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WAGNER, FREUD AND THE END OF MYTH. Freud Museum, London. With Bryan Magee!

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 24 September 2013 | 8:05:00 am

One of the guest speakers is Bryan Magee - author of two  of the best books ever written about Wagner: Aspects of Wagner and also Wagner and Philosophy. 

Images here were found on the blog (telling a rather unusual story of Wagner and Freud we shall not go into) of artist: Cynthia Romonov

28 September 2013
9.30am - 5.00pm

Day Conference Sat 28 September

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


Anthony Cantle (psychoanalyst)
Introductory Remarks

Gavin Plumley (musicologist)
Private Theatre and Hysterical Opera: Wagner’s influence in Freud’s Vienna

Inge Wise (psychoanalyst)
Die Walküre: A Tale of Oedipal Longings and Desires

Tom Artin (writer)
The Ring in a Nutshell: A Glimpse at The Wagner Complex

Bryan Magee (philosopher)
in conversation with
Stephen Gee (psychotherapist)
Precursors of the Unconscious: Wagner and the Philosophers

Estela Welldon (forensic psychotherapist)
The Chaste and the Driven: Power struggles in Wagner's women

Stephen Gross (Jungian analyst)
Freud and Wagner: The Assault on Reason


Why Freud and Wagner?


Gavin Plumley is a writer and broadcaster, specialising in the music and culture of Central Europe. He has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and has recently spoken at the Royal Opera House, ENO, the CBSO, V&A, The Freud Museum, and the Neue Galerie New York. He has given a number of talks at the Southbank Centre’s ‘The Rest is Noise’ festival this year and was recently appointed commissioning editor for the English language programmes at the Salzburg Festival.

Inge Wise studied English, French and Spanish literature and worked as simultaneous interpreter prior to training at the Tavistock Clinic and the British Psychoanalytic Society. She is a fellow of both the BPAS and of the Institute of Psychoanalysis. She founded the Psychoanalytic Ideas series published by the Institute of Psychoanalysis, which she co-edited with Paul Williams until 2011. She works in private practice and teaches/supervises in the UK and abroad. Music has been a constant in her life.

Tom Artin was educated at Princeton, from which he holds a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature. He has held academic positions at a number of American colleges and universities, Swarthmore College and SUNY Rockland among them. His interest in Wagner evolved both from his training as a medievalist and his life-long involvement with music, and opera in particular. He is the author of several books, including The Allegory of Adventure, an exegetical study of the Arthurian romances of the 12th c. French poet Chrétien de Troyes, and most recently The Wagner Complex: Genesis and Meaning of The Ring.

Stephen Gee is a member and former Chair of The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He has contributed to Site conferences on Winnicott, Lacan, Homosexuality, and Class. He organised a rehearsed reading of Sarah Kane's '4:48 Psychosis' followed by a colloquium in which psychoanalysts of different schools talked about the issues raised by the play and the challenges facing people suffering with psychosis. He ran a performance group at the Studio Upstairs where he was also a supervisor. He is a member of the editorial group of the Site's psychoanalytic journal, and has written on the problematic history of psychoanalysis and homosexuality. He interviewed the director Phyllida Lloyd at The Site and at the English National Opera on her 2005 production of Wagner's Ring cycle. He has a private practice in South London and teaches regularly at The Site and on other psychoanalytic trainings.

Bryan Magee has had a lifelong engagement with philosophy and music. His work includes the award winning radio and TV series in which he interviewed contemporary thinkers such as Sir Alfred Ayer and Herbert Marcuse as well as exploring the ideas of philosophers of the past. His books include the autobiographical Confessions of a Philosopher and an acclaimed introduction to Karl Popper. He wrote The Philosophy of Schopenhauer and two books on Wagner; Aspects of Wagner and The Tristan Chord; Wagner and Philosophy. Like these two major figures in his creative life Bryan Magee has himself been a man of action as wells of ideas. In the1960s he made documentaries on prostitution, abortion and homosexuality and was Labour MP for Leyton in the 1970s and 80s. He has the gift of communicating his own love of ideas and music in a way that engages both aficionados and newcomers.

Estela Welldon is a psychotherapist who worked for many years at the Portman Clinic and in private practice. She is the founder of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She is most famous for her book Mother, Madonna Whore: The Idealization and Denigration of Motherhood (1988) which quashed the myth that ‘perversion’ was largely a male preserve and opened up a whole new field of therapeutic enquiry. In 1997 Oxford Brookes University awarded Dr. Welldon a D.Sc. Honorary Doctorate of Science degree for her contributions to the field of forensic psychotherapy, and this year she was invited to become an Honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She is principal editor of A Practical Guide to Forensic Psychotherapy (1997) and author of Sadomasochism (2002). Her latest publication is Playing with Dynamite: A Personal Approach to the Understanding of Perversions, Violence and Criminality (Karnac, 2011) Her interest in Wagner is long-standing.

Stephen Gross is an analytic psychotherapist in private practice. He also teaches and supervises at WPF Therapy and other training organisations. He is particularly interested in the overlap between psychotherapy and literature, especially the works of Shakespeare on which he has published widely. His first play, "Freud's Night Visitors" has been performed twice at The Freud Museum London.

Anthony Cantle has introduced and chaired three previous Freud Museum events - on the "Therapist's Body" (2000), "Understanding Perversion" (2009) and "Mahler" (2010). He is a practising Psychoanalyst and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and a Fellow of The Institute of Psychoanalysis, London and its former Curator. Formerly Founder and Director of the Open Door Adolescent Consultation Service in London he has also taught on the MA in Psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic. He worked for many years at the St Albans College of Art & Design where he set up and offered a consultation service to postgraduate students studying Art, Dance & Drama Therapies.

In addition to his clinical practice he is currently a Training Analyst and Supervisor for the former British Association of Psychotherapists, the Lincoln Clinic for Psychotherapy and the London Centre for Psychotherapy and the Tavistock Clinic and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships. He is also member of the UK Mahler Society and participated in the 2009 BBC Series “Robert Winston’s Musical Analysis” where he spoke about the marriage of Gustav and Alma Mahler. In 2010 he introduced and chaired the Freud Museum event - with Gavin Plumley as the guest speaker - and entitled "The 'Faust' Problem: Music and Madness in Mahler's Vienna. Later the same year, as part of the centenary celebrations of Mahler's death, the BBC asked Anthony Cantle and the British composer and Mahler expert David Matthews to make a programme about Gustav Mahler's meeting and four hour conversation with Sigmund Freud in the Dutch city of Leiden. Recorded on location, "Walking with Freud" was transmitted in 2010 and was repeated as the interval documentary during the 2011 BBC Proms season.

Anthony Cantle was also a contributor to the 2011 BBC Radio Four series "Soul Music" featuring the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th symphony and assisted in the BBC Wales production of the 2012 two part programme on the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius.


Gavin Plumley
Post-Wagnerian composers in Vienna, hugely influenced by the Bayreuth Behemoth, actively explored the kind of mental dissociation described in Freud and Breuer's Studies on Hysteria (1894). Employing vast orchestras to create swirling psychodramas, their operas offer a beguiling artistic response to Anna O's idea of 'private theatre', and to Wagner’s use of the mythological as a way of approaching psychological ‘truths’. A few decades later many of those composers, exiled by the Nazis, employed the same soundworld to accompany the ultimate dissociative narratives of Hollywood's Silver Screen. In this paper I will look at operas by Schreker, Korngold and their contemporaries through a Freudian lens.

Inge Wise
Abstract to come.

Tom Artin
In this paper I will present an overview of my recently published The Wagner Complex: Genesis and Meaning of The Ring, which sets forth a psychoanalytic interpretation of Wagner’s operatic tetralogy. Though a commonplace that Wagner’s works offer fertile ground for Freudian analysis, remarkably little investigation along these lines has actually seen publication. This book’s thesis rests on an exploration of the 19th c. Zeitgeist in whose atmosphere Wagner's operatic creations and Freud's psychological speculations alike came to fruition, most notably the emerging conjecture--scientific as well as philosophical--of the fundamental role played by the unconscious in everyday life and the creative process. The overarching conclusion of The Wagner Complex is that The Ring comprises not merely fanciful adventures (and misadventures) of gods, giants, and dwarves, of super-human heroes and anti-heroes such as traverse its intricate surface, but shadows forth symbolically the drama of unconscious intra-psychic conflict.

Bryan Magee and Stephen Gee
In this conversation we will explore Bryan Magee's long-standing work on music and philosophy with reference to the impact on Wagner's operas of 19th century philosophers, most notably Schopenhauer, and Wagner’s concomitant influence on philosophy through his association with Nietzsche. In their writing, all three men elaborated ideas about unconscious forces and desires at work in human affairs, famously anticipating Freud and modernism. No 20th century composer could avoid the influence of Wagner and there were many artistic developments, including the breakdown of tonality itself. Likewise, with the advent of psychoanalysis there was no going back to any ideal of a unitary self or a philosophical ‘subject’.

Estela Welldon
Far from being the passive victims of popular imagination, Wagner’s women are often complex, paradoxical and driven characters, representing diverse aspects of femininity and female desire. Wagner’s mythic narratives unveil power struggles between men and women, and between women themselves, representing warring currents of emotion within female psychology.

Stephen Gross
A highly significant connection linking Freud and Wagner is the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His claim that true reality consists of the primordial and undifferentiated Will beyond both space and time as well as the reach of Reason and appearance, was hugely influential on Wagner's music, particularly "Tristan and Isolde" as Bryan Magee has argued in his celebrated study Wagner and Philosophy. Freud's notion of the unconscious, most specifically the id as seat of the sex drives, can now be seen as a derivation of Schopenhauer's ideas, thereby establishing his link with Wagner. The fierce resistance and hostility towards both Freud and Wagner was founded not only on their perceived assault on prevailing sexual mores, but their assault on Reason itself, and, in Wagner's case, on his association with Nazism.


"The Prince Consort sits under a gothic tent, so to speak, around whose base runs a frieze of sculptures which depicts writers, artists, sculptors, musicians, as life-like as possible ... But it is very curious how rapidly a collection becomes incomplete. Lacking for us nowadays, of course, is R. Wagner, who was at that time starving." Letter to Family, Sunday 13 September 1908. Why be surprised that Freud, visiting London in 1908, should notice the absence of Wagner at the base of the Albert Memorial? Wagner was everywhere in Freud’s Vienna. One of his closest early colleagues was the musicologist Max Graf, who organised the 50th anniversary celebrations of Wagner in Vienna and wrote psychoanalytic interpretations of The Flying Dutchman and other works. His sisters went to Wagner’s operas as often as they could, and Freud mentions Tannhauser, Mastersingers, and Tristan and Isolde in his writings. Patients brought him dreams of interminable Wagner operas that may have been coded criticisms of the interminable analysis they were undergoing. And when did little Sigmund learn that his namesake in Wagner’s tetralogy was the hero who transgressed the incest taboo and was brutally punished by his father? This conference is a result of the conviction that, like Freud, “Wagner was grappling ... with fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” (Barry Millington, 2013) and that a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

For more and tickets visit: The Freud Museum
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For The Wagnerite With Everything: Wagner Spoons

We see lots of Wagner related "memorabilia" on auction sites and out of principle we don't normally mention them but thought these too "nerdy" to let pass-by: A set of 4 Vintage WMF Zinn Pewter Wagner Spoons!

Apparently they come from the home of an elderly relative who didn't smoke. Exactly why that is important in the case of spoons is not mentioned - although we assume that might depend on what the person didn't smoke.

Should you be interested - and quick - a brief search on a certain well known auction site should help.  Otherwise, well at least you can say you have seen a set. Anyone for sugar?

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Video Preview. SF Opera's New Der Fliegende Holländer

SF Opera's new Dutchman, is a co-production with Opéra Royal de Wallonie and was first staged there in 2011. This means that not only are there photographs of that production but video also, as Opéra Royal de Wallonie broadcast the 2011 performance free on the internet.  So, if you are thinking of going or have already booked, this might give you some idea of what to expect. Includes the entire prelude which provides a very good overview of Petrika Ionesco's production. These are all official videos

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Watch Now: The Colón Ring - Wagner in Buenos Aires

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 22 September 2013 | 1:12:00 pm

A fascinating documentary on the making of this, what became "drama filled" production - both on and off the stage.

In German and English with English subtitles. 96 minute running time. In two parts. Trailer below to help decide whether you wish to watch the entire thing. Recommended

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Symposium: Wagner & Us. UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE 5–8 DECEMBER 2013

Scheduled to coincide with the performances of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Melbourne, 18 November–13 December 2013, the symposium “Wagner and Us” will explore and critique Richard Wagner’s continuing cultural, political, and historical importance to contemporary society. The symposium, convened by Professor Kerry Murphy, is jointly hosted by The University of Melbourne and The Richard Wagner Society in Melbourne.

Topics to be covered include Wagner in Australia, Wagner and Anti-Semitism, Wagner in the Theatre, and the ‘Wagner Industry’, and others.

Invited Keynote Speakers include Patrick Carnegy (UK), Eva Rieger (Germany) and John Deathridge (UK).

Speakers at the Free Public Lecture are Dagny Beidler and Eva Rieger.

More At: Wagner And Us
Scheduled to coincide with the performances of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Melbourne, 18 November–13 December 2013, the symposium “Wagner and Us” will explore and critique Richard Wagner’s continuing cultural, political, and historical importance to contemporary society. The symposium, convened by Professor Kerry Murphy, is jointly hosted by The University of Melbourne and The Richard Wagner Society in Melbourne.
Topics to be covered include Wagner in Australia, Wagner and Anti-Semitism, Wagner in the Theatre, and the ‘Wagner Industry’, and others.
Invited Keynote Speakers include Patrick Carnegy (UK), Eva Rieger (Germany) and John Deathridge (UK).
Speakers at the Free Public Lecture are Dagny Beidler and Eva Rieger.
- See more at:
Scheduled to coincide with the performances of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Melbourne, 18 November–13 December 2013, the symposium “Wagner and Us” will explore and critique Richard Wagner’s continuing cultural, political, and historical importance to contemporary society. The symposium, convened by Professor Kerry Murphy, is jointly hosted by The University of Melbourne and The Richard Wagner Society in Melbourne.
Topics to be covered include Wagner in Australia, Wagner and Anti-Semitism, Wagner in the Theatre, and the ‘Wagner Industry’, and others.
Invited Keynote Speakers include Patrick Carnegy (UK), Eva Rieger (Germany) and John Deathridge (UK).
Speakers at the Free Public Lecture are Dagny Beidler and Eva Rieger.
It is anticipated that a Conference Proceedings will be published. For updates and other interesting things, you may wish to visit our Facebook page.
With grateful thanks to: The Mariann Steegmann Foundation
Part of the Melbourne Ring Festival presented by Opera Australia and the City of Melbourne
- See more at:
Scheduled to coincide with the performances of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in Melbourne, 18 November–13 December 2013, the symposium “Wagner and Us” will explore and critique Richard Wagner’s continuing cultural, political, and historical importance to contemporary society. The symposium, convened by Professor Kerry Murphy, is jointly hosted by The University of Melbourne and The Richard Wagner Society in Melbourne.
Topics to be covered include Wagner in Australia, Wagner and Anti-Semitism, Wagner in the Theatre, and the ‘Wagner Industry’, and others.
Invited Keynote Speakers include Patrick Carnegy (UK), Eva Rieger (Germany) and John Deathridge (UK).
Speakers at the Free Public Lecture are Dagny Beidler and Eva Rieger.
It is anticipated that a Conference Proceedings will be published. For updates and other interesting things, you may wish to visit our Facebook page.
With grateful thanks to: The Mariann Steegmann Foundation
Part of the Melbourne Ring Festival presented by Opera Australia and the City of Melbourne
- See more at:
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Revolution, and the Re-Founding of Humanity

It never ceases to amaze us where writing on Wagner might turn-up. The following originated on the website People of Shambhala,  "....a webzine dedicated to exploring how we can live authentically in the contemporary era. Whether we’re discussing spirituality and esotericism, reporting on inter-communal violence, or examining ancient and modern cultural influences on fashion, our aim is to widen the debate, challenge assumptions, and to enable readers to think outside the box."

"From the moment when Man perceived the difference between himself and Nature, and thus commenced his own development as man, by breaking loose from the unconscious life, – when he thus looked Nature in the face and from the first feelings of his dependence on her, thereby aroused, evolved the faculty of Thought, – from that moment did Error begin, as the earliest utterance of consciousness. But Error is the mother of Knowledge; and the history of the birth of Knowledge out of Error is the history of the human race, from the myths of primal ages down to the present day."
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London's "Other" Ring Cycle To Reach The End

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 21 September 2013 | 7:31:00 pm

Despite extraordinary odds against it, Fulham Opera will complete its entire, and extraordinary,  Ring cycle when Götterdämmerung premieres on November 8. Full details below.

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Stephen King's Novel "The Shining" To Be Made Into An Opera

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday 20 September 2013 | 7:45:00 pm

We have to admit a guilty secret, some of us are Stephen King fans. We are also Stanley Kubrick fans (even if King was not necessarily a fan of Kubrick's adaption of his novel - especially the manner in which "Wendy" is portrayed) So, it was with some surprise when we discovered that Minnesota Opera had commissioned an adaptation of King's novel The Shining

Must admit having never been to Minnesota. Well, there's a first time for everything. A story of addiction, suppressed rage (and a fear of unleashing it), death of the creative process and isolation have all the ingredients of a successful opera  Details below.

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Sir John Tomlinson Makes Debut With WNO

Following the tragic death of Richard Angas in August this year, it has been announced that Sir John Tomlinson will now be singing the role of Moses in WNO’s Moses und Aron in summer 2014.

This is the first time Sir John has sung with the Company and he will be performing the role in Cardiff, Birmingham and London.

New Production
Moses und Aron - Schoenberg

First night: 24 May 2014 at 8pm at Wales Millennium Centre

Sung in German with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)

Aron: Rainer Trost

Moses: Sir John Tomlinson

A Young Maiden/First Naked Virgin: Elizabeth Atherton

Another Man/Ephraimite: Daniel Grice

A Young Man: Alexander Sprague

A Priest TBC

Conductor Lothar Koenigs

Directors Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito

Designer Anna Viebrock

Original Lighting Designer Michael Alber

Production originated at Stuttgart Opera

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The Ring Cycle In 2.5 Minutes

Ever wanted to know the story of Wagner's 15-hour Ring Cycle? Here it is in two and a half minutes.

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Pope Says Catholic Church Should Not be 'Obsessed' with Gays & then cites Wagner.

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 19 September 2013 | 8:52:00 pm

In a recent interview Pope Francis'  may have further aggravated, most likely a minority, of extreme right-wingers in many churches, when he was asked whether he "approved" of homosexuality. His response? He felt the church was too focused on this and other matters such as abortion, noting:

"Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing." 

 Later in the interview he was asked about the enormous changes occurring in society,  the way human beings are reinterpreting themselves and the churches reaction to it? As part of a detailed reply (which can be read in full here) he noted:

“When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”

A Wagnerian Pope perhaps?

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Rare Photos Of Bayreuth 1960

Conductor and artistic director at Bangkok Opera, Somtow Sucharitkul, has made the photographs below available at his Facebook page (click the link). They feature a visit by the Thai Royal family to Bayreuth in 1960 and provide a fascinating document of Bayreuth at that time (some unique photos of Lohengrin we think you will agree).  We also include a performance of Mahler's 8th conducted by Sucharitkul, earlier this year and making its premiere in Thailand.

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Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Literary Critic, Wagnerian, Dies Aged 93

Marcel Reich-Ranicki ;(2 June 1920 – 18 September 2013) was a Jewish Polish-born German literary critic and member of the literary group Gruppe 47. He was regarded as one of the most influential contemporary literary critics in the field of German literature and has often been called the "Pope of Literature" ("Literaturpapst") in Germany.

“The biggest anti-Semite in the history of German culture was Richard Wagner,” And the greatest opera I know is his ‘Tristan and Isolde.’ Marcel Reich-Ranicki
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"Homeland" As Wagnerian Drama

Author Janette Griffiths finds parallels between HBO series Homeland and some of Wagner's more better known characters and dramas. Janette is also author of "The Singing House" a novel and love story set in the opera world. Should you buy it on kindle it also includes an embedded soundtrack that is distinctly Wagnerian in tone. For more visit her website here. While you are there you might want to check out her occasional Wagner blog also

NB: Janette has asked us to warn you that if you have not seen the series, which we must admit we have not, the following contains "spoilers. Be warned.

"Homeland" As Wagnerian Drama 

"Homeland" starts a third series on September 29th. Ever late to the party, I've just caught up with Season 2 and watched the finale last night. I wept during the immensely moving final moments, as Brody walked off into the dark woods alone. Then, I got to thinking how closely some scenes in this 21st century tv drama resemble Wagnerian opera.

Towards the begining of this last episode, "Homeland" took our fated lovers, Brody, the prisoner of war who was 'turned' by his Al Qaeda captors, and Carrie, the CIA agent who routed him, back to the cabin in the woods where they first consummated their decidedly twisted and complex love. Carrie is bi-polar, functioning on meds but prone to wild flights of intuition and impulse, that have helped bring her and her blighted lover through torture, terrorist plots and betrayal to this moment of stillness and serenity in the cabin on the golden, autumnal lake.

I loved those scenes in the cabin where they dare to hope for some sort of peaceful, 'ordinary' future for their love. As in so many great love stories since the beginning of time, these lovers have no logical chance of a happy outcome. Brody is a damaged, marked man - both the CIA and Al Qaeda will want him dead when he has served their purpose. And yet, they, and we persist in hoping against hope for a happy future. Like the doomed twins Siegmund and Sieglinde in Wagner's sublime "Walküre", Brody and Carrie snatch a moment of joy before the real world intervenes.

I was reminded again of Die Walküre as they made their escape towards the dark woods between the US and Canada. In Wagner's opera, Siegmund, a very Brody-esque character who has suffered and suffered and is a lone, sometimes violent man as a result, finds love with Sieglinde. (She is, in fact, his long-lost twin sister but that is a whole other story.) Her husband and his men have vowed to kill him and in the throes of immense, overwhelming passion, the two lovers escape into the forest. Ah, the forest! What a leitmotif it has been in this series - just as it always was for Wagner and in so many great myths.

I read recently that "Homeland" show-runner, Alex Gansa, believes that the love story is the heart of "Homeland" so he confirms what I feel and what has touched me so deeply in this show. As the story has developed from a straightforward "is he/isn't he?" to the much more complex and human questions of love, trust, betrayal, Carrie and Brody have come to reside in the same place as another pair of legendary Wagnerian lovers, "Tristan and Isolde". In the original vinyl box-set of the 1966 Karl Böhm recording of Tristan, there were some extraordinary sleeve notes that expressed in words what Wagner's opera was trying to do in words and music. It talked of how the lovers longed for night, oblivion, the eternal because their impossible desire could not exist in the light of day and reality and the real world's practical concerns. So much of the Carrie/Brody love story has taken place in dark places, in a dark, dark world of prison cells, interrogation rooms, bars. Their brief respite in the sunlit cabin can only foreshadow more darkness. Or perhaps not?

Hollywood "Story" guru Robert McKee's describes the basis of story as being drawn from the eternal conflict in human beings, of the fight between "being" and "becoming". As McKee explains, we all exist on at least two planes. Philosophers sometimes divide them into 'being' and 'becoming'.

"Being" translates into private experience where time doesn't exist, where true feelings lie. Being is heart, mind, love, soul, taste, desire...Being is all we'd like to keep stable in a constantly changing world. Being is our ability to love absolutely in spite of distance and the passing of time. Being is what makes us what we are.

"Becoming" is the public realm. The necessary structures, rules, limits imposed on us in order for society to function. Institutions must change to adapt. Time hurtles along. Nothing is constant. So the human dilemma is: "How do you keep what you value permanently in your heart while you are constantly being forced to change and adapt?" This is the dilemma that faces Carrie as she leaves Brody to make his way alone through the dark woods. Will she be able to keep Brody in her heart when everything in her life, her ambition, her dearest friend, her love for her country, her moral compass and the separation of time and distance all militate against him?

I also believed in and was moved by Peter, the CIA hitman's refusal to kill Brody - at the time. Afterwards, I asked myself questions and I may well be proved wrong. As I watched, however, I was reminded of another great scene in "Die Walküre" where Brunnhilde, the warrior goddess, comes to offer Siegmund a home in Valhalla with other fallen warriors provided he renounces love. But Siegmund refuses because his love for Sieglinde transcends everything else. Brunnhilde is dismayed but forced to examine everything she believes and values. By the end of the opera she renounces her warrior status for the chance of love. When Peter told Estes that Brody's death would kill Carrie, I thought of that. Oh and isn't the superb Claire Danes as Carrie, the personification of what Wagner really intended his Valkyries to be - not fat, foghorns in horned helmets but brave, beautiful, driven warrior women.

The comparisons could go on: Saul as the bass-baritone (even though he's a tenor in real life) - the father figure - sometimes Wotan, the Walküre's troubled god watching his turbulent Valkyrie/Carrie take action where he cannot. Sometimes Tristan's King Marke, stepping into the lovers' night world to remind them of the real world and their duties in it.

Yes, "Homeland" has a few audacious plotlines that many of us don't buy but anyone who has ever set foot in an opera house is used to that. And yes, some fans are crying foul and don't want a love story in the midst of all the intrigue and deception. I am the first to be annoyed when love stories are tacked on to movies just to thicken the plot but I think the clever writers here have moved Carrie and Brody beyond avatars in a video game to a superior status as mythic lovers. And why shouldn't our contemporary culture produce its own figures of myth? Why do they always have to come from the past? I think these lovers are the quintessential expression of a mythical love in the early 21st century - in a world riven by terrorism, fanaticism and violence a love between flawed, broken people that transcends betrayal, fear, separation. Richard Wagner would have loved this story.

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Kaufmann's Wagner CD wins Gramophone Award

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 18 September 2013 | 2:59:00 pm

In a year where Wagner was greatly under represented, the Kaufmann/Runnicles "Wagner" CD won "Vocal Recording Of The Year" at this years Gramophone rewards.

Jonas Kaufmann (ten) Markus Brück (bass-bar) Deutsche Oper Berlin Chorus and Orchestra / Donald Runnicles
Decca 478 5189DH

Lohengrin – In fernem Land (original version). Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Am stillen Herd. Rienzi – Allächtiger Vater, blick hera!. Siegfried Dass der mein Vater nicht ist. Tannhäuser – Inbrunst im Herzen. Die Walküre – Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater. Wesendonck-Lieder (orch Mottl)

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Featured Book: The Wagner Experience.

Readers may have noticed a new addition to the right-hand column of the site. Entitled "Featured Book" this will display a book cover of a  newly published Wagner related book that we feel is of particular merit and will rotate as the mood takes us. Clicking the image will take the reader to the book's site where further information can be found. A note however, this is not an a "paid advertisement" so readers worrying about the addition of advertising here need not worry.

This months book features Paul Dawson-Bowling's fascinating two volume set; The Wagner Experience. Volume two of which is more than worth the entrance price and may well be the most detailed analysis of Wagner's mature works since Newman's "Wagner Nights"

'People who take to the Wagner Experience encounter something wonderful, like gazing into a silver mirror which dissolves into a miraculous, self-contained world, glinting with life-changing possibilities. There are others who sense its appeal but find it difficult, and the first aim of this study is to provide an Open Sesame for anyone wanting it.' Paul Dawson-Bowling

'The distillation a lifetime's work which has clearly been a labour of love, this book is organised as two beautifully illustrated volumes.' Wagner News

'In every way remarkable... communicates essential truths and modes of understanding Wagner... [The Wagner Experience] is a wonderful culmination to a lifetime of devotion, and it deserves to be widely read and bought in large numbers. Any one reading [it] will have a well-informed, sympathetic, perceptive understanding of Wagner without any neglect of the more difficult aspects of his personality -- the egocentricity, the mood swingsJohn Derry, Professor Emeritus, University of Newcastle

'Paul Dawson-Bowling's book draws on a deep knowledge of medical and psychological matters to offer valuable insights into Wagner's inner life and thus into the works themselves.' Barry Millington

“I am nearly 80, but I am forever looking for adequate answers to Wagner’s questions. I have had many telephone conversations with Paul ad he is undoubtedly the man to examine the many questions that Wagner posed. These questions are now waiting to be explored by you, the reader. Read Paul’s book!Sir Donald McIntyre

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The Alma Fetish - a most Wagnerian opera?

Kokoschka's "infamous" "Alma Doll
‘It appealed to something vaguely perverse in me, the idea of the living doll, like Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann.” Raymond Deane

“I particularly like the idea that Wide Open Opera’s first project was Tristan und Isolde, and the second one is a kind of parody of Tristan und Isolde.” Fergus Sheil'

"If you see Oskar again, I´ll shoot you dead!" Letter from Kokoschka's mother to Alma Mahler

Last year Fergus Sheil's Wide Open Opera presented Ireland's first performance of Tristan und Isolde in many years. Last night, they performed a concert version of Irish composer Raymond Deane's The Alma Fetish . A bizarre true story of the love affair between Wagner obsessed artist Oskar Kokoschka and equally Wagner obsessed Alma Mahler - the widow of Gustav Mahler.

So obsessed was Kokoschka with Alma that when she left him, he famously had made a life size, anatomically "correct" "doll" in her likeness - or so was the original plan - with whom he lived "intimately" until eventually destroying it.

If you wish to hear Kokoschka talking about Tristan then click this link. And below is a sample of Deane's new work

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The First Image Of Richard Wagner, Aged 22

During last year and indeed, this year,  new images of Wagner have been found, or claimed to have been found. In the debate about the authenticity of some, other documented images have been brought out in comparison. Especially that by Julius Ernst Benedikt Kietz in 1840 and found below. However, as far as we are aware the earliest likeness of Wagner was taken when he was only 22. That is the silhouette found above (alas, a reproduction. Our scanners have all decided not to work), by an unknown artist, presented to Wagner as a gift by his future wife Minna Planer in 1835

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Lauritz Melchior: "Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater" 1941

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 17 September 2013 | 3:44:00 pm

 Lauritz Melchior with Wife Petting His Great Dane  

Lauritz Melchior sings "Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater

from Die Walküre by Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Helen Traubel (Sieglinde)

NBC Orchestra

Arturo Toscanini, conductor
Carnegie Hall 22.II.1941
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Watch Now: Mendelssohn & Beethoven. Waldbühne. Berliner Philharmoniker

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 16 September 2013 | 8:10:00 pm

That such beauty can come from a place built by a regime capable of such horrors,  may prove that there is hope for humanity after all. And when that beauty comes in the form Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor and Beethoven's Ninth perhaps even more so. Or is that simply wishful thinking?

The annual summer concert of the prestigious Berliner Philharmoniker takes place in the Waldbühne in Berlin. An event not to be missed and broadcasted live on!

A summer residence of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Waldbühne in Berlin is one of the most beautiful outdoor amphitheatres on the European continent. It serves once again as a venue for the Berliner Philharmoniker summer concert, which performs two masterpieces of the German repertoire...

The Violin Concerto in E minor, which was written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1843-1844, opens the concert. With a formal structure that breaks with the conventions of the classical concerto, this masterpiece is interpreted by the violonist Christian Tetzlaff, who notably recorded it with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Following Christian Tetzlaff's performance, the Berliner Philharmoniker gives a rendition of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, under the baton of its music director Sir Simon Rattle. The famous final movement, "Ode to Joy", named after Friedrich von Schiller's poem, is sung by the Rundfunkchor Berlin and the renowned soloists Camilla Tilling, Nathalie Stutzmann, Joseph Kaiser and Dimitry Ivashchenko.

Camilla Tilling soprano 
Joseph Kaiser tenor 
Nathalie Stutzmann contralto 
Dimitry Ivashchenko bass

Rundfunkchor Berlin 
Simon Halsey chorus master
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Watch Now: Mahler's 8th. Dudamel. Salzburg

A little bit of Mahler is always good for you every now and then.

The fiery Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler'sSymphony of a Thousand at the Salzburg Festival.

The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (formerly known as the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela) is the orchestra of the music education program El Sistema, founded in 1975 by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu. The most illustrious representative of this program is certainly the superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel himself, now at the head of both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. This concert opens the El Sistema residency in Salzburg.

This performance also inaugurates the Mahler cycle of this 2013 edition of the Salzburg Festival. And the orchestra chose one of the composer's most impressive works, the Eighth Symphony, also calledSymphony of a Thousand because of the huge amount of musicians needed to perform it.

The two hundred young musicians of the El Sistema orchestra join forces with the Simón Bolívar National Youth Choir of Venezuela, the Wiener Singverein, the Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor, the singers of the Superar project, eight internationally reknowned soloists (Emily Magee, Juliane Banse, Anna Prohaska, Yvonne Naef, Birgit Remmert, Klaus Florian Vogt, Detlef Roth and Robert Holl) and the organist Pablo Castellanos.

For six months of the year, the orchestra works with its Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, with whom it also made its Salzburg Festival debut in 2008. In 2011 the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra whetted the Salzburg audience’s appetite for more with its rousing performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2.

Emily Magee soprano 
Juliane Banse soprano 
Anna Prohaska soprano 
Yvonne Naef contralto 
Birgit Remmert contralto 
Klaus Florian Vogt tenor 
Detlef Roth baritone 
Robert Holl bass
Pablo Castellanos organ

Choristers of "Superar" 
Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor 
Wolfgang Götz chorus master 
Simón Bolívar National Youth Choir of Venezuela 
Lourdes Sánchez chorus master 
Wiener Singverein 
Johannes Prinz chorus master

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Watch Now: Verdi's Don Carlo. Kaufmann, Harteros, Hampson. Salzburg

One of our more beloved Verdi operas. You will need to register to watch all of it but it is free and not problematic.

The Salzburg Festival hosts a new production of Verdi's Don Carlo, directed by Peter Stein and embodied by Jonas Kaufmann!

In the second half of the 16th century, a peace treaty between France and Spain is to be sealed by the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II, and Don Carlos, son of Philipp II and heir of the Spanish throne.

When Don Carlos (Jonas Kaufmann) and her future spouse meet for the first time, they fall in love on sight, although they both were apprehensive over their marriage to a stranger. But their happiness does not last long, because the peace treaty arrangements have been altered: Henry II now intends to marry his daughter to King Philip himself. To ensure peace between France and Spain, Elizabeth consents, and lets Carlos devastated.

As ever in Verdi's masterpieces, Don Carlo's story takes its roots in the political and religious situation of Europe. Just like in a Racinian tragedy, the lovers' path is determined by a political situation which overwhelms them.

This dream cast gathers one of the most sought-after tenors of the moment, Jonas Kaufmann, and the best Verdian singers on the operatic scene.

Antonio Pappano conductor
Peter Stein stage director
Ferdinand Wögerbauer set designer
Annamaria Heinreich costume designer
Joachim Barth lightings
Lia Tsolaki choreography
Jörn Hinnerk Andresen chorus master
Matti Salminen (Flilppo II)
Jonas Kaufmann (Don Carlo)
Anja Harteros (Elisabetta di Valois)
Thomas Hampson (Rodrigo, Marchese di Posa)
Ekaterina Semenchuk (La Principessa Eboli)
Eric Halfvarson (Il Grande Inquisitore)
Robert Lloyd (Un frate)
Maria Celeng (Tebaldo)
Sen Guo (Una voce dal cielo)
Benjamin Bernheim (Il Conte di Lerma/Un Araldo reale)
Members of the Young Singers Project (Sei deputati fiamminghi)
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Wiener Philharmoniker
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Wagner Societies To Get Their Tickets Back?

As readers maybe aware, it has long been the tradition for Wagner societies around the world to receive an allocation of Bayreuth tickets each year. These could then be distributed to the societies members outside of the the usual methods. However, in 2012 Bayreuth told the societies that they could no longer provide them with these tickets. This was in no small part due to a Federal investigation into how tickets were allocated each year.

But things maybe changing. It seems that Bayreuth will be holding a meeting in November where they will once again look at providing tickets to the Societies. But why now? One wonders if the possibility of an impending change in the German political landscape might have something to do with it.
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"Wagner Rules" At Opera News Awards

The editors of Opera News are pleased to announce the honorees for the ninth annual Opera News Awards, paying tribute to five superb artists who have made invaluable contributions to the art form: director Patrice Chéreau, tenor Juan Diego Flórez, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, bass-baritone James Morris and soprano Nina Stemme. The Opera News Awards ceremonywill take place on Sunday, April 13 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. All the winners - and a host of the city's cultural, civic, and social luminaries - will be present at the gala awards dinner, which will feature celebrity presenters speaking about the awardees and introducing video performance clips.

Created in 2005, the Opera News Awards recognize five individuals each year for distinguished achievement in the field of opera. Proceeds from the gala evening on April 13 will benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The official announcement of this year's honorees appears in the October 2013 issue of Opera News, which is available on September 11 and has composer Nico Muhly on the cover, in connection with the performance of his opera Two Boys at the Met. The April 2014 issue of Opera News will contain tributes to the five awardees, all distinguished members of the international opera community.
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Bavarian Arts Minister Says Festival Should Stay With Wagner Family

Wolfgang Heubisch
In an interview yesterday, Bavarian Arts Minister, Wolfgang Heubisch, has said that a Wagner should continue to manage the festival. 

There has been much speculation that the present Wagner duo would be ousted from their roles as directors of the festival following a series of public relation disasters and what might be politely described as "problematic" productions - not least this years Castorf Ring cycle.

However, some are now speculating that Heubisch's latest comments means the sisters are secure in renewing their contracts next year. 

"I could not imagine a  festival management without the Wagner family," he said in an interview."It is the  Richard Wagner Festival after all" he went on.  "If you have so many family members who are involved in the arts, the Wagner gene should remain there".

Some are now suggesting that this means the present management's contracts are certain to be renewed. However, what is more telling here is Heubisch's comment regarding there being so many Wagners working in the arts - and of course he is correct. Could Bavaria, a joint owner of the Festival,  be lining up another Wagner to take over? Time will surely tell.

Nike Wagner: Wagner genes just going for spare?

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Watch: Wagner V Verdi - On-demand

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 14 September 2013 | 3:26:00 pm

And not even pay per view. As part of the Deloitte Ignite festival at the Royal Opera House, on Sunday Stephen Fry will host a "battle" between Philip Hensher, who argues the case for Wagner and Norman Lebrecht who advocates Verdi (Ed: Given how much he goes on, you would have thought he might have picked Mahler. Mahler v Wagner? Now that would be slightly more interesting)

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From Bayreuth To Leipzig: Wagner Comes Home

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author, noted Wagner scholar, Dr Mark Berry. To read more of Mark's papers and essays on Wagner, the reader really should visit his blog: The Boulezian

From Bayreuth to Leipzig: Wagner returning home for his 200th anniversary

(a paper originally given at the OBERTO conference: Staging Operatic Anniversaries, at Oxford Brookes University, 10 September 2013)

Many in Wagner’s generation and in more than one generation before him found themselves preoccupied with the question, ‘What is German?’ A celebrated epigram by Schiller had begun by asking: ‘Germany? Where is it? I don’t know how to find it.’ Wagner himself essayed the question more than once, whether as a particular focus or as one amongst several. Much Wagner scholarship has, however, suffered from insufficient appreciation of that question’s nineteenth-century context and specifically of Wagner’s Saxon inheritance. His upbringing in Leipzig and Dresden, in the ‘third Germany’ that was neither Prussia nor Austria, profoundly informed his understanding of things ‘German’.

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Voigt Cancels WNO Tristan - Theorin and Mellor Drink The "Love Potion" Instead

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 10 September 2013 | 9:57:00 am

Deborah Voigt,  has pulled out of  WNO's production of Tristan Und Isolde beginning  September 15th.

Ms Voigt told press:

“Returning to a role that I love but haven’t sung in a number of seasons, and encountering its unique challenges, has caused me to reconsider keeping it in my repertoire. I’m very disappointed that I feel compelled to withdraw from this production, but am very happy to continue my association with WNO both this season and into the future.”

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The Flying Dutchman: The Comic Book

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 5 September 2013 | 5:17:00 pm

In order to celebrate Richard Wagner's 200th birthday anniversary the Goethe-Institut was looking for adaptations of Wagner's magnificent work. Creating a "Flying Dutchman" comic was an exciting idea and working with artist Mat Tait turned out to be extremely rewarding. The Goethe-Institu have made the entire series available online to read for free and this can be found by clicking the link below.

Should you be in New Zealand, and not too far from Wellington, then you can pop into the Goethe-Institut there where they are holding an exhibition of Mat's complete original artwork. For an interview with Mat about this project please go here.

To view the entire comic please click here.  (Note although the site is in German, the comic is in English. Simply click the images in order of appearance). 

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David Frost's Last Interview: Daniel Barenboim

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 1 September 2013 | 9:46:00 pm

It is with great sadness that we announce that David Frost has died of a heart attack aged 74. It seems that Frost's final interview was with Daniel Barenboim, as part of his series for Al Jazeera TV. We reproduce below in full. For a synopsis please click here.
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Tannhauser: The Problem Opera

Author of the highly recommended Wagner blog "Sacrifice" casts his always highly acute - and sometimes controversial - gaze at Wagner's Tannhauser. 

The Contradictions of Tannhauser 

Tannhauser: The Problem Opera

Whenever anyone writes about Wagner, he or she realizes that the result will be controversy, argument, and probably vituperative responses. That is the nature of Wagner, a complex composer and personality, around whom contradictions abound. Therefore, I realize that not everyone will agree with me nor do I expect them to. Yet, the contradictions require exploration.

While problems are not always contradictions, contradictions always lead to problems. Consider Wagner’s fifth opera: Tannhauser….

And consider this contradiction. Wagner had no reason to write Tannhauser—he had just done so a few years earlier. Imagine an opera in which someone has committed a mortal sin for which he or she is doomed to roam the world friendless and helpless—doomed, that is unless someone else of infinite mercy sacrifices him or herself out of love for the sinner. Is this not the plot of The Flying Dutchman? Wagner had already written this story with some success and acclaim; why rewrite it as Tannhauser? He must have had some motive, but that motive is not immediately apparent. True, Wagner, just as most creative minds of the nineteenth century, was obsessed with the concept of sacrifice of the ego for the salvation of humanity—the idea takes root in Kant and blooms in Schopenhauer. It was so endemic that Engels criticized Fueurbach, a follower of Hegel and debunker of Christianity, for constantly citing it as a way to social change. In his chapter entitled “Wagner, Feuerbach and the Future” Bryan Magee paraphrases Feuerbach’s ideas, “When we say something like ‘God came down to earth, and took on himself the sufferings of mankind, and died for us all,’ what we are really saying is that to suffer and die for others is the highest (i.e. the most godlike) activity of which human beings are capable.” (The Tristan Chord, p53). Byron approaches the idea, but cannot make the leap; however, we find it permeating the literature of the century (Emerson, Dickens, Dostoevsky). As we know, the theme would become essential to almost all of Wagner’s works; of course, he incorporates it with more facile skill into his later works. Consider the sophistication with which he handles it in Die Meistersingers in the portrait of Hans Sachs. Sachs sacrifices the happiness of his later life (happiness offered to him by Eva) in order to assure her happiness with Walther. It is a grand gesture.

Perhaps in the late 1840s, Wagner felt so comfortable with this theme that he could safely immerse himself in it while developing other parts of his compositional repertoire—i.e. use a safety net while practicing the dangerous and daunting. However, this supposition leads to another contradiction—two in fact: if this opera were a compositional exercise and a means of increasing his skills, then first, why expend so much effort marrying two disparate sources into a fragile, good versus evil story, which from a realistic point of view has an incredibly weak ending—an ending in which Wagner saw more than the audience seems to see or have seen. Remember, Wagner was so disappointed with the original audiences that he changed the staging of the ending to make his vision clearer. (In the original staging Venus does not appear on stage in Act III, nor does Elizabeth’s bier.) For those interested in tracing the sources that Wagner used for the story (and seeing how unconnected they were from each other) I recommend two sources: Ernest Newman’s The Wagner Operas, which was first published in 1949 and reprinted just a few years ago, and Claude Simpson’s 1948 article Wagner and the Tannhäuser Tradition. PMLA Vol. 63, No. 1 (Mar., 1948), pp. 244-261. For the opera, the first source is The Singers’ Contest whose main character is Heinrich von Ofterdinger. This is the story of a singing contest in Wartburg, in which a discredited singer has accepted the secrets of music as recorded in a black book by the “wizard” Klingsor, which he uses to win the contest, but things turn out badly for him and he disappears. The other source is the story of Tannhauser and Venus—no singing contest here. In neither story is there a character named Elizabeth, although Heinrich Ofterdinger is protected in one version by a Matilda and in another by a Sophie. In Wagner’s amalgamation, Tannhauser is an egotist consumed with selfish pleasure who realizes too late his error and so becomes a sinner seeking a path to salvation. What we have here are all of the elements of an allegory without using the medieval device of metonymically naming the characters with their role (Patience, Charity, Hope, etc.). The answer to the first problem then is that Wagner forced these two stories together in order to create, as we will see, a nineteenth-century allegory (or is it a melodrama) based on medieval folk tales—a corrupted Everyman seeking the path from sin to salvation. This seems to be the justifying point of the opera.

The second problem at this point is why, if he used this safety net to explore new musical frontiers and hone his craft, was he so uncommitted to the results that he almost whimsically, later, made wholesale alterations but never attempted to smoothly consolidate them into the whole. Tannhauser existed for over ten years after its original completion receiving performances in many places including, of course, Dresden where it premiered in 1845. In 1859 Wagner returned to Paris and in 1860 Emperor Napoleon ordered the opera’s performance at the Paris Opera. All of us are acquainted with the disaster that resulted for which the conventions of French Opera at the time and the Jockey Club get blamed. But Wagner attempted to meet those conventions and placate the Jockey Club. Rather than rewriting, he added to the score—especially to the Venusberg parts of Act I. Here is an additional contradiction. In the fifteen years since the score’s original completion, Wagner had composed three operas that had yet to be performed: Rheingold, Walkure, and Tristan und Isolde. The composer who made the additions to Tannhauser in 1859 was a very different composer from the one who finished the original score in 1845. Whether his chronic poverty during these years drove him to force the new style onto the old to make a big “score” and payday in Paris or whether he was too overwhelmed by the moment and the pressure to make the necessary revisions to accommodate the new ideas into the old score, Wagner made a pastiche of it. No wonder the event went off miserably. Newman’s analysis of the compositional problems resulting from this conglomeration of styles is mesmerizing—I recommend reading it near a piano so that one can attempt to play the illustrations. Here is a link to the Paris Version of the opening:

And here is a link to the Dresden Version: Whatever the cause, here is another problem presented by the opera: As Wagner’s fame spread through the last two centuries, we now face a constant struggle—do we prefer the Dresden version or the Paris version—which one should be performed? Since Wagner was a very different composer after Tristan than before, the two versions of Tannhauser seem almost to have been written by two different composers. That is hyperbole of course, but it does suggest the conundrums one faces with this opera. Do we want the unified whole or do we want the pyrotechnics of the mature Wagner?

Continue Reading (Recommended)
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