Monday 23 February 2015

Richard Wagner - Liebestod - Sylvain Blassel

Sylvain Blassel (Harp, Arranger)

Born: 1976 - France

The French harpist, Sylvain Blassel, graduated in 1998 from the Lyon Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse (Lyon CNSMD) under Fabrice Pierre.

Following his graduation Sylvain Blassel was hired as an assistant conductor by the Ensemble Intercontemporai. He works mostly with David Robertson and Pierre Boulez, but also for Péter Eötvös, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Markus Stenz, Jonathan Nott and Hans Zender. This has given him the chance to meet such composers as György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Pascal Dusapin, Emmanuel Nunes, and Ivan Fedele.

As a harpist, Sylvain Blassel plays with numerous orchestras and conductors such as Michel Plasson, Emmanuel Krivine, Alain Lombard, Iván Fischer and Marek Janowski. His interest in contemporary repertoire has led him to premiere works by Jacques Lenot, Francesco Filidei, Pierre Jodlowsky, Vincent Carinola and Oliver Schneller. In a continual drive to widen his repertoire he has transcribed many works either for solo harp or for chamber ensemble including the harp.

With a passion for old harps, Sylvain Blassel restores and adjusts his own harps under the guidance of Alexandre Budin.

Sylvain Blassel teaches the harp at Lyon CNSMD along with Fabrice Pierre and teaches musical analysis at the Rennes Conservatoire.

Friday 13 February 2015

New Wagner Publication: Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

Understanding the Leitmotif
From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

Author: Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
Publication planned for: April 2015
availability: Not yet published - available from April 2015
format: Hardback
isbn: 9781107098398
The musical leitmotif, having reached a point of particular forcefulness in the music of Richard Wagner, has remained a popular compositional device up to the present day. In this book, Matthew Bribitzer-Stull explores the background and development of the leitmotif, from Wagner to the Hollywood adaptations of The Lord of The Rings and the Harry Potter series. Analyzing both concert music and film music, Bribitzer-Stull explains what the leitmotif is and establishes it as the union of two aspects: the thematic and the associative. He goes on to show that Wagner's Ring cycle provides a leitmotivic paradigm, a model from which we can learn to better understand the leitmotif across style periods. Arguing for a renewed interest in the artistic merit of the leitmotif, Bribitzer-Stull reveals how uniting meaning, memory, and emotion in music can lead to a richer listening experience and a better understanding of dramatic music's enduring appeal.

  • Explains the concept of the leitmotif, adopting a new developmental approach to understanding its form and function
  • Explores the themes and associations of modern-day film music and the widely enjoyed musical genres of nineteenth-century dramatic music, such as program symphonies, tone poems, opera, and lieder
  • Provides a cross-disciplinary perspective that will be of interest to scholars of music theory, musicology, film studies, cultural studies, and comparative literature

Table of Contents
1. Introduction: the leitmotif problem
Part I. Musical Themes:
2. Motive, phrase, melody, and theme
3. Thematic development, thematic identity: musical themes and the prototype model
Part II. Musical Association:
4. The phenomenon of musical association
5. Piece specifics, cultural generics, and associative layering
6. From 'Nibelheim' to Hollywood: the associativity of harmonic progression
Part III. Leitmotifs in Context:
7. The paradigm of Wagner's Ring
8. Leitmotif in Western art music outside the Ring
9. The modern-day leitmotif: associative themes in contemporary film music

Matthew Bribitzer-Stull is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota. He has presented and published widely on Wagner, nineteenth-century chromatic tonality, musical association, and music theory pedagogy. His articles have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, Music Analysis, Intégral, the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, the Journal of Musicological Research, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, and The Legacy of Richard Wagner, among others. He is author of the Anthology for Performance and Analysis (2013) and co-editor of Richard Wagner for the New Millennium: Essays on Music and Culture (2007, with Alex Lubet and Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of the composer). Winner of the Society for Music Theory Emerging Scholar Award, he has also received a number of teaching awards.

Tannhauser: "Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t"

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” A counterfactual analysis of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

Chrissochoidis, I.; Harmgart, H.; Huck, S.; Müller, W.; (2010) “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” A counterfactual analysis of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. (ELSE Working Papers 377). ESRC Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution: London, UK.

Much like Wagner himself, the eponymous hero of Tannhäuser treads a path of stark contrasts and rapid swings. From Wartburg to the Venusberg and to the Vatican, the gifted bard transforms from self-centered artist to seduced disciple, disillusioned devotee, hopeful lover, self-loathing pilgrim and finally redeemed martyr. He tries everything and everything is trying. These contrasts reach a peak in the opera‟s central episode, the song contest at Wartburg. Tannhäuser has just been welcomed at the court, received Elisabeth‟s favor and affection, and is ready to compete for the contest‟s prize, one as lofty as possibly the princess‟ hand. Instead of securing his reintegration to Wartburg with a brilliant performance, however, he spoils the event with insolent remarks and the exhibitionist disclosure of his Venusberg experience. His behavior offends his peers, scandalizes the court, breaks Elisabeth‟s heart, and brings him to the edge of death. Why would Tannhäuser sacrifice everything for nothing?

... Have you returned to the circle
you forsook in haughty arrogance?
... when, in haughtiness, you left us,

In the Venusberg, we find him incapable of fulfilling his duties (all attempts to praise the goddess end
up in complaints and self-pity) and his betrayal of Venus with the Virgin Mary (“mein Heil ruht in
Maria!” [my salvation rests in Mary!] Act 1, sc. 2, l. 302) is followed by swapping the latter for
Princess Elisabeth and then her, too, for a limelight moment of swaggering self-adulation. This, in
turn, he publicly regrets preferring penance over sin, a penchant he is no longer sure of when he finally returns to Wartburg. Thus, Tannhauser‟s irrational behavior in the song contest is not
surprising; indeed, it prepares us for the opera‟s tragic end. A man of such swings of mood and action will never find peace in this world.

Another explanation points the finger to Wagner himself, who forged a story out of two loosely
connected tales, recorded in the opera‟s title (Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg). The
need for formal discipline (for example, having the big climax just before the end of Act 2) overrode
that for dramatic conviction. Whether for structural or philosophical reasons, Wartburg had to appear
midway between the Venusberg and Rome, the song contest should stand between a life of sin and
one of redemption, and Elisabeth had to become “the woman who, star-like,” leads Tannhäuser “from
the hot passion of the Venusberg to Heaven”.

Both explanations are valid and offer insights into Tannhäuser‟s reckless behaviour. Like most
exegetical efforts on the opera, however, they take for granted the hero‟s hyper-emotional nature,
compulsiveness, and spontaneity.3 Issues of choice, planning and strategy, are left out of the picture, as if his actions are involuntary responses to external stimuli and his decisions lack any kind of mental
processing. Yet his departure from the Venusberg is a conscious choice arrived at through rational
thinking. Memories of his past life interlace and clash with his present Venusian experiences, leading
to comparison and, ultimately, preference for the one over the other. His longing for change and
freedom in Act 1 shows an active mind capable of choosing between alternatives. This is indeed the
subject of his lengthy argument with Venus (reminiscent of the Orpheus-Euridice confrontation in
Gluck‟s Orfeo). Tannhäuser abandons the Venusberg fully aware of the privileges he leaves behind
and the hardships lying ahead:

for freedom, then, I long,
for freedom, freedom, do I thirst;
for struggle and strife I will stand,
though it be, too, for destruction and death:
from your kingdom, therefore, I must fly,
(Act 1, sc. 2, ll. 209-13)

Similarly, in his encounter with the knights, we find him resisting their offer, which shows at least
knowledge of two alternative paths. He agrees to join them only when Wolfram reveals Elisabeth‟s
favorable response to his songs. In what statisticians call Bayesian updating,4 Tannhäuser revises his
beliefs about Wartburg and his decision not to look back (“denn rückwärts darf ich niemals seh‟n.”
Act 1, sc. 4, l. 424). Learning about Elisabeth‟s feelings makes a return to Wartburg into a compelling choice (“Ha, jetzt erkenne ich sie wieder, / die schöne Welt, der ich entrückt!” [Ha, now I recognize it again, the lovely world that I renounced!] Act 1, sc. 4, ll. 474-75).

Pursuing this line of inquiry, this paper offers a new reading of the Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg. We
propose that Tannhäuser‟s seemingly irrational behaviour is actually consistent with a strategy of
redemption, in ways that recall Polonius‟s famous diagnosis of Hamlet “Though this be madness, yet
there is method in‟t.”5 We also suggest that he consciously disrupts the contest, knowing that only a
public disclosure of his sinful past can propel him on the path of redemption.

Salzburg Marionettentheater's Der Ring des Nibelungen - An Overview

Highly recommended should you ever get the chance to see this - or their Magic Flute,  Don Giovanni and much else. To track down a performance close to you, we suggest that you visit this page.

The video below, which provides an overview, references a worldwide tour from a few years ago.

In Performance: Parsifal - 2015

Only productions that have announced their principal casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before making any booking
Oper Frankfurt


15, 21, 29 March, 3, 6 April 2015

Amfortas - Johannes Martin Kränzle
Titurel - Magnus Baldvinsson
Gurnemanz - Franz-Josef Selig
Parsifal - Frank van Aken
Klingsor - Simon Bailey
Kundry - Claudia Mahnke
1. Gralsritter - Hans-Jürgen Lazar
2. Gralsritter - Iurii Samoilov
1. Knappe - Elizabeth Reiter
2. Knappe - Jenny Carlstedt
3. Knappe - Michael Porter
4. Knappe - Michael McCown
1. Flowermaiden - Louise Alder
2. Flowermaiden - Karen Vuong
3. Flowermaiden - Judita Nagyova
4. Flowermaiden - Eizabeth Reiter
5. Flowermaiden - Jenny Carlstedt
6. Flowermaiden - Maria Pantiukhova

Conductor: Bertrand de Billy
Director: Christof Nel
Set Designs: Jens Kilian
Costumes: Ilse Welter
Lighting: Olaf Winter


Staatsoper Unter den Linden

New production


28, 31 March, 3, 6, 12, 18 April 2015

Amfortas - Wolfgang Koch
Titurel - Matthias Hölle
Gurnemanz - René Pape
Parsifal - Andreas Schager
Klingsor - Tomas Tomasson
Kundry - Anja Kampe
1. Gralsritter - Grigory Shkarupa
1. Knappe - Sonia Grané
2. Knappe - Annika Schlicht
3. Knappe - Stephen Chambers
4. Knappe - Jonathan Winnell
1. Flowermaiden - Julia Novikova
2. Flowermaiden - Adriane Queiroz
3. Flowermaiden - Sonia Grané
4. Flowermaiden - Narine Yeghiyan
5. Flowermaiden - Annika Schlicht

Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Director: Dmitri Tcherniakov


Vienna State Opera


2, 5, 8 April 2015

Amfortas - Michael Volle
Gurnemanz - Stephen Milling
Parsifal - Johan Botha
Kundry - Angela Denoke

Conductor: Peter Schneider
Director: Christine Mielitz
Set Designs: Stefan Mayer
Costumes: Stefan Mayer


Hungarian State Opera


3, 6 April 2015

Amfortas - Levente Molnar
Titurel - Istvan Kovacs
Gurnemanz - Eric Halfvarson
Parsifal - Istvan Kovacshazi
Klingsor - Sandor Egri
Kundry - Judit Nemeth
1. Gralsritter - Peter Kiss
2. Gralsritter - Lajos Geiger
1. Knappe - Erika Markovics
2. Knappe - Krisztina Simon
3. Knappe - Istvan Horvath
4. Knappe - Jaos Szerekovan
1. Flowermaiden - Zita Varadi
2. Flowermaiden - Kinga Kriszta
3. Flowermaiden - Krisztina Simon
4. Flowermaiden - Gabi Gal
5. Flowermaiden - Timea Balog
6. Flowermaiden - Eva Varhelyi
Alto solo - Atala Schöck

Conductor: Christian Badea
Director: Andras Miko
Set Designs: Gabor Forray
Costumes: Peter Makai


Nationaltheater Mannheim


3 April, 4 June 2015

Amfortas - Thomas Berau
Titurel - Sebastian Pilgrim
Gurnemanz - John In Eichen
Parsifal - Michael Baba
Klingsor - Thomas Jesatko
Kundry - Edna Prochnik
1. Gralsritter - David Lee
2. Gralsritter - Sebastian Pilgrim
1. Knappe -  Astrid Kessler
2. Knappe - Evelyn Krahe
3. Knappe - Uwe Eikötter
4. Knappe - Ziad Nehme
1. Flowermaiden - Astrid Kessler
2. Flowermaiden - Estelle Kruger
3. Flowermaiden - Dorottya Lang
4. Flowermaiden - Vera-Lotte Böcker
5. Flowermaiden - Ludovica Bello
6. Flowermaiden - Evelyn Krahe
Alto solo - Evelyn Krahe

Conductor: Alois Seidlmeier
Director:Hans Schüler
Set Designs: Paul Walter
Costumes: Gerda Schulte


Theater Chemnitz


3, 12(m), 26(m) April 2015

Amfortas - Roman Trekel
Titurel - Thomas Mäthger
Gurnemanz - James Moellenhoff
Parsifal - Burkhard Fritz / Frank van Aken
Klingsor - Hannu Niemelä
Kundry - Susanne Schimmack
1. Gralsritter - Edward Randall
2. Gralsritter - Kouta Räsänen
1. Knappe - Franziska Krötenheerdt
2. Knappe - Tiina Penttinen
3. Knappe - André Riemer
4. Knappe - Levy Sekgapane
1. Flowermaiden - Guibee Yang
2. Flowermaiden - Maraike Schröter
3. Flowermaiden - Tiina Penttinen
4. Flowermaiden - Sarah Yorke
5. Flowermaiden - Franziska Krötenheerdt
6. Flowermaiden - Cordelia Katharina Weil
Alto solo - Tiina Penttinen

Conductor: Frank Beermann
Director: John Dew
Set Designs: Heinz Balthes
Costumes: José-Manuel Vázquez


Oper Leipzig


3 April, 22 May 2015

Amfortas - Tuomas Pursio / Mathias Hausmann
Titurel - Milcho Borovinov
Gurnemanz - Runi Brattaberg
Parsifal - Daniel Kirch
Klingsor - Jürgen Kurth
Kundry - Kathrin Göring
1. Gralsritter - Keith Boldt
2. Gralsritter - Milcho Borovinov
1. Knappe - Olena Tokar
2. Knappe - Jean Broekhuizen
3. Knappe - Sebastian Fuchsberger
4. Knappe - Tommaso Randazzo
2. Flowermaiden - Jennifer Porto
3. Flowermaiden - Jean Broekhuizen
4. Flowermaiden - Olena Tokar
6. Flowermaiden - Sandra Janke
Alto solo - Sandra Janke

Conductor: Ulf Schirmer
Director: Roland Aeschlimann
Set Designs: Roland Aeschlimann
Costumes: Susanne Raschig
Lighting: Lukas Kaltenbäck


Teatro Colón
New production


4, 6, 9, 11 December 2015

Amfortas - Ryan McKinny
Gurnemanz - Stephen Milling
Parsifal - Christopher Ventris
Klingsor - Kay Stiefemann
Kundry - Iréne Theorin

Conductor: Roberto Paternostro
Director: Marcelo Lombardero

In Performance: Tristan Und Isolde - 2015

Only productions that have announced their principal casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before making any booking

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

1, 8, 22 February, 8, 22 March 2015

Tristan - Vincent Wolfsteiner / Tilmann Unger
Isolde - Claudia Iten
König Marke - Pavel Shmulevich / Woong-Jo Choi
Kurwenal - Jochen Kupfer
Melot - Hans Kittelmann
Brangäne - Roswitha Christina Müller
Ein Hirt - Kwonsoo Jeon
Ein Steuermann - Sébastien Parotte / Daniel Dropulja
Ein Junger Seemann - Kwonsoo Jeon

Conductor: Markus Bosch
Director: Monique Wagemakers
Set Designs: Dirk Becker
Costumes: Gabriele Heimann


Teatro di San Carlo

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde


22, 25, 28 February, 3, 5 March 2015

Tristan - Torsten Kerl
Isolde - Violeta Urmana
König Marke - Stephen Milling
Kurwenal - Jukka Rasilainen
Melot - Alfredo Nigro
Brangäne - Lioba Braun

Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Director: Lluis Pasqual
Set Designs: Ezio Frigerio
Costumes: Franca Squarcipiano


Opéra national du Rhin
New production

18, 21, 24, 30 March, 2, 17, 19(m) April 2015 (Strasbourg & Mulhouse)

Tristan - Ian Storey
Isolde - Melanie Diener
König Marke - Attila Jun
Kurwenal - Raimund Nolte
Melot - Gijs Van der Linden
Brangäne - Michelle Breedt
Ein Hirt - Sunggoo Lee
Ein Junger Seemann - Sunggoo Lee

Conductor: Axel Kober
Director: Antony McDonald
Set Designs: Antony McDonald
Costumes: Antony McDonald


The Royal Swedish Opera


24, 27, 30 March, 2 April 2015

Tristan - Michael Weinius / Niklas Björling Rygert
Isolde - Emma Vetter
König Marke - Lennart Forsen
Kurwenal - Johan Edholm
Melot - Magnus Kyhle
Brangäne - Katarina Dalayman
Ein Hirt - Niklas Björling Rygert
Ein Steuermann - John Erik Eleby

Conductor: Lawrence Rennes
Director:Hans-Peter Lehmann
Set Designs: Olaf Zombeck
Costumes: Olaf Zombeck
Lighting: Linus Fellbom


Opéra national de Bordeaux
New production

26, 29(m) March, 1, 4, 7 April 2015

Tristan - Christian Voigt
Isolde - Alwyn Mellor
König Marke - Nicolas Courjal
Kurwenal - Brett Polegato
Melot - Guillaume Antoine
Brangäne - Janina Baechle
Ein Hirt - Simon Bode
Ein Steuermann - Jean-Marc Bonicel
Ein Junger Seemann - Simon Bode

Conductor:Paul Daniel
Director: Giuseppe Frigeni
Set Designs: Giuseppe Frigeni
Costumes: Lili Kendaka
Lighting: Giuseppe Frigeni


Longborough Festival Opera
New production

12, 16, 18, 20 June 2015

Tristan - Peter Wedd / Neal Cooper
Isolde - Rachel Nicholls / Lee Bisset
König Marke - Frode Olsen
Kurwenal - Andrew Slater / Stuart Pendred
Melot - Ben Thapa / Stephen Rooke
Brangäne - Catherine Carby / Harriet Williams
Ein Hirt - Stephen Rooke / Edward Hughes
Ein Steuermann - Thomas Colwell
Ein Junger Seemann - Edward Hughes

Conductor: Anthony Negus
Director: Carmen Jakobi
Set Designs: Kimie Nakano
Costumes: Kimie Nakano
Lighting: Ben Ormerod


Munich Opera Festival

8, 12 July 2015

Tristan - Peter Seiffert
Isolde - Waltruad Meier
König Marke - René Pape
Kurwenal - Alan Held
Melot - Francesco Petrozzi
Brangäne - Elisabeth Kulman
Ein Hirt - Kevin Conners
Ein Steuermann - Christian Rieger
Ein Junger Seemann - Dean Power

Conductor: Philippe Jordan
Director: Peter Konwitschny
Set Designs: Johannes Leiacker
Costumes: Johannes Leiacker
Lighting: Michael Bauer


Tiroler Festspiele Erl

10, 18 July 2015

Tristan - Michael Baba / Gianluca Zampieri
Isolde - Bettine Kampp / Mona Somm / Nancy Weissbach
König Marke - Franz Hawlata / Jens Waldig
Kurwenal - Frederik Baldus / Michael Mrosek
Melot - George Humphrey / Wolfram Wittekind
Brangäne - Hemine Haselböck / Rita Lucia Schneider
Ein Hirt - Ulfried Haselsteiner / Markus Herzog
Ein Steuermann - Frederik Baldus / James Roser
Ein Junger Seemann - Giorgio Valenta / Wolfram Wittekind

Conductor: Gustav Kuhn
Director: Gustav Kuhn
Set Designs: Ina Reuter
Costumes: Lenka Radecky
Lighting: Gustav Kuhn


Bayreuth Festival
New production


25 July, 2, 7, 13, 18, 23 August 2015

Tristan - Stephen Gould
Isolde - Anja Kampe

Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Director: Katharina Wagner
Set Designs: Frank Philipp Schlößmann / Matthias Lippert
Costumes: Thomas Kaiser
Lighting: Reinhard Traub

Monday 9 February 2015

Wagner, The Ring and Call Of Duty?

OK. We  are going to try and explain this, briefly, for most of our readers (the rest of you can go straight to the end): "Call Of Duty" is a "video game". Yes, one of those things your young nephew nodoubt tries to go back after feigning interest in your latest visit (Don't blame them. You play GTA 5 in first-person mode on a next gen console and imagine how interested you would be in them visiting you). Not just any video game, but part of that most insidious, insipid sub-genre; the FPS (First Person Shooter). For reasons only understood by COD and Battlefield players, this sub-genre is incredible popular and successful.