21 December 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers of this blog and Wagneropera.net! Thank you very much for contributions, corrections, suggestions and new friendships! I hope to be back next year with more exciting interviews and background information and develop the site further, hoping that it will be unavoidable for all Wagnerians.

This big hit in 2008 was no doubt the Wagnerians Recommend Wagner Project, which increased the number of visitors with 500%.

The keywords visitors used to enter the site was (most frequent first):

  1. wagner opera
  2. katharina wagner
  3. stefan herheim
  4. waltraud meier
  5. johanna meier
  6. wagneropera.net
  7. kwangchul youn
  8. siegfried horn call
  9. irene theorin
  10. christopher ventris

This shows clearly that the old myth saying that visitors enter your site via the front page is dead and buried. So if you make your web site ignoring this fact, you loose a lot of traffic. If your web site is a business site, you will gradually lose to your competitors having understood the importance of search engines.

I would especially like to wish Wagneropera.net's ONLY visitor in Nepal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Greenland and Tunisia a Merry Christmas (if he or she celebrates Christmas there) and a Happy New Year!

13 December 2008

Updated Parsifal

Updated: it is now uncertain if this production will be recorded.

Stefan Herheim's production of Parsifal is scheduled to be recorded for DVD release and live streaming in 2010, according to BF Medien. In my opinion it it a wise decision to wait for the third year of production. Then the production should have found its optimal artistic expression, and one can probably get the best available singers. Flower Maidens: Some changes in the Blumenmädchen ensemble are desperately needed. No need to show mercy here.

The Bayreuth Festival 2009 will feature a live streaming of Christoph Marthaler's Tristan und Isolde, a production that has made me very curious since it generally was disliked by the critics. Unfortunately I couldn't get a ticket last summer, so a live streaming right to my computer is appreciated.

10 December 2008

Five Richard Wagner recommendations

Wagneropera.net asked some singers, directors, conductors, scholars and writers to recommend five Wagner CDs or DVDs. Among the contributors you will find opera singers Detlef Roth and Lioba Braun, conductor Hartmut Haenchen, director Kasper Bech Holten, Wagner scholar Barry Millington and many others.

Read all Wagner recommendations

The contributors regard Patrice Chéreau (both Ring and Tristan) and Harry Kupfer (especially his Holländer) highly. Among the conductors Solti, Boulez, Krauss and Barenboim are most often mentioned.

You will probably not agree with all the recommendations, but – as this project shows – there is not one definite version of a Wagner opera, neither on CD nor DVD. In my opinion these lists can teach us to appreciate the many ways Wagner’s operas are interpreted and performed.

Read all Wagner recommendations here

02 December 2008

Katharina Wagner's Meistersinger released on DVD today

Katharina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is being released today. This is the first time a live recording from the Festival has been released on DVD. It was recorded on 27 July 2008 and the material is therefor the same as was used on the Livestream on Internet.

It doesn't seem that Amazon.com has the DVDs yet, maybe the American release is later. Americans may buy the DVDs from the Festival's online shop. There it costs 29.90 Euro (approximately $38). You can save two Euros by buying it on Amazon.de.

Katharina Wagner's Meistersinger is a totally new reading of the opera, and not for those who want to go to the opera to escape. In my opinion, this production of Meistersinger is both thought-provoking and necessary. It is therapeutic for Bayreuth, starting a healing process of the Festivals repressed dark past.

Among the singers, Michael Volle's Beckmesser is a great achievement, and probably worth the expenses alone.

Bonus material include a "Making of" and a reportage of the Siemens Festspielnacht.

28 November 2008

Barenboim Met debut today with Tristan

Daniel Barenboim is making his Metropolitan Opera debut today with Tristan und Isolde.

Barenboim's responsibilities in Chicago, Bayreuth, and Berlin has made a Metropolitan debut impossible until now.

The cast includes Katarina Dalayman as Isolde, Michelle DeYoung as Brangäne, Peter Seiffert as Tristan, Gerd Grochowski as Kurwenal a René Pape as the cuckolded King Marke.

24 November 2008

Concertgebouw Best Orchestra in the World

A panel of leading international critics has ranked Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra no 1, defeating orchestras like Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony.

It is the magazine Gramophone who has asked eleven critics to rank the best orchestras in the world. The panel included three British critics from the Gramophone, two Americans, two Asians and one each from Le Monde (France), Die Welt (Germany), De Telegraaf (the Nether-lands) and Die Presse (Austria).

These are the best orchestras, according to Gramophone's critics:

1 Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
2 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
3 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
4 London Symphony Orchestra
5 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
6 Bavarian Radio Symphony
7 Cleveland Orchestra
8 Los Angeles Philharmonic
9 Budapest Festival Orchestra
10 Dresden Staatskapelle
11 Boston Symphony Orchestra
12 New York Philharmonic
13 San Francisco Symphony
14 Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra
15 Russian National Orchestra
16 Leningrad Philharmonic
17 Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
18 Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
19 Saito Kinen Symphony Orchestra
20 Czech Philharmonic

21 November 2008

No Munich Dutchman on DVD

Are you also hoping for a DVD release of Peter Konwitschny's Munich production of Der fliegende Holländer? Well, unfortunately it seems that we will have to manage without, since there are no plans of releasing it on DVD, according to the Press Office at Bayerische Staatsoper.

20 November 2008

Happy Birthday, René Kollo!

Happy Birthday, René Kollo! I heard you as Walther during the Münchener Opernfestspiele in 1982 (!). I love your Tristan in Ponnelle’s Tristan at Bayreuth.

17 November 2008

Financial Crisis Hits Wagner in Washington

General Director of Washington National Opera Plácido Domingo has announced that the scheduled Ring cycle will be postponed until the financial climate becomes more positive.

“Postponing the Ring protects the long-term financial health of the company and ensures that WNO will continue the legacy of artistic excellence that is central to our mission. Washington National Opera is committed to presenting our audiences with the world’s great artists and international productions and, by being fiscally responsible, we ensure that future,” stated Mark Weinstein, WNO Executive Director.

Das Rheingold and Die Walküre has already been produced.

Read all about it on Washington National Opera's homepage

14 November 2008

Katharina Wagner in Tragic Autobahn Drama

Katharina Wagner managed to maneuver the car safely to a stop when the driver of the car suddenly died of a heart attack Thursday night. The driver, Stefan Müller, a 32 year old lawyer for the Bayreuth Festival, was Katharina Wagner's "best friend", Festival spokesman Peter Emmerich said. She was unable to resuscitate her friend.

Der Spiegel and every other newspaper has more

Winifred Wagner and Wagner Cars

Winifred Wagner interview on DVDWinifred Wagner was the first woman in Bayreuth to get the driver's license. She advised Siegfried Wagner to buy a car, but he was reluctant because he didn't want to be dependent on a chauffeur. Obviously the thought that he could drive the car himself didn't occur to him. Well, Winifred got the license, and Siegfried didn't mind being dependent on her for driving around.

The first car they got, was a Presto (in 1924). The next car was a Horch (with 9 seats). Winifred says it was "so to say a police car". Then the family went over to Mercedes (a choice I can fully understand, being a fan of old Mercedeses). And at the time Winifred was interviewed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975) she had a Volkswagen.

You can order Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975 and other Syberberg DVDs at Syberberg.de:

The Leipzig Holländer Back in Business

The second performance of Michael von zur Mühlen's controversial production of Der fliegende Holländer at the Oper Leipzig will be tomorrow, Friday 14 th November.

The violent video clips which were added just a moment before the premiere started will not be shown. The press office say that they will be showing the performance as it was at the general rehearsal.

James Johnson was scheduled to sing the Holländer part, but after the premiere he refused to sing in the production any more, obviously not being comfortable with Michael von zur Mühlen's concept.

Wolfgang Brendel, is going to sing the title part in all the next performances which will be shown as scheduled.

The Holländer performances at the Oper Leipzig can be seen:

14.11.08, 18:00
19.11.08, 19:30
10.12.08, 19:00
20.12.08, 19:00
03.01.09, 19:30
16.04.09, 19:30
24.04.09, 18:00
31.05.09, 18:00

13 November 2008

Chéreau Tristan on DVD is not discontinued by the manufacturer

I have received e-mails from people asking about the Amazon.com message regarding Chéreau's Tristan on DVD. On Amazon.com it says: "This item has been discontinued by the manufacturer."

A spokesman for EMI and Virgin Classics say that the US release date probably is different, and that this explains the message on Amazon.com.

If you can't wait, you get the 3 DVDs practically for free at Amazon.co.uk. Play.com doesn't seem to be interested in selling it. Amazon.de does not have it yet.

12 November 2008

Chéreau's Tristan out on DVD now

Waltraud Meier's extraordinary performance as Isolde in Patrice Chéreau's production of Tristan und Isolde from Teatro alla Scala is now out on DVD. At Amazon.co.uk it costs only £10.49. No I am not kidding. It is practically free. I got my copy today. At Amazon.com no other information than "This item has been discontinued by the manufacturer.This item has been discontinued by the manufacturer." is given. This must be a mistake. Anyway, it is available at Amazon.co.uk.

Is this the best Tristan on DVD?

02 November 2008

Stockholm Ring on Swedish TV

The Complete Stockholm Ring is to be broadcast on Swedish TV this autumn

SVT2 Saturday 18 October kl 19.45: Das Rheingold
SVT2 Saturday 8 November kl 19.40: Die Walküre
SVT2 Saturday 29 November kl 19.35: Siegfried
SVT2 Saturday 20 December kl 19:00: Götterdämmerung


30 October 2008

The Wagner Journal November Issue

The Wagner JournalThe Wagner Journal is out with a new number. It is loaded with interesting articles, interviews and reviews.

The editor, Barry Millington, has two reviews from Bayreuth: Herheim's Parsifal and Katharina Wagner's Meistersinger. He also reviews Lohengrin (Deutsche Oper Berlin), Tannhäuser (Cologne) and the Konwitschny Dutchman (Munich).

Danish Wagner scholar Nila Parly reviews the Copenhagen Ring on DVD (readers who are not yet subscribers to The Wagner Journal can read the review on Wagneropera.net).

The number also has interviews with Peter Konwitschny and Katharina Wagner. And much more.

More info about the November issue is published on The Wagner Journal's Homepage

You can subscribe to The Wagner Journal's paper edition or get the numbers as PDFs.

The Wagner Journal Homepage

Nila Parly on the Bech Holten Ring

If you are interested in The Copenhagen Ring on DVD, you may want to read Nila Parly's review of the recently released DVD set on Decca. She examines the production from a feminist viewpoint, and sees the production in light of other so called Regietheater productions.

One of her basic ideas is that it actually is the female characters in Wagner who have the new and groundbreaking musical material, and that the women are far more in command of the development than a superficial view will show. Agree? Or do you see the female characters in Wagner as victims?

The review is printed in the November issue of The Wagner Journal.

Read Nila Parly's review here

Die Walküre Cancelled in Oslo

Another cancel for the Norwegian Opera. We are getting used to it now. This time they cancel the semi concertant Walküre in February 2009 borrowed from Gothenburg Opera. Replacement: Die Fledermaus. Exciting to see if any Norwegians notice the change. (Another thing is it that there was no information about the production being semi concertant when I ordered tickets... but the web site is not very good - to put it politely.)

We have a fantastic opera house here, but we have little to fill it with. Think about the Danish Royal Opera: their Copenhagen Ring is now discussed all over the world and available on DVD. Maybe I should move to Copenhagen. Their programme is much more interesting than ours. Wer weiss was ich tu...

29 October 2008


Well, and then I also have been tagged.

The rules:

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. I was tagged by Mostly Opera.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. If you don't have 7 blog friends, or if someone else already took dibs, then tag some unsuspecting strangers.

The 7 facts:

1. I once thought that the Internet was going to be short-lived.
2. The first time I saw the Cheréau Ring I was disgusted. Almost 30 years ago.
3. Smoking, parking in handicap spots or breast enlargement is not the way to win my heart.
4. The two greatest opera experiences of my life: Heiner Müller’s Tristan at Bayreuth in 1997 and Stefan Herheim’s Parsifal, also Bayreuth, in 2008.
5. One of my favourite films is David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers with Jeremy Irons.
6. I find golfing the best mental training.
7. When TV’s came with remote controls, I was convinced that it symbolized the downfall of Western culture.

I tag:

1 The Utah Symphony blog
2 The Guardian’s Music Blog
3 Arizona Opera Orchestra Musicians Association
4 Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra blog
5 Vincent's Wagner blog
6 BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
7 New York City Opera Blog

23 October 2008

Ring productions at Bayreuth

If you are interested in the Bayreuth Festival or productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen, you should buy Philippe Olivier's book Der Ring des Nibelungen in Bayreuth von den Anfängen bis heute.

The book covers all production at Bayreuth, from the first in 1876 to Tankred Dorst's running now. It is loaded with interesting photographs of productions, singers, rehearsals etc.

Unfortunately it is only available in German.

14 October 2008

Michael von zur Mühlen’s Holländer creates chaos

James Johnson, the wonderful Wotan in the recently released Copenhagen Ring, has refused to continue singing in the new Leipzig Holländer that premiered on Saturday. Johnson was not comfortable with director Michael von zur Mühlen’s concept, that included a stripper and several violent video sequences (that was introduced after the dress rehearsal, the opera house not being aware of it). The performance on Wednesday is cancelled, and the whole production may be withdrawn from the programme for good.

More on NMZ.de

05 October 2008

Metropolitan Ring is the best seller on Amazon.com

metropolitan ringAccording to the Amazon.com Sales Rank, the Metropolitan Ring with the team James Levine and Otto Schenk is the best selling Complete Ring set on DVD, followed rather unexpectedly by the Copenhagen Ring and not so unexpectedly by the Chereau Ring. That Amazon.com is selling more items of the Amsterdam Ring than the Bayreuth Ring with Barenboim and Kupfer is very surprising.

Metropolitan Ring: #15,341
Copenhagen Ring: #25,915
Chereau Ring: #32,918
Amsterdam Ring: #65,990
Barenboim/Kupfer: #66,702
Barcelona Ring: #102,149
Stuttgart Ring: #110,295

Which of these do you think belong in a Wagnerian's DVD library?

26 September 2008



Herheim with best Norwegian musical achievement 2007/2008

Stefan Herheim won the prize for best Norwegian musical achievement 2007/2008 from the Norwegian Critics’ Association for his production of Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival this summer.

Eikanger-Bjorsvik Brass Ensemble plays Wagner

Eikanger-Bjorsvik Brass Ensemble are performing music written by - and inspired by Richard Wagner on Sunday 19 October at 19.00, the Grieghall foyer, Bergen.

The programme consists of Rienzi ouverture, Prelude und Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, Grand March from Tannhäuser, Elsas prosession to the Minster among others.

The conductor is Bjorn Sagstad.

Time and place: Sunday 19 October at 19.00, Grieghall foyer, Bergen, Norway

21 September 2008

Stig Andersen - yes and no at Bayreuth

Did you know that the Danish tenor Stig Andersen got his Bayreuth debut already in 1977? Well, not as Siegfried or Siegmund, but as part of the wonderful Festival Chorus. Between 1977 and 1979 he sang in the Festspielchor in Cheréau’s Götterdämmerung and Götz Friedrich’s Tannhäuser and Lohengrin.

Stig Andersen (aka Stig Fogh Andersen) sings Siegmund and Siegfried on the recently released Copenhagen Ring on DVD - and very well too.


Smoking Kills

If Wagner had been a chain smoker, he might not have had the opportunity to make Parsifal. This is a very scientific proof showing how our beloved composer would have looked like after having made Walküre if he had been a heavy smoker:

You can check how you are going to look if you start smoking here

14 September 2008

Interview with author of "New Bayreuth"

When we were in Bayreuth this summer, my colleague Erling Guldbrandsen and I met Penelope Turing (born in 1925), author of the books New Bayreuth and Hans Hotter – Man and Artist. She has seen every production in Bayreuth since 1952 (!) and has attended the Bayreuth Festival more than 50 times (!). Her experience and perspective is so unique that my colleague and I thought it would be interesting to have her share some of her experiences and thoughts with Wagneropera.net's readers. She generously accepted our invitation to lunch at the Arvena Kongress Hotel on 7 August and talk about the festival, her views on Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner's productions and much more.

Read the interview with Penelope Turing on Wagneropera.net

06 September 2008

Puzzling bodily contact in Parsifal

Have you ever found the description of how Gurnemanz is laying Parsifal's arm around his neck and then laying his own hand around Parsifal's body a bit strange?

This detailed stage instruction in Wagner's libretto (just before they are entering the great hall of the Grail Castle) has always puzzled me. It think it has to do with the close bodily contact between the young Parsifal and the older man, being strangers to one another. I mean, I would probably find it mighty peculiar if an elderly man did the same to me before entering, say, a church to show me around.

The text says (with English translation taken from Monsalvat.no):
Er hat Parsifals Arm sich sanft um den Nacken gelegt und dessen Leib mit seinem eigenen Arme umschlungen; so geleitet er ihn bei sehr allmählichem Schreiten.
(He has gently laid Parsifal's arm around his neck and puts his own arm around his body; thus he leads him with very slow steps.)

05 September 2008

If I could choose…

If I could choose director, conductor and singers for the 2013 Ring at Bayreuth, I'd probably go for these:

Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Stage director: Stefan Herheim
Sieglinde: Eva-Maria Westbroek
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Wotan: René Pape
Alberich: Andrew Shore
Mime: Gerhard Siegel

It is highly unlikely that Daniel Barenboim is interested in returning to Bayreuth to do the Ring for four years. Otherwise it would have been great to have him back.

No one would like to see Waltraud Meier back in Bayreuth more than I, but is it likely? Will she still sing Sieglinde in 2013? Is her Brünnhilde ready for Bayreuth? Will Bayreuth let her just do the Walküre Brünnhilde?

I took the best from the current Tankred Dorst Ring and added a couple of newcomers.

Or is Thielemann too conservative for Herheim?

Who would you have chosen for your Ring Dream Team?

Bayreuth 2010: Annette Dasch and Evelyn Herlitzius

AFP, referring an interview Katharina Wagner has made with the German daily Welt Online, can report the following:

Annette Dasch is to sing Elsa (new production of Lohengrin). 2010 Evelyn Herlitzius is to sing Ortrud (Stage director: Hans Neuenfels, conductor: Andris Nelson)

Sebastian Baumgarten is to produce a new Tannhäuser

Christian Thielemann
will conduct and Adrienne Pieczonka is to sing Senta in a new production of The Flying Dutchman. No director has been named.

No Ring director has been chosen yet. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has been mention in the media, but seems out of the question.

Frau Wagner says that she is "keeping open the option of the Festspielhaus for Rienzi.

01 September 2008

Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier new bosses in Bayreuth

Katharina Wagner and her half sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier has been elected by the Stiftungsrat to lead the Bayreuth Festival for the next seven or so years. As a team member they have conductor Christian Thielemann.

This was highly expected as their only competitor was Nike Wagner, who - if the media coverage of her gives the right impression - seems to lack cooperative skills so important for a position like this. She has been sulking and provoking and felt overlooked and stabbed in the back for god knows how many years now. As a last desperate attempt Nike teamed up with Gérard Mortier, who will become general manager and artistic director of the New York City Opera in 2009 and planned to combine the two jobs.

Katharina and Eva's first decision should be to invite Stefan Herheim to do the Ring in 2013.

More here:
International Herald Tribune
New York Times
Süddeutsche Zeitung

30 August 2008

Bayreuth 2009

Next year's Bayreuth Festival will open with Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde, probably with Iréne Theorin as Isolde. First performance of Stefan Herheim's Parsifal will be one week after the opening. There will be no new productions in 2009.

25.07. Tristan I
26.07. Meistersinger I
27.07. Rheingold I
28.07. Walküre I
30.07. Siegfried I
01.08. Götterdämmerung I
02.08. Parsifal I
03.08. Meistersinger II
04.08. Tristan II
05.08. Parsifal II
06.08. Meistersinger III
07.08. Rheingold II
08.08. Walküre II
09.08. Tristan *
10.08. Siegfried II
12.08. Götterdämmerung II
13.08. Tristan IV
14.08. Meistersinger IV
15.08. Parsifal III
16.08. Götterdämmerung *
17.08. Tristan V
18.08. Meistersinger V
19.08. Parsifal IV
20.08. Rheingold III
21.08. Walküre III
23.08. Siegfried III
25.08. Götterdämmerung III
26.08. Meistersinger VI
27.08. Parsifal V
28.08. Tristan VI

26 August 2008

Iréne Theorin Interview on Wagneropera.no

On the Norwegian section of the Wagner site (Wagneropera.no), you can now read an interview I made in Bayreuth this summer with the Swedish soprano Iréne Theorin.

Unfortunately for many of you guys the interview is in Norwegian.

Iréne Theorin sang Isolde in Christoph Marthaler's production of Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival this year.

In this interview she tells about her catching a cold right before the premiere this year, how the singers work at Bayreuth, the Isolde character, Regietheatre productions and much more.

Interview with Iréne Theorin on Wagneropera.no

24 August 2008


The new homepage of the Bayreuth Festival has included statistics from previous productions. This is a good start, but I am still missing statistics of the individual singers and their performances at Bayreuth. When did Waltraud Meier sing Brangäne? How many performances as Kurwenal did Hans Hotter sing? What roles did Wolfgang Windgassen sing at Bayreuth?

In Villa Wahnfried they have this information available for their visitors. We live in 2008 now, and it is absurd that this information is not available for the whole world. (Up until now there have been some copyright issues regarding the photos of the artists preventing publication outside Villa Wahnfried). This should be solved. A simple solution is not to use pictures.

If the Bayreuth Festival also have this information (and they should have), publishing it should be an integral part of their search engine optimization strategy. This information will give them valuable traffic from the search engines, not to mention that making the information available will do the work much easier for researchers.

Although not very user friendly, Wagnermania.com has statistics from Bayreuth

15 August 2008

Festspielnachrichten 2008


Every year the the Bayreuth company Ellwanger publishes a series of booklets with festival news, reviews, reports, interviews etc. related to the Bayreuth Festival. You will also find obituaries of many artists and persons related to the Bayreuth Festival in one or another way.

This year the following booklets are available:

Tristan und Isolde
Rheingold / Walküre
Siegfried / Götterdämmerung

The booklets costs 3 Euro (USD 4.4.) each and can be ordered at Ellwanger

Müller/Barenboim best selling Tristan on DVD

Amazon.com's Sales Rank for Tristan and Isolde on DVD shows that Heiner Müller's production of Tristan und Isolde is the best selling Tristan DVD now.

Here are the standings:
  1. Heiner Müller / Daniel Barenboim: (#10,849)
  2. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle / Daniel Barenboim (#14,702)
  3. Nikolaus Lehnhoff / Vaclav Belohlavek: (#35,912)
  4. Dieter Dorn / James Levine (#48,292)
  5. Peter Konwitschny / Zubin Mehta (#78,158)
  6. Alfred Kirchner / Bertrand de Billy: (#107,074)

(The numbers are based on rank in category "Movies & TV".)

07 August 2008

Sabotur in Bayreuth during Parsifal

During yesterday’s performance of Stefan Herheim's Parsfal a saboteur blew in a whistle two times. It happened one minute before the end of the performance. I do not know whether this "art terrorist" was spotted by the guards, since he was sitting links and I was rechts, but I am in a mild und leise mood when I say that this idiot should be banned for lifetime. He actually deserves a more medieval treatment. It can never be accepted that someone tries to destroy the experience for others during performance. During the jeering and cheering after the music has stopped people may of course say what they like.

There were no boos when the swastika flags were rolled out in the second act, but a few when the act was finished. The boos were met by cheering. Then a “verbal fight” between those against the act/performance and those who liked it occured, culmination in a standing ovation. The dislikers were vastly outnumbered by those who liked what they were seeing and hearing.

The performance was really great. Especially Act 1 was an intense experience. There was never a dull moment during the almost two hour long act. Herheim had so many wonderful and interesting ideas, and visually this act is a masterpiece. It is also very, very moving, thanks to Herheim's treatment of the mother-son relationship.

More on Stefan Herheim's Parsifal with Daniele Gatti here

Herheims's problem is that the first act is so actionpacked and emotionally exhausting that the other acts can be felt to be a little disappointing. This is of course a well known dramaturgical problem. It is not wise to have the climax in the beginning. The next acts need not necesserely be of a lower quality, but it can be felt that way. More about this and Herheim later.

I have to mention that Daniele Gatti and the orchestra were magnificent yesterday. If Gatti continues to develop his interpretation, his reading might well a a classic who deserves to be mentioned with the best.

The applause lasted "only" 11 minutes.

Before the Parsifal performance I interviewed swedish soprano Iréne Theorin, who sings Isolde here.
Read the interview with Iréne Theorin (in Norwegian) here

I am travelling with Wagner musicologist and Bayreuth veretan Erling E. Guldbrandsen. We managed to make an appointment for an interview with Katharina Wagner (no date decided), and today my colleague and I are going to interview a critic who has attended the Bayreuth Festival for 56 years, starting in 1952. We met this wonderful English lady in the restaurant durin the second intermission. She has some great information we feel be of great value for the users of Wagneropera.net. And tonight: Katharina Wagners
Meistersinger, so more jeering is expected. Hopefully the reactionary idiots from "The Bayreuth Jockey Club" will stay away. They are not contributing anything at all, apart from making it difficult for decent people who prefere more traditional productions.

29 July 2008

Anne Evans interviewed by Wagneropera.net

An interview with singer-actor Anne Evans has just been published on Wagneropera.net. Most of you will know Anne Evans from the Barenboim/Kupfer Bayreuth Ring (available on DVD). Anne Evans is now giving master classes and teaching and coaching singers for roles they are about to perform.

In this interview Anne Evans speaks about singing at Bayreuth, how she learned to love Wagner, her teamwork with John Tomlinson and Siegfried Jerusalem, her thoughts on singing Wagner and much more.

Read the interview with Anne Evans here

Other interviews in this series:
Johanna Meier
Graham Clark
Sharon Polyak

Search for the Kupfer Ring on Amazon

28 July 2008

Meistersinger Live Transmission 27 July

Yesterday the Bayreuth Festival transmitted live Katharina Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. For the price of 49 Euros you could watch it at home on your computer. The price should have been approximately 20 Euros.

The picture quality was fine here in Norway, but a bit blurry when watched in full screen. This is to be expected, though.

For a live transmission, the quality of the camera work was acceptable. People expecting top quality missed a Brian Large and some intelligent editing. Usually you see a much better television craftsmanship in live transmissions of football matches.

The cameras on the floor, filming from a frog's perspective produced some really awful shots. These were painful to watch, distorted and with no or little visual information value. I got a feeling that things got a little better in Act 3 – or was it just that I got used to the poor quality?

Michael Volle as Beckmesser in BayreuthThis is not DVD quality. If Bayreuth starts releasing DVD with such poor camera work, the Festival brand will be severely punished. When Herheim's Parsifal will be filmed for DVD release, which it no doubt will, we demand the highest level.

I will return to Katharina's Meistersinger after having seen it in the Festival House in a couple of weeks. I want to add, though, that Michael Volle's Beckmesser was a tour de force, a performance that will be remembered as a Bayreuth classic.

I found Michaela Kaune's debut as Eva very good, intelligent, ironic – and wonderfully sung. But Katharina Wagner should refine the Eva character the next years, in my humble opinion. I was surprised that the public didn't give Kaune a greater ovation.

Michaela Kaune

Katharina Wagner has changed Beckmesser's prize song from the premiere year. The sex doll and explicit, almost brutal sex, is replaced with a performance not very exciting, and it doesn't help to have a nude man and a woman. The ending from the premiere year can be seen in the documentary about Katharina Wagner's Bayreuth debut.

Although it is easy to find lots to criticize in Katharina Wagner's interpretation, I found it intelligent and very brave. She has created something quite new. I find it too premature to release it on DVD (it has already been filmed), because two more years of developing and refining would make it even more enjoyable to watch the next 15 years. More on the interpretation later.

The transmission starts in a YouTube size window. I would recommend that information on how to change to full screen is included under the tiny window. (Right click, choose full screen.)

Franz Hawlata and Michael Volle

What has happened to Sachs (Franz Hawlata)? Beckmesser (Michael Volle) finds it hard to believe Sach's downfall. Sach's appeal "Verachted mir die Meistern nicht" was a disturbing scene and summed up how many non-Germans have felt about this passage, especially after the second world war.

26 July 2008

Bayreuther Festspiele the next years

According to Katharina Wagner (in an interview with festspiele.de) the plans for the Bayreuth Festival look like this:

2010: a new Lohengrin (Stage director: Hans Neuenfels)
2011: a new Tannhäuser (Stage director: Sebastian Baumgarten)
2012: a new Holländer
2013: a new Ring
2014: no new productions
2015: a new Tristan (Stage director: Katharina Wagner, conductor: Christian Thielemann)

I have a strong feeling that Stefan Herheim will be asked to stage the Ring or Tristan .

25 July 2008

Sensational Herheim Parsifal premiere

Judged by the radio broadcast and the volcanic applause for Norwegian director Stefan Herheim and his team, the new Parsifal is a great success. Critics and the public were generally very enthusiastic right after the performance. Gatti got some negative reactions. Otherwise great applause for the singers.

Herheim's Parsifal - premiere today

Today is the big day for Stefan Herheim and his team and their time journey through Germany's history.

Here are some pictures:

Klingsor with white hair and Kundry in red.

Villa Wahnfried.

More on Stefan Herheim

12 July 2008

Das Opernglas with Herheim Interview

Das Opernglas is out with a issue (7/8-2008) loaded with goodies for Wagnerians, and featuring an interview with Herheim talking about his forthcoming Parsifal in Bayreuth. More than any other of Wagner’s works, he says, Parsifal is connected to the Bayreuth Festival and German history. Parsifal is the history of a nation.

Before accepting the offer from Bayreuth, Herheim had turned down an offer from Staatsoper in Berlin to stage Parsifal there. The concept for the Bayreuth production was in a way born then, at least some of the thoughts about it.

The greatest challenge, Herheim says, are the narrative passages when nothing “happens”. And a very important issue is the tempi Bayreuth debutant Daniele Gatti chooses.

One thing seems certain: The auditorium will not be integrated in the production. So at least the conservative Bayreuth audience will have one thing that can ease the pain and anger they most certainly will feel when Herheim presents his unerhörtes Werk.

More interviews in this issue: Erwin Schrott, Maria Guleghina and Saimir Pirgu.

Also in this issue of Das Opernglas you will find reviews of Lohengrin in Saarbrücken, Braunschweig and Nürnberg, Parsifal and Der fliegende Holländer at the Richard Wagner Festival in Wels, Tristan und Isolde in Tallinn, Der fliegende Holländer in Prague, Capriccio in Wien, and Don Carlo in London.

DVDs that being reviewed in this issue: Heiner Müller’s Bayreuth production of Tristan und Isolde, the film version of Der fliegende Holländer from 1974, both released on Deutsche Grammophon.

Das Opernglas

Johanna Meier interview about Isolde in Bayreuth

In a new interview with Wagneropera.net, Isolde star Johanna Meier reveals what really happened at the end of Ponnelle's classic Bayreuth production. Was she singing Liebestod from the brass section of the orchestra pit or wasn't she?

One thing is for sure: Bayreuth historian Frederic Spotts is wrong about what happened!

The DVD of this production, with René Kollo as Tristan, Hanna Schwarz as Brangäne and Matti Salminen as King Marke, is available on DVD.

Read the interview with Johanna Meier


10 July 2008

Decca promoting the Danish Ring

The Copenhagen Ring

Der kleine Hörsaal - children discover music

Der kleine Hörsaal is a series of CDs where artists like Hilary Hahn, Christian Thielemann, Thomas Quasthoff, Katharina Wagner and Albrecht Mayer, and children listen to music and talk about what they hear. This is actually how music should be taught in school, in my humble opinion. The listening becomes an exciting journey, a new discovery. The children reflect on everything from the sound of the violin, how to stage an opera etc., and they ask questions to the artists about this and that from their pont of view. It is all in German, but maybe you know of something similar in English?

The series include the following CDs:
  • DIE GEIGE mit Hilary Hahn
  • DIRIGIEREN mit Christian Thielemann
  • DIE OBOE mit Albrecht Mayer
  • HÄNSEL UND GRETEL mit Katharina Wagner
  • SINGEN mit Thomas Quasthoff

08 July 2008

Looking at the names

If you take a look at the names rolling over the screen on the production of Meistersinger by Wolfgang Wagner on DVD, you will probably recognize a couple. Chances are good that you have seen the name Katharina Wagner before. She was assistant (with Thomas Weiler) to her father Wolfgang Wagner. Another assistant in the production team is Marko Kleiber, son of Carlos Kleiber. Carlos Kleiber had a short but intense career at Bayreuth (he conducted Tristan 1974-76 - some of the performances has been released on LP/CD).

06 July 2008

Christopher Ventris to sing Siegfried in 2012

Christopher Ventris
Christopher Ventris is taking the leap to the tenor's nightmare role of Siegfried at the Bavarian State Opera in 2012, his agent reports. This marks his debut in this role.

Before that he will sing Siegmund in Washington National Opera's Ring, the Ring they call The American Ring, since it is the first Ring cycle created for and produced in the nation’s capital. Das Rheingold premiered in 2006, Die Walküre in 2007. Siegfried premieres in the spring of 2009, and Götterdämmerung will make its debut as part of the full cycle in the fall of 2009.

Ventris will make his role debut as Tannhäuser – in Seattle 2011.

But first we are looking forward to his Bayreuth Festival debut in Stefan Herheim's "time journey" production of Parsifal 25 July.

More on Christopher Ventris

03 July 2008

Waltraud Meier - song recital at the Munich Opera Festival 2009

Waltraud Meier will give a song recital at the Nationaltheater during the Munich Opera Festival 2009, on Monday, 20 July to be more precise. Programme and time will be announced later.

Joseph Breinl will accompany her.

It is possible to order tickets now, but since written orders not will be processed before1 February 2009, you will obviously not receive a confirmation before that time.

Order your tickets here
Waltraud Meier

02 July 2008

Katharina Wagner and her Meistersinger on DVD

Via Mostly Opera I read that United Motion is planning to re-edit the live footage of Katharina Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for release on DVD in November. The filming will be done by eight remote-control cameras.

I am a bit surprised that this production will be released on DVD so soon. After all, this is only the second season it runs. Usually it takes a couple of years for a production to find its form in Bayreuth. It is also strange that the premiere will be used as raw material for this DVD release. The second and third performance will most likely be of a higher artistic quality than the premiere, at least according to some commentators I have spoken with.

Bayreuth Festival
Bayreuth Festival 2008 programme and cast

27 June 2008

Promoting Meistersinger on YouTube

Katharina & Co have understood it. The live streaming of Meistersinger 27 July is being promoted on YouTube, MySpace and maybe other places as well. It's free, so why not more companies use these channels is a riddle to me. I like the new line on the Green Hill.

24 June 2008

Wolfgang Wagner's Ring production 1974

Two clips from Wolfgang Wagners production of Der Ring des Nibelungen (1970-1975). As far as I can tell, it is Franz Mazura who is Alberich (in 1974 he was alternating with Gustav Neidlinger). Theo Adam is Wotan. In the Götterdämmerung clip we see Jean Cox as the dying Siegfried, apparently having just been to the hairdresser and spent a lot of money to make his hair look like a carrot cake.

Jean Cox was one of the singers Wolfgang Wagner mentioned when we asked him to tell about some of his highlights as Festival leader (back in 1997). He also mentioned the wonderful Swedish soprano Catarina Ligendza, now living somewhere in southern Germany playing golf and riding horses. She was 70 last year. Wolfgang Wagner also mentioned Waltraud Meier.

Fredric Spotts writes in his book Bayreuth - A History of the Wagner Festival:
"Although a marked improvement on its 1960 predecessor, the Ring neither offended nor enraptured. The audience was no longer challenged to ponder archetypal symbols or social messages but was left to sit back and enjoy straightforward opera theatre."

23 June 2008

Amanda Mace injured

The Eva in Katharina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Amanda Mace, is injured and will be replaced by Michaela Kaune, who should have sung Gutrune in Tankred Dorst's Ring production, Festspiele.de reports. The new Gutrune will be Edith Haller, who is well known in Bayreuth, having sung Freia, Helmwige, 3. Norn and Gutrune. Haller's Bayreuth debut was in 2006.

Watch Katharina's Meistersinger on your PC

Katharina Wagner's production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg will be aired live on 27 July for those with a broadband connection. The same performance can be viewed on a big screen in Bayreuth.

The price for viewing Meistersinger on the Internet is rather stiff: 49 euro (approximately 77 USD). And as this is written no information in English is available. Information in English is now available.

The cast

Conductor Sebastian Weigle
Inszenierung Katharina Wagner
Bühnenbild Tilo Steffens
Kostüme Michaela Barth
Hans Sachs Franz Hawlata
Veit Pogner Artur Korn
Kunz Vogelgesang Charles Reid
Konrad Nachtigall Rainer Zaun
Sixtus Beckmesser Michael Volle
Fritz Kothner Markus Eiche
Balthasar Zorn Edward Randall
Ulrich Eisslinger Hans-Jürgen Lazar
Augustin Moser Stefan Heibach
Hermann Ortel Martin Snell
Hans Schwarz Andreas Macco
Hans Foltz Diógenes Randes
Walther von Stolzing Klaus Florian Vogt
David Norbert Ernst
Eva Michaela Kaune Amanda Mace
Magdalene Carola Guber
Ein Nachtwächter Friedemann Röhlig

It is good news that the Bayreuth Festival finally has discovered Internet. Let's hope the Festival's homepage will be redesigned soon, and that more of the vast amount of information about the Festival they possess will be made available for the public.

Read more on live.bayreuther-festspiele.de

21 June 2008

Oslo's New Opera

Den Norske Opera. Foto: Per-Erik Skramstad

I went to the new Opera House today, and finally took some pictures of this fantastic house. It is really beautiful, inside and outside. Please remember sun glasses if you are planning a visit. The white building and the white ground is really straining the eyes.

The program so far has been very disappointing, with no new Norwegian operas, and no exciting productions, at least not for me. The greatest disappointment was the cancelling of a new production of Tannhäuser by Stefan Herheim, who will probably make a scandal in Bayreuth this summer with his time journey Parsifal.

The West-Eastern Divan concert in August (Die Walküre Act 1) is the first event I can't miss. Die Walküre is next must-see - in February 2009. No conductor announced yet, but stage director is Folke Abenius. And this is the cast:
Siegmund: John Keyes
Wotan: Terje Stensvold
Sieglinde: Ingebjørg Kosmo
Brünnhilde: Catherine Foster
Hunding: Carsten Stabell
Fricka: Hege Høisæter
Helmwige: Toril Carlsen
Gerhilde: Ingjerd Oda Mantor
Ortlinde: Itziar Martinez Galdos

Here are some picture:

Den Norske Opera. Foto: Per-Erik Skramstad

Den Norske Opera. Foto: Per-Erik Skramstad

The Car

My car leaves no doubt about what music I like.

Liebestod from Konwitschny's Tristan in Munich

At last a decent video on YouTube from Peter Konwitschny's production of Tristan und Isolde in Munich. Waltraud Meier (see photos), now out with a new Isolde on DVD, in Heiner Müller's Bayreuth production (see photos), filmed in 1995.

Note that it takes 8 seconds before the applause begins, a true sign of a cultivated and mature audience. If you have experienced a long silence after a wonderful performance, you know what I mean. Those seconds can be pure magic.

More versions of Liebestod on Wagneropera.net

17 June 2008

Stefan Herheim has started Bayreuth rehearsals for Parsifal

Stefan Herheim has just started rehearsals for his Parsifal production in Bayreuth. Villa Wahnfried and the Festival House will obviously play an important part of the sets. Will Herheim stage Parsifal as a Strindberg drama with Richard Wagner in one of the main roles? Will we see Cosima wandering around in Bayreuth? Will Adolf Hitler be on the stage? How will the Erlösung theme fit into a stage with recognizable buildings like the Festspielhaus? I have no idea, but I will be there to see the third performance and must say that I am very excited. Will you be there?

Festspiele.de has more
Stefan Herheim
Herheim's Parsifal production in Bayreuth