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Record Label Turns To Kickstarter To Fund Rare Wagner CD Set

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 | 8:20:00 pm

Was Wagner the first person to use "crowed funding" to pay for performances of his work? Well, it is certain that it was public subscriptions that helped build Bayreuth - even if it ultimately also needed the formation of the Wagner Societies and 100,000 Thaler from the patron saint of Wagnerites everywhere - Ludwig II.

Perhaps it is in this spirit that a small,independent record label - Washington based Americas -  has turned to 21st century crowd funding/public patronage "Kickstarter" in an attempt to fund a four cd set of rarely heard/recorded  Wagner works - selected by Dr. Peter P. Pachl .  And like Wagner they intend to make the work free to anyone that would like to hear it, in the form of MP3 downloads - although the set will also available on CD.

It seems the company needs a total of $163,000 to make the project a reality. Well, if Zach Braff manged to use Kickstarter to raise $2 million (in 3 days) to fund another one of his indie "comedy dramas" or millionaire game designer Richard Garriott raised a similar amount to fund another one of his RPGs, then anything is possible.

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Funded "Doctoral Studentship in Hearings of Wagner's Letimotives" Available

For graduates with an interest in Wagner, a chance like this rarely comes along - especially with a tax-free stipend starting at £13,726 per annum and the supervision of Prof. Laurence Dreyfus and and Prof. David De Roure. Might we suggest that if this not for you mention it to anyone you think it might?

AHRC Doctoral Studentship in Hearings of Wagner's Letimotives for the Ring, 1876—1976

Applications are invited for a three-year Doctoral Studentship in Musicology, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, located at the Music Faculty of the University of Oxford, under the collaborative supervision of Prof. Laurence Dreyfus(Faculty of Music) and Prof. David De Roure (Director, Oxford e-Research Centre). The deadline for applications is Friday 8th November 2013; interviews will take place in the week beginning 18th November 2013. The Studentship will commence at the beginning of Hilary Term (January) 2014.
The Studentship

The leitmotivic practices employed in Richard Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen have received a rich and varied reception since the work was first staged in 1876. Wagner's leitmotives have been understood differently in different European cultures. Not only are different names assigned, but the morphology of individual motives as well as the complete 'lexicon' for each of the mature music dramas differ in appreciable ways. 19th- and early 20th-century sources for these leitmotivic lists include opera guides with musical examples and stand alone leitmotivic booklets but also scores for piano alone and piano with voice issued by a range of music publishers across Europe and in America, which have never before been studied as a genre of musical cognition, perception, and interpretation. Beginning in 20th century, there are also 'audio' guides which present excerpts from specific recordings in an attempt to structure a listener's understanding in particular of Wagner's Ring. There is little uniformity within these various forms of leitmotivic identifications - indeed, publishers may have gone out of their way to differentiate their products from those of their competitors in the context of a single market. In the case of dramatic guides – in the tradition of Hans von Wolzogen's thematic leading threads (Thematische Leitfaden) – the embedding of leitmotivic identification within an overarching narrative account of the operas sheds light on how audiences were encouraged to hear and appreciate the drama, and in a more general theoretical sense, how music, language and dramatic action coincide within the Wagnerian experience.

The doctoral project 'Hearings of Wagner's Leitmotives for the Ring, 1876-1976' will collate, catalogue and analyse these variant forms as a primary guide to the contrasting forms of Wagner reception in different cultural contexts. The work will marry traditional historical and philological research on leitmotives with insights gleaned from the data retrieval and analysis as well as from the psychological studies on perceptions of leitmotives. To make the research manageable and productive, this will focus on a limited musical corpus, most likely a single stage work, cataloguing and comparing the significance of the naming and identification of Wagner's leitmotives in a variety of European cultures (France, Italy, England and Germany), each of which developed a distinctive approach to the operas. The thesis will emerge from a methodological engagement with old and new 'technologies' in two modes of reception studies – working out how Wagner was heard in historical contexts and how he is being heard and analysed today.

The studentship is offered as part of the AHRC funded "Transforming Musicology" project which explores the effect of digital methods on music scholarship and people's interactions with music more broadly. Consequently, it is expected that the doctoral student will collaborate closely with technical experts working on this project and integrate some of these advanced methods into the work.

This three-year studentship is for fees plus a tax-free stipend starting at £13,726 per annum. Further details of the AHRC scheme including terms and conditions can be found here:

For more information please follow this link
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An Insiders Guide To Parsifal: Lyric Opera Of Chicago

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 | 7:36:00 pm

"Compassion and redemption. Yes, one is very dependent on the other. The theme of redemption – Parsifal’s redemption – is entirely tied up with whether or not he learns compassion. That’s the fundamental story of the work..." John Caird

"In the case of Wagner, knowing as I’m sure he did that this was his last major piece, there is a sense that he is writing his own Requiem Mass, or Missa Solemnis – a piece that he knows will be his final artistic and intellectual statement" 
John Caird

"It is a religious piece – there's no question of that. Wagner’s decision to present the dénoument of the work on Good Friday and to infuse Parsifal’s quest with so much Christian imagery – it can’t be regarded as a completely secular work. But I think it’s also a deeply philosophical work" 
John Caird

"As with all stage directions, some of them are useful, some less so. A lot of the stage directions were written in order to prove to his producers at the time that what he was writing was possible, and to help explain how elements of the music could be interpreted visually – perhaps because he started with a visual inspiration for which he then created music. Getting the visual elements right is crucial, but slavishly copying what Wagner has suggested is not so important" 
John Caird

Part of Lyric Opera Of Chicago's run-up to the premiere of their new Parsifal. A video preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming.
You might also want to read an interview with Director John Caird by clicking here.





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Audio Interview: Heath Lees and Dimity Reed: Wagner's Ring

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 28 October 2013 | 11:15:00 pm



A few weeks ago we featured Heath Lees fascinating new four part documentary series, Wagner's Ring: A Tale Told In Music, examining Der Ring des Nibelungen (See here for more details) As a follow-up to that you can find below a 30 minute interview given by Heath Lees and producer Dimity Reed for Radio New Zealand.

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THE NIBELUNG STRIKES BACK



THE NIBELUNG STRIKES BACK: Fundamental connections in the leitmotivic treatment and structure of   Wagner’s 0peras and John Williams’ Star Wars film-score

                                                                 PHILIP RICE

                                                          MUS-311 Music History III

                                                Central Michigan University, 1 Dec., 2008

It was the self-proclaimed goal of Richard Wagner to create an all- encompassing art-form that could perfectly portray mythic narrative through musical, thematic, kinetic and linguistic means. Wagner spent his entire life attempting to create works that satisfied this ideal, which he called Gesamtkunstwerk (“complete art”). There is perhaps no clearer modern parallel to this goal of Wagner’s than twentieth century cinema. Although the convenience of cinema has rendered modern opera virtually obsolete to the common audience, commercial films produced by major studios of today—thanks to a highly developed ability to precisely synchronize speech, movement, and music—come perhaps closer to Gesamtkunstwerk than even Wagner could have hoped. Despite the fact that there exist so many parallels between Wagner’s art and modern film, most film composers have generally failed to employ many of the complex devices for musical symbolic and thematic integration that Wagner so seamlessly achieved in his greatest operas.

If there is one example of modern film that has come nearest to achieving an authentically Wagnerian model, it could easily be John Williams’ score to George Lucas’ Star Wars saga. The films share a strong thematic link with many of Wagner’s works, (particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen) in that they portray the mythical adventures and fate of a heroic character (in this case, Anakin Skywalker) within a complex storyline consisting of multiple installments. On a musical level, however, Williams’ use of leitmotif, as well as the very fabric of musical and thematic interaction share common threads with essential conventions laid down by Wagner. Williams’ treatment of leitmotif goes far beyond staple “film themes” which remain perpetually married to the literal people and places they portray.

Additionally, Williams’ themes are integrated on a structural level, unifying the entire saga, much as Wagner integrated entire opera cycles with overarching resemblances between themes sharing a common origin.
The concept of the leitmotif appeared first in its “pure” form in the operas of Wagner at the end of the Nineteenth century. This is not to say that Wagner created the model; indeed the idea of a “recurring motive” had existed long before (well into the Baroque period), and had enjoyed special prominence in Hector Berlioz’s rendering of the idée fixe in his 1830 magnum opus, Symphony Fantastique. Wagner, however, expanded the notion of recurring motives to take on a much more directly dramatic function. Wagner’s ultimate goal was not musical, but dramatic; Wagner sought not to create merely musical masterpieces but comprehensive theatrical productions that were, in reality, grand literary mythologies that used music as a means for furthering the depiction of the plot and characters. He modified the use of recurring motives to directly link characters, plot devices, actions, and, ultimately, overarching themes to the musical fabric of the opera. This not only accomplished the task of finding appropriate music to fit each scene, but it also unified the work, and as a result, unified the emotional and intellectual state of the listener. Wagner’s leitmotifs
were, however, more than just guiding “musical signposts;” they were completely integrated both thematically with the storyline and on a purely musical level. In a sense, the motives functioned not only as representations of elements within the story, but they also embodied the elements themselves. As Theodor Adorno explains, leitmotifs develop into “process[es] in which signifiers and signifieds are interchangeable” If a leitmotif is to become integrated on this deep a level, it needs to be as dynamic as the character or idea it portrays. In this sense, leitmotifs in Wagner’s music generally evolve with the character or ideas they symbolize.

Continue Reading
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"Lost" Wagner Letter Sells For Over 3000 Euros

Mentioned a few weeks ago, it appears the letter, in which Wagner provides information on the character of Lohengrin,  sold for 3, 300 euros at auction to an anonymous buyer. 

This also gives us an excuse to post a snippet of one of the finest Lohengrins recorded. Any excuse - we know.

A handwritten letter from the German composer Richard Wagner, dated in 1881 and sent by the musician to the editor of the newspaper El Periódico Ilustrado Español, fetched more than 3,000 at the auction in La Suite on the 24th October. The letter had a reserve price of 1,200 Euros, and was one of more than 300 lots which La Suite put on sale yesterday and which included gothic, baroque and renaissance carvings, sculptures in bronze and porcelain, Spanish Golden Age pieces, paintings and drawings by Salvador Dalí, as well as various collectors´ items.

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Video: Daniel Brenna Discusses Playing both Sigmund & Siegfried

In 2011, more by accident then design that year, we saw a little known American tenor give a performance of Siegfried that both astounded us and indeed many others. At that time we suggested that readers might want to keep a close eye on Daniel Brenna and that prediction seems to have proven correct. Not only has he received more than positive reviews for performing both Sigmund & Siegfried at Operá Dijon's "reduced" Ring cycle but 2014 will see him perform Siegfried in a number of international Opera Houses - see just his Wagner dates below. For those of us in the UK he will be making his first appearance here in 3 years when he appears as Siegfried in Opera North's Götterdämmerung in June 2014.
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Barenboim Ring - On USB, With Interactive Extras


Update: See video below. Also, pre-release price now confirmed on Amazon at £34.49

Not the first time that Warner Classics have released work in this format - we think the first may have been their major Bach collection - but certainly the first time they have done so with the Ring cycle. A lot of interesting extras seem to be included. Once we get our hands on a copy we shall provide some sort of review.
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The Ring Continues To Turn: Janowski Walkure Released.


Should you have access to spotify you can listen to it in its entirety below. A review can also be found here, although, we are listening to it at the moment and so far find it more favorable then that review might suggest, and certainly more favorable to the other recent Walkure mentioned.  Now, whether we would compare it favorably to Janowski's previous complete Ring cycle seems less likely - at least at this stage.

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A Tantalizing Look At the Melbourne Ring: Rheindaughter As Showgirl

Lorina Gore, as Rhinedaughter, backstage  Ring cycle in Melbourne.

“I don’t necessarily want to create the kind of traditional fantasy that people are accustomed to seeing on stage. I create pictures of a world that we know and we live in.” Costume designer Alice Babidge

Opera houses are renowned, with the odd exception, of keeping a tight-lid on what their future productions may look like. This seems to be especially so with new Ring cycles where even the insidious tentacles of the NSA seem unable to penetrate. They may be able to access Merckel's personal mobile phone to discover her Candy Crush score but not even the central members of "Five Eyes" seemed to have any idea what shape the Lepage Ring would take.

With this in mind, it should come as some surprise that OA has released the following backstage glimpse of the costumes for their up and coming Melbourne ring.

Thoughts on a postcard to.....

But while you are contemplating your reply you might want to pop over to the Melbourne Ring's blog where costume designer Alice Babidge discusses her designs. Click here. Highly recommended



All Photos: Keith Saunders
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Piedmont Opera To Stage First Dutchman In Its History

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 | 3:05:00 am


Indeed, not only its first Dutchman but first Wagner drama. A production of the Dutchman by Steven LaCosse, that first saw its premiere with the Princeton Opera Festival earlier this year. Full details below.

The Flying Dutchman

October 25th at 8:00 pm, 27th at 2:00 pm and 29th at 7:30 pm, 2013

Jake Gardner: The Dutchman


Carter Scott: Senta


Jason Wickson: Erik

Brian Banion: Daland


More Details: Piedmont Opera

An interview with James Allbritten, Piedmont Opera’s artistic director, about the production, can be found by clicking here
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Interview: Ben Woodward. "Bayreuth? They stole our idea!"

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 18 October 2013 | 11:00:00 pm

One would have to admit that in UK this year those with an interest in Wagner have been well served - with the exception of the UKs two largest opera houses, whose Wagner has been conspicuous by its absence. Opera North continue with its semi staged Ring Cycle, WNO treated us to both a new Lohengrin and a new translation of Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream, while the Proms gave us perhaps one of the most exceptional  Ring cycles of many years - certainly of this centenary. And lest we not forget Longborough who, despite many early doubters, concluded an entire, fully staged Ring cycle in a theatre, like Bayreuth, built specifically for that reason. However, to me one of the most extrodinary productions has been Fulham Operas Ring cycle that was begun in 2011 and concludes - at least the format of, roughly,  one work a year, with November's Götterdämmerung. 

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Riccardo Chailly To Take Over From Barenboim At La Scala?

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 17 October 2013 | 7:00:00 pm


Riccardo Chailly is to take over from Daniel Barenboim when he steps down as La Scala's Music Director in 2017 - perhaps before. Or so says Armando Torno over at Corriere.

It has not been officially announced yet because Chailly may take over earlier - if Barenboim steps down before his contract ends at the close of 2016. Although, no mention as to why Barenboim would step down early. Corriere does say the board has decided upon Chailly. It seems the appointment is linked to the new superintendent, Alexander Pereira, who will take over from Stéphane Lissner next year.

Corriere note that Chailly's appointment " undoubtedly gives La Scala a new profile." Which is no-doubt true and perhaps Wagner's profile there also?



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Patrick Carnegy's "Wagner And The Art Of The Theatre" Re-released In Paperback

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 | 11:32:00 pm

First published in 2006, Patrick Carnegy's "Wagner And The Art Of The Theatre" has finally been re-released as a far more affordable paperback. Described by Simon Williams of The Wagner Journal at the time as, "...the most thorough and comprehensive exegesis available in English on Wagner's work as a stage director.' it remains, in our opinion, an excellent book. Despite owning a rather "dog eared" copy of the hardback we have just bought a copy of the paperback and can say it has lost none of its quality. It is without doubt a book that we think you should own, especially as it sits so well alongside "Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival" by Fredrick Spotts.

Should you be unsure if it is for you there is a more than generous sample below.

By the way on October 28 the author is giving a talk called 'Wagner's Shakespeare' at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, (tickets from events@trinhall.cam.ac.uk.) And in December he will be speaking at the 'Wagner and Us' symposium (5 – 8 December) organized by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in association with Melbourne Opera's new Ring.

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Video Lecture 2: Parsifal - As Art And Ideology


Recommended. Again, whether you agree or not. Below, you will also find the complete text of "The Thunder, Perfect Mind.


Wagner’s Parsifal as Art and Ideology, 1882-1933
William Kinderman (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

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Video Lecture: Bayreuth as Bardo: Schlingensief’s Parsifal Production



Ed: Note, much talk of "To Buddhists this means" and "In Buddhism this means...". If you preface this with "Tibetan" as in "In Tibetan Buddhism this means..." you might be closer to the truth. By the way, the Buddhist, it might be argued, does not "...seek for the soul to become one with the universe". And if they did the universe is most certainly not "Nirvana" This would be difficult after all considering that there is neither a "soul" or indeed a "universe".

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Wagner Lecture With Alex Ross: University of Oklahoma - Oct. 18


Should you be in the area, clearly worth attending. Intriguingly titled "Siegfried Dionysus: Wagner, Nietzsche, and the Adoration of the Earth"  and starting at 7.00 pm at the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman.


More, but alas not enough information, here.

But, to give you some idea of the style:

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Video Interview: Stephanie Blythe.



Bing and Dennis of "Classic Talk",  speak with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.

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"Lost" Letter From Wagner Goes Up For Auction



We received the following release and thought it might be of interest. Of course, Wagner wrote so many letters that many still occasionally appear in various auctions, although this one appears interesting as he discuses the nature of Lohengrin. 

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Audio Documentary: Ludwig II of Bavaria





Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at Neuschwanstein. From his first fateful glimpse of one of Ludwig's palaces, Brian's been fascinated with the eccentric King, and his mysterious death, and has become personally involved in the story of his life. Presenter Matthew Parris and contributor Simon Winder find out more.





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Free Concerts: Verdi & Wagner 200. November, London

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 11 October 2013 | 2:25:00 am

Song in the City programmes concerts around imaginative themes, bringing talented singers and pianists to the heart of the Square Mile, in the inspiring setting of the Hall at St Botolph without Bishopsgate. Regular free concerts take place on Thursday lunchtime at 1pm (c45 mins). These  concerts have central theme, often with a cast of several singers performing in each cone, taking the listner on a week-by-week journey.

As part of Wagner 200 the following very special two concerts will be given - free. Under the combined title of, "Verdi & Wagner 200 A Bicentenary Tribute in Song and Letters"


7 Nov, Spirits of an Age

Samantha Crawford, soprano
Roisin Walsh, soprano
Catherine Backhouse, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Elwin, tenor
Matthew Buswell, bass-baritone
Gavin Roberts, piano
Wagner and Verdi as both like-minded and opposing forces of the Romantic era.

14 Nov, National Revolutionaries

Samantha Crawford, soprano
Roisin Walsh, soprano
Mark Chaundy, tenor
Matthew Buswell, bass-baritone
Gavin Roberts, piano
The role of national identity in the world of these two operatic giants.


Full detail of these and the other free concerts can be found by visiting: Song In The City



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Review: Richard Wagner: A Life In Music. Martin Geck

Review by Lucy Beckett
Admiration tempered by judgement
Richard Wagner: a life in music
Martin Geck, translated by Stewart Spencer
University of Chicago Press, £24.50
 
Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813, a few months before Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig. He died in February 1883 having seen his last work Parsifal through to its first production, at his own “festival playhouse” in Bayreuth, in the previous summer. 

Wagner’s constantly expanding bibliog­raphy, swollen this year by his bicentenary, is now approaching the scale of Shakespeare’s. While Shakespeare’s biographers, for lack of information, have to imagine most of what they say about his life, biographers of Wagner have the opposite problem. Wagner never stopped telling everyone what he was doing and what it meant, in an enormous auto­biography, hundreds of surviving letters and huge essays. His second wife, Cosima, wrote a diary, mostly about him and what he was saying and doing, on practically every day of the last 16 years of his life. This mass of ma­terial has to be treated with circumspection: both Wagner and Cosima were adepts of spin long before the concept was named. ­To write a good new “life and works” of Wagner is an exceptionally difficult task, for this reason and several more: the controversy that has swirled round his music – did it complete or destroy the central tradition of Western music? or both? – at least since the first performances of Tristan and Isolde in 1865 and of the complete Ring of the Nibelung  in 1876; the controversy about his political and social views and their effect on his work: was Wagner a proto-fascist German nationalist whose works are vitiated for ever by what Hitler found in them? Did Wagner’s anti-Semitism find noxious expression in characters he invented and the music that brings them to life? How can contemporary directors cope with works combining Teutonic mythology, nineteenth- century realism, medieval chivalric lore, Schopenhauer’s recommendation of the renunciation of the will, and a lot more?

Continue Reading. 
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New DVD Series: Wagner's Ring: A Tale Told in Music

Emeritus Professor Heath Lees, well known to many with an interest in Wagner, has produced the more than interesting DVD set below.  It provides an unique approach to studying the Ring cycle - we believe the first to do so in this format and manner. Details as follows but we really do recommend you check out the video excerpts and than visit the sets website: Wagner’s Ring – A Tale Told in Music.

In Wagner’s Ring – A Tale Told in Music Emeritus Professor Heath Lees vividly reveals the complex workings at the heart of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen - its leitmotifs, relationships and transformations.

Heath follows Wagner’s lead and concentrates first and foremost on the music of Wagner’s Ring, guiding the viewer through each of the four operas and throwing the spotlight on the composer’s techniques and effects. In an informative and engaging manner, he shows how the many themes come to embody a person or an event, or an emotion . . . and how they are subtly changed as the story unfolds.

Wagner’s Ring - A Tale Told in Music is essential viewing for everyone with the slightest interest in The Ring. It opens up new horizons for all: young and old, tentative first-timers and seasoned Ring-goers.

Each of the four episodes of A Tale Told in Music focuses on one of the operas, and Heath explores the music at the piano, explaining simply the techniques used. The films also include interviews with Wagner experts, and performances by professional opera singers.

About Heath Lees

Heath Lees is Emeritus Professor of Music at Auckland University, and divides his year equally between New Zealand and France. Heath has presented many arts programs on television, including the music series Opus, and the weekly arts show Kaleidoscope. For Radio New Zealand’s Concert network, he has chalked up literally hundreds of individual programs. Over nearly a decade he wrote feature articles and music reviews for The New Zealand Herald, and in 1994 founded the Wagner Society of New Zealand.

He has lectured on musical subjects in general and Wagner in particular, in France, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. As a writer, he has published many articles on different musical influences in literary works by Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. As a composer, he has a number of choral and instrumental pieces published by Roberton (UK) and Allan’s Music (Melbourne). His most recent book, Mallarmé and Wagner: Music and Poetic Language, deals with Wagner’s influence on the French poet Mallarmé (Ashgate UK).







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French Media Report Patrice Chéreau Has Died

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 7 October 2013 | 9:48:00 pm


Very little information available at the moment apart from telling you that the French media is reporting the Patrice Chéreau, director of perhaps one of the most famous Ring cycles of modern times, died from lung cancer, today, aged 68.




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Wagnerpunk: Patrice Chereau’s Ring Cycle as proto-steampunk?

Edit: Link now fully working.

It has been far to long since we presented for your attention one of our Wagner miscellanea articles - a view of Wagner or related work from a very unexpected angle. With that in mind, we were recently pleased to find the following, highly entertaining and well written, article in the electronic journal: Neo-Victorian StudiesEntitled, "Wagnerpunk:A Steampunk Reading of Patrice Chereau’s Staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876)" in this referenced article Carmel Raz proposes that not only should we view Cherau's production as traditionally defined (I.E. as a Marxist reading) but also, as an early variation of that now popular branch of fiction known as Steampunk If you are unfamiliar with Steampunk the author begins with a brief definition.  To read and download the entire article follow the link below. (Images and video here added by TW)

Wagnerpunk: A Steampunk Reading of Patrice Chereau’s Staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876)
Carmel Raz
(Yale University, Connecticut, USA)


Abstract:

Director Patrice Chereau describes the nineteenth century as “our mythology and our past, containing our dreams” (Chereau 1980: 430). His 1976 opera production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876), considered perhaps the most influential Ring cycle of all time, evokes a nineteenth-century dreamscape: gods, giants, dwarves and mermaids in dinner jackets and petticoats scheme against the backdrop of steel dams and massive cogwheels. Traditionally, critics have seen this production as a continuation of the Marxist legacy of George Bernard Shaw’s The Perfect Wagnerite (1898). Viewed instead as an early representative of steampunk, the social critique, environmental concerns, and retro-futuristic ideas featured in this staging become contextualised within a coherent framework - one that explores contemporary social and technological anxieties through the metaphor of an epic fantasy world.

Keywords: Patrice Chereau, Der Ring des Nibelungen, magic, myth, nineteenth century, opera, Richard Wagner, staging, steampunk, technology.


In 1980, following a scandalous opening run three years earlier,1 the last performance of Patrice Chereau’s production of Richard Wagner’s operatic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung, 1848-1878), was met with a 45-minute standing ovation. Commissioned by Richard Wagner’s grandson, Wolfgang Wagner, to mark the Ring's centennial, Chereau’s revolutionary staging presented these operas in the context of the composer’s own era, supplanting decades of modernist, determinedly apolitical Bayreuth productions that distanced the operas from their association with Nazism. Chereau’s staging reads the nineteenth century through and back into the work of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the overarching musical figure of his age. However, Chereau does not attempt to recreate the experience of a nineteenth-century viewer. Instead, he uses the music and libretto of the Ring as a vehicle to explore the nineteenth century with twentieth-century hindsight, while inviting viewers to consider their present age through a clearly fantastical allegorical reading of an earlier period.

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A History of Ring Cycle productions. Or: Whatever Became of the Breastplates?

The Valencia Ring, Spain - 2009
Chapter eleven of David Littlejohn's "The Ultimate Art. Essays around and about Opera" (made available by the kind generosity of UC Press E-Books Collection. This provides a brief history of Ring Cycle productions.

Images and video added by TW. To read this in its original form - and indeed the rest of this book - please click the link at the end of this article.  

Warning this is a little "media rich" and if your coming from a slow connection it might be best to go to the original source linked at the bottom of the post.


"Chaos, as Wagner himself sometimes suggested, is likely to be the rule, rather than the exception, in our world (and in productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen that try to reflect or comment on that world) until another cruel divine order emerges to force things back into unity." David Littlejohn

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Review: Ipad App - The Wagner Files

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 6 October 2013 | 1:24:00 am

Our editor reviews the international version of the German Ipad app, "Wagnerwahn". If at first you don't succeed try another mode


I first bought a copy of the Ipad app Wagnerwahn prior to its international release a few months ago. At that time, it was only in German and given that the majority of our readers here are not German speakers I thought no more than a twitter mention was needed (Apologies to our German readers but you must admit you are far better served with up-to-date news and sources on Wagner than none German speakers). This means that I have had sometime to spend with this app, although only a few days with its English version (it is now also available in French and Japanese).

The Wagner Files, to give it its English title, is a companion piece to Ralf Plege's  90 minute Wagner documentary of the same name. However, unlike that, it is essentially an interactive, animated graphic novel (with a number of interesting extra features), that sets out to provide more than an outline of Wagner's life from the Dresden uprising to his death in Venice.
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Classic Brit Awards Shock As Wagner Is Represented - Care Of Kaufmann & Barenboim

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 3 October 2013 | 10:34:00 pm

"You want me to stand next to...who?"
Well, in the case of Kaufmann,  it was a special "critics award" (Ed: one assumes that having had to admit to having worked on the Brits they must try and save their reputations in some manner?).

In his first Brits award, Jonas Kaufmann won Critics Choice for his album "Wagner" Alas, he was unable to attend and thus was not able to appear on stage (or slurp cheap wine in the greenroom afterwards) with other noted classical music greats, and some winners, such as: Lang Lang, Andre Rieu, Alfie Boe, Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins (and her immortal classical masterpiece, that must surely sit alongside some of Wagner's finest works, This Is Christmas) Myleene Klass and Richard Clayderman - among other great classical artists (Ed: Are you sure about this?).

Alas, Kaufmann failed to gain the Artist Of The Year Award which was given instead - and considering many of the other winners, probably in error - to Daniel Barenboim

Watch this only if you are really feeling brave - trust us on this.
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Wiener Staatsoper To Begin Live Internet Streaming From Autumn 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 2 October 2013 | 4:37:00 am


 Alas, no details as yet announced as to which "selected" operas will be broadcast. But it at least allows us the excuse to post a quick Wagner video. Statement as follows


From Fall 2013, the Wiener Staatsoper will present selected opera- and ballet performances worldwide via high quality live stream on Samsung Smart TV and Internet.





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Time To Rethink Arts Funding In The USA As NYCO Files For Bankruptcy?

On 12 September, 70 year old New York City Opera stated that it needed $12 million to survive as a company and began a desperate scramble to raise this amount - even resorting to Kickstarter. However, spokeswoman Risa Heller has announced today that the company was only able to raise a total of $2.3, a figure clearly well short of that needed. She went on to say, "Today, the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the company, including initiating the Chapter 11 process."

The major of New York, Michael Bloomberg - who lobbied Goldman Sachs to establish its headquarters across from Ground Zero by promising $1.65 billion in tax breaks and in 2006 stated that tax cuts could be easily justified by looking at the success of Wall Street - declined to intervene stating, "The business model doesn't seem to be working,"

Bloomberg is of course also founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies Foundation, which, amongst many other philanthropic projects, helps fund the METs Live in HD broadcasts, of whose support Peter Gleb has said, "“Thanks to Bloomberg’s enlightened support of our groundbreaking Live in HD series, opera lovers in 54 countries on six continents get to enjoy the Met season in their local movie theaters. Bloomberg’s belief in making art accessible is a perfect match for the Met’s initiatives to democratize opera.”

Bloomberg's estimation of NYCO's poor business model was supported today by Tino Gagliardi, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. In an interview with AP, he stated, "NYCO management's reckless decisions to move the New York City Opera out of its newly renovated home at Lincoln Center, slash the season schedule and abandon an accessible repertoire have predictably resulted in financial disaster for the company," He continued. "Due to egregious mismanagement and a paucity of vision, instead of reaping the benefits of a strengthening economy, this most storied of cultural institutions now lies in ruin."

Properly, state, funded, opera houses around the world are keeping a very low profile.
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