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Book Recommendation: Richard Wagner And The English

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 May 2019 | 4:40:00 pm

I have found myself, once again, reading Anne Dzamba Sessa's excellent, 1978  book  "Richard Wagner And The English". This is a book that charts the influence of Wagner, on the intellectual, artistic and social life of Victorian England, and in part beyond.  It's a fascinating read, both well written and researched. It's not perfect, but it gets close

While long out of print (secondhand print copies sell for "silly" prices")  It can be bought as an ebook from google play books. 

Highly recommended. A review is long overdue and will follow shortly.

4:40:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

A Lecture Series On Die Walkure

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 18 May 2019 | 2:46:00 am

A nine hour, or so, lecture series on Die Walkure. Recorded in 2012

The Opera in Its Time (Simon Williams)
The Growth and Evolution of Love (Jeffrey Swann)
Contrasts with Das Rheingold (Simon Williams)
Wotan's Spear and Its Music (Jeffrey Swann)
Redemption Through Love (Simon Williams)
Staging Die Walküre and the Ring (Simon Williams)
Wotan and Fricka (Jeffrey Swann)

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Stefan Herheim, "Opera for me is not about entertaining people or giving them a good time"

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 12 May 2019 | 2:51:00 pm

In an interview with the Telegraph, Stefan Herheim told Rupert Christiansen "Opera for me is not about entertaining people or giving them a good time" [Ed: We know Stefan. We know. But despite the best efforts of many, some of us still do]. Then what is it about? "It is about bringing us together to confront our most pressing and dreadful problems. Perhaps art can’t change the world, but it can change the way that people can think and feel. This makes opera a spiritual experience for me.”

Of course, some art [Ed: Surely all, in some small way?] seems to have tried to do this from the outset and was one, if not the only, intention of the creator. Verdi's Traviata or Puccini's Madame Butterfly comes to mind. And of course, much, if not all of Wagner's work. So, does that mean keeping the message and lessons of the creators intent - if they exist? Nearly, but not fully. “I always aim to tell the story and to get to its essence, but I want to add other perspectives. Opera audiences need to see with their ears and hear with their eyes: it can never be a simple experience, and if audiences all leave the auditorium thinking differently about what they have witnessed then I have succeeded.”
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Deutsche Oper Berlin And A New Ring From Stefan Herheim

Deutsche Oper Berlin has announced that the first part of the new Stefan Herheim, will premiere, logically enough, with Rheingold one Friday, 12.06.2020. Donald Runnicles will be holding the baton. Full cast details below.

So, what can we expect from a Herheim Ring? In the interview below, Herheim gives us some clues:

"Since I began preparing for the RING DES NIBELUNGEN, I have been considering how the end of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG could look. An ending that leaves the question of the future of man, of overcoming the old order, open. As long as we are failing in modern society due to lust for power, exploitation, betrayal and violence, the RING remains an 'artwork of the future'. To find ways toward the future we must begin searching for the prerequisites for being human. This search is reflected in the drama itself, as well as in the figure of Richard Wagner. He worked on this piece for over a quarter of a century. The self-"actualisation expressed therein also reflects Germans' longing for national identity.
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Wagner And “Game of Thrones”: Where they Intersect?

Alex Ross is always worth reading, especially about Wagner.

By Alex Ross. 

When Arthur Schopenhauer read the libretto of “Die Walküre,” the second instalment of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, he found himself discomfited by the goings on in Act I, in which the twin siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde, separated children of the god Wotan, fall madly in love. “You are bride and sister to your brother,” Siegmund exclaims. The music that churns ecstatically in the closing bars indicates that consummation is imminent, with the hero Siegfried as the destined result. Next to the stage direction at the end—“The curtain falls quickly”—Schopenhauer sardonically wrote, “Denn es ist hohe Zeit”—“Because it’s high time.”

Mythic and fantasy narratives gravitate strikingly often toward incestuous themes. “Game of Thrones,” the HBO series that a portion of the planet has been watching, is a case in point. It features not only a sibling affair, between Cersei Lannister and her twin brother Jaime but also a liaison between the dragon-mother Daenerys and the outcast hero Jon Snow, who, unbeknownst to each other, are aunt and nephew. The latter relationship matches the other great eyebrow-raising romance in the “Ring”—the love of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Siegfried is Wotan’s grandson; Brünnhilde is his Valkyrie daughter. It’s not clear whether George R. R. Martin, the creator of “Game of Thrones,” has Wagnerian leanings, but the proliferation of “Ring”-like elements in his saga—dragons, dwarves, ravens, magic swords, shape-shifting devices—suggests that, like J. R. R. Tolkien before him, he may owe a few debts to the wizard of Bayreuth.
12:48:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Animated Rheingold. Operavox

While these have held up well to the passing of time, sadly, they are very difficult to buy now. Surely time for them to be rereleased?

12:02:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Parsing Parsifal: Wagner's Erotic Kunstreligion

Edition of Parsifal illustrated by Willy Pogany, 1912
From "The Sidney Undergraduate Journal Of  Musicology. An intriguing read, that does see Parsifal as concluding Wagner's work by pulling together "...multiple threads he spent his whole life weaving.". I am less convinced by this. Would have Wagner's work and thought have stopped developing? Whatever. Recommended.

Parsing Parsifal: Wagner's Erotic Kunstreligion
Rafael Echevarria

Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal, is an enigmatic work that resists simple understanding both as an independent work and as a work within Wagner’s oeuvre. In particular, the themes of religion and sexuality are often addressed independently, resulting in vastly different interpretations. Religious readings focus on the redemption of the Knights and its theological significance, while sexual perspectives have focused on the overcoming of sexual desire. However, these partial perspectives lack sufficient explanatory power for the opera’s overall message. Evidently, a full understanding of Wagner’s ideas requires an integrated account of both religion and sexuality, one which Roger Scruton’s philosophy provides. His post-Kantian philosophy extracts key ideas surrounding the role of erotic love, redemption, and the sacred for human existence and interaction. This article analyses Parsifal by utilising Scruton’s framework to explore the opera’s plot, characters, and music. Simultaneously addressing Wagner’s treatment of erotic love and religion elucidates previously unexamined aspects of Parsifal and re-evaluates key elements of the work. Specifically, the interplay of érōs and agape prove to be the central dynamic of the work, which paves the way for its unique form of redemption. This sacred, yet fully human, redemption is evinced through Wagner’s music and overall structure. Notably, this holistic interpretation also provides important links to Wagner’s previous works, establishing a continuity that coherently positions Parsifal within Wagner’s oeuvre. This new exegesis reveals a renewed Parsifal that concluded Wagner’s development and completed the multiple threads he spent his whole life weaving.
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Gods and Monsters: The Musical Journey of Wagner's Ring Cycle

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 11 May 2019 | 5:08:00 pm

Conductor Brett Mitchell gives a deep dive into Wagner's Ring Cycle, demonstrating how he used leitmotifs to tell one of the greatest stories of all time.
5:08:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Wagner's Das Rheingold -- A Psychological Analysis

From This SophiaCycles. The author describes this as, " (A) Video Essay takes a look at the first drama of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle in an a psychological/archetypal way. Looked at as a metaphor for the mid-life crisis, Rheingold explores the many challenges that arise during this liminal time in life. In the end, Rheingold is a fairy tale and it uses many of the same tropes we find in fairy tales from across the world. This does not mean it is a children's fable, however. Just as with other fairy tales, a careful analysis of Das Rheingold yields many deep truths.
4:23:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

An Animated Guide To The Ring

This is actually rather good and in less than six minutes! And who can deny its closing remarks?

4:03:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

A 5 Hour Lecture Series on Das Rheingold

Once again, from the Wagner Society Of Washington. Lecturers: Simon Williams And Jeffery Swann
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Because You Didn't Ask For More: Der Fliegende Holländer - In Lego

And if you continue not to ask,, we may also give you, Tristan - in Lego

2:48:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Richard Wagner's Parsifal - in Lego

It's probably best if you cannot speak German. As the producers say in their introduction, "The plot of Richard Wagner's complex masterpiece as a Lego movie. Don't say later, we didn't warn you". However, should you then want to watch all of act one of Parsifal as a Lego movie, simply click play on the second video

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Wagner in der Wildnis: 11 Hours Worth Of Lectures On Parsifal From Simon Williams & Jeffrey Swann

Originally given over a full weekend, in an event hosted by the Wagner Society Of Washinton. Sadly, neglected on Youtube. Worth your attention. Lecture topics include:

Ritual And Theatre In Parsifal, A Showcase for the Evolution of Wagner's Style, The Troubled World of Parsifal, In Search of New Orchestral Colors, and Parsifal and the Avoidance of Tragedy.
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Jeffrey Swann: "The Music of Parsifal: A Mixture, a Summation, or a Culmination?"

From The Wagner Society Of New York:

Jeffrey Swann, Ph.D., internationally renowned pianist and lecturer on Wagner topics, gave a superb lecture with piano examples on Wagner's last music drama, with references to its relation to his other music dramas

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Philippe Jordan Talks About Conducting Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 7 May 2019 | 6:12:00 pm

Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan, music director of the Paris Opera and music director designate of the Vienna State Opera, is one of the world’s hottest Wagner talents, winning widespread acclaim for his performances of the composer’s music in Paris and at the Bayreuth Festival. Now, he returns to the Met for the first time since 2007 to lead this season’s three complete Ring cycles. In advance of the premiere of Das Rheingold, he sat down with the Met’s Mary Jo Heath to discuss opera’s grandest and most grueling epic.

"With Tristan und Isolde or the Ring cycle, there are moments where suddenly something happens in the music, and the emotion just comes out of you and you don’t know how to deal with it".

You’ve conducted quite a lot of Wagner. What is it that makes his music particularly rewarding for you?
No other composer makes me so emotional while conducting. At the end of La Bohème, if I’m sitting in the audience, I cry. But when I conduct La Bohème, this doesn’t happen. I’m still moved, but I’m very concentrated. With Tristan und Isolde or the Ring cycle, there are moments where suddenly something happens in the music, and the emotion just comes out of you and you don’t know how to deal with it. Sometimes you have to consciously decide to push the emotion down because, otherwise, how will you last another hour of music?

What about the technical aspect of his music? Does it pose particular challenges because of its monumental scale?
Wagner brought me to another level of conducting, more than any other composer. In Wagner, shaping the music over long distances, with a far bigger orchestra than with Mozart or Verdi, requires a special way of conducting, a special way of shaping tempi. For example, you start to think in bigger units instead of smaller details, and you start to trust the orchestra more and let things flow. Also, younger conductors tend to do slow tempi really slowly and fast tempi really fast to make a contrast and a big effect— something I used to do as well. In Wagner, you learn to do the opposite. You learn not to take slower sections too slowly so that the music doesn’t start schlepping and the energy doesn’t fall apart.
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Jung Discusses The Collective Unconsciousness, Music, Wagner & Perhaps Opeth

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 6 May 2019 | 7:16:00 pm

Our editor is wakened from, what seems, a prolonged slumber, due to the combined forces of Jung, Wagner and Doom/Death/Prog Metal band Opeth.

I have been spending much time these past few months with the Ring (nothing especially unusual admittedly) and the entire discography of Death/Doom/Prog Metal band Opeth (again not that unusual). With the latter, I have found myself giving special attention to Opeth's much underappreciated 1999, concept album "Still Life".  I appreciate that to many readers this may be an odd, perhaps even horrifying, juxtaposition of artists and their works, And yet, despite the clear musical, artistic and stylistic differences, I find both works seem to reach into the same, deep parts of what Jung would call the Collective Unconcessnious
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