Wagner Journal

ShareThis

Featured Book

Twitter

Follow TheWagnerian on Twitter

Archive

Powered by Blogger.

T

 Twylah Fan Page

Richard Wagner and the Twilight of Western Civilization

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 13 October 2020 | 5:29:00 pm

Written By: Peter Isackson

According to Alex Ross in his book, “Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music,” Richard Wagner was more than the composer who dominated German music in the second half of the 19th century. He became a towering cultural icon who transformed the way culturally influential people and even politicians thought about art and the values associated with it.

His influence wasn’t limited to the arts. His reputation had the misfortune of becoming tarnished by an association with Naziism. Wagner himself cannot be held responsible for the association with Adolf Hitler since the composer died six years before Hitler was born. But though Wagner’s anti-Semitism must have pleased Hitler, the Fuhrer admired the music for other reasons, more closely linked with its patriotic mythology. It is no coincidence that Wagner’s art belongs to an era that privileged aggressive racist nationalism in Europe.

Wagner was unquestionably an innovator. Any musician who listens to even random excerpts of his orchestral music and opera scores cannot but be impressed by the subtle complexity of his art. Thanks to his Promethean ambition, Wagner achieved the singular feat of both subverting the inspired individualism at the core of his century’s romantic tradition and fulfilling the romantics’ paradoxical ambition of formulating new principles for achieving collective domination.

He rejected the social drama of the Italian masters of opera — Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti — who worked in a tradition perfected by Mozart. The Italian tradition used melody and recognizable harmonic structures as the structuring factors that permitted the expression of human pathos. Wagner’s sense of drama replaced social conflict with idealized quests aimed at reordering the world. These were the very forces driving European nationalism at the time.

 

 Wagner clearly broke from recognized traditions and produced an art that was not just different but in purely musical terms always rich with surprises. But was this what people expected from music? One famous ironic remark by a pragmatic 19th-century American sums up Wagner’s effect on the average person, even today. The humorist Bill Nye is credited with the remark, “Wagner’s music, I have been informed, is really much better than it sounds.”

Examining Wagner’s legacy across Western culture right up to modern times, Ross tends to give Wagner too much credit. Convinced that the composer was the agent who shaped the culture around him, he tends to neglect the evidence showing how the ambient culture shaped Wagner. At one point, he claims that in his opera, “Tristan und Isolde,” Wagner “set the course for an avant-garde art of dream logic, mental intoxication, formless form, limitless desire.” In other words, Ross attributes to Wagner the creation of some of the most salient features of the modern world.
5:29:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Grace Bumbry: Black Venus, White Bayreuth, Race, Sexuality And Wagner

Grace Bumbry as Venus in Wagner's "Tannhäuser"

Originally published in German Studies Review, 2012. Written by Kira Thurman, assistant professor of German and history at the University of Michigan.


Black Venus, White Bayreuth: Race, Sexuality, and the Depoliticization of Wagner in Postwar West Germany

Abstract: 
African American soprano Grace Bumbry sparked controversy in West Germany when she became the frst black musician to sing at the Bayreuth Festival Opera House in July 1961. This article demonstrates how race served two separate functions for the Bayreuth Opera Festival and its postwar audience. For opera director Wieland Wagner, hiring a black singer was part of a larger agenda to sever Bayreuth’s ties from its most recent and turbulent past. German audiences discussing this historical moment, however, expressed concern that protestors of this performance were preventing Germans from moving forward into a new, democratic, and racially accepting Germany.


When the Bayreuth Festival Opera House began receiving letters warning them that the composer Richard Wagner would soon “turn in his grave,” they knew they had a problem. When hundreds of letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and news briefs fooded the German media, the Bayreuth administration realized they were witnessing the makings of a national scandal: on July 23, 1961, American soprano Grace Bumbry became the first black singer to appear at the Bayreuth Festival, singing the role of Venus from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser

The event created an uproar, and everyone from revered music critics to housewives in the Rhineland squabbled about the significance of Bumbry’s debut in the hallowed halls of Bayreuth. While music
critics debated the virtues of “New Bayreuth” director Wieland Wagner’s modernist vision, many editorials also chided those who protested the performance by a black singer. One theme that remained consistent throughout the month of July was that Germans were discussing this musical event within a national context.


Race served two separate yet equally fascinating functions for the Bayreuth OperaFestival and its audience in the summer of 1961. For Wieland Wagner, opera director of the Bayreuth Festival and the grandson of Richard Wagner, hiring a black singer was part of a larger agenda to sever Bayreuth’s ties from its most recent and turbulent past and ensure its preservation in the future. Although Wieland vigorously denied that he had hired Grace Bumbry to perform as Venus solely because of her race, this article suggests otherwise. African American soprano Grace Bumbry’s blackness was essential to his production of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, and to his aesthetic and political strategy to separate Bayreuth from its recent Nazi legacy.West German audiences discussing this historical moment, on the other hand, also practised a different kind of Vergangenheitsbewältigung or coming to terms with the past, expressing concern that protestors of this performance were preventing Germany from moving forward into a new, democratic, and consequently racially accepting Germany. Both the production and the reception of the Bayreuth FestivalOpera House’s staging of Tannhäuser reveal new and sophisticated ways in which race coloured different processes of Vergangenheitsbewältigung in postwar West Germany.

4:54:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Watch Now: A New, Brief, Wagner Video Biography

 


A brief, potted, biography of Wagner and his work from Biographics. 

Richard Wagner: A Controversial Titan of Classical Music
4:19:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Stephen Fry talks to Alex Ross About His New Book "Wagnerism"

Stephen Fry joins the Royal Philharmonic Society for a very special conversation – with the author and music critic for The New Yorker, Alex Ross, about his latest book: 'Wagnerism'. 

Just over a decade ago, Alex’s book The Rest Is Noise caused a sensation in its breathtakingly epic account of music’s power and impact through the 20th Century. It won an RPS Award and the subsequent concert series of the same name, based on the book, at Southbank Centre also won an RPS Award in 2014. In September 2020, Alex returns with his biggest book yet: Wagnerism. No mere biography, it sets out to chart the extraordinary influence that one musician – the composer Richard Wagner – can have on the world, on art, on politics, and on so many facets of life. It’s a unique narrative, as much for those wary of Wagner as those who cherish him, not remotely shying from his startling beliefs and veneration in Nazi Germany, as much as his spell over countless artists since from Virginia Woolf to James Joyce, to anarchists, occultists, feminists, religious and politic leaders, and of course Hollywood. Renowned for his own musical passions, Stephen talks to Alex about this cultural colossus, his complex legacy, and his extraordinary, enduring music.

It’s fitting that the RPS should host such a conversation, as Wagner himself played a part in its history, coming to London to conduct all the concerts the Society presented in 1855. 

If you enjoy this conversation, you may like to become an RPS Member, enabling you to access and enjoy other regular conversations involving great musical minds and personalities, amid other opportunities to further your curiosity and love for classical music. Go to the link below to find out more: 



3:35:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Two None Wagnerians Discuss Alex Ross "Wagnerism"

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 7 October 2020 | 11:01:00 pm


In his first book, Alex Ross introduced more people to "modern" classical music then NPR and the BBC had managed to do in both organizations existence. He made Schoenberg, Weber and the band not only interesting but approachable for a listener perhaps more comfortable with Mozart's Greatest Hits, the Four Seasons or the first and last movements of Beethoven's 9th (not that there is anything wrong with any of those). In "The Rest Is Noise" he somehow, stripped away decades of obtuse, perhaps even intimidating, music discussion. This, then,  seemed to allow people to find the sheer joy that exists in "modern" music. I might argue that the growing popularity of "modern" classical both in the concert hall (remember those?) and on record, was begun by Ross' book.  My hope is that he manages to do similar for Wagner in his new book Wagneriams. Not only that he can deconstruct and strip away, many of the common misconceptions about Wagner but he, too, increases his popularity among those that would rarely, if ever, consider listening to Wagner's work. As to whether he does either?  Well, it is perhaps too early to say, but an indicator may be that more general podcasters, with no real interest in Wagner, are discussing this book. An example of which is below, with presenters so unfamiliar with Wagner that it begins with a debate on how to pronounce Wagner's name! 

I think this is interesting to both those with a strong knowledge of Wagner and those without. From "BookMusic.Com".

11:01:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Two Wagner Books You Must Buy This Month

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 13 September 2020 | 2:45:00 pm


It has been a few years since two books about Wagner and his work have been published in the same month, it has been even longer since both were published by authors of a certain pedigree. However, we are pleased that this month is different.  First to be published is the long, long, awaited new book from Alex Ross: 
 

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music


According to the author, this is a book that examines:

"For better or worse, Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and American culture. Such colossal creations as The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal daring, mythmaking, erotic freedom, and mystical speculation. A mighty procession of writers, artists, and thinkers, including Charles Baudelaire, Virginia Woolf, Isadora Duncan, Wassily Kandinsky, and Luis Buñuel, felt his impact. Anarchists, occultists, feminists, and gay-rights pioneers saw him as a kindred spirit. Then Hitler incorporated Wagner into the soundtrack of Nazi Germany, and the composer came to be defined by his ferocious anti-Semitism. For some, his name is now synonymous with artistic evil.

Wagnerism restores the magnificent confusion of what it means to be a Wagnerian. A pandemonium of geniuses, madmen, charlatans, and prophets do battle over Wagner’s many-sided legacy. The narrative ranges across artistic disciplines, from the architecture of Louis Sullivan to the novels of Philip K. Dick, from the Zionist writings of Theodor Herzl to the civil-rights essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, from O Pioneers! to Apocalypse Now. In many ways, Wagnerism tells a tragic tale. An artist who might have rivalled Shakespeare in universal reach is implicated in an ideology of hate. Still, his shadow lingers over twenty-first-century culture, his mythic motifs coursing through superhero films and fantasy fiction. Neither apologia nor condemnation, Wagnerism is a work of intellectual passion, urging us toward a more honest idea of how art acts in the world."


As a side note, Ross has produced a free audio-visual resource to accompany this work. This is available free now and can be found at this link. Book published on 15/9/2020.

Next, we have the Mark Berry and Nicholas Vazsonyi edited:

The Cambridge Companion to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen



Again, according to the publishers, this is:

"The Companion is an essential, interdisciplinary tool for those both familiar and unfamiliar with Wagner's Ring. It opens with a concise introduction to both the composer and the Ring, introducing Wagner as a cultural figure, and giving a comprehensive overview of the work. Subsequent chapters, written by leading Wagner experts, focus on musical topics such as 'leitmotif', and structure, and provide a comprehensive set of character portraits, including leading players like Wotan, Brünnhilde, and Siegfried. Further chapters look to the mythological background of the work and the idea of the Bayreuth Festival, as well as critical reception of the Ring, its relationship to Nazism, and its impact on literature and popular culture, in turn offering new approaches to interpretation including gender, race and environmentalism. The volume ends with a history of notable stage productions from the world premiere in 1876 to the most recent stagings in Bayreuth and elsewhere."
2:45:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Join Us Sunday, 10 May To Watch and Chat: Die Walkure, Act One. 5 PM (British Summer Time)

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 7 May 2020 | 11:30:00 pm


Join us over at Twitch for video "watch party" of act one of Walkure. Meet some new friends, chat with some old ones and most importantly, watch act one of Die Walkure, (English subs). Preshow, mini-documentaries included. Click here to register, watch or view brief highlights of last weeks Tristan,
11:30:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Opera Australia launches free online streaming platform with Joan Sutherland in the starring role

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 3 May 2020 | 4:27:00 pm

Unable to perform live while the country is in COVID-19 lock-down, Opera Australia has created another way to share their performances with opera fans, today launching OA | TV: Opera Australia on Demand, a free online streaming service.

OA | TV will feature exclusive content from its back catalogue that includes the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dame Joan Sutherland performances on video and Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, plus a series of chat show style interviews called In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini and unique ‘behind the scenes’ footage.

Each week OA will add new content to the platform. The launch will feature one of Dame Joan Sutherland’s most celebrated performances, that of Hannah Glawari in the 1988 production of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow, performed at the Sydney Opera House, directed by Lofti Mansouri and conducted by Richard Bonynge.

Also available on the platform from today, the full length production of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s inaugural 2012 season of La Traviata, that was due to be revived in 2020 before being cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The first instalment of the In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini series with OA’s Concert Master Jun Yi Ma, reveals his fascinating journey from being handpicked for specialist coaching at age five in China, performing for President Reagan at the White House aged 12 years, to landing the role of Concert Master for the Tasmanian Symphony before being enticed to join OA by Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini.

"Opera Australia is renowned for defying international trends of declining audience numbers and is constantly evolving its programming in an endeavour to broaden its audience but the coronavirus was not part of the plan" says Mr Terracini. “Understandably it’s been devastating for everyone at the Company not being able to perform through this crisis, and we know our fans are missing us as much as we’re missing being on stage. We’ve actually been wanting to launch OA | TV for some time, and now we have the right digital platform and the time to develop it, so we can share not only our rich history with our fans, but also it’s an opportunity for them to meet some of our incredibly talented artists as well as some of the key people working behind the scenes, with a series of interviews we’re going to do. “OA has an extensive archive of legendary operatic performances. We’ve got the largest collection of Joan Sutherland videos in the world, and it’s such a great honour to be able to share these gems with her fans,” he said.

OA | TV will launch with four program categories; In Conversation with Lyndon Terracini, Opera in the Sydney

Opera House, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour and The Best of Dame Joan Sutherland, a collection of her most famous arias that transformed her into Australia’s most loved opera singer and a world-wide operatic sensation.

tv.opera.org.au

Note: OA | TV will not be live until midnight Sunday 3 May 2020
4:27:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Join Us Sunday, 3 May For A Free One Day "Live" Online Little Bayreuth

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 1 May 2020 | 11:54:00 pm

Bayreuth, as you know is cancelled, as are all other performances. The world is in a temporary turmoil. People are locked in or if they go to work are separated from those places where they may meet people to discuss their passions. 

And yet, we believe that it may be possible to use technology to go, a little bit at least, towards capturing the social, - and thus emotional and intellectual -  experience of a visiting a live performance - in some way, perhaps more so.   

With that in mind, we would like to do something online: interactive, social, recorded video performances of Wagner's work.  A mini online Bayreuth if you like. Indeed, we did a little mini-trial a few weeks ago with a small few people to test the technical capabilities of the platform we wish to use - with some success. We then asked on twitter if people would be interested and more importantly take part by joining in and chatting, a108 voted yes.

So, with that in mind, we would like to do a full trial, broadcasting a famous performance of one of Wagner's works - Tristan und Isolde - in full this Sunday. We will be rebroadcasting live from youtube, a performance made available there, by the copyright holders. The reason we will be broadcasting live from youtube is that although we have good technical equipment and band weight to broadcast ourselves should we encounter any technical difficulties,, you should at least still be able to watch and chat. 


We will be using a video/social broadcasting platform called Twitch. Normally considered a platform for gamers to broadcast gameplay, but in truth, it is used for other forms of the arts also - more so during this pandemic.  To watch the broadcast, you simply need to visit the channel at the time given below. However, we are hoping that you will join us in the chat that will run live at the side of the performance - especially during the intervals. We think that this experience can only be raised from simply watching a youtube video by your considered thoughts and insights. To do this, you will need to register an account with Twitch. This is free,  quick, simple, only requires an email address - any will do if you wish to make one just for this - and is unobtrusive. 

There may be teething problems, although hopefully few.  if any. You will need to bring your own ice cream and cushion.

An Online Mini Bayreuth (Test)

Work: Tristian und Isolde (Sadly, at this stage, not a Bayreuth performance)

Time: Join us at 3.00 PM BST on Sunday 3 May (Bring your own cushion)

Place:  Twitch Click this link (might be a good idea to register in advance if you want to chat but will only take a few minutes on the day)


11:54:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

£400 Of Free Hi-res FLAC Download Albums For Every Reader (Including Booklets) QOBUZ

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 30 April 2020 | 9:48:00 pm


We know that things are, to put it mildly, difficult for so many of you at the moment; for both those unable to leave home and those having to go out to work in what can be very dangerous conditions. Especially for those that love Wagner we are planning something, we think is rather special shortly, keep your diaries free Sunday - to begin with. However, in the meantime, we would like every reader to find their way to some free, high-quality albums - classical and otherwise -  made available by the excellent music streaming service and digital store QOBUZ. Worth £400 they include:

Debussy, Szymanowski, Hahn, Ravel
Fanny Robilliard

Carl Nielsen : Concertos (Live)
Alan Gilbert

Beethoven: Symphonies 4 & 7
Philippe Herreweghe

Paul Dukas - Maurice Ravel - Charles Koechlin
Marc Albrecht

Johannes-Passion - Die Sieben Worte
Paul Hillier

Plus, 22 more albums. They will be available till May 15 2020.

To get them, simply signup for a free Qobuz account - no need to subscribe to the streaming service and download them. However, as our review found last year, Qobuz streaming service is also worth investigating and is now only 14.99 a month. But that is entirely up to you. 

To download, simply CLICK THIS LINK
9:48:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Das Rheingold: Coronadämmerung

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 | 8:08:00 pm


This is excellent! And should you enjoy it, and you can, please give to https://artistrelieftree.com/. The gods need you!


Jamie Barton, Mezzo Soprano
Ryan McKinny, Bass Baritone
Kathleen Kelly, Piano
8:08:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

Bayreuth 2020 Cancelled And Disruption To Next Two Years Program

From the festival:

In view of the effects of the Corona crisis on the operations of the Bayreuth Festival GmbH, the management and the shareholders of the Bayreuth Festival GmbH – the Federal Republic of Germany, the Free State of Bavaria, the City of Bayreuth and the Society of Friends of Bayreuth e.V. – regret that the Bayreuth Festival 2020 will have to be suspended next summer. This means that the following festival years will have to be rescheduled. In the 2021 season, in addition to the planned new production ‘Der fliegende Holländer’, the programme will include the revivals of ‘Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg’, ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, ‘Lohengrin’ and three concert performances of ‘Die Walküre’. The new production ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ planned for this season will probably not be able to celebrate its premiere until 2022 due to rehearsal planning.

In principle, tickets already purchased for 2020 remain valid for the 2021 Festival. In order to clarify the modalities regarding concrete dates etc., the ticket office will contact all ticket purchasers for the 2020 Festival in the coming weeks.

Bavaria’s Minister of Art Bernd Sibler emphasizes: “As an enthusiastic supporter of the Bayreuth Festival and the expressive music of Richard Wagner, I very much regret that we will not be able to enjoy the performances on the Green Hill this year. For cultural life, the cancellation is a bitter loss. The long festival tradition has a high value in the Bavarian cultural state”.
7:53:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

The Bayreuth Festival Suspends Ticket Sales. Longborough Awaits Advice

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 | 6:50:00 pm

Perhaps it should come as little surprise but Bayreuth continues to review this year's festival in light of COVID-19. With this in mind, the festival has suspended all online ticket sales - not that there was much to buy anyway - until the end of May. Said Festival Director Katharina Wagner, ‘We are currently in close consultation with our committees and the relevant authorities and will provide you with information on our website as soon as possible. Naturally, the health of our guests, all participants and staff is our top priority.’

Further updates will be found at the festival website here as things develop.

Over at "Britain's Bayreuth", The Longbourogh Opera Festival, ticket sales have not been suspended but the festival notes, "We are carefully considering the COVID-19 guidance of March 16 from the Government. Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of our audience and company members.

Similar to other theatres, we await more specific rulings from HM Government later this week. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this unprecedented time and we will share a further update in the coming days."

Again, updates can be found by clicking here

We would also like to remind everyone that many small companies, orchestra's, quartets, choirs less known artist, etc, will be suffering especial financial hardships at this time - not all may survive as artistic groups. If you can support them in any way, we are sure it would be appreciated. 

Finally, we would also take this opportunity to ask all readers to stay safe and follow health advice.   
6:50:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

How To Get The Best Sound Quality Out Of Spotify: For Wagner Or Anyone

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 7 March 2020 | 10:11:00 pm

We are aware that a lot of our readers use Spotify (many other - even better - classical music services are available, but that is for another day). However, given how "vague" (perhaps occulted or esoteric would be better words?) Spotify is about how to get the best sound quality from its service, we thought we would put together a short, handy guide to greatly improve the sound quality you can get from Spotify. Do these three things and you should get even more enjoyment from the most popular of music services.

1 - On PC/MAC/Linux, download the Spotify "App"/Client/program (delete to your preference). Apart from brief samples never listen to Spotify in a web browser. If, as is likely, you pay for Spotify, no matter your browser, music will be streamed at around half the top quality (bitrate) that it will be in its app). It's horrible! Don't do it!

2 - Of course, once you have downloaded the app you will need to go into settings (3 dots, top lefthand corner of the client and then, "edit" and then settings. Here change the "Music Quality" to "Very High" (may read "extreme" depending on Spotify's mood). Note: if you are streaming on a mobile device this will use more of your bandwidth. And while you are in "settings"  stay there. You will need to be here for the other recommendation.

3 - In settings, unclick/switch off "Normalise Volume". Seriously, just switch this off. Try a track with it on and then off. If you hear no difference, then fine, but we will be surprised if you don't.

And here are some playlist for you to test out your new settings:
10:11:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More