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Wagner as seen through the eyes of 16 film directors

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 28 January 2013 | 6:35:00 am

Wagner's music has  been used many times in film and has in turn influenced, if nor created, film music. An idea discussed in some detail in . "Wagner and Cinema".  What is perhaps must fascinating is how a different director will use Wagner's music to serve their own ends. Below is a brief selection. But we start, in our usual perverse manner, with a silent film; Luis Buñuel's 1928 Un Chien Andalou. And why a silent film? Because in 1960 Brunel added a sound track.

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Selections from ‘Der Ring Des Nibelungen’: Sheffield 2/2/13

Should you happen to be anywhere near Sheffield (UK) next weekend you might want to check out:

Sheffield Symphony Orchestra Concert 3- Saturday 2nd February 2013

Venue             St. Mark’s Church, Broomhill, Sheffield
Date                Saturday 2nd February 2013

Time               7.30 pm

Saint-SaensCello Concerto no 1
WagnerSelection from Der Ring des Nibelungen
Das Rheingold: Opening
Das Rheingold: Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla
Die Walkure: Ride of the Valkyries
Die Walkure: Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music
Seigfried: Forest Murmurs
Gotterdammerung: Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music
Gotterdammerung: Brunhilde's Immolation

Conductor… Dane Lam
Cello Soloist...Eliza Carew           
Soprano Soloist.... Kimberley Myers                        
Tickets            £8.50 full/ £6.50 unwaged/ £4.50 student-child

                         Sheffield Symphony Orchestra  tel. 07815 148323,
                          SSO members or at the door

An undertaking as massive as any in the annals of Western Civilization  Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelugen represents a supreme artistic achievement: the fusion of poetry, music, visual art, movement and drama creating the composers vision for a 'total artwork'. Now, Wagner's Ring Cycle clocks in at about 15 hours of music over four nights - a rewarding but time-consuming commitment. Inspired by Norse mythology, the operas tell the story of the monumental struggle for the famous Ring by men, gods and other mythological beings culminating in cataclysm. Luckily the Sheffield Symphony Orchestra has picked some of the operas' most compelling orchestral music spanning the vast story of the cycle all to be delivered in one epic night. Kicking off proceedings we are pleased to welcome up-and-coming cellist, 16-year-old Eliza Carew to play Saint-Saens' impassioned cello concerto.

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Wagner goes Jazz: Eric Schaefer: Who Is Afraid Of Richard W

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 27 January 2013 | 12:39:00 am

Press release as follows, and should you have spotify, there is a promo of the album below. And if you don't have Spotify then think Wagner meets various jazz genres, meets dub. Now, given that the editor likes all three (for goodness sake don't play The Scientist, or there may not be an update for a week.) we felt compelled to mention this one.

Michael Wollny and Eva Kruse certainly won't take it personally when we say that Eric Schaefer stands most clearly for the pop element and humorous undertones in the trio [em], "Germany's most creative jazz trio" (Kulturspiegel). This Berlin drummer "has proven uncompromising vitality in totally different directions such as free improvisations and classical compositions, punk and diverse folklore, new music, minimal music, pop and electronic" (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), and in the widest range of band projects away from [em], from "Soulmate" and "Henosis" to "Johnny La Marama" and the Arne Jansen Trio. Schaefer always makes use of the entire pallet of more recent music history, his drum set enhanced with percussion instruments, many of which he made himself, and electronics, to create his very own personal sound mix, which the newspaper Die Zeit says makes him one of "the secret central stars of the […] German jazz scene".

And yet it is surprising to see what Schaefer has chosen to put on his first solo ACT album: With "Who is afraid of Richard W.?" he takes on without doubt the most controversial and monumental of all opera composers. Richard Wagner's 200th birthday is merely the occasion; the reasons for doing so are much more profound: "I have heard my way backwards over the last decades," Schaefer explains. "First I played Ravel and Debussy in the orchestra, then I discovered Mahler, and through him I then finally found many things in Wagner that I actually already knew, but that I hadn't heard from him with that intensity before. I first fell in love with the preludes: Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan and Isolde." Although strictly speaking the connection had been made much earlier than that: "As a boy I loved "What's Opera, Doc?": The Ring in a ten minute cartoon with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. If you've got a sense of humour that's a little bit crazy and you approach the material with love for it, you can interpret Valkyrie like that," Schaefer recounts with a wry grin. And indeed, the occasional flashes of humour in "Who is afraid of Richard W.?" are a way to lend the grotesque monumentality a certain approachability and relevance for everyday life.

"Wagner is of course an enormous weight, a colossus, a Titan who rolls inexorably toward you. In his oeuvre there was a struggle for the right to interpret everything from Nietzsche to Adorno and Thomas Mann, through to Jonathan Meese. And that's where I come to my affinity for jazz. Jazz is also a subversive kind of music that breaks through totalitarianism. From this perspective, liberated from maximalism, you can generate a new standpoint that makes Wagner possible," Schaefer explains.

And not only that, the variability of today's jazz, for which Eric Schaefer also stands, drags Wagner right into the present, from the Bayreuth hill and into the club. As a lover of dub step, hip hop and electronic music, Schaefer puts the operatic themes of this artwork romantic into a grooving context. "It was totally natural and simple for me," Schaefer says, "because the melodies are so flashy that I immediately had ideas about how I could use them and the emotions and dramaturgy they contain." So already in the "Prelude" the organ billows, a synthesizer paints music of the spheres, a clear, reverberating West Coast jazz trumpet presides over the events. The "Lohengrin Prelude" with its psychedelic sound from the seventies is also cheery, for which Schaefer sets the rhythm with slowly rolling, bouncing drums. They Valkyries for their part ride up in a heavy dub groove, like "Nietzsche In Disguise" as well, and Siegfried also prepares himself for battle with reggae. "Isoldes Liebestod" and "Tristan's Trauer" become chilled ballads, shaken up with percussion.

With the young British trumpeter Tom Arthurs (who has already won the BBC Jazz Award three times), keyboarder Volker Meitz, and avant-garde bassist John Eckhardt, Schaefer has put together a quartet that is obviously ideal for this, and that he can introduce himself with the necessary enthusiasm: "We come from totally different places. Tom is deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, playing with people like John Taylor and Fred Hersh. He has that incredible melodiousness, the sensitivity and the humour to be able to play those melodies that have been heard a thousand times, in a way that sounds fresh. Volker plays a key role with the organ because it is able to be monumental and represent the orchestra like no other instrument. He comes from the club direction, from the refined, soulful, groove-oriented camp, has worked together with Sonar Kollektiv and made remixes of 4hero. John on the other hand is a sought after new music bassist, and has gathered experience in putting romantic music into a contemporary context, for example, in the Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien and musikFabrik NRW."

When Schaefer says "It all added up to an appealing mix for me," it is a huge understatement. Seldom did classical music sound so fresh. Never has anyone mastered the monumentality and the most subtle emotions in Wagner's work so fascinatingly and casually – thanks to the persuasive concept that breathes new vivacity into the old master with infusions of progrock and new wave, ambient and dub: Welcome to the club, Mr. Wagner!

Album Details:

1.Prelude to a Prelude - 01:32 (Richard Wagner)
2.Walküre - 03:37 (Richard Wagner) 
3.Waldweben - 06:51 (Richard Wagner)
4.Lohengrin I - 02:53 (Richard Wagner)
5.Siegfried Idyll - 03:37 (Richard Wagner)
6.Isoldes Verklärung - 02:19 (Richard Wagner)
7.Nietzsche in Disguise - 05:41 (Eric Schaefer) 
8.Tannhäuser - 03:24 (Richard Wagner)
9.Amazingly Slow - 03:35 (Eric Schaefer)
10.Dante Sonata - 03:46 (Franz Liszt)
11.Love and Death - 02:55 (Eric Schaefer / Tom Arthurs / Volker Meitz / John Eckhardt)
12.Tristan - 02:35 (Richard Wagner)
13.Lohengrin II - 02:53 (Richard Wagner) 

Line Up: 
Eric Schaefer / drums & electronics
Tom Arthurs / trumpet & flugelhorn
Volker Meitz / organ, Fender Rhodes & keyboards
John Eckhardt / bass

Richard Wagner revisited by Eric Schaefer, unless otherwise noted

Produced by Eric Schaefer

Recorded July 2012 by Axel Reinemer at Hansa Studio Berlin
Assistant: Conrad Hensel

Mixed by Guy Sternberg. Mastered by Klaus Scheuermann

Cover art by Jonathan Meese, VG Bildkunst

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In Canada: Verdi sells, Wagner doesn't

Verdi in your freezer?
“I don’t think that in our community, a season of Wagner would work at all. I think I’d be looking for another job.”Bob McPhee
Sometimes one is left a little confused by both opera houses and their directors. For example, in the UK this year - when the media will be giving an enormous amount of space to Wagner - its two main houses will not be staging any Wagner at all. Well, the ROH will but not till the end of the year and they are still to admit it officially. 

There are all sorts of reasons given for this but perhaps the most nonsensical  is that companies will not  fill seats in  theatres with Wagner's productions. Yet this seems clearly to not be the case. When , for example, one visited the Ring at the ROH, Tristan at WNO, Walkure at ON, or Gotterdammerung at LFO there was hardly an empty seat. Indeed, in many cases one would have struggled to buy a ticket. And let us not get into any discussion about the meaning and purpose of "Art"  - to save our sanity. 

With this in mind, we note the following from today's Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail - misconceptions of all kinds included - free :

Verdi and Wagner duke it out for hearts – and theatre space

Calgary Opera is better known for championing new works than for clinging to proven favourites. So when general director Bob McPhee decided to turn the entire current season into a bicentenary binge of operas by Verdi, he prepared for criticism, which never came. “There was no reaction from anyone like, ‘Oh my God, a whole season of Verdi?’ – even through telemarketing,” McPhee says.

But he would never have considered a full season of works by another titan with a big round number to celebrate: Richard Wagner, also born 200 years ago. “I don’t think that in our community, a season of Wagner would work at all,” McPhee says. “I think I’d be looking for another job.”
That’s the way it is for these two operatic giants: Verdi brings people in, Wagner stirs them up. Wagner gets the headlines, not always for the happiest reasons, while Verdi goes on filling theatres with works that companies depend on year after year. They’re both titans of the genre, able to command passionate responses, which is why McPhee hints that we can expect some Wagner from his company very soon.
But do Verdi, even in a wacky production, and you’re taking care of business in a time-honoured way. Make a move on Wagner, and you expose yourself to the risks, extremes and general weirdness of hanging with the last bad boy in the 19th-century pantheon.
Yet Wagner’s influence was much greater and longer-lasting, in music and across the arts, as well as in politics.
He was the one who turned the sociable theatres of his time into the hushed, darkened temples of aesthetic contemplation we know today. He insisted that art should be life-or-death work for everyone involved, and the lesson sank in.
“Before, music strove to delight people,” Tchaikovsky complained after attending the first Ring performances, in 1876. “Now, they are tormented and exhausted.”
The gruelling art-is-everything attitudes spouted by painter Mark Rothko in John Logan’s play Red are basically updated Wagnerian dogma, displayed in another way by the stark factory-like spaces of many galleries. But among this country’s large-scale opera producers, only the Canadian Opera Company (which opens its production of Tristan und Isolde on Tuesday) and l’Opéra de Montréal (which did The Flying Dutchman last fall) have any Wagner on their bills this season. All other Canadian companies except Vancouver Opera are doing Verdi, as they do most years. The COC has done eight different Verdi operas since its Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, but is only now returning to the composer whose Ring cycle launched the building.
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Opera Australia's Lyndon Terracini talks about HGO abandoning the Melbourne Ring

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 24 January 2013 | 1:30:00 am

OA's Lydon Terracini: Still smiling?
Well, the good news is that HGO's dropping of the Melbourne Ring, and the accompanying loss of $1 Million funding, should not cause any major difficulties, as Opera Australia’s artistic director Lyndon Terracini told the Australian today;

"It’s disappointing, but in the scheme of things they were a minor partner. The level of financial commitment from Houston was $1 million" which he says OA can cover.

But why did HGO drop the project?

"Fundamentally, they were keen to do something different, rather than something that we’d done here.”

However, this seems odd considering HGO are re-staging the Valencia ring - hardly new either in an opera house or even on TV

Another possible explanation given by Limelight revolves around a shift in the relationship between OA and HGO since HGO's Anthony Freud left and was replaced by new CEO Patrick Summers. Artistic differences between both companies have also been rumored. Perhaps HGO did not want an Australian Ring? Who knows but for now, despite losing one of their partners, a Siegfried (Gary Lehman has again pulled from the role of Siegfried to be replaced with Stefan Vinke) and their Wotan ( Juha Uusitalo is to be replaced by Terje Stensvold) the Melbourne Ring rolls on - and as fans of many of OA's productions this pleases us greatly.
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Opera Australia left with $1 million shortfall as HGO breaks off the engagement & hands back the Ring

We noted earlier this week that Huston Grand Opera had announced that they would be staging the Valencia Ring over the next four seasons. What was odd, is that the Melbourne Ring is a co-production between Opera Australia and HGO. Would HGO be staging one Ring while part funding another? The answer now seems to be not and the decision has left Opera Australia with a £1 Million shortfall. More, as it arrives.
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Siegfried gets them all in the end - even Mr Merkel. But he doesn't like Regie

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 23 January 2013 | 11:33:00 pm

Theoretical chemist Joachim Sauer, the "media shy" husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel., has said today that he once hated Wagner. He simply found Wagner's music "bombastic". However, that all changed one day after a chance encounter with Siegfried. Although oddly, neither in a cave, forest or opera house but lying at home listening to the radio one day. Saur, quantum chemist and full professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin explains:

"I was studying chemistry and this is a physically hard job because you are in the laboratory, you work hard and you come home in the late afternoon or in the evening and you always needed a break. So I would stretch out on the sofa, switch on the radio and listen to this special radio program which has a lot of classical music and I was listening to something. I didn't know what it was but I found it very interesting.

"And at the end it turned out it was a piece of 'Siegfried'" - from Wagner's "Ring" cycle. "So I told myself, 'You're an should listen to it.' So this was how it started."

And how important is Wagner to him now?

"If you ask me what is the best good fortune in my life of course I say that I have seen in my lifespan the Wall coming down, the reunification," (he grow up in East Germany). "But the second, which comes with it, is perhaps that I now can go to Bayreuth."
Talking about all of Wagner's dramas he said, "It never ends, they so rich, "And they are all so very different."

And he considers Bayreuth unique for not only does it provide a platform purely for Wagner's mature work but also the opportunity it gives someone like himself to get away from everything - if only for a short time

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Cornwall Council celebrates 2013 by moving Tristan's grave to make way for a Bus Stop

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 22 January 2013 | 6:33:00 pm

The Tristan Stone, said to mark the spot of the real Tristan's grave - and thus theoretically the place of the Liebestod (well, ok, at least poetically but we have to have some excuse to add a clip of the Jerusalem/Meier/Barenboim Tristan ) - has stood in Fowey, in Cornwall since at least the 5th century - but not for much longer. Cornwall Council has given permission for the stone (which contains the inscription "Drustans hic iacet Cunomori filius or 'Drustanus lies here, the son of Cunomorus') to be moved to make way for a "Park and Ride" to service a new housing estate to be built on land nearby.

However, not all members of the council are in agreement. Said, Councillor Bert Biscoe, a member of Cornwall Council's cabinet: "How dare anybody presume to shift it without good reason – and building a load of mundane houses in its vicinity is not good reason." He went on to describe the move as "cultural violence".

The following description is taken from Britannia:

"A few miles down the River Fowey (the locals pronounce it, "foy") from Lostwithiel, toward the channel coast of Cornwall, is a small but interesting area with three important Arthurian connections. They are all quite close together, but you may have to do some hunting for them, since their locations are not all clearly marked on tourist maps. Not to worry, though, that's what exploration is all about, isn't it?

The best known of these Arthurian sites is The Tristan Stone, just northwest of the town of Fowey. It is an obelisk-shaped stone monument, slightly split on the side, and resting on a circular base. On the wide, flat side of the stone is an inscription which purportedly dates from the sixth century. It is difficult to make out, now, but it is said to read something like, "Drustanus lies here, son of Cunomorus." Etymologists claim that Drustanus is a latinization of the Pictish name, Tristan, and that Cunomorus is a latinization of the name Kynvawr.

So what? Well, Arthurians will, at once, recognize the name Tristan (also Tristram), noble Knight of the Round Table and lover of Isolde (also Yseult, Iseult) who was wife of King Mark of Cornwall. Their tragic love story has been told by poets and writers for the better part of a thousand years. (continue reading)."

It is worth noting. that this is not the first time the stone has been moved, as it originally stood closer to Castle Dore (an Iron Age and early medieval hill fort) then it now does. We believe it was last moved to make way for a "round-a-bout". We wonder what would happen if Stonehenge was moved for similar reasons?

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WagnerWorldWide:America - Jan 31 - Feb 2 2013. With Alex Ross

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 20 January 2013 | 9:29:00 pm

Keynote lecture to be given by Alex Ross

In recognition of composer Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) bicentennial in 2013, the Forschungsinstitut für Musiktheater(fimt) at the University of Bayreuth is planning a multi-year series of events to take place around the world under the general heading WagnerWorldWide 2013 (WWW 2013). Events that take part in this initiative will be unified by examining a range of five topics.

The University of South Carolina is hosting an academic conference that encourages a broad range of speakers, from established senior Wagner scholars to advanced PhD students.

WagnerWorldWide:America will examine Wagner’s work, ideology, and life within a multi-disciplinary frame that addresses social, historical, political and philosophical aspects of culture, drama, and music, spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries. The sessions will be videotaped and uploaded to the WagnerWorldWide page on YouTube.

 Beyond this, additional musical and multi-media events are being planned alongside the conference, with a view to encouraging the participation of non-academic Wagner- and opera enthusiasts in the broader Columbia community and the South-East region.

For more information please visit: WagnerWorldWide:America
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Houston Grand Opera to stage its first Ring cycle starting 2013-2014 season

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 19 January 2013 | 11:00:00 pm

Houston Grand Opera has announced that they will be presenting the Valencia Ring over four consecutive seasons starting with Rheingold during 2013-2014. This will be HGO's first ring cycle and also the first time Fura dels Baus ring cycle will have been performed in the USA.

Discussing the upcoming season, HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers explains, “Naturally, to me, the most exciting event next season is our production of Das Rheingold, which launches the largest single endeavor in HGO's history, Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. The cycle will be presented in succession, that is, one opera during each of the following three years"

Iain Paterson, making his house debut in his first performances as Wotan. Singing opposite him as Fricka is American mezzo Jamie Barton, an HGO Studio alumna and Metropolitan Opera National
Council Auditions winner. Slovak tenor Stefan Margita reprises the role of Loge he performed at San Francisco Opera. Patrick Summers, who made his Wagner debut in 2009 when
he led Lohengrin at HGO will lead from the pit.

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Long lost photo of Richard Wagner found. Really!

The Bayreuther Wagner-Museum has announced that a photo of Wagner - once thought long lost - has finally been found and bought by themselves for 900 euros.

In the early hours of Friday, Dr. Sven Friedrich, director of the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth, purchased, from an online auction, a previously almost unknown photograph of Richard Wagner for the National Archive of the Richard Wagner Foundation.

The photo is from a private owner in the U.S. and shows Wagner sitting as a full figure. "That in itself is a rarity " says museum director Friedrich, "because all the other studio photographs Wagner are either half-figures, busts or portraits. Moreover, it is one of the earliest photographic images of Wagner found. It was probably taken in 1861​​ by Louis Buchheister in Paris".

Taken as part of the "promotional material" (there is nothing new in marketing) for the Paris Tannhauser,  it is the only photograph of Wagner to show him without his usual facial hair.

The tip-off that the photograph would be auctioned came from the Munich collector Gunther Braam, who is planning a book on Wagner in photography.

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Winterreise: Thoughts, Recommended Recording, English Text & Complete Playlist

"Come to Schober's today and I will play you a cycle of terrifying songs" Schubert

Earlier this week, as the snow began to fall here, I returned to Robert Macfarlane's meditation on the land's ancient pathways and the journey - and mind -  of the lone traveler  "The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot".

There are all sorts of reasons that this fine work, the weather and a lone walk through the winter countryside, might remind one of Schubert's  song cycle. Note for example the literal;  as the following taken from early in each work may indicate:

 "At first sight the field seemed flawless; floe country. Then I set out across it and started to see the signs. The snow was densely printed with the tracks of birds and animals – archives of the hundreds of journeys made since the snow had stopped. There were neat deer slots, partridge prints like arrowheads pointing the way, and the pads of rabbits. Lines of tracks curved away from me across the field, disappearing into shadow or hedge. The moonlight, falling at a slant, deepened the dark in the nearer tracks so that they appeared full as inkwells. To all these marks I added my own." Robert Macfarlane: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot"

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Wagner’s Shakespearian Birth: Dave Paxton

"...Cosima in 1874, who her diary, along with the further details that her husband, as a young teenager, had interpreted Shakespeare’s canon ‘as something daemonic and fantastic and had even sought a mystical meaning in Falstaff.’" Dave Paxton

While Shakespeare's influence on Wagner is undeniably, it is still one that remains, relativity unexamined in any detail. It is thus with some pleasure that we can recommend the writings of Shakespeare/Wagner scholar, Dave Paxton who is a doctoral researcher at the Stratford Shakespeare Institute, writing on Shakespeare and Richard Wagner.

While not working feverishly on his Doctoral thesis, Dave occasionally produces items for the highly recommended "Blogging Shakespeare". Although, alas never enough for our tastes. However he has just added a new item: "Wagner’s Shakespearian Birth"  which traces Shakespeare's influence on Wagner's early work - including  Leubald. An excellent overview and highly recommended; you can read in detail by following the link below. While you are there we highly recommended his other essays also, including: Shakespeare and Revolutionary Sex.

Wagner’s Shakespearian Birth
Dave Paxton

Richard Wagner’s engagement with his creative predecessor William Shakespeare began around age 13. At this time, Wagner pronounced Shakespeare’s name “Shicksper,” which triggered for him associations of fate (Shicksal = fate/destiny) and battle (Speer = spear). Wagner related this detail from the distant past to his second wife Cosima in 1874, who wrote it in her diary, along with the further details that her husband, as a young teenager, had interpreted Shakespeare’s canon ‘as something daemonic and fantastic and had even sought a mystical meaning in Falstaff.’

Wagner, like many other intelligent people, found in formal education only a series of obstacles and stimuli to unhappiness; he was exceptionally lucky that, as an alienated 14-year-old, he developed a friendship with his uncle Adolf, who was living near him in Leipzig. Adolf provided his nephew with an informal education in literature and philosophy, as well as spiritual solace and a shared ‘contempt for the pedantry of the schools,’ as Wagner put it in his autobiography. The man and the boy took a daily walk together ‘beyond the city gates,’ no doubt – Wagner mused later in life – provoking the smiles of passers-by who heard their ‘earnest discussions.’

Wagner had enrolled in the Nicolaischule in Leipzig on 21 January 1828, but he soon stopped attending classes there entirely. He stayed at home instead, and devoted himself to completing his first artwork, which he later referred to – only half mockingly – as a ‘great tragedy’ and a ‘great poetic enterprise.’ He named the work Leubald, which no doubt is supposed to evoke the name of the pub in which he had been born in 1813: the Red and White Lion.

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London's "other" Siegfried 2013 - booking now

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 18 January 2013 | 9:37:00 pm

Fulham Opera continue with their highly recommended Ring cycle as Siegfried makes its premiere this February - dates and booking information below. Should you also wish to be part of this project - or help support it - Fulham Opera are still looking for help with funding. For more about this  visit this page.

Also, below, a brief documentary on the project.


Siegfried: Phillip Modino | Mime: Peter Kent | Woodbird: Emma Peaurt | Alberich: Robert Presley | Wanderer: Ian Wilson-Pope| Brunnhilde: Zoë South | Erda: Rhonda Browne | Fafner: Antoine Salmon

February 12, 2013 6:00 pm
February 15, 2013 6:00 pm
February 17, 2013 6:00 pm

£15 - £20


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Audio Interview: Bill Viola discusses his video imagery for Tristan

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 17 January 2013 | 10:39:00 pm

Released by Canadian Opera Company prior to the opening of Peter Sellars's production of Tristan und Isolde

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Listen to excerpts from the new: Kampe, Kaufmann, Pape, Stemme, Gergiev Walkure.

There's a lot of anticipation for this studio Ring from Mariinsky label  And while we must remain patient till its release on 11 February 2013 for the first part, Mariinsky has now made generous excerpts of acts 1, 2 and 3 available. Our thoughts? Pre-order has just been submitted.

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David Byrne goes Talking Heads with Richard Wagner

David Byrne, perhaps most famous as the founder of Talking Heads, discuses Wagner, his music, his history and his heritage over at his website "Journal" - or should that be his Internet journal? Anyway, while containing the odd arguable point, it offers a fairly balanced investigation of Wagner and his "influence" on the third Reich, anti-semitism, and more.  You may well not agree with all of it, for example when he compares Wagner to Celine Dion, Elton John, Cirque du Soleil in Vegas (although an intriguing argument on consideration), but its worth your time to give it a read. Plus, it gives us the excuse to add a video of "Once in a Lifetime"

"Though I view his hubris at insisting on a purpose-built venue as the exception as far as composers go, I realized while watching the doc that there are indeed recent equivalents—Celine Dion, Elton John, Cirque du Soleil, and a handful of other Vegas shows"

"Back to the question of whether or not we can allow ourselves to like someone’s work knowing they might be a despicable human being, hold abhorrent views, or possibly be a complete pervert. Do we care that Picasso may have been a bad father and mistreated all his wives? Not particularly—we tend to separate his work, or at least our judgement of its quality, from his private life. Do we care that the poet Elizabeth Bishop made excuses for the brutal dictatorship in Brazil? Does that invalidate her work? The composer Gesualdomurdered his wife. Mussorgsky was an alcoholic. The composer Henry Cowell went to prison for molesting young boys. Caravaggio killed a man over a game of tennis! And the contemporary painter John Currin goes against most of his peers and often espouses conservative Republican political views."

"Picasso’s “Guernica”—an act of political protest—is given high marks. But imagine if instead of depicting the pain and horror of the civilian bombing of a Spanish village, it depicted civilians being bombed by the Allies in Dresden or Berlin. The painting might not look all that different. Imagine what our architectural taste would be like if Hitler had decided to promote an industrial-inspired Bauhaus aesthetic rather than the romantic imperialism of Speer. Would modernism have been suddenly abandoned as a project?"

To read the full article please go to: Wagnerian Feelings

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In conversation with Jonas Kaufmann

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 16 January 2013 | 11:30:00 am

Jonas Kaufmann on his Wagner album

In conversation with Thomas Voigt

What images do you associate with Richard Wagner’s music?

Most vividly of all, an intimate scene from my childhood: my grandfather sitting at the piano and playing Wagner. He was a true Wagnerian, who had vocal scores of all Wagner’s operas, and when he played from them he sang all the parts, from Hagen to Brünnhilde. As we lived in the same house, Wagner’s music was more or less part of my daily routine. I grew up with this music. I was fascinated by leafing through my grandfather’s vocal scores. These were lovingly produced editions, beautifully illustrated with old stage designs and a summary of the leitmotifs. Getting to know the magic of Wagner’s music this way was fun. The path from there to my first Wagner performance as a soloist, of course, was a long one, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished over all the years. On the contrary, the more often I’m involved with this music, the more I love it.
Wagner partly related these texts by Mathilde Wesendonck to himself, especially the following lines from “Im Treibhaus”: 
"Well I know, poor plant,
we share the same fate:
though bathed in light and splendour,
our home is not here! " 
That is precisely Wagner’s situation in his Swiss exile. Objectively things were going well for him, yet he didn’t feel at home. Doesn’t that lend itself to being sung by a man?

What were your criteria in choosing the pieces for this Wagner album?

The basic idea was to present a survey of Wagner’s development as a composer, beginning with Die Feen. This appealed to me because it was the first Wagner opera I performed in, as the youngest member of an additional chorus at Munich’s Gärtnerplatz Theatre. But after listening to Die Feen again, I scrapped that idea and decided to start with Rienzi.

From Rienzi to Siegfried — that’s a long distance, not just in Wagner’s composing career but also in a singer’s development.

Quite true. It spans an incredible range of styles. Rienzi’s prayer is constructed like a classical Italian aria — a singer needs to work out a conception of this music in order to bring it to life. Siegfried’s music is in a completely different style, like recitative throughout: instead of arioso and legato, mainly parlando. It has to sound as natural as spoken language, which is not be confused with what George Bernard Shaw branded the “Bayreuth bark”. This parlando must always emerge from the music, as though there were a single giant legato slur over the text. That doesn’t reveal itself at first glance. You really have to come to grips with the piece first.

Strictly speaking, the album contains only two pieces that you’ve already sung live: the “Sword Monologue” from Die Walküre and “Am stillen Herd” from Die Meistersinger.

Everything else was new territory for me — even the “Grail Narration” from Lohengrin, because we’ve recorded the complete version with two stanzas. There’s a beautiful old record of it with Franz Völker from 1936. Although I can understand why Wagner cut the second stanza at the last moment — he was apparently afraid it would have a detrimental effect on the audience’s concentration — I still think it’s a pity to leave it out. First of all, it explains an important part of the action, and, secondly, it is really beautiful music. That alone justifies including the “original version” in this album.

Up to now, you’ve only done Die Meistersinger in a concert performance at the Edinburgh Festival. Why not on stage after all this time?

That’s just the way it is in life: when I had the time, there wasn’t a suitable production, and vice versa. But the piece is at the very top of my “to do” list, and the first stage production is sure to come along soon. I can already hear a couple of critics muttering: after a heavy part like Siegmund, can he still muster the lightness for Stolzing? I could counter them by pointing out that after my first Siegmund, my next part at the Met was Faust. And since that went very well, I’m not fretting over Stolzing.

While we’re on the subject of vocal demands made on singers: what distinguishes a part like Siegmund from Stolzing or Lohengrin?

Most of all the low tessitura. Siegmund lies almost entirely in the baritone range, which is why even some baritones coveted the role — most notably Ramón Vinay. His vocal resources extended from bass-baritone to Heldentenor, and he took full advantage of that. What makes the part especially difficult is that high-lying phrases keep coming in after long stretches in the baritone range. And the first act calls for everything. It takes a lot of energy to keep up the tension through all the narrations in recitative style and the “duet” with Sieglinde.

On this occasion you haven’t selected “Winterstürme”, the role’s popular highlight, but instead the “Sword Monologue”.

This monologue contains much more of what characterises Siegmund — his suffering, his struggles, his hope for a better life. Another incentive was, of course, the “Wälse” outcry. The standard for this was set by Lauritz Melchior, especially in his live recordings from the Met. His calls of “Wälse” are endlessly long and endlessly big — extremely impressive for any listener and a special challenge for any singer coming after him.

How was your first experience with Tannhäuser?

Surprisingly good! Being a rather cautious singer, I’ve so far turned down all offers to sing the part on stage. For that reason, I wasn’t sure at first about whether I should record the “Rome Narration”. But the longer I worked on the piece, the more I found that it was vocally a much closer fit than I’d imagined. And so it turned out that the one piece I had worried about initially was my biggest treat at the sessions. This upswing from depression and despair all the way to the ecstasy of the orgiastic Venus music is just as exciting to me as a singer as it is to me as a listener. After this experience, Tannhäuser has moved way up on my wish list.

There’s a surprising bonus on this album: the Wesendonck-Lieder, designated by Wagner “for female voice”.

In the text there isn’t a single indication of the gender of the “narrator” — just the opposite of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben and Schubert’s Winterreise. And now that men have recorded Frauenliebe and women Winterreise, it should not seem sacrilegious for a man to sing the Wesendonck-Lieder; in fact, Wagner partly related these texts by Mathilde Wesendonck to himself, especially the following lines from “Im Treibhaus”:

Well I know, poor plant,
we share the same fate:
though bathed in light and splendour,
our home is not here!

That is precisely Wagner’s situation in his Swiss exile. Objectively things were going well for him, yet he didn’t feel at home. Doesn’t that lend itself to being sung by a man?

Jonas Kaufmann, Donald Runnicles and the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper of Berlin — has this combination ever happened “live”?

No, it was our first collaboration, and I hope it won’t be the last. It went brilliantly. We understood each other without a lot of explanations. It was the first time that I’ve ever made an opera album with an orchestra that performs opera every day. That isn’t meant in any way to belittle the achievement of the previous orchestras — God forbid! — but there is a big difference between having to explain the dramatic context before starting work on an aria and, for example, when the musicians can play the “Rome Narration” from Act Three of Tannhäuser already knowing what happens in the first two acts. We were in “stage mode” from the very first note, and that helped incredibly. I was also extremely positively surprised by the acoustics in the broadcast studio of the old East Berlin radio building. It’s a long way out, between Treptow and Köpenick, but the fantastic acoustics are worth every metre of the taxi ride. Not as dry as most studios and not as reverberant as an empty concert hall, this is concert-hall acoustics without audience noise but with studio quality — an ideal combination. I very much hope this hall will still be around for a long time and that I can continue to record there often.

Kaufmann's new album "Wagner",  will receive its international release on the DECCA label, February 2013. Full details - including detailed track listing, can be found here:  Kaufmann: Wagner

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Listen On-demand: London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jurowski / Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 14 January 2013 | 4:06:00 pm

Already in Bruckner’s First Symphony the influence of ‘Richard Wagner, was making itself felt. In 1863 Bruckner heard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser in Linz, capturing its desolate yearning in his first movement’s third theme. Two years later Bruckner met Wagner for the first time at a performance of Tristan und Isolde in Munich; the opera’s romantic soul seeped into Bruckner’s Adagio, as disarming a vision of love as Wagner’s own Wesendonck Lieder. As he slipped into hopeless adoration for the German poet Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner wrote her these songs, moments of heartfelt stillness in a whirlwind musical career.

Available till  Friday 18 January

This concert is online until Friday 18 January.

Brahms Tragic Overture
Wagner (arr. Henze) Wesendonck Lieder
Bruckner Symphony No. 1 (1877 Linz edition)

Vladimir Jurowski conductor
Anna Larsson contralto

JTI Friday Series concert recorded 14 December 2012 at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall

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WNO Remixes Lohengrin

As long as we don't end-up with a dub mix that includes Wagner with N Sync. Although, that might be better than the video we found below. We hasten to add nothing to do with the WNO project. By the way, a special mention to anyone who can find an image to go with this story. Trust us, we have tried.
Lohengrin Remixed is a project which will use the Welsh National Opera Summer 2013 Wagner repertoire as a platform to create workshops in which young people in Bristol and Birmingham will have the unique opportunity to work with composer Pete M Wyer and local DJs to remix classical opera and contemporary music. Following visits to see Welsh National Opera performances, participants will receive workshops and practical experience of remixing to create a new piece of music inspired by Lohengrin.
For more information on how to get involved, please contact Caroline Alford on 029 2063 5063 /
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Wagner 2013 Kicks off in Bayreuth with Mnozil Brass' " HOJOTOHO"

Mnozil Brass

"Never look at the brass - it only encourages them." Richard Strauss

And so Wagner 2013 begins in the city of Bayreuth, but not with one of Wagner's works but a specially commissioned piece by the Austrian comedy brass band, Mnozil Brass named "HOJOTOHO". Alas, as yet, we have been unable to find a video of the performance but to give you a flavor of what you might expect we include a video of Mnozil Brass' interpretation of the William Tell Overture Be warned though, if your not German, the humor is. Now we know what Strauss meant about the brass.

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Quentin Tarantino to direct next Bayreuth Ring Cycle?

Well, probably not - although at the "new" Bayreuth anything is possible. However, in an interview published in Focus Magazine, Christoph Waltz - who has appeared in Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained (for which he has just received an Oscar nomination) - thinks he should. "Quentin would be someone for a new Bayreuth, absolutely." he told focus, finding in his work  close ties to Wagner's thoughts on Gesamtkunstwerk.

And what convinced the Austrian actor that he was correct? When he took Tarantino to see LA Opera's Ring cycle and afterwards, Tarantino told him that he saw parallels between Siegfried and his Django Unchained - as Tarantino himself told Martin Wittmann earlier this month. Indeed, according to Tarantino, his latest film can be seen. in part,  as a retelling of Siegfried.

And what would Tarantino's Siegfried look like? Well, lets take a look at Django Unchained and find out:
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Parsifal Productions: 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 13 January 2013 | 3:46:00 am

Only productions that have at least announced their principle casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before booking. We will attempt to add video and photos as time allows.  If you believe we have missed a production - and we have no doubt that that is the case -  please get in touch and let us know: where, when and who.

Act II,  2007 production in Naples.

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At a cinema near you: Parsifal with Kaufmann, Pape, Dalayman, Mattei, Gatti.

The much awaited - at least here at the Wagnerian - MET's new Parsifal (François Girard's production) will be available at cinemas world wide on the 2 March 2013. At least in England, we can confirm that the number of cinemas carrying the broadcast has been extended dramatically since last years MET Ring in HD offerings. Even your humble editor , who seems to spend much to much time in an area where the Les Misérables movie is a highbrow cultural event,  has found a cinema showing it locally.

To find a cinema in your area please click one of the following links:
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Contemplating Wagner and Verdi: a discussion by Peter Bassett

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 12 January 2013 | 11:38:00 pm

The following essay was kindly provided by Peter Bassett and is taken from his fascinating, and beautifully illustrated book: 1813 - Wagner and Verdi.  For more information on this book - and a sneak preview of the contents - please visit Peter's website, where he also makes a large number of essay's about Wagner and his work freely availble: PeterBassett.Com.Au

About the author:

Peter Bassett is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on opera, particularly the works of Richard Wagner. He was closely involved with the 1998 production of Der Ring des Nibelungen in Adelaide and the 2001 Australian premiere of Parsifal, Artistic Administrator, Dramaturg, lecturer and coordinator of ancillary events for the 2004 State Opera of South Australia’s production of the Ring, and a consultant for West Australian Opera’s 2006 Tristan und Isolde and the State Opera of South Australia’s 2009 Der fliegende Holländer. He contributes to programme books and publications of opera companies and symphony orchestras in Australia and New Zealand.

Contemplating Wagner and Verdi 

To describe Verdi’s approach to opera as conservative and practical, and Wagner’s as revolutionary and conceptual is an oversimplification, but there is some truth in it. Verdi’s remark to a visiting musicologist in 1895 that he predicted success for younger composers if they did not insist on substituting new for old conventions1 reflects a basic difference between him and his German contemporary. Twenty years earlier he had told a journalist that while Wagner had done opera an incalculable service by freeing himself from the tradition of the aria-opera, and surpassed every composer in his rich variety of instrumental colour, he had gone too far in both form and style by carrying his theories to extremes.2 In 1883 he said that Wagner in his recent operas seemed to be overstepping the bounds of what can be expressed in music, and that for him [Verdi] ‘philosophical music’ was incomprehensible.3 Twelve years later he added: ‘Art and systems of art are opposites. The great Wagner left much evil in his wake’,4 a phrase regularly misinterpreted but which refers to a view that younger composers were being led astray by Wagner-inspired ‘systems’ of composition.5 ‘I have never written music following fixed ideas’ said Verdi, ‘and I have never followed or wished to found a school.’6 He had learned of Wagner’s theories second hand and, in 1870 while working on Aida, he asked Camille du Locle to send him a French translation of Wagner’s literary works.

Towards the end of his long and successful life, Verdi could afford to admit to Felix Philippi7: ‘The work which always arouses my greatest admiration is Tristan. This gigantic structure fills me time and time again with astonishment and awe, and I still cannot quite comprehend that it was conceived and written by a human being. I consider the second act, in its wealth of musical invention, its tenderness and sensuality of musical expression and inspired orchestration, to be one of the finest creations that has ever issued from a human mind.’

Wagner’s literary output was prodigious, running to nine volumes in his own collected edition, to which can be added an autobiography of his life to 1864,8 and between ten thousand and twelve thousand letters. Then there are his wife Cosima’s diaries, a million words recording his utterances between 1869 and 1883. He was one of the most significant musical polemicists in the modern age. If he has been the subject of more books than any other composer, it is because there is so much to write about. He completed only thirteen operas compared with Verdi’s twenty-six, but they are usually on a formidable scale. He wrote his own librettos based on scenarios that evolved over years, even decades, and he wove into his stage works a host of extra-theatrical ideas, often of a philosophical kind.

Nothing could have been further from Wagner’s mind than a Tabulatur or formulaic system of composition, but critics happily seized on the idea just the same. Nor was he concerned with tailoring his works to existing theatrical constraints or audience expectations. In January 1859 while working on Tristan und Isolde, he wrote to Liszt: ‘You must take me at my word when I tell you that the only thing which really gives my life purpose is my irresistible urge to complete the series of works I have conceived. I have come to recognize with absolute clarity that to occupy myself with and finish these works is the only thing that satisfies me and makes me want, in some inexplicable way, to go on living. The prospect of actually seeing these works performed, on the other hand, is something I can quite do without.’9 It is impossible to imagine Verdi saying such a thing. The business of turning his later works into stage productions was for Wagner a separate exercise entirely, necessitating advances in auditorium layout, stage machinery and orchestra pit design epitomised by the Bayreuth theatre. It can hardly be doubted that in terms of expectation (if not always realization), Wagner was well ahead of his time. His vision was cinematic long before that art form had been invented.

Opera had had its birth in the ducal courts of northern Italy in the late 16th century, and evolved there over the next century, moving from palaces into public theatres. Italian opera provided models for non-Italian composers; theatres in different countries were habitually designated ‘Italian Opera Houses’, and works were sung in the Italian language regardless of the nationality of the composer or librettist. That Verdi was heir to this tradition goes without saying, but so too was Wagner, in more ways than one. The desire of the Florentine musicians and poets - the so-called Camerata of Giovanni de’ Bardi - to recreate the drama of Greek theatre in which, they believed, music and poetry had been ideally combined, anticipated to a remarkable degree the aims of the young Richard Wagner. Although he came to the view that Italian opera in his day was neither treated nor taken seriously, there was a time when both he and Verdi seemed to be heading along the same path. Wagner’s admiration in the late 1830s for the works of Bellini and Rossini – composers also admired by Verdi – marked an undeniably Italianate phase of his development. One need only consider his early operas Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi, not to mention several unfinished projects, to find examples of this enthusiasm. Even Tristan und Isolde of 1859, Wagner’s most revolutionary score, has roots in Bellinian soil, as the composer freely admitted to Cosima in 1878: ‘My model was Romeo and Juliet [I Capuleti e i Montecchi, which he had conducted many times] nothing but duets!’ He also employed Bellini’s technique of melodic sequence, involving the repetition of a phrase at a higher or lower pitch, as can be heard towards the climax of the second act of Tristan.

Verdi bridled at suggestions in later life that his works were becoming ‘Wagnerian’ and, in a literal sense, he was right. However, he was happy to borrow ideas when these suited his purposes. The French critic Étienne Rouillé-Destranges went too far when he wrote in 1895 that ‘If Wagner had not existed, Verdi would certainly not have written Aida, Otello and Falstaff’.10 However, it is hard to believe that, for instance, the inverted arch form of the prelude to Aida, beginning and ending on high, pianissimo strings, does not owe something to the prelude to Lohengrin which Verdi had been studying at that time. He made a point of attending the Italian premiere of Lohengrin in Bologna on 19 November 1871 and made copious notes. One can recognize in Falstaff Verdi’s answer to Die Meistersinger whose score he had obtained in 1885. Meistersinger was given its Italian premiere at La Scala in 1889 when Falstaff was in the early stages of composition. Both works incorporate older musical forms with wonderful effect, and share similarities in the endings of their first acts.11

Political and military developments in their common birth year of 1813 had similar implications for both composers. By the beginning of the 19th century, the thousand-year-old Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, nominally ruled by Francis II of the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, was in serious decline and barely justified its name. A puff from Napoleon in 1806 blew the imperial house down, leaving the constituent kingdoms and principalities as targets for French military and cultural ambitions. Even Napoleon’s eventual defeat and abdication could not block out memories of a decade of major upheaval and uncertainty, memories that would fuel Wagner’s concern to rescue German cultural values.

Italy too had become fragmented and culturally weakened, being ruled variously by the Holy Roman Emperor, the Spanish Bourbons, the Papacy and sundry other governments. Again, Napoleon was to play a crucial role in unifying the peninsula under Bonapartist rule, thereby prompting the first stirrings of Italian national sentiment. The Congress of Vienna of 1814-15 was more concerned with restoring the status quo ante than meeting Italian aspirations, and so one imperial power replaced another.12 The views of Giuseppe Verdi were shaped by these experiences and he, as much as Richard Wagner, set about defending the integrity and traditions of his people.

Peter Bassett

Taken from: 1813 - Wagner and Verdi


1 Arnaldo Bonaventura, Un ricordo personale, in Marcello Conati ed. Encounters with Verdi, p. 283.
2 Anon. Verdi in Wien article in Neue Freie Presse, Vienna, in Conati, p. 109.
3 A. von Winterfeld Unterhaltungen in Verdis Tuskulum, in Conati, p. 147.
4 Arnaldo Bonaventura, op.cit. p. 284.
5 What he would have thought of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique and the compositions of the Second Viennese School can only be imagined.
6 Paul Fresnay, Verdi à Paris, in Conati, p. 168.
7 Felix Philippi was a journalist with the Berliner Tageblatt who visited Verdi in late 1898/ early 1899. Quoted in Conati op.cit. p. 329
8 The year in which he was rescued by the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria and entered into a relationship with Cosima von Bülow who would become his second wife. The autobiography, dictated to Cosima from 1865, was inspired by the King’s request to know more of the composer’s early life. It was printed in a small number of copies for ‘true and trusted friends’, and was only published more widely after Wagner’s death.
9 Quoted in Ronald Taylor, Richard Wagner, His Life, Art and Thought, p. 136.
10 Étienne Destranges, in Conati, p. 211.
11 See Julian Budden, Verdi, p. 304.
12 The German states were, by and large, spared this ignominy since they had been self-governing prior to Napoleon’s intervention. Saxony, Wagner’s homeland, was an exception, losing much of its territory to Prussia as punishment for siding with the French.

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Update: Wagner at 30. Peter Bassett responds

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 11 January 2013 | 11:16:00 pm

Update: It seems the debate is far from concluded as the Kaplan Collection have brought in the assistance of a specialist in facial recognition . More as we get it. In the mean time you can still vote in the Wagner Societies poll regarding this image by clicking here: The Kaplan Collection. Is it Richard Wagner?

Following publication of the Kaplen Collections response  to Peter Bassett's analysis of the Kaplan daguerreotype, we have just received the following from Peter: 

An answer to further claims about the Kaplan daguerreotype

In response to my observations on a daguerreotype which Albert Kaplan claims to be of Richard Wagner, Mr Kaplan has acknowledged that the daguerreotype in his possession could not have been prepared before the 1850s (in my view not before 1855, when Rudolph Turnau & Co commenced business in Hamburg). However, he now argues that his daguerreotype is a copy of an earlier daguerreotype prepared in Hamburg in 1844 when Wagner was in that city for several weeks during March/April. Following are my observations on this latest claim.

Is there any evidence that the Kaplan daguerreotype is a copy?

Daguerreotypes could only be copied by making another daguerreotype (or later, a photograph) of them. The original plate was a ‘one-off’. The initial report from expert examination was that ‘It is possible that the daguerreotype is a copy of a portrait made at an earlier date. … The technical quality of the daguerreotype is not very high. It is slightly out of focus, tonally flat, and overexposed. … The characteristics of this daguerreotype are commensurate with copy daguerreotype work.’ Subsequently, after the primary housing package was opened, it was determined that ‘no information was evident that would confirm that it is a copy’.

Is there any evidence that an earlier version of the portrait in the Kaplan daguerreotype was prepared in 1844 in Hamburg?

There is no evidence whatever that an earlier version of the portrait was prepared either in 1844 or in Hamburg or, for that matter, at any other time in any other city. It is a circular argument to say that the portrait was made in Hamburg in 1844 because Wagner was there at that time, and therefore it must be a portrait of Wagner.

What would be the implications for the orientation of a portrait of daguerreotyping a daguerreotype?

If the Kaplan daguerreotype is a copy of an earlier daguerreotype, it would have reversed the first one and therefore would have restored the actual appearance of the sitter as opposed to the mirror image of the first daguerreotype. In which case, we must assume that the sitter parted his hair on his right. Wagner parted his hair on his left as we can see from other portraits. It seems unlikely that a copy made in 1855 would have deliberately printed an image back to front if the advantage of the copy was to have restored the sitter’s actual appearance.

Did Wagner make any reference to having a daguerreotype portrait made when he was in Hamburg in 1844?

No. In his autobiography, Wagner records that during his time (alone) in Hamburg in 1844 he was pretty miserable - the city was still a mess after the fire of 1842, the Rienzi production was poor, the sky was gloomy and the weather wintery, he had constant colds and spent most of his time in his hotel room. Not exactly the cheery and healthy young man looking out of the daguerreotype.

Does the sitter resemble any of the known portraits of Wagner from the 1840s and ‘50s?

The answer continues to be ‘No’.

Peter Bassett

11 January 2013
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