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

05 November 2014

5 November 1881: Wagner arrives in Palermo

Hôtel des Palmes - now: Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes, Palermo, Sicily

On 5 November 1881 Richard Wagner and his family arrived at Hôtel des Palmes (now: Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes) in Palermo, Sicily, to finish Parsifal.

Read more on Wagneropera.net: Richard Wagner in  Sicily
or Wondersofsicily.com

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wagneropera.net