Friday 28 June 2013

Will Bayreuth's 2016 Parsifal Director Now Have To Withdraw From The Festival?

"A swastika is a no-go, not only in Bayreuth. " Christian Thielemann talking about Yevgeny Nikitin's disputed tattoo last year.
Last year, Yevgeny Nikitin withdrew from Bayreuth's Dutchman due to media accusations that he had had a swastika tattoo,  now tattooed over,  when he was a child (there is some dispute as to whether the 16 year old Nikitin ever had this tattoo but let us stick with this version for now). When he withdrew from the performances it was after speaking to the Bayreuth management, who in interviews since have said they "understood his reasons and supported them". Indeed, as we have seen Christian Thielemann went further saying, "A swastika is a no-go, not only in Bayreuth". (Ed: Which of course is incorrect. The swastika has appeared at Bayreuth on many occasions both during and after the fall of the Third Reich. Although only on the stage after the Third Reich and relatively recently) But noted that Nikitin could return once he had the tattoo covered (although, as we have already noted, it was covered at the time of the incident - if indeed it ever existed). With that in mind, what are Bayreuth to make of the latest "antics" of its chosen 2016 Parsifal director: Jonathan Meese? Behaviour which will see him making a court appearance in Kassel in July for similar previous offences? We shall not bore you with an overview of the "controversial" German artist's career but will suggest anyone unaware might like to read this brief summary here and here

Thursday 27 June 2013

Jonas Kaufmann To Sing Siegfried

...And Tristan, and all of the other major Wagner Heldentenor roles it would seem.

If anyone was concerned that Kaufmann's first CD for his new record label Sony Classical - a  collection of Verdi arie -  meant he might be leaving the Wagner roles in which he is so welcome - and needed -  they need not worry. It seems not only does he have no intention of in someway "abandoning" Wagner, but in the future he intends to perform all of Wagner's major tenor roles.

"Currently I'm concentrating on Verdi" he told DPA,  "But I am determined to someday sing all the great Wagner tenor roles.  But I do not want to be pushed  too early into the Heldentenor role. My vocal development will lead me there naturally someday. 

And the difference between Wagner and Verdi?

"Wagner has written out everything down to the smallest detail. This leaves nothing to chance. Verdi, on the other hand, gave singers more freedom. It offers an arena in which you can indulge. What more could you want? "

Sunday 23 June 2013

The Ring Saga: A New Ring Cycle In Copenhagen - August 2013

The Ring Saga

Celebrating the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner 2013

Consisting entirely of Scandinavian singers

Der Ring des Nibelungen in Jonathan Dove & Graham Vick’s adaptation from 1990

Experience The Ring Saga in Christian’s Church (Christians kirke), Strandgade 1, Copenhagen K, Denmark (Google Maps).

Friday 16/8, 23/8, 30/8 at 19:00: Das Rheingold
Saturday 17/8, 24/8, 31/8 at 16:00: Die Walküre and at 20:00: Siegfried
Sunday 18/8, 25/8, 01/9 at 18:00: Götterdämmerung

Friday 21 June 2013

Anthony Negus To Take Over Melbourne Ring Cycle?

It seems that "strong" rumours are being whispered in Australia that LFO and WNO's Anthony Negus may take the presently, and so suddenly made, vacant podium to conduct the Melbourne Ring cycle.

Given that Opera Australia are very unlikely to get the other realistic option - Simone Young -  Negus' undisputed long experience of conducting Wagner and that he will have concluded LFO's Ring cycle on July 12, mean these rumours may not be as far fetched as they may seem  - even to an international circuit perhaps not that familiar with his Wagner.

It should also be noted, that as someone that worked with Goodall at WNO, has conducted Tristan, Das Rheingold, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung with the same house, and a complete Ring cycle with LFO, he maybe one of the few conductors with enough experience of Wagner's work to step in at such a late stage. It might also be noted that he has conducted concert performances of Parsifal already in Australia - Wellington with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He thus has some "local" experience.

OA have neither confirmed nor denied the rumours

Special Performance of Siegfried Idyll In London - 25% Off Tickets For Readers

Some-time ago, we brought to your attention a special performance of the Siegfried Idyll at Kings Place, London, on Friday 28 June at 8pm by Aurora Orchestra -  part of Wagner 200

Titled "The Gift", it provides a dramatized re-creation - written by Barry Millington - of the events surrounding the first performance of the Siegfried Idyll, together with performances of the Idyll and the Beethoven Septet (also played on that day at Haus Tribschen).

Henry Goodman  plays Richard Wagner  next to Harriet Walter's Cosima.

Sofia Opera's Ring Cycle at risk from Antisemitic, anti-Romany Nationalists?

According to the Sofia Globe, Sofia National Opera, has complained in an open letter to the media that the ultra-nationalist Ataka Party, is putting at risk their performance of the first full Ring cycle to be performed in the Balkans.,

Sofia Opera shares a building with the ultra-nationalist party Ataka and in the letter state that the Party's supporters have and continue to severely disrupt rehearsal:

"“Every day, Ataka’s political supporters siege the building, urinate in front of it, are extremely noisy and interfere with singers’ rehearsals,”

It goes on, “Our artists cannot reach their workplace and cannot make their way home afterward. The Opera is under siege and it is difficult for a regular person to enter.”

Sofia Opera's first Ring Cycle will however continue to go ahead beginning on 22 June.

More about Sofia Opera here

Thursday 20 June 2013

“Music of the Future, Music of the Past: Tannhäuser and Alceste at the Paris Opéra,”

Bayreuther Festspielen 1930.
Excerpt from William Gibbons, “Music of the Future, Music of the Past: Tannhäuser and Alceste at the Paris Opéra,” 19th Century Music 33 (2010): 228–42. Reprinted by kind permission of the author. Images added here by "The Wagnerian"

"The last revival of Alceste, still quite recent, took place on 21 October 1861, the memorable year that began with the resounding failure of Tannhäuser. The music of the future and that of the past confronted one another as if in a dueling arena, and the Past readily triumphed over the future, which it well and truly buried.i

–Paul Smith, La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, 14 October 1866

Aidan Lang Appointed As Seattle Opera's General Director

Aiden Lang
Aidan Lang will take over from Speight Jenkins as Seattle Opera's General Director in September 2014. Prior to that he will join the company in March 2014 to work together with Jenkins during the transition period.

Beginning immediately, Lang will be included in planning for the 2015/16 season, working towards his first fully programmed season in 2016/17.

Speight Jenkins will continue to oversee this years Seattle Ring cycle right through to 2014's International Wagner Competition, the 50th Anniversary Concert and Speight Celebration in August of that year

British born Lang, who has studied the clarinet since the age of 8, has 25 years experience in opera leadership, which has included 9 years as Principal Associate Director at Glyndebourne Festival OperaDirector of Productions for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, leadership roles at Buxton Festival and Opera Zuid. He has been general director of NBR NZ Opera since 2006.

It was as student at Birmingham University, reading Music and Drama, that he decided upon opera as a career, having studied the work of Welsh National Opera - with whom he then went on to work.

Lang was selected for the position of General Director out of 42 candidates from seven countries. He will relocate to Seattle with his wife of 23 years, the former soprano Linda Kitchen, and their 16-year-old daughter, Eleanor

Discussing his appointment at a company with a long association with Wagner's works (As does Lang. Perhaps most famously producing the first Ring cycle in Brazil.), Lang noted “Seattle is an international city known for both its leading edge technology and world-class arts institutions,. Seattle Opera is one of the world’s most respected opera companies and Speight Jenkins is, quite simply, a legend in our business. I am honored, energized, excited, and definitely humbled by the opportunity to lead the company in this next chapter. I want to thank John Nesholm and Bill Weyerhaeuser and the entire search committee, whose dedication to Seattle Opera was very inspiring to me as I considered this move. In the limited time I have already spent with the company, I sense already a lovely spirit of cooperation and collaboration amongst the staff, artists, chorus, musicians, and Board. I look forward very much to joining the Seattle Opera family.”

Announcing the appointment, John Nesholm, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the search committee, I want to welcome Aidan Lang to Seattle Opera. All of us are extremely confident that Aidan is the right choice to lead the Company into a new era, building on the incredible artistic successes of predecessors Speight Jenkins and Glynn Ross. Aidan’s exciting combination of artistic, theatrical and business experience, matched with the enormous potential of our company and its people, suggest a very exciting future for Seattle Opera.”

Welcoming his successor Speight Jenkins said, “Seattle Opera has been my life for the last thirty years. As we head into the 50th Anniversary season, my focus will be on the future – working closely with Aidan to transfer leadership of Seattle Opera in a seamless manner. I commend the search committee on their hard work and excellent decision. I embrace and celebrate their choice. I know that Aidan’s breadth and depth of experience, from the artistic to the business side of leadership, will be an unbeatable combination and an invaluable asset to Seattle Opera going forward.”

Photo: Rick Dahms

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Richard Wagner: The Musical, The Trailer?

It's either this or Frank Castorf's new Ring cycle. You decide.

The Berlin choreographer, award-winning dancer and artistic director of the Berlin State School of Ballet Gregor Seyffert is staging a cross-genre "spectacle" with a combination of dance, artistry, object theatre, audiovisual media and a live concert that will "...enable audiences to experience the oeuvre of Richard Wagner". The focus is not on individual works or dramas but on visual presentation of the unique life and work of Richard Wagner, presented on stage in this form for the very first time.

To stage the theme and Wagner's biography in a contemporary way,Gregor Seyffert wants to create new musical highlights by bringing today's popular rock music together with compositions by Richard Wagner. A contemporary equivalent is created by the compositions of the Finnish cello-rock band APOCALYPTICA, which with its unmistakable sound provides a bridge to modern popular music  Both the influence of Wagner's musical legacy as well as the exemplary innovativeness "...which links Richard Wagner and APOCALYPTICA today will be made tangible".

A magical universe of mythical figures and acoustic worlds is created, which with the help of today's visual genres of circus, dance and media technology symbolize Wagner's pioneering role and the boundlessness of his creative work. Mobile and moveable objects give the performance the same visual dimensions and force as the standards that Wagner's music itself set.

The world premiere of "Wagner Reloaded - Apocalyptica Meets Wagner" will take place on July 5 at the Arena in Leipzig, Germany.

More Here

Sunday 16 June 2013

Mini Review: P. Craig Russell's The Ring of the Nibelung

"The comic-book artist P. Craig Russell sees the "Ring" as a crucial evolutionary step in the development of superheroes as we know them today. "I think it's a continuum -- from Ulysses to Wotan to Superman,"  LA Times: 2011

"Russell, whose recent credits include "Hellboy" and "Coraline," penned his own comic-book version of the "Ring," a two-volume series published in 2002 by Dark Horse Comics that he considers the most personal project of his career. An opera fan, he has even spoken to gatherings of so-called Ring Nuts, extreme fans of the "Ring" cycle. "It's almost like going to a comic book convention -- you see the same faces," LA Times: 2011

Comic books (arguably a poor term anyway, but familiar to most)  are a part of the narrative - or otherwise - arts sadly much maligned outside of the odd "intellectual" who may whisper quietly about their presence among their collections, but keep them well out of sight of prying eyes. Perhaps hidden behind rather attractive editions  of Kant, Voltaire, Shelley, Shakespeare, or Goethe but most likely read as much - if not more.  Now, why this is is another matter and one I have never been able to find adequately answered. In the UK, especially for a certain generation, it seems in part, to be because the word "comic book", is closely associated with publications such as "The Dandy" or "Beano". And indeed, the most hardened "fan" would struggle to find intellectual depth in either (although the odd sociologist or anthropologist might find much about "class status",  "economic power relationships" and the subversion there of) . In the USA things are a tad different but hardly much. Superman, Batman, JLA, Spider-man, etc reign supreme. These are often comic books that seem to contain little more than the most basic narratives of "good over evil", semi pornographic  "super heroes" (Poor old Red Sonja. No matter the feeble justification for her "bikini") and simplified heroic journeys (although again, there seems to be little narrative fiction that contains much else - despite how much some would like to hid it.). And again there is some truth in this "stereotype" with the number of artists and writers writing in the mainstream genre who are willing or indeed able to subvert it being small (Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Dwayne McDuffie etc being a few of the exceptions).

Thursday 13 June 2013

Trailer: The National Theater Mannheim Ring Cycle or: A Ring In 2 Minutes

One assumes your reaction to this will depend on how much, or not, you liked Achim Freyer's  LA Ring cycle

Wednesday 12 June 2013

20 Wagner Related Desert Island Discs.

Chosen either because of their direct connection to Wagner  or because they somehow interest us and included Wagner in their Desert Island Discs.  In all cases, the full show is available with the music included. Average running time, 45 minutes.  Clicking any of the links or the play icon will start that show. For our readers that subscribe via RSS or email, the links may or may not work. If they do not, visiting the site here directly should resolve the matter.  Enjoy.

The BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs was first broadcast on 29 January 1942 and continues to broadcast. It invites "castaways" to choose eight pieces of music, a book (in addition to the Bible - or a religious text appropriate to that person's beliefs - and the Complete Works of Shakespeare) and a luxury item that they would take to an imaginary desert island, where they will be marooned indefinitely. The rules state that the chosen luxury item must not be anything animate or indeed anything that enables the castaway to escape from the island, for instance a radio set, sailing yacht or aeroplane.

Colin Dexter. Feb 1998

Linda Esther Gray. 1983

Norman Bailey. October 1976

Joanna Lumley. May 2007

Sir Charles Mackerras. March 1999

Sir Clifford Curzon. June 1978

Claudio Abbado Feb 1980.

Reginald Goodall. Jan 1980

Colin Wilson. Oct 1978

Robert Tear.. May 1980 (28 minute clip only)

Kiri Te Kanawa. march 1980

Renata Scotto. Aug 1980

John Tomlinson. Jan 1988

Christopher Lee. 1995

Klaus Tennstedt. 1991

Stephen Fry 1988

Rosalind Plowright, May 1984

Gwyneth Jones.. Jan 1983

Sir Thomas Allen.. June 2001

Claudio Abbado. Feb 1980

The Full BBC Desert Island Archive Can Searched By Clicking Here

Listen Complete: Lotte Lehmann on Desert Island Discs - 1959

The BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs was first broadcast on 29 January 1942 and continues to broadcast. It invites "castaways" to choose eight pieces of music, a book (in addition to the Bible - or a religious text appropriate to that person's beliefs - and the Complete Works of Shakespeare) and a luxury item that they would take to an imaginary desert island, where they will be marooned indefinitely. The rules state that the chosen luxury item must not be anything animate or indeed anything that enables the castaway to escape from the island, for instance a radio set, sailing yacht or aeroplane.

On Monday, 22 Jun 1959 Lotte Lehmann was the "castaway. Unfortunately the music was not archived but this still is fascinating - really fascinating. If you can't wait to hear what she chose you can find a full list below. And if you have Spotify we have attempted to find as many of the exact pieces she selected and put them in the playlist at the bottom of the page.

Music Played

Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Overture
Orchestra: NBC Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Arturo Toscanini

Gustav Mahler Um Mitternacht (from Rückert-Lieder)
Soloist: Kathleen Ferrier Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Bruno Walter

Richard Strauss Freundliche Vision, Op. 48/1

Soloist: Elisabeth Schumann, Ivor Newton

Hugo Wolf Sterb' ich, so hüllt in Blumen (frm Italian Songbook)
Soloist: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hertha Klust

Henri Duparc Sérénade florentine
Soloist: Gerard Souzay, Jacqueline Bonneau

Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor 
Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Franz Schalk

Lotte Lehmann
Wien, du Stadt Meinen Träume

Richard Strauss Marie Theres'! Hab' mir's gelobt (Act 3 Trio) (from Der Rosenkavalier)
Soloist: Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schumann, Maria Olszewska Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Robert Heger

Tuesday 11 June 2013

New CD: Pape, Hampson, Skelton, Domingo and more sing - John Denver?

Bet you thought you'd never see a John Denver CD here? Well, frankly neither did we but it shows the sort of horrors we go to to provide as much Wagner related news as possible.  And look at it this way, Birgit Nilsson selected her own rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night on Desert Island Discs (By, the way, only 8 minutes of her appearance on Desert Island Discs in 1963 exist. If you would like to hear it click here)

Music producer, Milt Okun along with composer Lee Holdridge are bringing some of the most famous names in opera to John Denver's famous hit songs on the new album "Great Voices Sing John Denver". In stores today, the album features: Placido Domingo,Placido Domingo Jr., Rod Gilfry, Daniel Montenegro, Shenyang, Danielle de Niese, Rene Pape, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Denyce Graves, Dolora Zajick, Stuart Skelton, Barbara Padilla, Matthew Polenzani and Nathan Gunn.

About Milt Okun:

Milt Okun has worked with world-renowned Placido Domingo, was the conductor for Harry Belafonte, and was the man who brought John Denver to stardom and produced his most loved hits. Okun is also known for transforming three unknown singers who had never worked together into one of the most successful musical acts of their generation, Peter, Paul and Mary. He also founded Cherry Lane Music, the music publishing company for Elvis and DreamWorks among many other household names.

Undisputedly lauded as the man who ensured that John Denver became a household name with such hits as "Rocky Mountain High" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders," Okun also produced and arranged Denver's "Christmas" album and collaborated with Denver on two albums with the Muppets. "Christmas Together" went PLATINUM and GOLD. Okun also served as executive producer for "Rocky Mountain Holiday." It was after this collaboration that a critic famously wrote, "Of all major producers, Okun has the widest range – from Placido Domingo to the Muppets (Ed: Ok...)."

Producers: Milt Okun, Rosemary Okun, Elisa Justice
Executive Producers: Peter Primont, Mark Shimmel
Arranged and Conducted by Lee Holdridge
Orchestra Contractor: Frank Capp
Orchestra Recorded at Capitol Studios Los Angeles

WNO, Wagner Dream: Review Summary

It must be said that when Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream was premiered in 2007, a more than interesting soundscape, and dramatic idea, together with a wonderful production  was somewhat marred by what might be kindly described as an "naive" libretto. Not the overall narrative  but the dialogue -  if that is not too oxymoronic a thought. More than occasionally the dialogue - it is both sung and spoken - simply jars in its banality. I always thought that if one could surmount this fact the work overall would do Harvey's musical and narrative ideas much more justice. So, when, WNO announced that it was to have the libretto rewritten - German for the German characters and in Pali for the  Buddhist ones - it seemed like more than a wise and intriguing idea. This is especially so when the Pali is not just a direct translation  (probably impossible given the age and disuse of the language) but a direct re-write in places that removed its "idiosyncrasies".  But does this "work" or indeed improve  the production overall? Sadly, as is often the case for "modern works" performed anywhere but London, there are fewer reviews than we would like to have chosen from. However, given how uniform their thoughts are perhaps this makes them more representative of the production over all?.


According to John Allison in the Telegraph  the new translation more than works. As he notes: "Now, with Welsh National Opera giving the work its first British staging, those "Would you like a bowl of tea" lines are disguised by the decision to translate the Buddhist part of the drama into Pali – the almost-lost language of the Buddha himself – and to render the Wagner household conversations into German. Like the seemingly perverse but ultimately poetic use of Sanskrit in Glass's Satyagraha, this move is very effective in the context of a piece imaginatively exploring what Wagner's projected opera on a Buddhist legend might have been like".

Not noting it as improvement (indeed he does no comment on the original) Stephen Walsh at The "Arts Desk" found: "...the Sieger drama is sung in Pali, the language of the Buddha himself. The sense of distance, of unworldly remoteness, is total. The vocal setting of this almost-lost language kept reminding me of Stravinsky’s Abraham and Isaac, with its text in Hebrew, a language of which Stravinsky knew not one syllable but which he set with a haunting sense of its ritual significance."

Rian Evans at the Guardian, while again not commenting on the original English libretto noted less enthusiasm for the new translation saying that it is "...intended to heighten the sense of cultural dialogue, but is a costly gesture and effectively lost in the translation."


Having looked than at the new translation what of Harvey's score? John Alison notes "...a score that takes us into visionary realms, mixing orchestra and live electronics to summon up both shadowy hints of Wagner's sound world and something more exotic", summarising Wagner Dream as "...Jonathan Harvey's hauntingly beautiful opera.

At the Arts Desk Stephen Walsh goes on, "To describe in detail the many levels of Harvey’s score would take a much longer review than this. Both musically and dramaturgically the opera is a palimpsest: layer on layer, from Harvey’s own culminating work and death, down through Wagner’s, and on into the virtual world of the Buddha and the hidden reality of Schopenhauer’s noumenon... To achieve this “travel”, Harvey worked in the studios at IRCAM in Paris, and for once the electronics have a delicacy and a magically spaced-out quality (in both senses) that fully justify what has often in the past been little more than an arid concession to the god technology. But Harvey’s scoring for conventional instruments is no less exquisite, and only occasionally lapses into telly-ad tinkly orientalism. He applies different styles to the dramatic levels: a kind of frenzied modernism for the real-life elements, a more placid, lucid, but none the less angular manner for the human drama of the Sieger play, and an altogether simpler, more serene quasi-tonal line and harmony for the Buddha and his followers.

At Bachtrack Paul Kilbey, is no less admiring for Harvey's sound-scape, " Not that the Buddhist opera sounds anything like Wagner – it’s an irony of Harvey’s music, presumably very deliberate, that the scenes in the Wagner household have a more Wagnerian harmonic soundscape than the opera he is meant to imagine. The Buddhist scenes are a vision of transcendence, something maybe just beyond Wagner’s reach.

But Harvey’s score is an astonishing, transcendent thing. The electronics meld assuredly with the live orchestra and are often made to function as evocations of the beyond; the sounds produced live, though, are no less compelling.

The scoring during the spoken scenes is a marvel of subtlety – too much so at the opening, in fact, where the actors’ booming tones overpower the soft musical backing – and the Buddhist music is beautiful, with one foot in pentatonicism and the other in brilliant, Stockhausen-esque mysticism."


The praise for Pierre Audi's production remain uniform. A selection would include John Allison who said, " In designs by Jean Kalman, Pierre Audi's production is simplicity itself, mixing austerity with the colours of India yet clearly delineating the two worlds that meet here: a visually seductive framework for this important modern opera"

This is reiterated by Stephen Walsh, "Audi’s production (first seen in Luxembourg in 2007) is simple but multi-planed, subtly stage-managed, beautifully lit (by Jean Kalman): it matches and clarifies the music’s virtues to perfection."

Rian Evans  goes even further, "Visually stunning and beautifully lit, the brilliant jewel colours of India mingle with the yellow and gold of the Buddhists, as seductive to the eye as Harvey's exquisite sounds are to the ear, the ring of fire a decidedly Wagnerian touch. Yet director Pierre Audi brings a clarity that has the two narrative strands unfold on different levels and periodically merge; a black Corbusier-curved chaise longue permits the silken-robed Wagner, even in his agony, to be the reclining Buddha of western music."

And finally, Phil Kilbey who find appropriately, "...director Pierre Audi’s sensitive but conceptually bold production, and the essential impression is of a dramatic multimedia artwork, which happens to crucially involve music – something of a Gesamtkunstwerk, perhaps."


John Allison, "His own Buddhist preoccupations inspired a score that takes us into visionary realms, mixing orchestra and live electronics to summon up both shadowy hints of Wagner's sound world and something more exotic, and at WNO Nicholas Collon mixes them with a fluid baton to produce pure Harvey. Harvey's singer-friendly lines encourage a number of subtle characterisations, not least from Claire Booth on her journey to enlightenment as Pakati. Richard Wiegold sings with compassionate warmth as Vairochana, who becomes Wagner's spiritual guide. Gerhard Brössner's tortured Wagner heads the non-singing cast"

Stephen Walsh, "The cast could hardly be bettered. Claire Booth is superb as the young untouchable Pakati, who through her love for the monk Ananda (Robin Tritschler) persuades the Buddha (David Stout) to admit her to his order, previously closed to women. There is an obvious parallel here with The Magic Flute, and the same vocal contrast in the male roles, beautifully presented by these two singers. Richard Angas is impressive as the crotchety Old Brahmin, who naturally opposes this outrage against nature and tradition. Richard Wiegold is excellent as the stately Vairochana, Rebecca De Pont Davies no less so as Pakati’s vibrant, perhaps too youthful Mother, who is herself received along with her daughter." 

Paul Kilbey, "The cast – both casts – excel. Actors Gerhard Brössner and Karin Giegerich are an appropriately unlovable Richard and Cosima, Richard unreasonable, capricious and pained; Cosima severe and hurt, but dutiful. Their very different counterparts Ananda (Robin Tritschler) and Pakati (Claire Booth) convince, with Booth relishing the opera’s most attractive, colourful vocal writing. Richard Wiegold brings grace and calmness to the role of Variochana, Wagner’s personal Buddha who guides him through his final moments; the Buddha himself, David Stout, radiates strength and warmth, both vocal and spiritual. Richard Angas as the old Brahmin sings well, but the character is weak:"

Rian Evans, "The singing is uniformly good: Claire Booth's gorgeous-toned Pakati is exceptional, with David Stout's Buddha full of compassion, and Nicholas Collon conducts the blue-clad musicians with authority"

Tannhauser: Melchior Flagstad Janssen Thorborg Leinsdorf

Our editor makes a lucky find on youtube and feels like sharing. We promise you will not hear more from him for sometime.

Presently  reading volume 2 of  Paul Dawson-Bowling's The Wagner Experience  (An unusual book. Expect a review shortly). His chapter on Tannhauser has rekindled a long fascination with this work  once more. So much so, that I have been listening and watching a number of performances - including the 1942 Melchior, Flagstad, Janssen, Thorborg. Imagine my surprise  to find the entire recording just a moment ago on youtube. As far as I are aware this should no longer be in copyright in much, if not all of the world.

If so, it should be available to listen to in your country via youtube by clicking the link below. If not, being out of copyright, means that many different recording companies have released versions of it in various different "remasters". You should be able to find one relatively cheaply. Indeed, it is recommended that you do should you get the chance.


Sunday 9 June 2013

Opera Australia Remain Confident Of "Ringing" Success

Lyndon Terracini.finds a use for spam emails?

Talking this week about recent events, Opera Australia's Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini has said the he has received about 50 emails from conductors and agents touting their availability and readiness to replace conductor Richard Mills to lead the Melbourne Ring cycle. While perhaps rightly not responding to all of these emails, it appears he is now in discussion with two or three and an announcement will be made in the next few weeks. Indeed, so confident is he that he firmly declares he is "Not worried at all".

However, while you wait, according to Terracini you can rule out one name from a list of possible candidates for it seems that Asher Fisch (who could theoretically be available), has, for some reason, not made the shortlist.  He has however, not ruled out one other conductor who might just be able to pull this off (and one whom we would be happy to see at the helm): Simone Young. But as outsiders,  it is difficult to see how she might fit it in with her existing schedule. And whether she would want to return to a company who so surprisingly decided not to renew her contract 10 years ago is another factor.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Editorial: Why Greek Opera Should Not Be Alone In Giving Wagner To The Unemployed

Warrant for the arrest of Richard Wagner.16 May 1849
"The Wagnerian" "does not do politics". In part because of the variety of our readers political persuasions, in part because so many others seem to do little else,  and in part because few people would understand the editorial staffs own such thoughts - if indeed they do themselves. However, the recent decision by Greek National Opera to open up the ancient Atticus Theatre to a free performance of Wagner's Dutchman to 1500 unemployed people has re-ignited our editors thoughts about similar matters. We suggest that regular readers, with no such interest in these things,  ignore it all completely and pass quickly on

For a variety of reasons, I live between a number of different and diverse locals. Yesterday, while walking through one (it was after all, a nowadays rare British sunny day) , I noticed a long queue of people waiting outside of a local community hall. If you are unfamiliar: these litter the UK's "inner-cities" and "council estates".  Always at the verge of being closed down, (as local councils, of all political persuasions, attempt to divert money to far more important things - such as "fact finding" missions to the USA to help decide the design of the latest insanely funded , morally corrupt, fiscally restraining and illogical  PFI ) these centres provide amenities to some of the poorest members of society. The "old", the sick, the unemployed, children - need I go on?   Looking across, I noted that this not in substantive queue was for an ever growing area of need for these centres: a foodbank. Again, for the unfamiliar, foodbanks are run by charitable organisations and  provide free, donated, food to the poor and unemployed.  That such things are needed in what is still a relatively "wealthy" country (no matter how under or over  manipulated that wealth perception might be in these strange times) is perhaps a salient reminder of how far many societies have fallen. That such foodbanks need to exist at all is perhaps bad enough, that in many cases they are so overwhelmed with visitors that they are having to "ration" the food they provide even more so.


Anyway, given this, it might seem a trivial or unimportant matter that we, or the Greeks,  should concentrate on providing a free performance of a nearly 200 year old opera. And indeed, food, shelter, safety,  etc is of paramount importance.  However, the fact that the performance was filled would suggest this is  far from the case. And indeed, why should the arts, especially the most expensive of all, not be made available to the unemployed or the very poor?

As Greece's National Opera’s Artistic Director, explained  “We decided that during these hard times, we cannot shy away from the real problems our society is facing. So through a series of artistic events held in various spaces, we are bringing opera to a wider audience because we believe that it is a type of entertainment people appreciate. And that is why we are holding this event today.”

Or as an unemployed school-teacher at the performance noted: “I think this is a great idea not only because so many people wanted to see this production, but also because the economic situation in the country means many would never have been able to. It is a good opportunity for people to forget their troubles.”

It would nevertheless seem surprising (if fitting given the influence that Greek art had on Wagner) that it is in Greece, a European country struggling more than many in repaying their private banks debts,  that an arts institute has managed to put on performances of Wagner's work for free for its poorest members (an action, it is without doubt, of which Wagner would have approved -  and indeed encouraged) but not elsewhere. Few other arts institutions are undergoing the sort of cuts in public and private funding that those in Greece are and yet those that are the biggest recipients of public and private money stay specially quiet about the matter -  a few "cheap seats" with limited views, weak acoustic properties and the need for those using them to not suffer acrophobia aside (The Ring and Wagner concerts at the Proms are a very different matter and should be applauded. Although in these times of ever increasing cuts in welfare benefits even £5 pound spent on a ticket can be the difference between eating for a day or not.).

Yet not one, that I can recall, either publicly, or  otherwise, funded opera house across Europe has taken such a measure. And that Bayreuth has not seems a very obvious fact. Strangely,  this might be less to do, in some circumstances, with money or funding then you might think.  For example, recently somewhere in the world,  one, none publicly funded house, noted that it had rejected a substantial public grant because it did not have the "resources" to attract the unemployed to its Wagner performances.Which suggests that in some instances that while the money may be available the will is not.

In times such as this, art, especially art intended to be as transformative as Wagner's clearly is, maybe even more important then is normally the case.   As on unemployed Greek attendee at Greek National Opera's free Dutchman put it: “In this crisis, at the very least, cultural events must be made available to the people. It is only through culture that the people will be able to rise again.”


Thursday 6 June 2013

Annette Dasch To Perform Wesendonck Lieder. Middle Temple Hall. London. September

On September 23rd, Annette Dasch is coming to Middle Temple Hall to give a Temple Song recital. The highlight of this recital will be Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

Annette Dasch has sung Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival and in June 2013 she will make her debut performance as Eva in Meistersinger von Nürenberg at the Budapest Festival before returning to the Bayreuth Festival as Elsa once again.

More by clicking here: The Temple Music 

Full Program:

Robert Schumann (1810- 1856)

12 Lieder op 35 nach Gedichten von Justinus Kerner (1786- 1862)

Lust der Sturmnacht

Stirb, Lieb und Freud


Erstes Grün

Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend

Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes


Stille Liebe


Stille Tränen

Wer machte dich so krank?

Alte Laute

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)

Heinrich Heine (1797- 1856)

Auf Flügeln des Gesanges op 34 Nr 2

Gruß op 19 Nr 5

Morgengruß op 47 Nr 2

Reiselied op 34 Nr 6

Allnächtlich im Traume op 86 Nr 4

Neue Liebe op 19 Nr 4

Richard Wagner (1813- 1883)

Mathilde Wesendonck (1828-1902)

Der Engel

Stehe still

Im Treibhaus



Wednesday 5 June 2013

Opera Australia's Ring in Melbourne loses its conductor. Nessun dorma?

Richard Mills, taking a backseat?
In a very odd turn of events , Richard Mills has decided to quit as conductor of Opera Australia's high profile, and sold out, Ring cycle in Melbourne - due to premiere in just five months time.

And  why has he decided to leave the $15 million, Neil Armfield production of  the Ring - to be broadcast live and internationally on Australian radio's Classic FM? According to Mills, who has only ever conducted one other large scale Wagner work (a concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in 2005) it was due to lack of  "vibrancy and character." in " the chemistry between cast and conductor".  He went on, "Unfortunately the necessary unity of vision for this piece on this occasion was not achieved".

Therefore in the interests of an outstanding cast and production, and after a great deal of thought, I have decided to withdraw. I have been completely supported by the team at Opera Australia at all times and this decision is mine alone. I wish the project the great success I am sure it will achieve as a landmark event in the history of opera in Australia.”

No new conductor has yet to be announced and given the short time spans involved and the fact that most, if not all, of the leading Wagner conductors will be engaged elsewhere,  we would suspect that things are rather "hectic" at Opera Australia even as we type.  Indeed, given the time difference, perhaps a Puccini aria might be appropriate about now:

"Wagner and the Jews". By Daniel Barenboim

"Another taboo that continues to be maintained in Israel is the performance of Wagner’s works within the country. To this I must say that the rumor that my performance in 2001 with the Staatskapelle Berlin of the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde caused a sensation is a myth that has now, more than ten years later, become established in many people’s minds. The pieces were played as an encore following a forty-minute discussion with the audience. I suggested to the people who wanted to leave that they do so. Only twenty to thirty people who did not want to hear Wagner’s music left the hall. The remainder applauded the orchestra so enthusiastically that I had the feeling we had done something positive."

"Whoever wants to see a repulsive attack on Jews in Wagner’s operas can of course do so. But is it really justified? Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, for example, who might be suspected of being a Jewish parody, was a state scribe in the year 1500, a position that was unavailable to Jews. As far as I am concerned, if Beckmesser’s awkward melodies resemble synagogue chant, then this is a parody of Jewish song and not a racist attack. One can of course also raise the question of taste in this matter. "

"When one continues to uphold the Wagner taboo today in Israel, it means, in a certain respect, that we are giving Hitler the last word, that we are acknowledging that Wagner was indeed a prophet and predecessor of Nazi anti-Semitism, and that he can be held accountable, even if only indirectly, for the final solution."

Perhaps no other composer in history sought to combine such obviously incompatible elements in his works. The qualities that make Richard Wagner’s supporters so enthusiastic are often the same ones that repel his opponents, such as his tendency toward extremes in every aspect of composition. Although he stretched the limits of harmony and operatic form to the breaking point, the realization of his musical concepts always remained exceedingly economical. Paradoxically, this very economy defines the incomparable dimension of his structures. Perhaps he found it necessary to make especially frugal use of certain individual elements in order to make the effect of the Gesamtkunstwerk—the total work of art—even greater and more unexpected.
A good example of Wagner’s economy can be found at the beginning of the first act of Die Walküre, in which a wild storm rages. Even Beethoven made use of all the orchestral instruments in the storm in his Sixth Symphony, and given the instrumentation available to Wagner, one could assume that his storm would take on even grander proportions.

Instead, however, he allows only the strings to unfurl the full force of the storm; the result is a far more direct, naked, and compact sound than a full Wagnerian orchestra with brass and timpani would have produced. It is the precision of Wagner’s directions in the dynamic structuring of his scores that brings out the emotionality of the music. Wagner was the first composer to very consciously calculate and demand the speed of dynamic developments. When he wants to achieve a climax, he generally applies one of two techniques: either he lets a crescendo grow gradually and organically, or he lets the same musical material swell two or three times in order to let it explode the third or fourth time.

In Wagner’s operas, there are frequent cases in which the musical material swells up and down in two bars the first time it appears. The second time Wagner allows the same material to grow for two bars with a subito piano—sudden quiet—immediately afterward. Only the third time is there a climax after four bars of crescendo. A mathematical equation therefore gives rise to sensuality and fervor. It is his skillful intellectual calculation that creates the impression of spontaneity and purely emotional sensation.

Another characteristic of Wagner’s musical uniqueness can be observed in the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, in the continuation of the famous “Tristan chord” at the beginning of the opera. A composer with less genius and with a poorer understanding of the mystery of music would assume that he must resolve the tension he has created. It is precisely the sensation caused by an only partial resolution, though, that allows Wagner to create more and more ambiguity and more and more tension as this process continues; each unresolved chord is a new beginning.

Wagner’s music is often complex, sometimes simple, but never complicated. It is a subtle difference, but complication, in this sense, implies among other meanings the use of unnecessary mechanisms or techniques that could potentially obfuscate the meaning of the music. These are not present in Wagner’s work. Complexity, on the other hand, is always represented in Wagner’s music by multidimensionality. That is, the music is always made up of many layers that may be individually simple but that constitute a complex construction when taken together. When he transforms a theme or adds something to it, it is always in the sense of multidimensionality. The individual transformations are sometimes simple but never primitive. In other words, his complexity is always a means and never a goal in itself. It is also always paradoxical, since its effect can be intensely emotional, even staggeringly so. In his literary work Opera and Drama Wagner wrote:

In the Drama, we must become knowers through the Feeling. The Understanding tells us: “So is it,”—only when the Feeling has told us: “So must it be.”

I find it all the more important to do away with certain misunderstandings and false claims about Wagner precisely because perceptions of him are often so confused and controversial. Here I also want to discuss extramusical sides of Wagner’s personality, and among these are of course his notorious and unacceptable anti-Semitic statements.

Bank Of Latvia Release Richard Wagner Silver Coin

"The auditorium of the old Stadttheater ...was a pretty gloomy place. A native of Riga (who later) compared it to a "barn" (while in) conversation with Wagner asked him how he had been able to conduct there. Wagner replied there were three things about this "barn" (that) had stayed in his mind: First was the steeply rising stalls, rather like an amphitheatre; the second was the darkness of the auditorium; and the third was the surprisingly deep orchestra pit. If ever he succeded in building a theatre to his own designs, he added, he would keep these three features in mind" C.F. Glasenapp: Das Leben Richard Wagner (1894-1911)

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Lecture: Wagner 200. Dr Paul Coones. The Bodleian, Oxford

A video lecture by lecturer and conductor Dr Paul Coones  celebrating the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner. The talk is preceded by Siegried's Horn Call played by Sophie Dillon and includes the rarely performed Kinder-Katechismus zu Kosel's Geburtstag. To Listen simply click the play button here,Wagner 200: or click this link

Alternatively, download either the audio or video podcast here

Monday 3 June 2013

Why No Love For Wagner In The USA? Alex Ross Ponders

As a writer who likes the work of Wagner in the USA, is Alex Ross on his own?
“One hundred years ago there was an enormous fad for Wagner in this country"

“We’re not going to forget about the Nazi association, but I think we can have a richer and more nuanced sense of the enormous impact that Wagner had.”

During a  discussion on PRI radio, Alex Ross examines the curious lack of Wagner celebrations, events or performances during his 200 birthday in the USA.

This is probably of greater surprise when one compares it with the abundance of  Wagner celebrations that are still far from complete in the UK - and will continue right through till the end of the year.

As Ross notes - an argument easily supported by a quick look through our recent publication "A Wagnerian Scrapbook"  - for the first 100 years and beyond, the USA media and public seemed to concentrate on nothing but Wagner.

So what has happened? Considering that more than 60 percent of our total readership comes from the US we thought you might like to listen to Alex Ross for a possible answer: Alex Ross, Richard Wagner and the USA: Click the play button or here to listen

To view the full item visit: Richard Wagner's 200th birthday passes with little notice in the U.S.

British Library Puts Wagner's Early Original Manuscripts Online

From MS 119 – pencil doodlings on the name Wagner.

To mark Wagner 200, the British Library have made available online its entire collection of Wagner manuscripts, mostly from early on in his career. The earliest work included is Wagner's original draft of the piano score of the orchestral Overture in E minor, composed when Wagner was only 18 years old.  Indeed, anyone with any interest in Wagner will find much to enjoy here. Including, for example, a  draft of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (click to listen) (1834) with, crossings out by Wagner in red ink. And the original MS of Wagner's  " Rule Britannia Overture" (click to listen)

Apparently most of the MS's were originally collected by Leopold, Graf von Thun und Hohenstein,  Austrian minister for culture. They were then bought by the collector Albert Cohn, in 1887 and in-turn by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig in 1937. His entire collection of musical, literary and historical autographs was then presented to the British Library by his heirs in 1986. The present digital archiving of these works is the result of a project by the Derek Butler Trust to make all of the manuscripts freely available online.

All of them can be accessed freely online and without registration at the British Library archives.  For more detailed information about what is available and their history please visit the British Libraries blog by clicking here. 

Below, are a few interesting examples of what you might find:

From MS 119 – draft of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (1834), crossings out by Wagner in red ink.

MS 100: 1832, Complete draft in short score

Audio: WNO Lohengrin's creative team in conversation with Tom Service

Recorded at the Hay Festival the day after WNO's new Lohengrin premiere: Director Antony McDonald, Associate Director Helen Cooper and Peter Wedd in discussion with Tom Service about Wagner's "last opera"  Click To Listen Here

Running time 34 minutes. To listen or download the podcast at its source  Click Here