07 April 2016

Appreciating Tristan und Isolde at the Frontline Club

David Nice (author of this post) has been running the Opera in Depth course at the wonderful Frontline Club in Paddington for nearly two years now, after 25 years of Opera in Focus at the City Lit. We devoted on whole term last season to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and were delighted to welcome Richard Jones back to the course to talk about his production in its second incarnation, at English National Opera. This summer we look at the darker companion piece, Tristan und Isolde, to tie in with another ENO production - this time a brand-new one from Daniel Kramer with Edward Gardner conducting and Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton as the lovers (not pictured below: that's the Schnorrs).

On ten Monday afternoons from 18 April, we'll be going through the opera scene by scene,  looking at the musical language as it relates to the unfolding drama, with plentiful comparisons between performers on both sound and DVD recordings. Two great Isoldes have so far committed to coming along - Susan Bullock and Linda Esther Gray - with more visitors in the pipeline.

If you've missed the first class, it's still worth signing up to start on 25 April - we've wheeled around Tristan and launch into the Prelude this coming Monday.

18 April - 11 July 2016 2.30pm-4.30pm (no classes on Mondays 2, 16, 30 May)

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, W2 1 JQ. Underground: Paddington, Edgware Road, Lancaster Gate

Fee: £180 for full term

Email: david.nice@usa.net to book a place on this highly popular course

10 February 2016

Longborough Festival Opera announces 2016 season

Over the past decade and a half Longborough Festival Opera has gradually built an international reputation for its productions, led by its performances of Wagner.

Longborough is now announcing its 2016 Summer Season featuring four operatic masterpieces with a line-up of artists which includes some familiar to Longborough but also many fresh faces.

Wagner’s Tannhäuser

Music Director Anthony Negus - a conductor with over fifty years’ experience of Wagner’s stage works - received rave reviews from critics for his conducting of Tristan und Isolde in 2015. This year, along with director Alan Privett, Negus turns his attention to a new production of Tannhäuser with John Treleaven and Neal Cooper in the title role (see cast dates below). Never one to shy away from the seemingly impossible, Longborough’s production of Tannhäuser will see the largest cast ever to have sung on our stage.

Tannhäuser          John Treleaven (9, 14, 18 June), Neal Cooper (11, 16 June)
Elisabeth               Erika Mädi Jones
Venus                     Alison Kettlewell
Wolfram                Hrolfur Saemundsson
Landgraf                Donald Thomson
Walther                 Julian Hubbard
Biterolf                  Stuart Pendred
der Schreiber       Brian Smith Walters
Reinmar                Charles Johnston

Thursday 9 June Tannhäuser 3.00pm
Saturday 11 June Tannhäuser 3.00pm
Tuesday 14 June Tannhäuser 3.00pm
Thursday 16 June Tannhäuser 3.00pm
Saturday 18 June Tannhäuser 3.00pm

All performances start at 3pm with two intervals, the long interval at approximately 6.10pm. The performance is due to end at 9pm.

07 November 2015

November 2015 issue of The Wagner Journal is out

The November 2015 issue (vol.9, no.3) of The Wagner Journal is out, which contains the following articles:

  • 'Wagner's Spatial Style' by Christopher Wintle
  • ' "This Round of Songs": Cyclic Coherence in the Wesendonck Lieder' by Malcolm Miller
  • 'From Wagner to Boulez: a Modernist Trajectory' by Arnold Whittall
  • A report on the reopened Wahnfried and new archives in Bayreuth by Barry Millington

Plus reviews of:

  • the Ring and new Tristan at Bayreuth, the Ring in Vienna, Parsifal in Karlsruhe,  Birmingham and Wuppertal, Tristan at Longborough, Die Meistersinger in Mainz, Lohengrin in Pforzheim and Tannhäuser in Tallinn
  • the new Overture Opera Guide to Die Meistersinger, ed. Gary Kahn, Mark Berry's After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from 'Parsifal' to Nono, and Matthew Bribitzer-Stull's Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

The issue is in part a tribute to Wagner Journal editorial board member Prof. Arnold Whittall who celebrates his 80th birthday in November 2015.

12 July 2015

The Wagner Calendar on Wagneropera.net is History

I know this will be a sad message for many Wagner fans, but it is just too much work to keep updating the Wagner Calendar, so I have decided to discontinue it.

Thanks to all of you contributing by sending me info about productions!


06 July 2015

The Wagner Journal - July 2015

We are pleased to announce the July 2015 issue (vol.9, no.2) of The Wagner Journal, which contains the following articles:
• 'Gender, Sexuality and Love in Wagner: An Electronic Roundtable' featuring Barry Emslie, Sanna Pederson and Eva Rieger
• 'Rienzi in Swedish (1865): The Case of the Stockholm Score' by Owe Ander
• 'Nazi Cinema and Wagner', by Hans Rudolf Vaget
• 'Broomhilda Unchained: Tarantino's Wagner' by Adrian Daub and Elisabeth Bronfen

Plus reviews of:
The Mastersingers at ENO
Parsifal in Berlin
CD recordings of Der fliegende Holländer conducted by Andris Nelsons, Llyr Williams's Wagner Without Words, Seattle Opera's Ring and the 1961 Solti Die Walküre starring Hans Hotter and Jon Vickers

Books: Rounding Wagner's Mountain: Richard Strauss and Modern German Opera by Bryan Gilliam and early studies of Wagner by Ferdinand Praeger, Francis Hueffer, William James Henderson and Ernest Newman, reprinted in the Cambridge Library Collection

Individual copies of, and annual subscriptions to, The Wagner Journal are available in both printed and electronic form. Individual articles and reviews are also available in electronic form. Full details on www.thewagnerjournal.co.uk.

10 June 2015

150th anniversary of the première of Tristan und Isolde

This 10 June, 2015, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the première of Tristan und Isolde (Munich, 10 June 1865).  According to the French-born American historian and philosopher, Jacques Barzun, the year 1859 was a pivotal year. In 1941, Professor Barzun wrote a seminal work, Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage. The recently deceased Columbia University professor said that in 1859, three major revolutionary works were finalized: The Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, the Critique of Political Economy, by Karl Marx, and Tristan und Isolde, by Richard Wagner. Since then, biology, social sciences and music have acquired new meanings and dimensions and we are still living with the results of such major revolutions.

For many Wagnerians, Tristan represents the supreme peak of the master’s musical inspiration (equaled, perhaps, but never surpassed by his later works); its music and words are a sublime praise of love, a love that is so powerful that it has the capacity to transform everything, including death itself. Because of its stifling, erotic and intoxicating character, this opera has been the Mount Everest of singers and conductors, being simultaneously monumental and uncomfortably intimate. Wagner himself told us that it is about “dying without death, and therefore everlasting falling back upon itself”; longing (“Sehnen”, the key concept in Tristan) keeps Tristan alive, while he is dying for Isolde. “If well performed, it will render the listener insane”, admonished Wagner. 

Germán Bravo-Casas

02 March 2015

March 2015 issue of The Wagner Journal

The March 2015 issue (vol.9, no.1) of The Wagner Journal, which contains the following articles:
• 'Where's the Drama?': Personal Reflections on the Intersection of Music and Theatre in Wagner Performance by David Breckbill
• Knappe oder Ritter? A study of Gurnemanz by Peter Quantrill
• Wagner and Science: Twilight of the Gods Across the Multiverse by Mark B. Chadwick
• The Rosebush Pictures of Wagner's Daughter Isolde by Dagny R. Beidler

plus reviews of:
  • Tristan und Isolde at Covent Garden
  • Lohengrin in Zurich and Amsterdam
  • Das Rheingold in British Columbia
  • Parsifal in Tokyo
  • CD recordings of a complete Wagner cycle conducted by Marek Janowski and the 1961 Bayreuth Tannhäuser conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, starring Wolfgang Windgassen, Victoria de los Angeles, Grace Bumbry and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
  • Hilan Warshaw's film Wagner's Jews on DVD
  • new books on Wagner and film by David Huckvale and Kevin C. Karnes, Wagner's Visions by Katherine R. Syer, The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, ed. Nicholas Vazsonyi, a new translation of Wagner's essay Beethoven by Roger Allen, and Chris Walton's Lies and Epiphanies: Composers and Their Inspiration from Wagner to Berg, reviewed by David Matthews

Individual copies of, and annual subscriptions to, The Wagner Journal are available in both printed and electronic form. Individual articles and reviews are also available in electronic form. Full details on www.thewagnerjournal.co.uk

26 January 2015

Tristan at Longborough 2015

Following the success of their 2014 Ring Cycle, Longborough Festival Opera has clearly positioned itself on the international operatic stage as a Wagner production house of great merit. Additionally, the 2014 summer season was virtually a sell-out.

2015 opens with a new production of Tristan und Isolde, in the hands of Music Director Anthony Negus, directed by Carmen Jakobi. The double cast features Rachel Nicholls and Lee Bisset sharing the role of Isolde, while Peter Wedd and Neal Cooper take on Tristan.

Longborough Festival Opera

12 January 2015

Kokkola Winter Accordion Festival: Wagner performed with accordion and baritone

XVII Kokkola Winter Accordion Festival
Tue 17.2 In the Master’s Company

An Evening with the Music of Richard Wagner
Central Ostrobothnia Conservatory 19.00
Pitkänsillankatu 16

Esa Ruuttunen baritone
Janne Valkeajoki accordion
Roman Schatz text
For the first time in the music world, the German master composer’s music will be performed with accordion and baritone. World-class baritone and young musician Esa Ruuttunen will fill the hall with a captivating musical performance. Starring the author Roman Schatz.
Ruuttunen is one of the best Finnish baritones and has performed at many of the world’s most prestigious venues, including the Finnish National Opera, Savonlinna, Bavaria, Stuttgart, London, Vienna and Berlin. In this concert Ruuttunen will treat audiences to Wagner’s most famous arias, including The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and others. The performance also will feature Franz Liszt arrangements for solo accordion, among them “Senta’s Ballad” and “Elsa’s Dream.” Richard Wagner’s dramatic and strong-yet-delicate tonal language will emerge in full strength in a performance that will also include the music of Bach.
The author Roman Schatz also will present a talk on Wagner’s life, music and incredibly tangled human relationships.
Tickets 15 €/10 €
info: www.talviharmonikka.com

13 November 2014

Does Wagner mess with our minds?

HEARING WAGNER: Does Wagner mess with our minds?
with Sir Colin Blakemore

Saturday 22 November 10:30-17:00

Birmingham Hippodrome, Patrick Centre Theatre

The emotional impact of music is undeniable, and this is nowhere more
obvious than in Romantic music such as the operas of Richard
Wagner. But can the effects of music be measured? Is this even
desirable? The Hearing Wagner event taking place at the Birmingham
Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November aims to air these and other
questions and show how psychologists and musicologists are working
together to understand better what is going on in these extraordinary

Researchers from Goldsmiths University of London and the University of
Oxford in the AHRC's Transforming Musicology project have been finding
out how a live audience responds to the sensations produced over the
four operas of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Last week,
the Mariinsky Opera from St Petersburg, under their charismatic
conductor, Valery Gergiev, performed Wagner's epic Ring Cycle at the
Birmingham Hippodrome. In the audience was a group of student
volunteers whom we'd fitted with unobtrusive yet sensitive devices
which monitored their responses to the music using a measure called
galvanic skin response (GSR) as well as changes in their heart-rate

We'll be presenting some preliminary results from this intriguing
experiment at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22 November as
part of the national 'Being Human' Festival. This event, hosted by the
eminent neuroscientist and Wagner fan, Sir Colin Blakemore, will
include non-technical introductions to the ways in which Wagner used
novel compositional techniques to manipulate the emotions of his
listeners, and to what we have to do to interpret the bio-physical
data from our audience members as emotional response to Wagner's
music. Members of the public will be able to try out some of the
state-of-the-art technology for themselves, and to discuss the
experiment with the research team. Alongside Sir Colin Blakemore and
the Transforming Musicology project team, the Wagner expert and editor
of English National Opera's series of Opera Guides, Gary Kahn, will
also be on hand to remind us of Wagner's dramatic career and his
continual struggle to communicate as directly as possible with his

To attend this free event at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 22
November 2014, book via EventBrite

12 November 2014

David Nice gives ten lectures on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Paddington’s Frontline Club

David Nice gives ten lectures on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Paddington’s Frontline Club 12 January – 16 March 2015, Mondays 2.30-4.30pm

David is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster on music with a special interest in Russian and late romantic composers. His last Building a Library for BBC Radio 3’s CD Review was on Parsifal. He has now explored all the major Wagner operas over 25 years of opera appreciation classes at the City Literary Institute and launched his new Opera in Depth series at the wonderful Frontline Club this term with Prokofiev’s War and Peace.

He last took students through Meistersinger five years ago at the time of Richard Jones’s revelatory new production for Welsh National Opera with Bryn Terfel making his role debut as Sachs. Now, with fast-rising Wagnerian bass-baritone Iain Paterson as the lynchpin, Jones’s production moves to English National Opera, with some rethinks promised. Richard twice visited David’s Opera in Focus classes, discussing Meistersinger and Britten’s Gloriana, and he has promised to pay another visit this time. Come and enjoy total immersion in an inexhaustibly rich and beautiful opera.

Fully illustrated with sound clips and DVD production scenes on the Frontline’s big screen. The Club has excellent facilities: you are invited to enjoy efreshments in the main room on the first floor for half an hour before and after the classes, and the restaurant is warmly recommended. There are, however, two flights of stairs to negotiate.

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, W2 1QJ

Nearest tubes: Paddington, Edgware Road, Lancaster Gate

Fees: £180 per each term of ten two-hour classes

Email: david.nice@usa.net ASAP to confirm a place on this highly popular course

07 November 2014

7 November 1881: Wagner visits Monreale

R. had a restless night, since he had taken medicine, but he is looking well. He arranges his worktable in the salon, and the situation pleases him. In the afternoon we drive to Monreale. [Added on the next page, under Tuesday: "Yesterday, on the journey to Monreale, R. notices a small and very independent poodle, a favourite breed of his, and in the evening he is still thinking of the little creature, having been struck by its intelligence."] Sublime impression: "What people they must have been to build such a thing!" R. exclaims. We are enchanted by the cloisters. The valley of oranges is like a fairy tale, and when we return home we feel that nothing less than Shakespeare will do. — We begin H[enry] VI, Act I, the children showing great interest. As he reads, R. looks so wonderfully young that I have to tell him so. And when we are discussing this first act, he says, "He is the greatest of them all." — "What images!" he exclaimed as he reads Exeter's "Like captives bound to a triumphant car."
(Cosima Wagner’s Diaries)

Read more on Wagneropera.net: Wagner in Sicily

The Cathedral (Il Duomo) in Monreale, Palermo. Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wagneropera.net