29 February 2008

Wolfgang Wagner Cameo in Meistersinger (Did you know?)

Did you know that Wolfgang Wagner appeared in a cameo in the filmed Bayreuth Meistersinger from 1984? He stands in a long brown coat nest to Beckmesser (Hermann Prey). Had he done that (like Alfred Hitchcock in his movies) in every performance of the Wagner operas he directed at the Bayreuth Festival, more people would probably have stayed awake.
Wolfgang Wagner cameo in Meistersinger

27 February 2008

Bayreuth festival outdoor on big screen

Bayreuth FestspielhausThis summer people in Bayreuth may watch operas from the festival live on a big outdoor screen. The new production of Parsifal by Norwegian Stefan Herheim is mentioned as one option, but there are a lot of practical things to sort out, not to mention matters concerning rights. Read more on Festspiele.de

Back to main page

Frau Minne will: Es werde Nacht

The second really great and magic moment of the Konwitschny Tristan on DVD (the first being Er sah mir in die Augen!), is the moment in the second act when Waltraud Meier sings:

Frau Minne will:
es werde Nacht,
dass hell sie dorten leuchte

Waltraud Meier in the Munich production of Tristan und Isolde (Wagneropera.net)

Back to main page

26 February 2008

Reopening in 1951, part 1 (Did you know?)

The first Richard-Wagner-Festspiele after the war (1951) had productions of Parsifal, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Der Ring des Nibelungen. The 21 performances were led by two conductors: Hans Knappertsbusch (Parsifal+Ring) and Herbert von Karajan (Meistersinger+Ring).

Back to main page

25 February 2008

I Follow a Voice Within Me

If you are a fan of Waltraud Meier, you shouldn’t miss the documentary I Follow a Voice Within Me on DVD. It shows her rehearsing, recording and performing on stage, not to mention interviews with her and colleagues.

It is very fascinating to see "die Waltraud" in rehearsal preparing for a role or a production. She is very focused, but also full of laughter. In the documentary we see her rehearsing or on stage as Sieglinde (Die Walküre, with Placido Domingo), Amneris (Aida), Ortrud (Lohengrin), Didon (Les Troyens), Leonore (Fidelio), Isolde (Heiner Müller’s Tristan in Bayreuth) and Marie (Wozzek).

Read more on Wagneropera.net

Waltraud Meier's homepage

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

An honour to play in Bayreuth (Did you know?)

(With this blog post I introduce a series of more or less interesting facts about Richard Wagner, Bayreuth, Wagner performers etc.)

Especially earlier it was considered a great honour to play in Bayreuth. Today it is great to participate, especially for young singers, but they seldom feel it an honour like they did before.

Here’s a letter from a musician who would very much like to play in the festival orchestra.

(Mannheim, den 15. Januar 1924)
Sehr verehrter Herr Wagner!

Verzeihen Sie, wenn ich mich mit einer Bitte an Sie persöhnlich wende. Soweit mir bekannt ist, sind die Festspiele in Bayreuth für diesen Sommer endgültig festgesetzt. Als grosser Verehrer Wagnerischer Schöpfungen war es seit langem mein sehnlichster Wunsch, bei den Bayreuther Festspielen mitwirken zu dürfen. Ich erlaube mir daher die ergebenste Bitte an Sie zu richten, mich bei Besetzung der 1. Posaune im Orchester gütigst berücksichtigen zu wollen.
Bemerken möchte ich noch, dass Urlaubsschwerigkeiten der hiesigen Intendant nicht in Frage kommen.
Um gütige Antwort bittet
mit vorzüglicher Hochachtung
Aug. Sander
1. Posaunist
Nationaltheater Mannheim

Source: Das Bayreuther Festspielorchester – Geschichte, Geschichten und Anekdoten von damals bis heute by Alfred Sous

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

Er sah mir in die Augen!

The DVD of the Munich production of Tristan und Isolde (staged by Peter Konwitschny)from 1999 is loaded with highlights.

The first major highlight comes in Isolde's narration when she tells of her encounter with Tristan. She had an opportunity to kill him, but let's her sword drop. No one can sing this like Waltraud Meier: the passion, the confusion, the surrendering.

Waltraud Meier in the Munich production of Tristan und Isolde (Wagneropera.net)

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

23 February 2008

Who are you? Which country are you from?

It is very likely that a person who reads this is from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, France or Japan. Here are the nationalities of this blog's visitors the last three months:

1. United States 2. Germany 3. United Kingdom 4. France 5. Japan 6. Canada 7. Netherlands 8. Austria 9. Spain 10. Italy 11. Denmark 12. Switzerland 13. Sweden 14. Australia 15. Ukraine 16. Greece 17. Mexico 18. New Zealand 19. Poland 20. Portugal

It is also likely that you have found the blog searching for one of these keywords in the search engines:

1. annamia eriksson 2. siegfried horn call 3. heinz zednik bayreuth 4. waltraud meier 5. opera wagner blog 6. heinz zednik 7. jeannine altmeyer 8. wagner opera blog 9. winterstuerme + wagner 10. birgit nilsson 11. kirsten flagstad 12. richard wagner blogspot 13. vorspiel zur oper die meistersinger von nurnberg 14. birgit nilsson isolde 15. knappertsbusch 1958 ring 16. mild und leise 17. mild und leise wie er lacht 18. parsifal kupfer 19. bayreuth 20. peter hofmann 21. ride of the valkyries 22. vorspiel 23. wagner siegfried horn call 24. waltraud maier 25. wolfgang windgassen

This doesn't tell anything about the frequency these search phrases are used compared to other search phrases, only that this blog has relatively good visibility on these keywords. For example, if you search for "Maria Callas" or "Maria Callas Isolde", you will not find this blog, simply because I haven't written anything about her. (Please also note that the Google results vary from country to country, and that the search engine result pages are in constant change.)

If you would like to tell how you found this blog and something about who you are and what you think thing about a guy they called Richard Wagner, I am sure many fellow-readers would find that interesting.

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

22 February 2008

Barenboim, Meier, Botha and Pape

[Updated 6 June 08 with info about Simon O'Neill singing Siegmund]

Richard Wagner: Die Walküre 1. act
Oslo Opera House 20 August 2008
Daniel Barenboim and the West Eastern Divan Orchestra
Sieglinde: Waltraud Meier

Siegmund: Simon O'Neill Johan Botha

Hunding: René Pape
Some tickets are still available (best seats: £100). See Operaen.no

As mentioned before, Waltraud Meier will sing Sieglinde in the new opera house here in Oslo 20 August. This will be the most exciting event for me (I think) this year. The concert performance of Die Walküre, act 1 will also feature Simon O'NeillJohan Botha as Siegmund and René Pape as Hunding. This will be my first meeting with Johan Botha, and the expectations are high. René Pape as Hunding must be a perfect match.

The West Eastern Divan Orchestra began in 1999 as an experiment. It was founded by Barenboim and Edward Said. The young musicians are Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian. The aim of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and pave the way for a peaceful and fair solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Daniel Barenboim has profound insights into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which you can read more about on his homepage.

(Picture showing Waltraud Meier as Isolde in Peter Konwitschny's production of Tristan und Isolde in Munich.)

Read more about The West Eastern Divan Orchestra on Wikipedia
Daniel Barenboim's Homepage
Waltraud Meier's Homepage
Johan Botha's Homepage
René Pape's Homepage
The Norwegian Opera

Back to the main page

21 February 2008

Celibidache: Richard Wagner Orchestral Music

Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was a very idiosyncratic conductor. He is known as a slow tempo conductor, which you may or may not like. He insisted on extensive rehearsal time before concerts, a perfectionist to his fingertips.

The orchestral works on this CD are: Vorspiel (Meistersinger), Siegfried-Idyll, Funeral March (Götterdämmerung) and Overture (Tannhäuser). It is the Munich Philharmonic playing, and the CD is recorded from two concerts, held 3 and 4 February 1993.

The Vorspiel to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is played extremely slow. The slow tempi peels off all the nationalism and pompous hallowness this music unfortunately has been associated with. The funny thing is that I got the same impression when I heard Barenboims interpretation in Bayreuth back in '97, but his interpretation was rather fast, transparent and with less bombastic climaxes than the score invites to. Celibidaches interpretation is so slow that I understand those who gets restless. Although I love this extravagant reading, even I felt that rhytm and some of the power was lost on the journey. But Celibidache's concern is not rhytm and the music's connection to the body, if I may put it this way. Celibidache has a philosophical approach. He is in no way flirting with the audiences.

Celibidache is certainly not in any hurry in Siegfried-Idyll either, but this little wonder of sheer beauty is often played rather slow, so the difference is not so noteworthy. It may be the most beautiful interpretation I have ever heard of this piece.

Siegfried's Funeral March (Trauermarsch) from Götterdämmerung is a very fine reading, very grand, very solemn, but at around 6.20 the transparency is lost for grandeur.

The Tannhäuser Overture is not to my taste. Here the music (at least the Venusberg music) calls for juicy intensity. Celibidache lacks the necessary intensity to make the Venusberg music a contrast to the more sacral or pious music associated with the pilgrims and the Christian way of life. Without the ambiguity, something essential is missing - at least for me. It is, by the way, perhaps the "fastest" reading – compared to what we are used to from other conductors.

The first time you listen to the CD, you'll probably get annoyed with the applause introducing the Meistersinger Vospiel. But the 30 second silence (seems like an eternity) before the music starts justifies it. It emphasizes the total commitment and concentration Celibidache obviously demands from himself – and the audience. Apart from the introductory applause and the silence that follows, the other tracks with applause are really unnecessary and annoying.

If you give this CD a chance, I am convinced that you'll find many gems in Celibidache's interpretations. The four tracks are taken from two concerts. And what concerts those must have been!

More on Sergiu Celibidache on Wikipedia

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

20 February 2008

Heinz Zednik's autobiography Mein Opernleben

Heinz Zednik's autobiography Mein Opernleben (Edition Steinbauer) is just released.

Zednik is one of those great artists that found his niche in the minor roles and developed it to mastery. Instead of pushing the limit and move into a repertoire that other singers had better capacity to master, he chose to refine his art as a character tenor. That way he became the ideal Loge and Mime. In fact he set the standard for those two roles: Loge in Das Rheingold and Mime in Siegfried. His main successes in these roles he experienced in Bayreuth and at the Met.

Read more about Heinz Zednik's autobiography Mein Opernleben on Wagneropera.net

About Mein Opernleben on Edition-steinbauer.com
Mein Opernleben on Amazon.de

Back to Wagner Opera homepage

16 February 2008

Can Torsten Kerl be the Wagner tenor we are waiting for?

There aren't any perfect Wagner tenors around. So when you go to see a Tristan or a Siegfried, you can only hope for the best. One interesting singer that may (and this is a big "may") develope into the Wagner tenor we are waiting for is Torsten Kerl. Time will show. Below is his Wagner schedule the next years as it is when this is written.

Oper Köln: Tannhäuser (Tannhäuser). March, April, May
Covent Garden: Erik (Der fliegende Holländer). February, March

Glyndebourne Festival: Tristan (Tristan und Isolde). Juni - August

Deutsche Oper Berlin: Rienzi (Rienzi). January, February and between April and June

Paris Operá Bastille: Siegfried (Siegfried). March, April
Paris Operá Bastille: Siegfried (Götterdämmerung). June, July

Torsten Kerls Homepage

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera

10 February 2008

Wanna hire a Tristan?

Tristan und Isolde at Glyndebourne

Occationally you see that an opera production is a cooperation. This is cost saving, and gives minor or medium sized opera companies a possibility of sharing a concept of much higher standards than they could produce alone. I suspect we will see more of this, although I am sure the local directors and set designer dislike it.

When surfing the Glyndebourne Festival site, I find information on productions that are available "for hire". They also have supertitles for hire. What about hiring the Nikolaus Lehnhoff production of Tristan und Isolde at Glyndebourne for your next staging of the opera at your local high school?

Back to the main page: Wagner Opera