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*+-L’Opéra national de Paris, like most of the major opera houses around the world, with the notable exception of Bayreuth, have been building their new production of the Ring work by work over several years. I attended their Rheingold in 2010 and reviewed it in the Berkshire Review. Although I found the proleptic reference to Albert Speer’s Germania questionable, I rather liked Günther Krämer’s production at the time (The current French approach to Wagner favors native Germans both on the stage and behind it.); I was pleased with the cast; and I was deeply impressed with Philippe Jordan’s conducting. The son of the renowned Swiss Wagner conductor Armin Jordan, he has an individual and thoroughly grounded vision of Wagner, which he can only have developed on his father’s knee. Now three years later, on the eve of the Opéra’s complete performances of the Ring in June, I saw and heard the same intelligences and imaginations take on Siegfried, often considered the most difficult of the music dramas as far as audience involvement is concerned, for reasons that are both obvious and bemusing.
*+-There haven’t been many Wagner productions in Boston—mostly the forces called for are too big for Boston’s smaller operatic venues (its Opera House was torn down in 1958). But marking the Wagner bicentennial this year is a new production of his first real masterpiece, The Flying Dutchman (Der Fliegende Holländer), by the Boston Lyric Opera […]
*+-Parsifal Richard Wagner, libretto and music Metropolitan Opera Production – François Girard Set Designer – Michael Levine Costume Designer – Thibault Vancraenenbroeck Lighting Designer – David Finn Video Designer – Peter Flaherty Choreographer – Carolyn Choa Dramaturg – Serge Lamothe Cast: Kundry – Katarina Dalayman Parsifal – Jonas Kaufmann Amfortas – Peter Mattei Klingsor – […]
*+-I’ve had my problems with conductor Daniele Gatti. I’ve heard him conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra five times in the last decade, and have always been disappointed. He’s regarded as a serious musician, a thinker. But his live performances rarely arouse excitement. Even his Verdi Requiem this past season seemed plodding and surprisingly unidiomatic for an Italian conductor. His tempos tend to be on the slow side, but some major bandleaders—I’m thinking especially of Otto Klemperer, or even James Levine—convey the profundity of that slowness while also creating either enormous tension or vast spaciousness. Or both.
*+-Rienzi was totally new to me, although Eve Queler’s interview on New York Arts gave me some idea of what to expect. Still I was really surprised to hear music that seemed to come straight out of Bellini and reminded me even of some Verdi at times. This is most definitely not the Wagner we know from Tristan and Parsifal, and Wagner most certainly didn’t want us to know him by it. Although Rienzi was a great success at its premiere, made him famous, and continued to be popular through his lifetime and beyond, he repudiated the opera, once he hit his stride in Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin, and supported performances only as far back as the Holländer, his next work, which he actually began before he finished Rienzi. He worked on Rienzi from the summer of 1837 to through October 1840. During this time he took up a post at the opera house in Riga, where he stayed until he was dismissed in 1839. He had to leave the country in secret to escape his creditors, setting out for Paris, where he struggled to survive, as he tried unsuccessfully to interest the Paris Opera in Rienzi.
*+-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.
*+-I should most likely not distract you from giving a subscription to The Berkshire Review as a holiday gift. We need subscriptions to carry on our work, but there are a few items that have come in for review that I can warmly suggest as excellent gifts. These are not systematic, and they are not always serious, but we do recommend them. Some of them will be reviewed in detail over the following weeks.