Eve Queler talks to Michael Miller about her upcoming performance of Wagner’s Rienzi with the Opera Orchestra of New York, Jan. 29, 2012, at Avery Fisher Hall
Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Music by Richard Wagner
Libretto by Richard Wagner and based on the novel of the same name by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The Opera Orchestra of New York
Eve Queler, conductor
Cola Rienzi – Ian Storey
Irene – Elisabete Matos
Adriano – Geraldine Chauvet
Stefano Colonna – Philip Horst
Raimondo – Brandon Cedel
Baroncelli – Jonathan Winell
Paolo Orsini – Ricardo Rivera
Cecco Del Vecchio – Shannon DeVine
Messenger of Peace – Emily Duncan-Brown
(See now Roza Tulyaganova’s review of the performance.)
For the fourth time now, Eve Queler, Conducter Laureate of the Opera Orchestra of New York, will bring Richard Wagner’s third opera, Rienzi, to life. That is the only word for it, because her 1980, 1982, and 1992 performances of the rarely-performed opera were terrific hits among critics and audiences. Curiously for concert performances they had the impact of great spectacles, with choirs marching through the aisles and trumpets spread about the hall. Although, as always, Ms. Queler’s focus was always on the music, she captured some of the spectacle of the first performances.
Rienzi‘s premiere in Dresden, which ran over six hours with intermissions, was a huge success, and it made Wagner famous. The work continued to be popular through the nineteenth century, although Wagner himself, who adopted a different aesthetic with his next work, Der fliegende Holländer, disavowed his only effort at French grand opera. By the end of the century, audiences no longer connected with it, and it fell out of the repertoire. Today, Rienzi is occasionally performed in Germany, but hardly at all in the rest of the world.
For that reason, Rienzi has had a legendary quality, partly because of its prodigious length as first performed. Wagner, at the urging of the Dresden management set to making cuts immediately, and the opera circulated in more or less drastically cut versions. No modern production has attempted to restore the original version. In fact, since the Second World War, that has been an impossibility, since the original performing score was destroyed in the boming of Dresden, and the original manuscript, which was in the possession of Adolf Hitler, disappeared in the capture of Berlin. John Deathridge’s scholarly edition of 1976 has made all the surviving materials available, although some conductors, like Edward Downes, have attempt further restoration.
As you will hear from Ms. Queler herself in our interview, she will conduct her own performing version, which is based on an earlier published edition. Her aim is to present the work in a form audiences will enjoy, and any performance of this rare work, which, if not a masterpiece, is exciting and hugely entertaining, with much very beautiful music, especially one under Ms. Queler, is an exciting and important event.
The musical excerpt at the end of the interview is from Rienzi’s prayer, sung by Max Lorenz in a 1941 performance.