13 December 2010

Tannhäuser at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Tannhäuser has returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in a new production by Tim Albery. On Wagneropera.net Mark Berry reviews the premiere, being especially positive towards the conductor and the cast:

"Above all," Mark Berry writes, "this return to the Royal Opera House of Tannhäuser proved a musical triumph. Semyon Bychkov’s conducting was superior even to that of his Lohengrin last year. He generally took his time, but the score never dragged, given that Wagner’s long line was ever secure – bar the odd occasion when abruptness cannot quite be ironed out of the score. Climaxes were sparing and therefore all the more powerful when they came. Perhaps most importantly of all, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House was on superlative form. Brass onstage and off were weightily impressive without brashness. The woodwind choir evoked a Middle Ages that may never actually have existed, but certainly did in Wagner’s imagination. As for the strings, one might well have thought them from Vienna, so beautiful was their sheen. Equally fine was the chorus and extra chorus, properly weighty of tone without undue sacrifice to verbal meaning; Renato Balsadonna had trained them very well."

Read Mark Berry's review of the ROH Tannhäuser on Wagneropera.net

Tannhäuser – Johan Botha
Elisabeth – Eva-Maria Westbroek
Venus – Michaela Schuster
Wolfram von Eschenbach – Christian Gerhaher
Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia – Christof Fischesser
Biterolf – Clive Bayley
Walther von der Vogelweide – Timothy Robinson
Heinrich der Schreiber – Steven Ebel
Reimar von Zweter – Jeremy White
Shepherd Boy – Alexander Lee

Tim Albery (director)
Michael Levine (set designs)
Jon Morrell (costumes)
David Finn (lighting)
Jasmin Vardimon (choreography)
Maxine Braham (movement)

Royal Opera Chorus and Extra Chorus (chorus master: Renato Balsadonna)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Semyon Bychkov (conductor)

09 December 2010

Cosima Wagner: Diaries, 9 December 1879

"There is no pleasure in looking at the outside world, and my constant prayer is that I may succeed in keeping R. in his element by concealing the realities of life from him as much as possible."

Cosima Wagner: Diaries, 9 December 1879

29 November 2010

New production of Parsifal at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie in Brussels

A new production of Parsifal will premiere at the Royal Theatre La Monnaie in Brussels 27 January 2011. Hartmut Haenchen, who conducted the infamous Paris production by Krysztof Warlikowski (the one using a clip from Rosselini's film ”Germany Year Zero”), will conduct a cast led by Swedish superstar Anna Larsson making her role debut as Kundry. According to some commentators, Haenchen's Parsifal reading in Paris was the fastest ever.

Stage director is Romeo Castellucci.

Principal singers

Amfortas Thomas Johannes Mayer
Titurel Victor von Halem
Gurnemanz Jan-Hendrik Rootering
Parsifal Andrew Richards
Klingsor Tómas Tómasson
Kundry Anna Larsson

Royal Theatre La Monnaie

See Wagner Calendar 2011 for more Wagner productions

25 November 2010

The Wagner Journal on Lohengrin and Wagner's anti-semitism

The Wagner Journal has two important features currently on its website: a dramaturgical analysis by Edward A. Bortnichak and Paula M. Bortnichak of the new Bayreuth Festival production of Lohengrin by Hans Neuenfels, addressing the production from a sociological perspective, and an online debate between Barry Emslie and Mark Berry on the thorny issue of anti-semitism in Wagner's works.

Also available via the website is a free introductory copy of The Wagner Journal.

27 October 2010

Moshinsky's ROH Lohengrin moves to Chicago

The dusty Lohengrin production by Elijah Moshinsky from Royal Opera House Covent Garden is now moving to Chicago Lyric Opera.

Wagnerian superstars like Johan Botha (one of the best singing Lohengrins today), Emily Magee (see Peter Konwitschny's Lohengrin production on DVD), Michaela Schuster (Ortrud) and Georg Zeppenfeld (Herald - last seen in this role at Bayreuth this summer in Hans Neuenfels' Lohengrin "rat production") join forces with Sir Andrew Davis and the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

February 11, 16, 20, 25
March 1, 5, 8

Mark Elder / Hallé Orchestra: concert version of Die Walküre 15 & 16 July 2011

Manchester International Festival presents a new collaboration with the Hallé and The Bridgewater Hall; Wagner's Die Walküre supported by a specially commissioned dramatic prologue 'The Madness of An Extraordinary Plan: A Guide to Wagner's Ring Cycle'.

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé return to Wagner's Ring Cycle with a concert version of Die Walküre. This follows their 2009 presentation of Götterdämmerung, which won the 2010 Gramophone Opera Award. This most enduring of operas will be performed at The Bridgewater Hall, which has arguably the UK's finest orchestral acoustic.

Friday 15 July 2011, 7.30pm (with a 20 minute interval)
The Madness of an Extraordinary Plan and Act I

Saturday 16 July 2011, 3.30pm (with a 75 minute interval)
Act II and Act III

Cast and more on Wagneropera.net

Mark Elder photo by Sheila Rock

21 October 2010

Parsifal in Tallinn, August 2011

Tickets for the performances of Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal on 25–28 August 2011, performed within the frameworks of European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011 and Nargen Festival, are now available. The opera, staged in Noblessner Foundry, is performed for the first time in Estonia.

The music director is Arvo Volmer, stage director Nicola Raab (Germany), designer Robert Innes Hopkins (England) and lighting designer David Cunningham (Scotland).

Soloists: Richard Decker (U.S.A), Roman Sadnik (Austria), Manfred Hemm (Germany), Irmgard Vilsmaier (Germany), Eike Wilm Schulte (Germany), Rauno Elp, Martin Winkler (Austria), Mart Laur, Priit Volmer, etc. The enlarged size of the orchestra and chorus, altogether more than two hundred people, makes it one of the grandest classical music projects within the past years.

The ticket price range is 290–790 EEK. In addition, a limited number of exclusive tickets are available that ensure you the best place in the venue and a catering service by Estonian National Opera Catering during the intermission. More info at www.opera.ee

Performances 25, 26, 27, 28 August 2011

14 October 2010

The Wagner series kicks off with Der fliegende Holländer in Berlin

With Richard Wagner’s opera Der Fliegende Holländer, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) and Marek Janowski begin their series featuring concert performances of the ten most important of Wagner’s works for the stage on November 13, 2010.

An international elite of Wagner singers including, among others, Matti Salminen, Nina Stemme, Albert Dohmen, Christian Elsner, Ricarda Merbeth, Robert Dean Smith and Stephen Gould will be performing at the Berlin Philharmonie between November 2010 and May 2013.

Under the direction of Marek Janowski, the RSB will also perform the operatic works Parsifal (April 8, 2011) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (June 3, 2011) together with the Rundfunkchor Berlin during the 2010/11 season. It is the objective of the RSB’s principal conductor and artistic director, Marek Janowski, to convey to the audience the high musical quality of Wagner’s compositions in the absence of scenic interpretation, focusing on the music alone.

Season 2011/12
The concert cycle will be continued in 2011/12 with Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde and Lohengrin. The performance of the complete opera tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen during the 2012/13 season marks the highpoint of the series, in honor of Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday.

12 October 2010

Opera Australia - Ring cycle in Melbourne in 2013

Opera Australia has officially announced details of its Ring cycle in Melbourne in 2013, Opera Magazine reports. Three complete cycles will be given in November and December, before the co-producing Houston Grand Opera takes over the production for its first-ever Ring; it plans to present the operas over the course of four seasons, beginning in 2014.

The Melbourne production team will be led by the conductor Richard Mills and director Neil Armfield, and the cast will include Susan Bullock as Brünnhilde, Juha Uusitalo as Wotan, Gary Lehman as Siegfried and John Wegner as Alberich. This will be the biggest production in Opera Australia’s history. The project has already won the company the largest donation in its history; $5 million has been pledged by one of the city’s leading philanthropists, the Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler.

19 September 2010

New Metropolitan Ring: Das Rheingold Premieres 27 September

James Levine and director Robert Lepage join forces to create what The Metropolitan Opera describes as a "groundbreaking new Ring". Das Rheingold will premiere on Monday 27 September.

Robert Lepage brings cutting-edge technology to the new Ring, using spectacular optical effects. Time will show if the effects enhance the experience or lives its own life and distracts the public, like the circus Ring in Valencia.

Bryn Terfel is singing his first Wotan at the Met. He is leading a cast that includes Gerhard Siegel as Mime and Hans-Peter König (both well known from Bayreuth).

Levine, who has conducted every complete Ring cycle performed by the Met since 1989, has been sidelined in recent years due to health problems. The lates reports says thet he is fit for fight now. According to Levine, “The Ring  is one of those works of art that you think you know, but every time you return to it, you find all kinds of brilliant moments that hadn’t struck you with the same force before.”

According to the director Robert Lepage, “The Ring is about change. I try to be extremely respectful of Wagner’s storytelling, but in a very modern context. We’re trying to see how in our day and age we can tell this classical story in the most complete way.”

Conductor:  James Levine
Freia: Wendy Bryn Harmer
Fricka: Stephanie Blythe
Erda: Patricia Bardon
Loge: Richard Croft
Mime: Gerhard Siegel
Wotan: Bryn Terfel
Alberich: Eric Owens
Fasolt: Franz-Josef Selig
Fafner: Hans-Peter König

27 August 2010

Tankred Dorst's Ring exits - being vociferously booed

Tankred Dorst's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival is now history. The last Götterdämmerung was performed on 25 August 2010 with a marvellous Lance Ryan as Siegfried and a Festival orchestra I have never heard better. From day 1 this has been Christian Thielemann's Ring, and the orchestra has responded with better playing for each year. The quality of the singer-actors (to the extent that acting was necessary in this Ring), on the other hand, has varied. For me the highlights has been Eva-Maria Westbroek's Sieglinde, Arnold Bezuyen's Loge, Gerhard Siegel's Mime, Lance Ryan's Götterdämmerung-Siegfried, Johan Botha's Siegmund (best enjoyed with closed eyes), Kwangchul Youn's Hunding and - of course - Andrew Shore's outstanding Alberich.

The director, Tankred Dorst, has received massive criticism, both from the press and the merciless Bayreuth audience. It's not even a secret that some of the principle singers has had very little regard for the production. To me the worst thing about this Ring was the helpless and amateurish stage instructions. More often than not, the only instructions the singers seem to have received was how to move to be faced toward the auditorium when it was their time to sing. Two years ago I heard an interview with Dorst where he said that he wasn't interested in the criticism his Ring production had received. That is the most serious flaw about this Ring - it was not developed to reach an acceptable level during the years it was on the programme.

That a Bayreuth production has flaws the first year is to be expected, but the wonderful thing about the festival concept is the opportunity the stage director has to constantly refine it for each year. Dorst refused to use this opportunity. As a consequence Dorst was vociferously booed when he came out before the curtain after the last performance. I am not sure that he was prepared for that. One would think that the Bayreuth audiences would show the old man some mercy on the funeral day of his Ring, but no. Even though I find this behaviour inappropriate and even unacceptable on the day of the final performance, I find it just as unacceptable that the director's team didn't do more with the material they had to their disposal. I actually cannot think of one scene in this whole Ring production that inspired me to think about what this drama is all about.

A postcard production, some called the Dorst Ring. And that is what it was. Some of the sets were really beautiful: the Rhine, the Nibelheim with its treasure vault, the final scene of Die Walküre. These images will live, but the production is best forgotten as soon as possible. It is a scandal that Die Walküre is scheduled to be released on Bluray/DVD later this year instead of the groundbraking Parsifal production that is now even being admired by lots of people who don't like Regietheater at all.

If you got more out of this Ring than I did, or you have any other comments, please leave a comment below!

23 August 2010

Vogt replaces Kaufmann and sets new applause record for 2010

Fanfare before Lohengrin Act 3 at the Bayreuth Festival 2010.

Klaus Florian Vogt replaced Jonas Kaufmann in the Neuenfels "rat production" of Lohengrin on 22 August and set new applause record for 2010 with 35 minutes.

It's old news now, but Kaufmann will not return to the Green Hill next year. Klaus Florian Vogt will replace him and sing both Walther von Stolzing and Lohengrin.

31 July 2010

Penelope Turing dies aged 85

Penelope Turing, Bayreuth Festival expert, traveller, author, critic and lecturer died this morning in London, 85 years old.

Opera, especially Richard Wagner, has been a major influence in her life. Turing is the author of New Bayreuth", first published in 1969. This book is an important source to the post war productions at the Bayreuth Festival.

Her biography on Hans Hotter was first published in 1983, and each year she gave courses in Britain on Wagner’s operas and on the new post war style at Bayreuth.

Turing is one of the very few persons that has seen every single production at the Bayreuth Festival since the Second World War, and she has reported from the Bayreuth Festival almost every year since 1952. Her last Bayreuth visit was in 2009, which she was covering for The Stage. Although faltering health has restricted her travelling lately, she had planned to see the new Lohengrin production, and she was perfectly aware that this visit would have been her last.

I met Turing for the first time during the Festival in Bayreuth in 2008. We attended the same performances, and it was impossible not to be moved by this tiny old woman who had severe difficulties walking, but was friendliness herself, very British, and with a wonderful sense of humour and irony. We talked during the one hour intermissions, eating Wurst with mustard, and she was happy to share her Bayreuth experiences with Wagneropera.net's readers in an interview that Erling E. Guldbrandsen and I did with her at the Arvena Kongress Hotel that summer.

Just five days before she died we spoke on the phone. She told me she had to cancel her Bayreuth trip this year, and it was obvious that she was very weak when we spoke. She laughed out loud, though, when I told her about the rats in the new Lohengrin production at Bayreuth. The creativity of the Regietheater productions she never really liked, but even though she did not approve of the new New Bayreuth, her lifelong love for the Bayreuth Festival, and her appreciation of the work done by the people at the Bayreuth Festival, never died.

Dedication in "New Bayreuth".

30 July 2010

San Francisco: Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" in Summer 2011

In June and July of 2011, San Francisco Opera will present three complete cycles of Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" ("Das Rheingold," "Die Walküre," "Siegfried," "Götterdämmerung"). While the cycles are only available by subscription as a four-opera series, single tickets are available for the production-premiere performances of "Siegfried" (Sunday, May 29, 1pm) and "Götterdämmerung" (Sunday, June 5, 1pm).

"Ring" Director Francesca Zambello was recently appointed general and artistic director at Glimmerglass Opera, the summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Zambello has worked at many of the world's major opera houses. Her staging of this past summer's "Die Walküre" received raves from critics and audiences, according to the San Francisco Opera press release.

"Ring" Festival 2011
Beginning this September, a diverse array of cultural and educational institutions will present lectures and symposia, exhibits, musical performances, film screenings and other events throughout the Bay Area for audiences who desire to connect with the work in new and compelling ways.

Learn more here

The World of Wagner's "Ring"
The World of Wagner's "Ring"--A Composer's View Hosted by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Composer Conrad Susa ("The Dangerous Liaisons," "The Love of Don Perlimplin") will serve as guide in an examination of the power and scope of Wagner's great "Ring" cycle. Those who are familiar with Susa's charming style will relish his reverent - and irreverent - insights. Come explore these vast structures in a journey through sagas and mystery, a journey into your own soul.

Photo: Cory Weaver

27 July 2010

To what extent does Wagner’s anti-semitism impinge on his music dramas?

Nobody denies that Wagner was an anti-semite. But was his anti-semitism expressed in the works themselves? The issue has been much debated over the past two decades, but has resurfaced once again recently, not least with the new production by Richard Jones of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Welsh National Opera, performed also at the BBC Proms.

The Wagner Journal asked Barry Emslie, author of Richard Wagner and the Centrality of Love  (Boydell & Brewer, 2010) and Mark Berry, who reviewed Emslie's book in the latest issue of the journal, to debate the subject.

To what extent does Wagner’s anti-semitism impinge on his music dramas?

Read their discussion on thewagnerjournal.co.uk

26 July 2010

Hans Neuenfels: Lohengrin at the Bayreuther Festspiele

The 99th Bayreuth Festival was opened on Sunday 25 July with the usual unwagnerische procession of so-called prominent people. A completely disgusting circus.

The Festival opened with a new production of Lohengrin by German music theatre's enfant terrible, Hans Neuenfels. Judging from the radio broadcast, there were two names that deserve a special  mentioning: Jonas Kaufmann as the near perfect Lohengrin and the conductor Andris Nelsons.

Reviews (to be updated)
Please leave links to other reviews in the commentary field, and they will be included above!


11 June 2010

John Treleaven and Linda Watson criticize Achim Freyer's L.A. Ring

John Treleaven (Siegfried) and Linda Watson (Brünnhilde) have criticized director Achim Freyer's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen in Los Angeles as artistically flawed and physically dangerous, Los Angeles Times reports. They also have spoken up about their backstage skirmishes with the idiosyncratic auteur.

John Treleaven has been hurt twice during stand-alone productions of "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung". The culprit is the severely raked, or angled, stage that forces singers to perform as if on the side of a slope. The rake is among the steepest ever used by the company.

Linda Watson, who will sing Brünnhilde in the Dorst / Thielemann Ring at Bayreuth this summer, called the set the "most dangerous stage I've been on in my entire career."

Los Angeles Timesa article

28 May 2010

Die Feen at Lyric Opera of Los Angeles

Lyric Opera of Los Angeles (LOLA), a non-profit performing arts organization, will present the rare and first-completed opera by Wagner entitled “Die Feen” (The Fairies) during five performances starting on June 11, 2010. The performances will take place at the Pasadena Playhouse as part of the Ring Festival LA’s scheduled events. The Ring Festival features the participation of more than 50 arts institutions around Los Angeles that will produce exhibitions, concerts, and educational programming related to Wagner and his music.

Laura Sage, Executive Director and founder of Lyric Opera of Los Angeles expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming production, “We are honored to be chosen as an official Partner with Los Angeles Opera in the Ring Festival. Through this partnership and our dedication to producing quality performances, we will continue to fulfill our mission to bring lesser-known operatic works to the stage. Die Feen will be an outstanding production that all attendees of the Ring Festival can enjoy.”

Wagner wrote the early opera “Die Feen” (The Fairies) in 1833 when he was just 20 years old. This rare work, composed in three acts, was his first completed opera and remained unperformed during his lifetime. Since then, the world has come to know “Die Feen” through occasional performances mainly in Germany. The opera has never been staged in the US and will now receive its first US audience at Lyric Opera of Los Angeles’ June 11 performance.

The production of “Die Feen” will showcase top local performers and orchestral musicians, including many who return year after year to work with Lyric Opera of Los Angeles. The performances will take place at the Pasadena Playhouse

About Lyric Opera of Los Angeles

Founded in 2002, Lyric Opera of Los Angeles (LOLA) brings lesser-known operatic works back to the stage. LOLA is known for its West Coast and staged premieres of works such as “Der Vampyr” by Heinrich Marschner, the chamber operetta “Cendrillon” by Pauline Viardot, “Goyescas” by Enrique Granados, “Abu Hassan” by C.M. von Weber, “Rita” by Donizetti, “Manon Lescaut” by Daniel Francois Esprit Auber, and “Un Giorno di Regno” by Giuseppe Verdi. Their 2010/2011 season will bring about the U.S. Premiere (possibly a World premiere, as there have not been any performances in over 100 years) of “Le Philtre” by D.F.E. Auber, and the other “La Boheme” by Leoncavallo. In 2009, LOLA was selected as an official Partner of the Los Angeles Opera for the 2010 Ring Festival and will be presenting Wagner’s first completed opera “Die Feen” (The Fairies) in June 2010. This work has never been staged in the United States.

Pasadena Playhouse:
June 11 - 7:30pm
June 12 - 7:30pm
June 17 - 7:30pm
June 19 - 7:30pm
Tickets and more information at tix.lyricoperala.org

More on LOLA and the Festival can be found at www.lyricoperala.org and at www.laoperaring.com, or by calling 877-LOLA-OPERA. Follow Lyric Opera of Los Angeles on Facebook at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2221811277 and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lyricoperala

Lyric Opera of Los Angeles 

12 April 2010

Wolfgang Wagner

Yesterday, there was an event held at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre commemorating the life and works of Wolfgang Wagner.

29 January 2010

Lohengrin in Tampere, Finland

Wagner's Lohengrin in a production by Danish director Kasper Holten will soon be performed at Tampere Opera, Finland. The premiere in Tampere Hall will be 10 March 2010.

Musical director Jan Latham-König
Stage director Kasper Holten
Set and costume designer Steffen Aarfing
Light designer Jesper Garde Kongshaug
Chorus master Heikki Liimola

Kirsi Tiihonen, soprano (Elsa von Brabant)
Helen Lokuta, mezzo soprano (Ortrud)
Endrik Wottrich, tenor (Lohengrin)
Jukka Rasilainen, baritone (Friedrich von Telramund)
Jaakko Ryhänen, bass (Heinrich der Vogler)
Jaakko Kortekangas, baritone (The King's Herald)

Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Tampere Opera Choir

Wed 10 March at 6.30 pm Premiere
Fri 12 March at 6.30 pm
Sun 14 March at 3 pm
Tue 16 March at 6.30 pm
Thu 18 March at 6.30 pm
Sat 20 March at 3 pm

Sung in German, subtitles in Finnish
Duration of the performance c. 3 hours 40 min. including two intermissions

Tickets 65/92/105 €
senior citizens 60/87/100 €
students 50/77/90 €
15-35 persons 59/83/95 €
36-80 persons 55/78/89 €
more than 80 persons 52/74/84 €

Produced by Tampere Hall - more info here