (soprano)
Second Flowermaiden.....Kiandra Howarth (soprano)
Third Flowermaiden.....Anna Patalong (soprano)
Fourth Flowermaiden.....Anna Devin (soprano)
Fifth Flowermaiden.....Ana James (soprano)
Sixth Flowermaiden.....Justina Gringyte (mezzo-soprano)

Chorus Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Conducted by Antonio Pappano

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The Real Cause Of Mime's “Compulsive plague! Pain without end!”

In a paper published in the Christmas edition of The BMJ, researchers have looked at how German composer Richard Wagner’s disabling migraines and headaches influenced his operas.

As composer of frequently performed operas worldwide, Wagner’s medical problems have been investigated in numerous accounts and he even described his headaches and symptoms as the “main plague of his life”.

Researchers in Germany therefore wanted to show how Wagner used his suffering to compose his operas, using Siegfried as an example.

The researchers say Siegfried opens with a pulsating thumping which gradually becomes more intense until it reaches an “almost painful pulsation”. At the climax, the main character cries out “Compulsive plague! Pain without end!” which the researchers believe is a representation of a “painful, pulsating sensory migraine episode”.

In his memoirs, Wagner gives an account of the symptoms he had in September 1865, the same time he composed Siegfried. The composer openly voiced his suffering caused by the “nervous headaches” he had while composing this opera.

Wagner’s depiction of his migraines included a “scintillating, flickering, glimmering melody line with a zig-zag pattern” while a main character sings of “Loathsome light!” and “rustling and humming and blustering”. The researchers say the music has the characteristics of a typical migraine and the experimental flicker frequency gives “important clues” about the performance speed intended by Wagner.

They conclude that Richard Wagner was “severely burdened” by migraine and used his suffering creatively “letting future generations take part in his emotions and perceptions”.

In a video abstract, the researchers explain how “his pain is in the centre of his music” and question what his music would have been like had Wagner been treated for his headaches and migraines.

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BBC Radio 3 To Rebroadcast Barenboim/Proms Ring - Dec 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 11 December 2013 | 12:43:00 pm

If you were unfortunate enough to miss the Prom's Ring cycle in the summer, fear not. During December BBC Radio 3 will rebroadcast it in its entirety. Very, highly recommended.

Monday 23 Dec 2013


Das Rheingold (160 mins)
(concert performance; sung in German)
  • Iain Paterson baritone (Wotan)
  • Stephan Rügamer tenor (Loge)
  • Jan Buchwald baritone, Proms debut artist (Donner)
  • Marius Vlad tenor, Proms debut artist (Froh)
  • Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano (Fricka)
  • Anna Samuil soprano (Freia)
  • Anna Larsson mezzo-soprano (Erda)
  • Johannes Martin Kränzle baritone (Alberich)
  • Peter Bronder tenor (Mime)
  • Eric Halfvarson bass (Fafner)
  • Aga Mikolaj soprano (Woglinde)
  • Maria Gortsevskaya mezzo-soprano (Wellgunde)
  • Anna Lapkovskaja mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Flosshilde)
  • Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Daniel Barenboim conductor

Tuesday 24 Dec 2013


Die Walküre (225 mins)
(concert performance; sung in German)
  • Bryn Terfel bass-baritone (Wotan)
  • Simon O'Neill tenor (Siegmund)
  • Anja Kampe soprano, Proms debut artist (Sieglinde)
  • Eric Halfvarson bass (Hungding)
  • Nina Stemme soprano (Brünnhilde)
  • Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano (Fricka)
  • Danielle Halbwachs soprano, Proms debut artist (Gerhilde)
  • Carola Höhn soprano, Proms debut artist (Ortlinde)
  • Ivonne Fuchs mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Waltraute)
  • Anaïk Morel mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Schwertleite)
  • Susan Foster soprano, Proms debut artist (Helmwige)
  • Leann Sandel-Pantaleo mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Siegrune)
  • Anna Lapkovskaja mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Grimgerde)
  • Simone Schröder mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Rossweisse)
  • Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Daniel Barenboim conductor 

Thursday Dec 26 2013


Siegfried (238 mins)
(concert performance; sung in German)
  • Lance Ryan tenor, Proms debut artist (Siegfried)
  • Nina Stemme soprano (Brünnhilde)
  • Terje Stensvold baritone (Wanderer)
  • Peter Bronder tenor (Mime)
  • Johannes Martin Kränzle baritone (Alberich)
  • Eric Halfvarson bass (Fafner)
  • Rinnat Moriah soprano, Proms debut artist (Woodbird)
  • Anna Larsson mezzo-soprano (Erda)
  • Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Daniel Barenboim conductor

Friday 27 Dec 2013

Götterdämmerung (259 mins)
(concert performance; sung in German)

  • Nina Stemme soprano (Brünnhilde)
  • Andreas Schager tenor, Proms debut artist (Siegfried)
  • Mikhail Petrenko bass (Hagen)
  • Gerd Grochowski baritone (Gunther)
  • Anna Samuil soprano (Guntrune/ Third Norn)
  • Johannes Martin Kränzle baritone (Alberich)
  • Waltraud Meier mezzo-soprano (Waltraute/ Second Norn)
  • Margarita Nekrasova mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (First Norn)
  • Aga Mikolaj soprano (Woglinde)
  • Maria Gortsevskaya mezzo-soprano (Wellgunde)
  • Anna Lapkovskaja mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Flosshilde)
  • Royal Opera Chorus
  • Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Daniel Barenboim conductor

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Wagner's Magic Lamp: an ongoing mystery - David Conway

The following  article is reproduced with the very kind permission of the author Dr David Conway - whose book Jewry in Music we shall feature shortly. This is taken from his website of the same name which contains much we would recommend. To continue reading click the link at the bottom of the article, Onwards to Semper's Early Career

Wagner's Magic Lamp: an ongoing mystery........

Richard Wagner's relationship with the Jews is a tortuous saga, but few of its manifestations are as obscure as the affair of the Dresden lamp.

The outline of the story is embedded in the surviving fragments of a complex correspondence and a few passing entries in the diaries of Cosima Wagner. The earliest element of which we have a trace is a letter from the architect Gottfried Semper to Friedrich Nietzsche, who was at the time a professor at Basel, dated 23rd January 1870. He apologizes for his delay in replying; he wished to send Nietzsche a drawing of the lamp (Ämpel) and had to search for the original. He encloses a half-size sketch which'will of course be at the disposition of the lady of whom you speak'. The vessel (Gefass) was commissioned by the congregation of the Synagogue. Semper cannot recall who made it, but suggests that Nietzsche contacts the head of the Dresden community, or else the jewellers Meyer and Noske, through whom it was acquired, although they did not actually make it themselves

Nietzsche was prompt in forwarding this letter to Cosima Wagner at Triebschen in Lucerne. On 25th January, she records in her diary 'For me a letter from Professor Nietzsche and arrival of a Semper drawing'. On the 27th she writes to Nietzsche:

'You see dear Herr Professor how you truly bring me luck; for I have to my astonished joy the drawing by Semper. I am returning you his letter, as an autograph of S(emper) is always of value. I note also Noske and Meyer, but imagine that this firm must be in Dresden (not in Zurich which for the Dresden Synagogue in those days can hardly have been in its compass (wohl gar nicht existierte) ). Dare I pester you further? I cannot send a letter to Meyer and Noske over my name, or dated from Lucerne, as I would run thereby the risk of my Jewish order appearing in the press. Would you have the great kindness to forward the enclosed letter (which I have had my governess write and sign) and arrange the enquiry in your name, or else forward it and enclose your address? I ask a thousand apologies. I think it would also be right to send Semper a couple of words of thanks for his friendly dispatch of the drawing'.

The next we hear of this matter is in Cosima's diary entries in May. On 24th May, Cosima goes 'to the jeweller, who has been to see Semper; the latter received him at first hostilely, but then gradually gave some explanations'. And on 25th May 'I write to Pusinelli about the hanging lamp'.  Pusinelli had been Wagner's doctor in Dresden and continued to act as factotum in various matters for Wagner and over the years.

Then nothing, unless the unamplified diary entries of May and early June representing concern about delay in correspondence from Pusinelli, and later a response from him, relate to this matter. Finally we read, on September 4th, 'At 4 o'clock the christening takes place. Helferich Siegfried Richard Wagner behaves passably well. Merry gathering afterward. Semper's hanging lamp is inaugurated'.

What does this all mean? We are clearly missing, (at least), a letter from Cosima to Nietzsche, asking him to approach Semper about without revealing her name; at least one letter from Nietzsche to Semper; the letters from Nietzsche to Cosima preceding and following her letter of 27th January, the latter either accepting or demurring the tasks laid on him (Cosima is known to have destroyed all of Nietzsche's letters to her); correspondence between Cosima and Pusinelli; and the various arrangements made between Cosima and the local goldsmith who recreated the object. A careful survey of the above does however reveal that the interpretation of Joachim Koehler, in his book 'Nietzsche and Wagner', that this episode was a prime example of Wagner's capricious desire for valuable knick-knacks, is wide of the mark. Cosima obviously went out of her way to arrange the lamp as a present for Richard.

But all this begs several questions. What was the lamp? Why did Cosima want it for Richard? Why didn't she approach Semper directly? Why was Nietzsche willing to do her dirty work (at least initially)? Why did she write to Pusinelli about it? What is the meaning of inaugurating the lamp at Siegfried Wagner's christening? Where are the lamps - the original and the copy - today?

Onwards to Semper's Early Career

Copyright retained by David Conway. Reproduced by kind permission
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"Brunhilde's Act" Or Wagner Dear? Was it as difficult for you as it was for me?

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 9 December 2013 | 7:53:00 pm

Deputy Editor, Frederick Oswald, introduces a talk - and accompanying paper - by the " Elvis of cultural theory", Slavoj Žižek.

Socialists, Communists and Marxists, especially, come in two, admittedly broad, flavours: those that do and those that talk. Slavoj Žižek, is a talker, endlessly sometimes. But in his defence he is both an undergraduate and graduate lecturer and that is their job after all. He is also a "populist", of Marxist theory (although critical of some of its thought, on ideology especially), or at least a mix of Marx, Hegelian" and Lacanian thought .

Now, we must accept, whether you want to or not, the arguable fact, that most Marxist intellectuals, of the academic variety at least, are, sadly, rather boring. Inflating their prose with the sort of obtuse sentences (often without commas or even enough fullstops) that would make even Hegel blush. And goodness forbid (being a Marxist discussion I shall keep "god" out of it for a moment), they might accept any validity in "popular culture", never mind refer to it in an agreeable light. Not so, Žižek.What Marxist cultural theorist for example would begin a two and half hour documentary on ideology (The Perverts Guide To Ideology) using John Carpenters 1988 cult classic "They Live"? And then later turn to "The Sound Of Music (you will never hear “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in quite the same light again.).

All of this tends to make him "popular with the kids" A sort of 21st century, Marxist version of  Robert Anton Wilson,  but with tenure.

Also, Zizek, oddly like many Marxists (apart from Marx), is a Wagnerian.

Anyway, with that brief introduction out of the way, let me introduce his 60 page paper, "Brunhilde's Act: Or, why was it so difficult for Wagner to find a proper ending for his Twilight of the Gods?" Or should you not have the time, his 2 hour talk based upon that paper given at the Howard Assembly Room, in Leeds back in 2009. This is in video format.

Fred Oswald

To read the paper, CLICK HERE

To watch the video, CLICK HERE

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Read Or Download: Richard Wagner's letters to his Dresden friends

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 8 December 2013 | 5:47:00 pm

Apart from the PDF download - and the online version - the formating is not perfect. However, as an epub or kindle file it remains readable. But whatever format you chose it is recommended that you read these. 

Richard Wagner's letters to his Dresden friends, Theodor Uhlig, Wilhelm Fischer, and Ferdinand Heine.
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Grammy Awards 2014: Thielemann, Kaufmann & Runnicles Nominated

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 7 December 2013 | 10:10:00 pm

Admittedly one has to go far down the nominations list to find the "Classical" section, but there, hidden away from the horrified eyes of  MTV's latest reality show presenter,  we are happy to report that the recently released Thielemann/Wiener Staatsoper Ring cycle can be found (Best Opera). And looking down the "Best Classical Solo Vocal" we find the recent Jonas Kaufmann/Donald Runnicles  cd "Wagner". Full nominations list below. Well worth a look

Best Orchestral Performance

Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1 - Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra)

Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 1 - Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva - Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart)

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 - Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)

Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps - Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker)

Best Opera Recording

Adès: The Tempest - Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Luisa Bricetti & Victoria Warivonchick, producers (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)

Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia - Oliver Knussen, conductor; Ian Bostridge, Peter Coleman-Wright, Susan Gritton & Angelika Kirchschlager; John Fraser, producer (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble)

Kleiberg: David & Bathsheba - Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Anna Einarsson & Johannes Weisser; Morten Lindberg, producer (Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Vocal Ensemble)

Vinci: Artaserse - Diego Fasolis, conductor; Valer Barna-Sabadus, Daniel Behle, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli & Philippe Jaroussky; Ulrich Ruscher, producer (Concerto Köln; Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano)

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Christian Thielemann, conductor; Katarina Dalayman, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson & Linda Watson; Othmar Eichinger, producer (Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper; Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper)

Best Choral Performance

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts - Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus)

Palestrina: Volume 3 - Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen)

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra - Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales)

Pärt: Adam's Lament - Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis)

Whitbourn: Annelies - James Jordan, conductor (Ariana Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas - Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace

Cage: The 10,000 Things - Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters

Duo - Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta

Roomful Of Teeth - Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth

Times Go By Turns - New York Polyphony
Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti - Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Corigliano: Conjurer - Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra - Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)

The Edge Of Light - Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet)

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2 - Yefim Bronfman; Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx - Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960 - Maria João Pires

Best Classical Vocal Solo

Drama Queens - Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco)

Mission - Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti)

Schubert: Winterreise - Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees)

Wagner - Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin)

Winter Morning Walks - Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Best Classical Compendium

Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik - Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Holmboe: Concertos - Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer

Tabakova: String Paths - Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2 - Magnus Lindberg, composer (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic)

Pärt, Arvo: Adam's Lament - Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga)

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto - Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks - Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)

Shaw, Caroline: Partita For 8 Voices - Caroline Shaw, composer (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth)
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Leipzig, Dresden & Bayreuth: The Places That Helped Shape Wagner

A short mini documentary from DW that tours the places (if only those in Germany) that would have helped shape Wagner and his music.

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DVD Boxset: Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Rienzi

A  boxset from Arthaus Musik earlier this year - details below. We might not normally mention it apart from the fact that Amazon (Other retailers may also apply - even those that may pay their taxes) is presently offering the entire set for only £20! ($53) Full details below.



Live Recording from The Wiener Staatsoper, 1990

Plácido Domingo (Lohengrin), Robert Lloyd (Heinrich der Vogler),Cheryl Studer (Elsa), Dunja Vejzovic (Ortrud), Hartmut Welker (Telramund) & Georg Tichy (Der Heerrufer des königs)

Wiener Staatsoper, Claudio Abbado (conductor) & Wolfgang Weber (stage director)
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BBC Radio 3 - Wagner Weekend 7 - 8 Dec

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 6 December 2013 | 5:42:00 pm

This weekend, BBC Radio 3 is having a "Wagner Weekend" consisting of a series of programs, unsurprisingly, with a Wagner theme. Details below.

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Free Online Audio Lecture Series:Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth (Inc: Bryan Magee)

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 5 December 2013 | 2:54:00 pm

In September, the Freud Museum in London, held a one day conference named, "Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth " With a set of speakers that included Bryan Magee, and author of the Wagner Complex Tom Artin. As is normal for the Freud Museum they recorded and have made available free each of the 7 lectures (interested readers might want to check out the museum's blog where all of their lectures can be found)

Below, can be found an introduction and each of these seven lectures. Recommended, as indeed is a visit to the Freud Museum should you find yourself in London. 

Freud once asserted that his intention was to re-interpret myths and stories as products of the inner world, and thus ‘transform metaphysics into metapsychology’. But had Wagner got there before him? By taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind, while Freud’s ‘science of the unconscious’ gives unprecedented insights into Wagner's monumental achievements. This conference is a result of the conviction that, like Freud, “Wagner was grappling ... with fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” (Barry Millington, 2013) and that a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.
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First Winners Of Wagner Society Singers Competition

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 4 December 2013 | 6:28:00 pm

Winners: Catrin Aur & Paul Carey-Jones with Sir John Tomlinson
Readers may remember the "furore" at the London Wagner Society (London) this year when the board decided to become the first Wagner Society to withdraw from the Stipendienstiftung and replace The Wagner Bursary Competition with another.  A decision that lead to a major split within the society, an attempt to unseat the President - Dame Gwyneth Jones - and the resignation of one board member. Well, the first winners of the new Singing Competition have just been announced.  According to the Society:

"The standard of the singing from the eight contestants, who were accompanied by Kelvin Lim, was impressively high. As the judges could not agree on a single winner, they took the unusual step of naming joint winners. They were:

Soprano Catrin Aur, whose Selig, wie der Sonne from Die Meistersinger soared with ease, and who followed with a radiant Dich, teure Halle from Tannhäuser, and

Baritone Paul Carey-Jones, who was magnificent in Abdendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge from Das Rheingold, and whose Ja - Wehe! from Parsifal shared intense, painful grief with the audience."

Also highly commended by the judges were baritone Rhys Jenkins - powerful and mature - and the ringing heldentenor Jonathan Stoughton. The audience prize was won by soprano Victoria Stanyon.

The winners will receive, either specialised coaching for a Wagner role or coaching in the German language. This prize is very different to that of the previous Wagner Bursary Competition, where winners of the Stipendienstiftung would have received: a visit to four performances at Bayreuth,entry to events of the International Wagner Society, scholarship holder meetings, and other events that might have given them the opportunity  to get their "faces known" around the Greenhill and recruiting artists.

The entry requirements were also different to the new competition and in the words of the Society, "The upper age limit (was) raised from 35 to 40. Under 35, it is not always possible to tell whether a singer's voice will develop to Wagnerian proportions, and this year’s competition demonstrated that the years between 35 and 40 are when a Wagner voice begins to mature - the sound quality was quite different from that often heard from younger contestants.".

The judges consisted of: Sir John Tomlinson, Elaine Padmore and Keith Warner.

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Apology & Correction: Wagner Is Not To Be Replaced By Aging Hippies After All

Pink Floyd?

We recently reported the blight of Dalhalla Opera, whose productions, including a continuation of their Ring cycle, would not be able to continue in 2014 after owners of the Dalhalla venue  informed them that they had decided to rent their allotted time to other "artists". We also noted at that time, that Dalhalla Opera had responded, noting that it would impact upon hundreds of artists already committed to the event.

At the time we explained that Dalhalla Opera's time was to be given over to two other events:: a festival of former Eurovision Song Contest Runners-up and the "iconic" 60's psychedelic "rockers" Pink Floyd.
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Rare Screening "The Life and Works of Richard Wagner" Jan 2014. Barbican.

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 3 December 2013 | 5:55:00 pm

This newly restored silent landmark was the first feature-length film to be made about the composer Richard Wagner, featuring Italian composer Giuseppe Becce in the title role, together with Olga Engl and Miriam Horwitz, and produced by Oskar Messter in Berlin in 1913.

This rare screening is presented for the first time at the Barbican with an original piano score, composed and performed by Jean Hasse, which combines extracts from Bach, Bellini, Liszt, Wagner and Hasse herself, among others.

Germany 1913 Dir Carl Froelich and William Wauer 96 min

Original score commissioned by the Barbican.

Newly restored print with English surtitles. Restored by EYE and from the EYE/Desmet Collection.

The Life and Works of Richard Wagner (PG*)
4pm / With live piano accompaniment by Jean Hasse 12 January 2014
Cinema 1

In association with Wagner 200.

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Asher Fisch Says Barenboim Was Wrong In Breaking Israel's Wagner Boycott

In a revealing article in Limelight Magazine, Asher Fisch discusses both Wagner and the time that he (Fisch), spent with Barenboim in some detail. "Daniel taught me everything I know" he says. However, he suggests, that although he has never told him, he feels that the manner in which Barenboim  broke the boycott of Wagner's music in Israel, as an encore in 2001, was a mistake and may have caused more harm than he could have imagined.

This is not because Fisch believes that Wagner should not be played in Israel, far from it, as he wishes to do so himself one day. However, Fisch says, "Daniel made a huge mistake in my opinion when he tried to break the ban with a German orchestra. I was there and it was excruciating. It was really difficult to see an orchestra being driven into this situation. He was going to play the Tristan Prelude as an encore, and when he rehearsed it the cor anglais player played a wrong note on the Tristan chord. He stood up and said: “this is my way to protest you trying to make us play Wagner in Israel”. And he was absolutely right. In the evening, when Daniel started to talk to the audience, the orchestra was sitting there and all they could hear is, “whisper, whisper... Nazi... whisper whisper... Hitler...” – can you imagine what they were going through? It was simply a mistake. He concludes, "I never told him this but I think he made it go backwards a little bit. He made the controversy more political than it was before. I think had he not done this in 2001 we would have had better chances. But the ban went in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons"

Read the full article by clicking here
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Photos: Parsifal ROH December 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 2 December 2013 | 8:33:00 pm

Parsifal, Royal Opera House December 2013.  A HD presentation will be broadcast to cinemas worldwide on December 18. To find a cinema near you visit: PARSIFAL - HD (Just type in your location in the search box).

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The Leonard Bernstein Letters: On Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner & Strauss

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 1 December 2013 | 2:28:00 am

The recently published, The Leonard Bernstein Letters are fascinating. If you have not bought this extraordinary historical record we can only recommend you go out  and do so - whether a Bernstein "fan" or not. This fascination is greatly added to in that included is not only those letters from Bernstein but also those to him from some of the most famous names of the 20th century classical music world.  You may think very differently about not only Bernstein but a number of other people afterwards. 

For us of course, of greatest interest are those letters from or to Bernstein that revolve around Wagner or those "associated" with him. We could review the book, but how do you review personal correspondence? Ok, that won't stop anyone but we feel the best way to "review" this book is to look at some of the letters themselves. So with this in mind we reprint a few, very, short extracts below.
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Ring Cycle Ousted By Aging Hippies And Eurovision Runners-up

Edit: See Correction

And so "classical" music takes another hit as Dalhalla Opera is told that booking time that was to go to their opera productions - including a continuation of their Ring cycle begun last year -  has, at the last minute, now been allocated to other musical artists.

For those not aware, no doubt a few people, Dallalla is an amphitheatre in a disused quarry in Sweden.  And who might we ask could possibly be given greater priority than Wagner or Das Ring Der Nibelungen? Would you believe geriatric "trance-rockers"  Pink Floyd (Ed: are they still alive?)  once more, playing "hits " from their student/stoner classic "Dark Side Of The Moon".  Other dates have been given to a festival called "Diggiloo". This (Swedish readers may have to correct us) seems to be made up of Eurovision Song Contest runners-up.

 Perhaps, for those involved in the debate between art and pop music its time to take some action, or at the very least: "start making your mind up, up, up" (Ed: Really? Bucks Fizz references? Here?)  Or has the "paying public" already done so? 

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Comment: Australia's Only Classical Music Magazine Bows Out?

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 30 November 2013 | 3:23:00 am

Its a sad fact that we are at a time when large publishing interests - there are not that many of them - continue to eat away at their arts coverage. Whether that be arts columns in newspapers, in their online presence or in some places ceasing publication of specialist arts magazines altogether.  And where this coverage remains, it becomes so puerile, on occasion,  that it hardly seems worthy of the title  "arts coverage".

Take for example the Guardian's ongoing series in its "culture" section that describes Tannhauser as, "An early opera that has corking tunes and a very silly plot. Staged with tongue firmly in the cheek, it can be magnificent" Or what about, "S is also for Siegfried, Siegmund and Sieglinde, key characters in the Ring and rather too intimately related for their own genetic good". Or perhaps, "Some have argued that Wagner's villains (sic)– Beckmesser in Meistersinger, Alberich and Mime in the Ring – are representations of Jewishness (Ed:One assumes they mean negative Jewish stereotypes?). The contention is hard to prove either way, which is fortunate  for Wagnerians or these works would truly be tainted" (As tainted as Dicken's Oliver? Or Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice? Or George Orwell? Or Winston Churchill?  Or ...). But lets not single out the Guardian. Lets look at the following from the Telegraph, "Vegetable lover: (Wagner) became convinced that eating meat instead of vegetables corrupted the blood, and refuse (sic)to touch meat again". Or what about the Independant which said...Oh! Hang on! Sorry, I forgot they fired most of their arts critics so the Sindy isn't saying much about Wagner at all nowadays.  I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

With this in mind it should perhaps come as little surprise, that Australia's only classical music magazine, Limelight, maybe joining the cultural wasteland that the "western world" continues to produce at an alarming rate.   Perhaps this would not be the case if Limlight had dedicated  its "art" features to BoyZone? Or maybe it should have described "Der fliegende Holländer" as, "A rip roaring pirate adventure, as written by Barbara Cartland, in which: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back and they live happily ever after. It has scary ghosts too!" (Copyright: "The Wagnerian)  See, I know how to do it.  Official announcement below:

Award winning publication, and Australia's only classical music magazine, faces an uncertain future.

Limelight magazine is currently under threat of closure after its publisher Haymarket Media has chosen to wind up its operations in Australia.Limelight is now in search of a buyer to take over the award-winning classical music magazine and website.

The decision came after Haymarket Media announced that they would cease to publish in Australia and were selling or licensing their brands to local publishers. Haymarket Media have been publishing Limelightmagazine under licence from the ABC since 2006.

“With the Haymarket Media Group (Ed: publisher of, believe it or not, Windpower Monthly ) internationally focusing on its chosen sectors, and the recent expansion in Singapore, we saw this as an ideal time for our Australian brands to go to local publishers that will invest to ensure their long-term future," said Jeremy Vaughan, Haymarket Media’s Managing Director.

Liz White, GM ABC Publishing said, “Winning Relaunch of the year 2012 and Consumer Magazine of the year 2013 (under 20,000 circ) at the Publishers Australia Excellence Awards was an endorsement from the magazine industry of the Limelight team’s achievements.”

Haymarket Media is still soliciting expressions of interest in Limelight until it closes its Australia offices on December 13.

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Trailer: Wagner's Lost "Opera": Männerlist größer als Frauenlist - Soon On DVD

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 29 November 2013 | 7:11:00 pm

"The likelihood of previously unknown music of Wagner's coming to light over a century after his death might be thought remote. Yet that is exactly what happened in the summer of 1994, when sketches for Wagner's youthful comic opera Männerlist grösser als Frauenlist oder Die glückliche Bärenfamilie (Men are more Cunning than Women, or The Happy Bear Family), WWV48, previously thought to be irretrievably lost, surfaced in a private collection. Männerlist, which dates from 1838 - in other words immediately prior to Rienzi and Der fliegende Holländer - was to have been an opera in the light French style. Why was Wagner contemplating writing an opera in what was surely an antipathetic style to him? What would it have sounded like? And why did he abandon it?" Barry Millington: The Wagner Journal (vol. 1 No. 3) - Happy Families: A Wagner Singspiel Rediscovered

Männerlist größer als Frauenlist, oder Die glückliche Bärenfamilie (Men Are More Cunning Than Women, or The Happy Bear Family) is Wagner's unfinished Singspiel (written between 1837 to 1838)

Männerlist was Wagner's last operatic project before he embarked on Rienzi. Although the book of the opera (which Wagner as usual wrote himself) has long been available, the full text (including dialogue) and three completed musical numbers (in piano score), were discovered in a private collection in 1994 and later acquired by the archives of the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung in Bayreuth. Wagner refers to this project in his "Red Pocketbook" and his autobiographical works A communication to my friends (1851) and My life 1870-1880). In the latter he describes the work as "in a light neo-French style," which he began to write in Königsberg, but that later when he took it up in Riga for completion, "I was overtaken by utter disgust at this kind of writing."

Back in 2007, Two numbers from Männerlist realised by James Francis Brown and were given their UK premieres on 13 October 2007 at the Linbury Studio Theatre, London. (James talks about this here)

Then, early this year, Germany's Pocket Opera Company, produced the work "complete" for the first time - orchestrating - and "building-upon"  - the three existing musical fragments.

This performance will shortly be available on DVD - see link below.
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Wagner's Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation - Nicholas Vazsony

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 26 November 2013 | 10:32:00 pm

Another in our series of good Wagner books you may have missed - suitable for both the "educated reader" (whatever that might mean) and for academic researchers. As always, we try to provide a decent sized preview to allow you to make-up your own mind rather than a review. However, this is a good, solid and entertaining read - and being available for only £17 (having been reprinted in paperback this year) now helps increase our recommendation.

Indeed,  would also, recommend about anything by Vazsony. His "Richard Wagner: Self-Promotion and the Making of a Brand" is a shockingly under mentioned book in Wagner studies. A review of this will follow later.

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg has been one of the most performed operas ever since its premiere in 1868. It was adopted as Germany's national opera ("Nationaloper"), not least because of its historical coincidence with the unification of Germany under Bismarck in 1871. The first section of this volume, "Performing Meistersinger," contains three commissioned articles from internationally respected artists - a conductor (Peter Schneider), a stage director (Harry Kupfer) and a singer (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), all experienced in the performance of this unusually demanding 5-hour work. The second section, "Meistersinger and History," examines both the representation of German history in the opera and the way the opera has functioned in history through political appropriation and staging practice. The third section, "Representations," is the most eclectic, exploring in the first place the problematic question of genre from the perspective of a theatrical historian. The chronic issue of Wagner's chief opponent, Eduard Hanslick, and his musical and dramatic representation in the opera as Beckmesser, is then addressed, as are gender issues, and Wagner's own utterances concerning the opera.

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Honour Thy German Masters: Wagner’s Depiction of “Meistergesang”

Welsh National Opera's Meistersinger (To be revived 2015)

Originally published in: The Journal Of Musicological Explorations (Vol 11 (2010)

Honour Thy German Masters: Wagner’s Depiction of “Meistergesang” in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Annalise Smith


The music and culture of the sixteenth century Meistersinger is the central topic of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, his only operatic comedy. Wagner turned to Johann Christoph Wagenseil’s Von der Meister-Singer Holdseligen Kunst for information on the customs of the Meistersinger, and many scenarios within the opera are based on information from this treatise. The inclusion of the famous historical Meistersinger Hans Sachs as a central character further strengthened the drama’s connection with the historical guild. The use of distinct set pieces, a seeming departure from the endliche Melodie of earlier operas, also helped Wagner create an air of authenticity within the music of Die Meistersinger.

In contrast to Walther’s pieces, influenced by Wagner’s compositional technique and only loosely invoking the traditions of sixteenth-century Meitergesang, Beckmesser’s songs reveal many similarities with their historical models.
As much as Die Meistersinger invokes the sixteenth century, Wagner does not present an accurate musical depiction of Meistergesang in this work. Though Hans Sachs and his role as a Meistersinger is an important element in his drama, Wagner only superficially observed the form and style of historical Meistergesang. None of Walther’s songs, including Fanget an!, Am stillen Herd, or his Prize song, which wins him the admiration of both the masters and the people, completely satisfies the rules set down by Wagenseil. The character of Sachs, in fact, sings no Meisterlied at all. A comparison of Sachs’ Morgenweise and Silberweise with Wagner’s drama reveals that it is actually in the music of Beckmesser, the pedantic, rule-bound antagonist, that Wagner comes closest to the musical traditions of the sixteenth century. Given the historical setting of the opera and the emphasis the libretto places on rules and traditions, this paper sets out to examine how these three characters are musically portrayed, the degree to which they deviate from traditional Meistergesang, and what this reveals about Wagner’s ideas on artistic genius and musical composition.

The operas of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) exist in a world of fantasy, populated by mythic knights, gods and goddesses, and depictions of heaven and hell. The exception is Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1867). Foregoing the world of myth, Wagner transports the audience back to sixteenth-century Nürnberg, where the city is led by the Meistersingers and, in particular, Hans Sachs. Though still writing in a nineteenthcentury style, Wagner went to great lengths to integrate the actual practices and compositional rules of the Meistersingers into his opera. This attempt at historical accuracy allows for an exploration of the musical correspondences between historical Meistergesangand Wagner’s own depiction of the genre. By comparing Silberweise and Morgenweise, two pieces written by the historical Hans Sachs, to the Meistergesang within Wagner’s opera, it becomes clear that Wagner’s most accurate representations of Meistergesangare sung by Beckmesser, the antagonistic marker. Why then, if the opera purportedly promotes rules and the maintenance of tradition, are Sachs and Walther the heroes? Though this contradiction may seem a hypocrisy, this essay will show that the depiction of Meistergesang in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, while incorporating nineteenth-century compositional methods, expresses Wagner’s belief that musical innovation must be based on tradition.

As charming and believable as Die Meistersinger may be, it too, in its own way, is a fantasy. Wagner’s Nürnberg is not a historically accurate depiction of the town and its populace, but an “idealized monument to a peculiarly German kind of city at the very moment of its historical disappearance.” This idealization was part of nineteenth-century German Romanticism, which longed for a strong, unified Germany. This longing was “inevitably projected to a vaguely medieval past when Germany had seemed powerful and united.” The glorification of medieval Nürnberg inevitably led to a misrepresentation of the Meistersingers. In his opera, Wagner portrays the Meistersingers as both cultural and civic leaders. They are the burghers who run the city, and their festivals are shared by all the people. However, as Peter Hohendahl points out:

[Nuremberg] was anything but a harmonious community in which its citizens enjoyed work and
art.…The Meistersingers clearly did not play the significant role that Wagner assigns them. Their
poetic practices were much more confined to their own social group.

Wagner was not the first to take creative liberties with the cultural and political role of the Meistersingers. The study of Meistersingerswas popular at the beginning of the century, resulting in several studies and narratives through which Wagner became acquainted with the medieval tradition.

Wagner’s first introduction to Hans Sachs and the Meistersingers came from Georgg Gottfried Gervinus’ History of German Literature (1835), a reading that sparked the idea for Die Meistersinger. Wagner was also familiar with Jakob Grimm’s essay Über den Altdeutschen Meistergesang(1811) and the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann, particularly his story Meister Martin der Küfner und seine Gesellen(1819). Both of these authors contributed to an idealized picture of the Meistersingers, in which “artists and artisans, hand in hand, march happily together towards a common goal.”

The Meistersingerswere even the inspiration for an opera before Wagner, Albert Lortzing’s Hans Sachs,
which premiered in 1840. The plot similarities between the two operas indicate the Wagner  was
surely  aware  of  Lortzing’s  opera  when  writing the libretto for Die Meistersinger

To Continue Reading Download The Full Paper In PDF

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