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First Look: Stefan Herheim's Meistersinger. Its A Load Of Cobblers

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 31 July 2013 | 5:24:00 am

A first look at Stefan Herheim's eagerly awaited, Salzburg Festival, Meistersinger:

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Oh Frank What have you done: fellatio, walkouts, machine guns and boos?

Critics and the present day Bayreuth audience are a fickle bunch it would seem. You see, despite the odd boo and some reports to the contrary, Frank Castorf's new Bayreuth Ring cycle had been, at least up until Siegfried, received positively. Critics and audience members especially seemed not to mind as Castorf turned Das Rheingold into a comic soap opera. But all of that changed with the third act of Siegfried. It seems that while people do not mind the Ring as sitcom they do not want copulating alligators, machine guns and Erda conducting fellatio on Wotan.

Indeed, according to the German press, not only did this lead to much booing, and a few members of the audience walking out, but so shocked by the killing of Fafner with a rather loud machine gun, that one unfortunate audience member collapsed - we assume not because of "positive swooning" - and needed to be carried out of the theatre.

We await with interest the final instalment - especially as any renewal of the Wagner's contracts as Directors  may rely heavily on this cycle being an overall success.

Our advice to Frank? It seems you should just carry on making the Ring a...well "Carry on Ringing"
People seem to love it. Might we suggest the following as research?

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Missed A Bayreuth 2013 Live Broadcast? Then Listen to them here - while you can

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 30 July 2013 | 7:45:00 pm

Castorf's Rheingold 2013

We normally leave this till all of the performances have been broadcast but demand this year has been so great that we feel it is necessary to add this as they are broadcast. And with that in mind:

Each drama has been (or will be depending on when you read this) broadcast live by Bartok Radio. In addition - and very luckily for us - Bartok make past broadcasts available in their archive for a few weeks following a broadcast.  We cannot guarantee how long they will remain available so suggest you catch them when you can.  We will add more as they are broadcast.

Go the opera you want below, click Listen Now and it will take you to the correct Bartok page. You will then need to click the play icon on the right of the time noted below (If the dram has already begun this will allow you to listen to it from the beginning. Proceeded by a brief introduction in Hungarian);

Der fliegende Holländer: performed 25/07/2013 - Click here and then play at 17.55 To listen


Das Rheingold:                 performed 26/07/2013 -  Click here and then play at 17.55 To listen
Die Walküre:                   performed 27/07/2013 -  Click here and then play at 15.55 To listen

Siegfried:                         performed 29/07/2013 -  Click here and then play at 15.55 To listen

Götterdämmerung :         performed 31/07/2013 -  Click here and then play at 15.55 To listen

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Listen to: Tristan und Isolde - Prom 19

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 28 July 2013 | 3:56:00 pm

Tristan und Isolde. Operakoret

Given that there are no new broadcasts from Bayreuth today, we thought, should you have missed it, you might like to listen to some recent Tristan from London. And should you be new to Tristan you might want to listen to a rather detailed and novel  introduction by clicking here

Saturday 27 July
5.00pm – c11.00pm
Royal Albert Hall

Tristan and Isolde (284 mins)
(concert performance; sung in German)

  • Robert Dean Smith tenor (Tristan)
  • Kwangchui Youn bass, Proms debut artist (King Mark)
  • Violeta Urmana soprano (Isolde)
  • Boaz Daniel baritone (Kurwenal)
  • David Wilson-Johnson baritone (Melot)
  • Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano (Brangäne)
  • Edward Price baritone (Steersman)
  • Andrew Staples tenor (Shepherd/Young Sailor)
  • BBC Singers
  • BBC Symphony Chorus
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Semyon Bychkov conductor
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Harmonic Analysis: Wagner's Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, Act I

Harmonic Analysis: Wagner's Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, Act I  - David Bennett Thomas

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Watch Now: Wagner 200 Gala - From Bayreuth

Bayreuth, Festspielhaus
May 22, 2013

01. Richard Wagner DIE WALKÜRE, Erster Aufzug Sieglinde : Eva Maria Westbroek Siegmund : Johan Botha Hunding : Kwangchul YounVorspiel Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele Conductor : Christian Thielemann

02. Richard Wagner TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Vorspiel und Liebestod Isolde : Eva Maria WestbroekVorspiel Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele Conductor : Christian Thielemann

03. Richard Wagner DIE GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, Rheinfahrt und TrauermarschVorspiel Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele Conductor : Christian Thielemann

04. Richard Wagner DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG, Vorspiel Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele Conductor : Christian Thielemann

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Just One Day In Bayreuth

Bayreuth veteran Rick Fulker is in the Bavarian town for the new production of Richard Wagner's opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung." As he sees in "The Rhine Gold," you need more than glitter to tell the story.

After a brief stop in DW's remote recording truck just to the right of the Festspielhaus, I hurry to row 26, upper left. Drenched in sweat, I find my seat in the middle. It's 34 degrees Celsius (93°F) and is supposed to get hotter in the next few days. Why, I ask, do men perspire profusely and women not? A shoulder-free suit would be great – depending on your perspective.

On the way I shake hands with various journalist colleagues I've known here for years. The ones to the left and right want me to trade seats so that they can sit together. No problem as far as I'm concerned, but a big problem for the Valküre seated just behind. She exercises her veto right. Can't understand why, because I'm shorter and she would have had a better view. But some people here insist on orderliness. That, too, is Bayreuth – still today.

Cheerful babble in the auditorium right into the first seconds of that soft, deep tone from the orchestra pit, then perfect silence in the hall. That tone is supposed to depict the creation of the world. Soon, there's a second one, then a third. The triad gives way to arpeggios that sound like waves. The Rhine!

Get your kicks...

The curtain rises. We see the "Golden Motel" with a blue, kidney-shaped pool, a clothes line and a gas station around the corner and a sign indicating that we're on "Route 66." The Rhine daugters are blond vamps with heavy makeup. I don't need my binoculars this time. Camera man onstage are filming the action live, so you see closeups of the faces on a big screen high above the stage. It's a distraction.

God Wotan is a Jack Nicholson type sporting sunglasses and lolling on the bed in an amorous three-way on the motel bed with wife Fricka and sister-in-law Freia. Giants Fasolt and Fafner are rough bikers with a baseball bat. Earth-mother Erda in a dress with golden sequinis and a white fur coat. Giggling in the audience.

Entertaining, trashy and with loud colors in 60's style: that's how Frank Castorf's staging of "The Rhine Gold" looks, the "preliminary evening" to Richard Wagners opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung." Gods and mermaids, giants, dwarfs and other supernatural figures in a saga about contract and breach of contract, betrayal, loyalty, lust and power. these "modern" images (actually they're half a century old) don't really have the power to provoke. It all seems a bit harmless. Has Bayreuth lost its status as a semi-sacred place? Long since!

Continue Reading

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Watch Now: Wagner & Verdi. Netrebko, Westbroek , Theorin, Terfel, Gergiev .

Valery Gergiev celebrates the two bicentennials : those of Wagner and Verdi!

Valery Gergiev opens this concert with the first act of Otello, a psychological and bloody drama written after Shakespeare's play (and Rossini's opera), in which greed and jealousy lead to the murder of the purest creature. Anna Netrebko, one of the most sought-after Desdemona of the operatic world, sings with Aleksandrs Antonenko. Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev have collaborated many times, notably for the recording of the Russian Album (Deutsche Grammophon).

The second part of the programme units three of the greatest Wagnerian singers of the moment in the third act of Die Walküre: Bryn Terfel, Eva Maria Westbroek and Iréne Theorin.
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Franco de Gemini (September 1928 - July 2013)

The harmonica is the Wagnerian's "weapon of choice" and so, off topic or not:

Franco De Gemini, who probably became most famous for playing harmonica on, what seems, every Spaghetti western - and other Italian soundtracks -  died this month in Rome at the age of 84

De Gemini, was born in Ferrara in September 1928, spending his childhood in Turin, where he studied music and went onto play with various orchestras. He became interested in the harmonica in the second half of the 1940s.

While the founder of his own record label and writer and performer on more than 800 film and TV scores, he is probably most famous for just three notes, those written by Ennio Morricone for the soundtrack to Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West"

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Frank Castorf Admits To Not Really Being A Fan Of Wagner's Music

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 26 July 2013 | 11:04:00 pm

"I don't know whether I'm a big fan of Wagner's music," says Castorf.

"You can't take all of this so terribly seriously. Why should you?"

"He did have a few minor skirmishes with conductor Petrenko. Once, when Castorf used a submachine gun in "Siegfried," "it was too loud for Kirill. We had to agree on less firepower." Sometimes the people in Bayreuth simply have to be told what hardened times we live in. "This isn't the 19th century, when women fainted en masse at every minor issue."

"Some members of the press have even been denied admission to the premier. The passionate Bayreuth critic Monika Beer ... planned to report on the Ring performances for Fränkischer Tag, a regional newspaper, was turned down when she tried to secure tickets for opening night. In her blog, Beer often attacks the Wagner sisters running the show at Bayreuth for what she calls their "disastrous artist's policy." She was told that there is a shortage of press tickets this year. "The festival management wants to keep out people like me," says Beer 

It's late in the evening high up on the storied Green Hill at the edge of Bayreuth, and renowned German theater director Frank Castorf is letting off some steam. We're on the summer terrace of the Bürgerreuth Restaurant, a few hundred meters up a steep footpath from Festival Theater, the Bavarian opera house built by Richard Wagner. "Today I was on the verge of throwing rocks," says Castorf, as mosquitoes buzz around the lights above the tables. He is talking about the dress rehearsal for "Götterdämmerung." "What happened on that stage was Ingolstadt local theater. And that's being generous."

Castorf leans back and breathes in deeply through his narrow nostrils, his face deeply tanned. He seems to be enjoying himself, despite his apparent exasperation. "I'm feeling something like a postal clerk mentality," he says. "I need to tap into a different kind of aggressiveness." Castorf seems to be looking forward to the hard work he still faces on the fabled Green Hill in Bayreuth. Still, he adds, "I don't really like working in July."

Starting this Friday, Castorf and Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko will present their "Ring of the Nibelung" in the Bayreuth Festival Theater, their contribution to this year's anniversary celebration marking Wagner's 200th birthday. Preparations for the large-scale production, which is estimated to run for a total of 17 hours, were completed in an extremely short period of time. Castorf was brought in after filmmaker Wim Wenders, who had initially been hired to direct the Ring Cycle, backed out after lengthy deliberation. Attempts by artistic directors Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, both great-granddaughters of the composer, to pull in other prominent directors, including Tom Tykwer, also came up short.

Castorf is now playing the savior. "I see myself as a service provider here," says the 62-year-old director. He is taking the short rehearsal times in stride. "I had to stage 'Rheingold' in nine days, which, of course, is lunacy. It's like working on 'Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten,'" he said, referencing a long-running German soap opera. Wagner's Ring Cycle, says Castorf, is "a piece of great eclecticism," which makes it easier for any director to work with his own ideas.

How enthusiastic is he about Wagner's music? "I don't know whether I'm a big fan of Wagner's music," says Castorf. "I wouldn't put it that way. I understand why his music had such a strong influence on American film music. It's the leitmotif-like aspect of it, its overtly German and Brechtian nature. The desire to create insight through grand moments. Everything is based on the principle that one has to step outside of something to truly perceive it. Ultimately, it becomes very transparent." Nevertheless, he adds, "the singers often seem to melt away."

Jitters at the Top

The organizers of the Bayreuth Festival are apparently very nervous ahead of the Ring premier. Conductor Petrenko declined to give any interviews at all and director Castorf cancelled most of his. Although Katharina Wagner publicly pushed to have the contract with her and festival co-director Eva Wagner-Pasquier, which expires in 2015, extended as quickly as possible, all she was willing to reveal about the Ring Cycle was this: "What we have been able see so far is impressive."

In contrast to the usual Bayreuth premiers, very little was shown to the press in advance. "We regret to inform you that, contrary to previous announcements, it is no longer possible to attend the dress rehearsals for 'Siegfried' and 'Götterdämmerung'," the festival press office announced. "At the request of the production team and in consultation with the organizers, festival management has closed the dress rehearsals to all visitors."

Some members of the press have even been denied admission to the premier. The passionate Bayreuth critic Monika Beer, who writes a Wagner blog filled with a great deal of insider festival information and planned to report on the Ring performances for Fränkischer Tag, a regional newspaper, was turned down when she tried to secure tickets for opening night. In her blog, Beer often attacks the Wagner sisters running the show at Bayreuth for what she calls their "disastrous artist's policy." She was told that there is a shortage of press tickets this year. "The festival management wants to keep out people like me," says Beer.

Director Castorf says that the mood within the management team for the Bayreuth Festival reminds him of his wild days in East Germany. "Every outsider is the enemy. It's pure GDR." According to Castorf, the organizers suffer from a "phobia" so pronounced that he even had to negotiate for permission to have his own relatives attend rehearsals. "In the end, my mother and my son were allowed in."

From Rheingold to Texas Tea

Castorf revealed the spectacular concept for his staging of the Ring cycle early on. In his version, oil will be the gold in the Rhine, the Nibelung treasure. And because Wagner makes him think of Route 66, Castorf sets some of the action in the North American plains. He says that he wants to "move away from illustration," use a lot of video and a revolving stage, and set his oil storyline primarily in Azerbaijan and Texas.

"Such translations don't work one-to-one," says Castorf today. "Direct translations into the world of modern industrial production or Wall Street are never convincing in the theater, even if it's (respected German theater directors) Ruth Berghaus or Peter Konwitschny."

Serbian set designer Aleksandar Denic has already worked for Castorf several times, including on his 2012 Paris production of "The Lady of the Camelias." The 49-year-old designer is also known for his work for Emir Kusturica's film "Underground." For the Bayreuth festival, Denic designed monumental sets that recall the days of glamour and misery in which mankind came to love oil as black gold.

Denic's set for "Das Rheingold" -- known as "Preliminary Evening" in Wagner's tetralogy -- includes the façade of a Texas motel, complete with a gas station. The set designer, a convoluted, temperamental and argumentative man, invokes the grand, uninhibited days when the automobile was king -- "the golden years of the 1960s and 1970s, when gasoline was cheap in America, people drove big cars and oil reserves seemed inexhaustible."

Continue Reading 
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First Full Photos Of Bayreuth's 2013 Ring Cycle


We are more than aware these will divide opinion so shall not comment. Should you want to buy any of these images it appears you can do so from Bayreuth itself at 12 euros each - although, in admittedly far better quality

All images copyright: Bayreuth.
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Spoiler: What Bayreuth's 2013 Ring Really Looks Like

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 23 July 2013 | 9:49:00 am

Of course, "unofficial" descriptions have been in the wild for sometime (as indeed the odd photo) but Gramophone have now come out of the closet and provide a more "official" description, based on dress rehearsals of Rheingold. A brief description follows and a link to more. As expected, this does indeed suggest that the themes are very similar to Fulham Opera's ongoing Ring Cycle. Coincidence? Well you never know.  Do not read if you like surprises.
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Where to Listen To: Proms Ring Cycle - 2013 Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 22 July 2013 | 6:49:00 pm

Starting shortly of course. Should be available "on-demand" for 7 days. Click the relevant link to go to the relevant production

Prom 14: Wagner – Das Rheingold

Monday 22 July, 7.00pm

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

Prom 15: Wagner – Die Walküre

Tuesday 23 July, 5.00pm

  • Bryn Terfel bass-baritone (Wotan)
  • Eric Halfvarson bass (Hunding)
  • Simon O'Neill tenor (Siegmund)
  • Anja Kampe soprano, Proms debut artist (Sieglinde)
  • Nina Stemme soprano (Brünnhilde)
  • Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano (Fricka)
  • Sonja Mühleck soprano (Gerhilde)
  • Carola Höhn soprano, Proms debut artist (Ortlinde)
  • Ivonne Fuchs mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Waltraute)
  • Anaïk Morel mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Schwertleite)
  • Susan Foster soprano, Proms debut artist (Helmwige)
  • Leann Sandel-Pantaleo mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Siegrune)
  • Anna Lapkovskaja mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Grimgerde)
  • Simone Schröder mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Rossweisse)
  • Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Daniel Barenboim conductor 

Prom 18: Wagner – Siegfried

Friday 26 July, 5.00pm

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

Prom 20: Wagner – Götterdämmerung

Sunday 28 July, 4.30pm

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

Should you still be debating whether this is worth your time. It might however, explain why you can now buy his Bayreuth Ring cycle for £4.99p

Der Ring des Nibelungen

Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper; Christian Thielemann [Recorded ‘live’ during performances at the Wiener Staatsoper]

Das Rheingold: Albert Dohmen (Wotan), Markus Eiche (Donner), Herbert Lippert (Froh), Adrian Eröd (Loge), Janina Baechle (Fricka), Alexandra Reinprecht (Freia), Anna Larsson (Erda), Tomasz Konieczny (Alberich), Wolfgang Schmidt (Mime)

Die Walküre: Christopher Ventris (Siegmund), Eric Halfvarson (Hunding), Albert Dohmen (Wotan), Waltraud Meier (Sieglinde), Katarina Dalayman (Brünnhilde), Janina Baechle (Fricka)

Siegfried: Stephen Gould (Siegfried), Linda Watson (Brünnhilde), Albert Dohmen (Der Wanderer), Tomasz Konieczny (Alberich), Anna Larsson (Erda), Wolfgang Schmidt (Mime), Ain Anger (Fafner) und Chen Reiss (Stimme des Waldvogels)

Götterdämmerung: Stephen Gould (Siegfried), Markus Eiche (Gunther), Eric Halfvarson (Hagen), Linda Watson (Brünnhilde) Caroline Wenborne (Gutrune), Janina Baechle (Waltraute)

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Kupfer Ring On Itunes & Why You might Want To Ignore It.

Itunes has now made the Kupfer Ring available to download - see here.  Now, while there are  certainly benefits for the impatient in buying it in this form, we believe it would be difficult to recommend it. This is not because of the production itself - one that we much admire here at Wagnerian Towers - but simply because of pure economics. You see, the cost of the entire  cycle on Itunes would amount to just under £50. Admittedly, not a great sum for such a huge and wonderful work and production. However, considering that the entire set can be bought from Amazon - as an example - in physical form, in a box and with some, admittedly limited notes,  for only £27 we cannot understand how Itunes can justify this inflated pricing.

Yet again, more evidence of how publishers and distributors seem to assume that classical music  consumers in particular are either stupid or ill informed - it might suggest. Digital distribution contains far lower overheads then physical distribution methods and we feel this should be reflected in the pricing. See for example, how a smaller company, Filmgalerie 451, distrbute Sybergerg's Parsifal: £2.99 to stream, £4.99 to download and £24 to buy on DVD (See here for details).

But we shall of course leave the decision upto you.

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Seattle Opera's Brünnhilde and Siegfried In Rehearsal

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 21 July 2013 | 11:46:00 pm

General Director Speight Jenkins introduces you to Alwyn Mellor and Stefan Vinke -- two of the new-for-2013 principals. Includes footage of singers in rehearsal.

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Frank Castorf says forget bicentenary, you will be lucky to get a Ring of the year.

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 20 July 2013 | 7:28:00 pm

Frank Castorf: "But look. My Watch says its only 8.30 AM"

 Ever wondered what it was like for directors working in Bayreuth? According to Frank Castof (this year's Ring cycle director at Bayreuth should you have been living in a shoebox since 2011) its like working in the old Eastern bloc - mixed with the worst soap opera ever.

"Everyone from the outside is the enemy. This is like it was in old East Germany" he says. Although oddly, he has hardly seen the Wagner sisters. But perhaps he wouldn't, given that he says he has only been given nine days to rehearse Rheingold. This, he says, is "Clearly madness!"

And when he has seen them? It appears they have said little but to note they are not very happy with his "timekeeping" -  which he admits is not his forte.

But his Bicentennial Ring cycle? One for the century at least? No he says, he will be happy if it is the Ring of the year.

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Wagner Reloaded.

Wagner Reloaded - Apocalyptica meets Wagner
We are reliably informed that tickets are still available. This is the first night and was originally broadcast free and live on the net at the time. Unsure if this is an official release on YouTube and have had no reliably as yet from the organizers. No news on a DVD release either alas.

Tickets and more information,  available from here 

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Mini Review: Raymond Furness' 'Richard Wagner".

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 18 July 2013 | 11:52:00 pm

It should probably come as little surprise that this year would produce a veritable deluge of books about Wagner and his work (indeed, apart from the book under discussion, I am reading another 5 for review shortly). However, what has surprised me, is the lack of straightforward biographies  in English - for there as only been one. That one is Raymond Furness 'Richard Wagner".

Now, if I am honest, this was the one I was least looking forward to reading. There are two reasons for this: the fact that it is a relatively slim volume at just over 200 pages and that it is prefaced with the words "critical lives". I have read enough slim volumes that have similar titles to know that this normally means a superficial examination of Wagner's life and work that exists for only the most vaguely curious of readers. I am sure many of you have come across such works and know what I mean.  What a surprise then, to find one of the most intelligent, insightful, detailed and frankly enjoyable books on or about Wagner and his work that I have read for sometime. 

Dr Furness (who has published much about Wagner and German literature - among other related subjects) is one of those few writers who is both intelligent and knowledgeable about his subject yet who also writes in an engaging style that make it a pleasure to be in his company. Add to this the ability to provide insightful analysis of Wagner and his work but to do so in a concise manner reminiscent of  Bryan Maggee's classic "Aspects of Wagner" and one is left with a book that I would wholly recommend to those both new to Wagner and those with a life long interest. 

While nothing of Wagner's life is excluded (even down to including analysis of Wagner's visits to London) to keep the book to its length means that Furness has had to "sacrifice" certain details. And so, while Wagner's every move that may have influenced his work and thought are detailed, there is little of the the more "salacious"  moments so beloved by many authors.  Equally, while there is always some discussion of those close to Wagner's life, unless Furness considers them to be of great impact on Wagner's thought or music they are only briefly mentioned.  This is a book about Wagner, with those in his life only making brief, sometimes ghost like, appearances. This may lead to a less than fully rounded view of all of the influences on Wagner (Minna is alas, only mentioned occasionally where perhaps a more detailed investigation of her life both before and with Wagner would be of great benefit). If there is a fault in this book then it is this, but the rest makes up for it in a world of Wagner scholarship where conjecture - often weak conjecture - rule the day.

Over all, a highly enjoyable read and highly recommended to those both new to Wagner and those, like myself, with shelves  buckling under the weight of Wagner literature.

Note. This review was written after reading  the Kindle version of the book. Like many kindle  "first additions" (V1.0) there were a few rather irritating "typos" or "printers" errors". However, having briefly  scanned the paperback edition these were not found there.

Click below to read a sample

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For Whom The Bell Tolls: Baumgarten's Tannhäuser It Seems

Sebastian Baumgarten's "affectionately" nick named "biomass Tannhäuser" has been axed. It seems that not even Bayreuth could put up with the jokes anymore and this year will be the last time that Baumgarten's "controversial" production of Tannhauser will see the light of day.

Its future slots will be filled instead with Hans Neuenfels  Lohengrin.  Seems people might be upset by a biomass factory but are just big softies for pink mice. All together now: Aww!

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Where to Listen To Bayreuth 2013 - Online

Edit: Click Here to listen "on-demand as each is broadcast"

Nearly that time again. There are of course any number of places online to catch this years Bayreuth performances - including the new Ring cycle. Below are the times and links as available from BR Klassik.. Some stations also stream on demand for a short time after the live broadcast. We will make these available for each work once it has received its live broadcast.

Simply click the name of the drama to be taken to the link. This will open a "pop-up" window containing BR Klassik's live web player" It is recommended that you visit the site  before the start of the drama you wish to listen to (you might want to check this in advance. Any problems simply let us know via the contact page here, or on Twitter)

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Wagner Performs Wagner: The Flying Dutchman

It must be said that recent events in London and Bayreuth had left us feeling somewhat "exhausted" with events around Wagner - and those purporting to either like or support his work - but then we received the following from a Wagner scholar that shows a true enthusiasm, energy and "flair" for Wagner we have just recently found sadly lacking elsewhere.

Frequent  readers will note that Dr Jamie McGregor, of Rhodes University, has kindly allowed us to print some of his very fine papers on Wagner over the years (if you have not read any them, two fine examples can be found here and here)

As most readers will be aware Wagner, was a consummate actor and performer. One of the things that Wagner loved to do, in part one suspects because it took so long to get many of his works performed, was to give private, complete readings of his dramas - acting out each of the roles.

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Götterdämmerung: The End Of The London Wagner Society?

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 10 July 2013 | 1:37:00 pm

 In 1873 the first Wagner Society was founded in England. By 1884 it had been "refounded. In 1893 it  was disbanded. The reasons for it ceasing to exist have never really been made clear - as far as I am aware. However, one highly plausible reason was infighting at the time over the "validity" of" Ferdinand Praeger's book "Wagner As I knew Him" - dedicated the Society's then President. This book which, among other things, portrays Wagner as an anarchist social revolutionary, was greatly at odds with William Ashton Ellis's far more "conservative" Wagner. Ellis wrote for the Society's Journal the "Meister" and had attacked the book mercilessly in that publication and elsewhere. Indeed, it maybe due to Ellis and his "comrade in arms" the English, fascist, racist, antisemitic - and true hero of both Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg - Houston Stewart Chamberlain, that Praeger's book  still is, yet with little true critique, considered "unreliable". (For anyone interested or curious, we shall be making the full text in  Kindle/Ebook  format, of Praeger's book available later today for free download).

Tomorrow, 11 July 2013 (click here for full details), a  special AGM of the Society may put the present version of the Wagner Society at its greatest risk of ceasing to exist since its predecessor in 1893.

We have already documented recent events in London in some detail so shall not do so again. However, tomorrow ordinary members of the Society, which I have no doubt are only interested in listening to Wagner's music and doing their best to promote it to a wide an audience as possible, are being pushed into making a choice that may discredit the society further than it already has been in recent weeks - or else leave it without any form of leadership.

To recap - and in the simplest of terms -  the society's committee has called for a vote that can have one of only two outcomes:

Show confidence in the Society's Committee which will automatically mean that ordinary members are voting that they "sack" their existing President, Dame Gwyneth Jones. Alternatively they can show a lack of confidence in their committee which means that committee will stand down  but the Society can keep its president.

There are of course far more sensible alternatives and the voice of reason at the Society is far more prevalent then recent reports might make it sound. One such voice can be found in the form of an open letter from the Society's webmaster Ken Sunshine, to its Chairman and Committee. This was printed in this weeks "Wagner News" - the official publication of the Society. We reprint this below:


An open letter to the Wagner Society Committee
Ken Sunshine

I was dismayed this morning to receive notice of the Special General Meeting and even more so to see that in the event of a vote of confidence in the Committee being passed there would follow automatically a call for the President to resign.

I had anticipated attending the AGM and having the opportunity to speak to a motion proposing that the "nuclear option" (as described by one Committee member) be avoided until a revised Constitution was in place.

The gist of my proposal would have been to point out to members at the AGM that the Constitution as it stands is deficient in a number of areas, which I detailed in a letter to Richard Miles, 31/05/13.

One of the bases of a good Society is a sound constitution; a constitution that clearly defines roles, responsibilities and procedures for as many foreseeable situations as possible. Decisions made without that foundation must be taken very carefully.

In the present situation I would contend that a decision to ask the President to resign is based on very shaky ground and if there were a body equivalent to an Industrial Tribunal to which the President could appeal I have no doubt they would find in her favour. I think each Committee member has seriously to decide whether taking this action without a constitutional basis is right.

A more practical consideration is that a call for the President's resignation will not lead to Dame Gwyneth stepping down but simply to a step up in the conflict which the Chair says he wishes to avoid; a conflict which could go public. Surely we must avoid this?

The President's role is not defined. Before calling on her to resign there ought to be a Constitution defining the role and responsibilities and procedures for electing and dismissing. If the President transgressed then the steps would be clear and a decision would have been made properly and constitutionally, uninfluenced by personal histories which I fear have intruded in the present argument.

An additional concern is that, although the Constitution doesn't spell out voting rules for SGM proposals, it does for AGMs viz: by members present at the meeting. Why isn't this the rule for SGMs? Allowing postal votes means that members will be voting without the full story and without input such as mine and that which other members might wish to contribute.

I would urge you to reconsider, rescind the SGM proposal and replace it with one which will lead to a new Constitution to be accepted in, say, October. Then set about moving forward on a sound basis.

Disclaimer, your humble editor is not a member of any Wagner Society - including the London Society and thus has no personal involvement. One feels, one should always heed Groucho Marx's advice about such matters - although perhaps not that found below:

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The Wagner Society V Dame Gwyneth Jones: What Really Took Place

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 6 July 2013 | 11:59:00 am

What would Richard say?
“You would do me a great service if you created a foundation which would allow those without the necessary means to experience the performances. In a way, this would complete my first thought. ” Richard Wagner, in a letter (May 28 1882) to Fiedrich von Schoen that lead to the formation of Stipendienstiftung and thus the Wagner Bursary Competitions world wide.

“...and so the first and most important task for a new patronage will be to obtain the means to offer free admission, and if necessary the travel and accommodation costs, for those who share their fate – poverty – with so many in Germany.” Richard Wagner to Fiedrich von Schoen – June 16 1882

As we have already noted, reports in the national press have referred to an attempt by the Wagner Society (London) to, what could  be described as unceremoniously “boot out” its president - Dame Gwyneth Jones. While some of this commentary has been partly accurate, there has also been much conjecture and an equal amount of confusion.
Now, the July issue of Wagner News devotes 8 of its 64 pages to this wrangle.

We have spent some time during this week trying to get together as much accurate information as we could and put everything together in some sort of order. We hope that the  following provides the most accurate overview of what took place and investigates how a very simple - and what seems to us a well argued - disagreement, raised by the society’s president, has escalated out of all proportion.

It all began recently, when the Wagner Society informed The International Richard-Wagner Verband, that they were withdrawing from the Stipendienstiftung for 2014. In other words the committee had decided – without seeking advice from its members - to withdraw from the annual Bursary Competition that sent young singers to Bayreuth each year ( Although, it is worth noting that the committee believes it has no constitutional need to inform its members before making such decisions). Indeed, not only did they not consult members on this major decision but "forgot" - embarrassingly for her as it turned out - to mention it to their president. According to Dame Gwyneth, she only first heard about the matter in detail when she read about it in Wagner News in April. In an open letter to the Society she notes:

“I was recently informed by the President of The International Richard-Wagner Verband (Frau Prof. Eva Märtson) and the Director of The Richard Wagner Stipendienstiftung (Herr Dr. Stefan Specht) that the Wagner Society had written to tell them that it will not take part in the Stipendienstiftung for 2014 and beyond. They naturally thought that, as President of the Wagner Society, I knew about this, and that I was in agreement with it. In fact I was surprised to discover this decision in April 2013 when it appeared in Wagner News.”

After noting her surprise, she goes on to give detailed reasons why, in her professional opinion, the Bursary Competition should remain in place - and why its replacement would be of little benefit. She notes in conclusion:

"Among the 63 soloists performing on the stage of the Festspielhaus this year, 19 are former Bayreuth Bursary winners. That is more than 30%!"

However, she does not "demand" that the decision should be reversed - as has been suggested by some. Instead she cannot understand why neither she nor the Society's members were not consulted and recommends that it should be brought up at the next AGM for open debate and discussion.

It is difficult to see how any of this would suggest that Dame Gwyneth is being “tyrannical” - as has been suggested in some parts of the press - or that she is not aware of her role within the Society - as has also been suggested.

The next communication from Dame Gwyneth is an open letter titled: CHAIRMAN DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION

In this she notes that she has received two emails from the Chair, "recommending" that she step down as President. She quotes large extracts from Chairman's emails.

These start off "nicely" enough. Dame Gwyneth should "step down" because, " ... it must be clear that the Committee, not the President, has executive responsibility for managing the Society. I am also concerned at the implications in your letter that you have been discussing the Wagner Society's affairs with external parties such as Prof. Märtson. If you do not have confidence in the Committee or feel that you can't work with us, it would be quite understandable, and perfectly honourable, if you wanted to stand down as our President ....". 

Dame Gwyneth as Salome.
Whose head is that she's holding?
After 23 years in the role of President, the Chair feels he "...owe[s] you the option - if you want it - of a dignified [my highlight] way out from this situation, and your resignation would be a much more fitting finale to your term as President than a public spat with the Committee, whatever the outcome."  

However, she seems to be left  in no-doubt that should she not "willingly go" then there is only one alternative, "We therefore intend to write to all members seeking a vote of confidence in the Committee and making it clear that, if successful, we intend to seek your resignation."

This indeed happened and members were sent a ballot paper to return in time for a Special General Meeting on 11th July. They were given two options:
  1. Support the Committee and call for the President’s resignation
  2. No confidence in Committee in which case all or most of the Committee would resign
Some members have declared this action unconstitutional and have called for a rethink.

So, to summarise, the chair of the Wagner Society of London has asked Dame Gwyneth to step down for two reasons:

1 – Because she believes that a decision the chair has made regarding the Bursary competition was wrong and should be put on the agenda of the next AGM.

2 - She had discussed that matter with an outside agent. Although that outside agent was the Chair of The International Richard-Wagner Verband!

Again, it would be difficult to see anything “dictatorial" here or indeed anything that would lead to the unprecedented removal of Dame Gwyneth. However in answering the latter of these accusations Dame Gwyneth notes, that it was Frau Prof. Eva Maertson, President of the RWIV, that approached her about the decision, not unreasonably assuming she might know something about it. Amusingly, she asks what she should have done? Put the phone down on the President of RWIV?

After a detailed discussion she concludes:

“To summarise. I have never tried to make Executive decisions. I only asked that the Members be allowed vote on the issue of The Bayreuth Bursary, which has been an important tradition for 30 years. As President I want to be part of a Society in which Members are entitled to vote on important issues and where I am not asked to resign because I wish to defend this right."

So, what are we to make of all of this? Oddly, I think we have no need to even consider the decision of the Wagner Society' to finish with the bursary competition per se. Even if it was part of Wagner's original intention of making the festival free to those who could not afford it (it has, after all, been a very long time since more than a small few associated with Wagner have attempted to follow those wishes with much enthusiasm - accept perhaps recently in Greece). Perhaps it is time that the Society looked at other ways of supporting young performers. Although, as Dame Gwyneth points out the present system certainly seems to have its merits - and results that fully support it. No, the issues here are about things both greater and wider than this.

First, who owns authorship of major decisions at the Society? Its Committee or its members? This is Dame Gwyneth's first and most important point. Clearly, members would not want to be bothered with day to day decisions taken by the committee but what about major decisions such as the Bursary Competition? Should not major decisions be at least open to discussion? Especially when senior members of the society believe they are wrong and should be debated? Dame Gwyneth believes so. And it is difficult to argue with her reasoning - unless that is you are the Society’s Committee who seem to strongly disagree. As the Chair told Dame Gwyneth, they will ask members to vote and it will either be her or them! To quote: "We therefore intend to write to all members seeking a vote of confidence in the Committee and making it clear that, if successful, we intend to seek your resignation." And even when the matter is to be put forward to members for discussion (if only, it would appear,  in response to the president's more than public appeal) it appears it will be nothing more than a "discussion". As an email to Dame Gwyneth from the chair would seem to suggest, "...however, this will be a discussion only: the AGM is not the right forum to reverse a decision which has already been validly taken by the Committee. "

Next, we have to look at the at the manner that Dame Jones has been treated in this matter? But first let us again define her "crimes" as identified by the Chair:
One: She believes the committee has made a wrong decision in replacing the Bayreuth Bursary and that it should be debated in an open forum before proceeding.
Two: She discussed the matter with the head of The International Richard-Wagner Verband, Prof. Eva Märtson - when Prof Marston asked her about the decision.
Three: She questioned a change to the constitution which meant that only committee members could put forward new nominations for officers on the committee.

Are these really reasons which, according to the Chair, mean "... [it] is clear to me that the President and the Committee fundamentally disagree on how the Society should be run" and call for the President to step down - or more likely be "booted out"? A President of Dame Gwyneth's stature who volunteers her time and energy without pay and would be welcome at any other society in the world. I shall leave that up to you dear reader.

What is certain, is that we here have received an extraordinary number of emails, twitter and Facebook comments and comments from other places, that suggest the present situation is doing no good to the reputation of the society, with many people saying they will either not renew their membership, join another society (there are at least another 3 on this very small island), or else are glad that they never joined.

Oddly, all of this reminds one of a scene from an American TV program that was popular some years ago - oddly containing two characters with a more than passing admiration for Wagner's work. I wonder if anyone attending the AGM - and we suggest as many as can, should attend - would like to review this scene and see if the methodology used could be applied during the AGM itself?

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A New Production Of The Dutchman - in Logan, Utah

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 4 July 2013 | 6:46:00 am

Its always good to see Wagner away from the usual places. Tickets starting at $12!

A new production of Der fliegende Holländer from Utah Festival Opera.

The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre (also known as the UFOMT) is an opera company based in Logan, Utah. The company performs four fully staged works with orchestra in repertory every July and August at the Ellen Eccles Theatre on Logan's Main Street. The works performed range from operas to operettas to musicals.

The company was founded in 1992 by operatic tenor Michael Ballam, a music professor at Utah State University, and a native of Logan. Besides being director of the company, he has also sung lead roles in many productions over the years.

Sung in German with projected English titles


July 10, 19, 25, & August 3*, 9*, 2013


Senta Elizabeth Beers Kataria - Click here to hear performing live
The Dutchman Kristopher Irmiter - Click here to hear his Dutchman)
Erik John Pickle
Daland Richard Zuch
The Steersman Ben Bongers

Conductor Karen Keltner
Director Jack Shouse


Redemption - Jack Shouse examines the theme of redemption in The Flying Dutchman and other works with an exciting multimedia presentation.
July 18, 4-6 PM

Wondrous Wagner - Wagner aficionado Becky Hunt examines the man behind the masterpieces. July 25, 4-5 PM

For more details | Click Here
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As Opera Australia Announce new Ring Conductor: Who Is Pietari Inkinen

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 3 July 2013 | 1:41:00 pm

"Pietari Inkinen conducts the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo, unfolding a luscious Wagnerian sound. His interpretation and leadership allow the music to bloom and glow." Peter Krause, Die Welt

"Pietari Inkinen draws warm and confident playing from the orchestra, and supports his singers well, though the empty stage creates acoustic challenges and tension sometimes flags". Shirley Apthorp, The Financial Times

One companies loss is another ones gain

Opera Australia has announced that 33 year old Pietari Inkinen will replace Richard Mills as conductor of The Melbourne Ring Cycle 2013. However, ann as expected, Inkinen will not join Opera Australia until the first orchestral rehearsals start in September - only one month before the cycle premieres. A short rehearsal space for even the most experienced Ring Conductor.

Pietari Inkinen is a Finnish violinist and conductor. He began violin and piano studies at age 4. He attended the Sibelius Academy and graduated with diplomas in violin in 2003 followed by conducting in 2005. He then went on to study violin at the Hochschule für Musik Köln with Zakhar Bron.

In May 2007, Inkinen became the second music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra -  formally assuming the post in January 2008.

He and the NZSO have recorded Rautavaara and Sibelius for the Naxos label, and Wagner for EMI Classics on the CD Simon O'Neill - Wagner scenes and arias .  In September 2009, Inkinen became principal guest conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.

He has of course, already  begun a Ring cycle - their first - with Teatro Massimo. Indeed, this new engagement with the Melbourne Ring should have been impossible,  as he was engaged to conduct the rest of Graham Vick's production of Siegfried and Gotterdammerung in October and November this year. Alas, financial problems at the heavy indebted Teatro Massimo has meant these have been postponed to an as yet unannounced future date.

Should the reader not be familiar with Inkinen's work we have but together a Spotify playlist below that includes all of his commercially recorded work. Also included, is an interview with Inkinen conducted by Hilary Hahn and his Mahler 1 found on  youtube.

Pietari Inkinen conducts Mahler's Symphony No 1 

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