Met’s Broadcast of Das Rheingold Tomorrow


Since it’s the first transmission of this season, I’m pretty stoked. This is probably not my favorite opera by any stretch of imagination, but it’s bound to be epic with the new set and new production:



Speaking of Things Wagner Hated…


Due to Wagner’s disgusting anti-Semitic nonsense, Felix Mendelssohn’s music has been successfully repressed as “true” German music. It’s truly sad that Mendelssohn is not on the pedestal with the rest of the great ones in our popular imagination, despite his early death at 38. Here’s the second movement from his late string quartet to partially restore the injustice of the public’s fickle tastes: Continue reading

Wagner Forgotten? Not Anymore!


Glory to the all-knowing Alain Badiou! Who would have thought that Wagner could make a come back? I mean, sure, there’s a new production of Das Rheingold at the Met that everyone’s raving about and, yes, yes, Wagner’s operas have been performed all over the world in an almost non-stop manner in the last 100 years or so, but that is clearly not enough to “rehabilitate” the old man – we must have a book from Alain Badiou!

A leading radical intellectual tackles the many controversial interpretations of Wagner’s work. For over a century, Richard Wagner’s music has been the subject of intense debate among philosophers, many of whom have attacked its ideological—some say racist and reactionary—underpinnings. In this major new work, Alain Badiou, radical philosopher and keen Wagner enthusiast, offers a detailed reading of the critical responses to the composer’s work, which include Adorno’s writings on the composer and Wagner’s recuperation by Nazism as well as more recent readings by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and others. Slavoj Zizek provides an afterword, and both philosophers make a passionate case for re-examining the relevance of Wagner to the contemporary world.

Can’t wait to read it and re-examine Wagner’s works… Continue reading

Only Two Of Wagner’s Operas Produced in Moscow Since WWII.


From this morning’s Moscow Times – a curious fact:

Classic Opera Returns

Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin” is staged in Moscow for the first time in over 70 years – and Novaya Opera’s production is a resounding success. (By Raymond Stults, March 14, 2008)

 

 

The operas of Richard Wagner have rarely been performed in Moscow in modern times. In the years since the Second World War, only two of the composer’s 10 great mature works, “The Flying Dutchman” and “Das Rheingold,” have been produced locally, both at the Bolshoi Theater. Otherwise, Moscow has had no more than fleeting looks at seven of the 10 operas on visits here over the past decade by St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater.

The neglect of Wagner can no doubt be viewed, in part, as a legacy of Russia’s wartime suffering at the hands of the composer’s fellow countrymen. But it certainly also results from the difficulty and expense of mounting his operas and the dearth of singers — as is so often apparent in Mariinsky performances — with the vocal equipment and training required to deal with the music. Continue reading

Weekend Opera Edition: Tristan und Isolde (La Scala)


This year’s La Scala‘s season opened with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – great YouTuber (from Italy, I assume) posted the whole thing (a part of Act One seems to be missing) in more than 20 videos, so for the sake of convenience (my own, of course), I decided to collect them all in a sequence that could be suitable for continuous watching.  OperaChic has covered the opening gala and has some great pictures of Italian newspapers that, strangely enough, carried the story of La Scala’s opening night on the front page.

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Dec. 7th La Scala Opening) 

Tristan – Ian Storey
Isolde – Waltraud Meier
Brangäne – Michelle De Young
Kurwenal – Gerd Grochowski
König Marke – Matti Salminen
Melot – Will Hartmann Continue reading

Sursum! Bumbum! (Reading The Rest Is Noise)


My copy of The Rest Is Noise finally arrived yesterday (Thursday) and I dove into it like I have all the free time in the world – it opens with a description of a premier of Salome conducted by Richard Strauss himself in the Austrian city of Graz. 

Giacomo Puccini, the creator of La Boheme and Tosca, made a trip north to hear what ‘terribly cacophonous thing’ his German rival had concocted.  Gustav Mahler, the director of the Vienna Opera, attended with his wife, the beautiful and controversial Alma.  The bold young composer Arnold Schoenberg arrived from Vienna with his brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky and no fewer than six of his pupils.  One of them, Alban Berg, traveled with an older friend, who later recalled the ‘feverish impatience and boundless excitement’ that all felt as the evening approached… 

As dusk fell, Mahler and Strauss finally appeared at the opera house, having rushed back to town [from their walk in the hills] in their chauffeur-driven car.  The crowd milling around in the lobby had an air of nervious electricity.  The orchestra played a fanfare when Strauss walked up to the podium, and the audience applauded stormily.  Then silence descended, the clarinet played a softly slithering scale, and the curtain went up. (3, 6)

The rest of the opening chapter is a fascinating collection of musical analyses (written for a semi-amateur reader), anecdotes, and vivid descriptions of early scandalous performances often accompanied by fistfights – prompted by this reading and a post on Fido The Yak‘s blog about Hazrat Inayat Khan’s The Mysticism of Sound and Music, I, for one reason or another, ended my day at 2am reading Nietzsche’s The Case of Wagner.  In section 6 Nietzsche imagines a conversation between Wagner’s success incarnate as a “philantropic music scholar” and “young artists”: “Let us walk on clouds, let us harangue the infinite, let us surround ourselves with symbols! Sursum! Bumbum! – there is no better advice.”  It is interesting that Nietzsche’s discussion of Wagner’s “sweaty” music begins with his admission that the day before he heard Bizet’s Carmen for the twentieth time.  I think his description of Bizet is rather intriguing in terms of a possible comparison with Hazrat Inayat Khan’s quote about the music and its appeal to the formless: Continue reading