Friday, July 29, 2016
Home movies of Adolf Hitler with the Wagner family in the summer of 1936 have been rediscovered at Bayreuth. The films were shot by the previous Bayreuth director Wolfgang Wagner as a 16 year-old boy and show the Nazi leader in a series of informal settings with the Wagner family. According to local press reports the Agfa film, which was stored in rusting cans in a Festspielhaus cellar, is presently being digitised and will eventually be made available for ‘authorised research’. Archivists say the unguarded close-ups are especially revealing, not just of Hitler but of various Bayreuth artists. There is no sound on film. Hitler in posed portrait with Wieland (l.) and Wolfgang (r.) Wagner
The eminent director Hans Neuenfels, who dressed up his chorus as rats in Bayreuth’s celebrated 2010 production Lohengrin, has spoken out over ‘multiple failures’ at the Wagner festival. He accused Katharina Wagner, now in sole command, of failing to maintain standards. There were ‘no artistic visions and sensations any more.’ He went on to accuse her of incompetence, arrogance and private self-interest – Unfähigkeit, Präpotenz, Privatismen. And he ascribes Andris Nelsons’s walkout to ‘an accumulation of (Bayreuth) failures’. Tough talk. Here (auf Deutsch).
In an essay publicising his new book, the rightwing philosopher has some disturbing thoughts to about the Ring. Blithely dismissing Wagner’s powerful racism and its influence on Nazism, Scruton continues to regard the Ring as a model for our times, perhaps as a model for the death of democracy. That is why the Ring Cycle is of ever-increasing importance to music-lovers in our times. Its theme is the death of the gods, and what the gods have bequeathed to us, namely, the knowledge of, and longing for, the sacred. Until we recognise sacred moments, Wagner implies in this monumental work, we cannot live fully as free beings. These moments are the foundation of all our attempts to endow human life with significance. Despite the controversies that have surrounded this great work—its vast length, its dubious later associations with Nazi thought—it constantly grows on the collective imagination. It is not the answer to life in a post-religious world, but it asks the real questions, and shows us one fruitful way of confronting them. Read the full essay here. And furthermore: So Wagner has a reply to Feuerbach, and to Feuerbach’s other great disciple, Karl Marx, namely: stop looking to politics for your salvation…
Ryan McKinny, Amfortas in the new Bayreuth production, has authorised Slipped Disc to publish his insights on the troubling opera. Why We Need Parsifal by Ryan McKinny Durch Mitleid wissend. Through compassion, understanding. This phrase has been in my ear for the last six weeks, as I prepare to sing the role of Amfortas in Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in the opera house it was composed for, the Bayreuther Festspielhaus. That phrase keeps sticking with me. So much of our world seems to be in chaos. Anger and suffering fill our screens, and we are told time and again that if we just hate the right person, or group of people, we can destroy them and our own suffering will cease. No compassion or understanding required, only dogma. Of course, as a bone fide anti-semite and misogynist, Wagner himself peddled that same solution. Klingsor, like other antagonists in Wagners operas is projected as “other” and therefore evil. And Kundry, the only main character who is female, is forced into the age-old trope that women brought evil itself into the world. But Wagner’s music tells a different story, despite his worst intentions. I’ve always felt that somehow Wagner himself struggled to understand his own music, often trying to shoehorn it into his world view. He seemed to be battling his demons through his libretti. The music itself, however, refuses to be so small. Klingsor’s music, like that of Alberich in the Ring, another character defined by his otherness, has an incredible sympathy inside it, and it creates a character full of humanity, both good and bad. The music tells us that while Klingsor may be the source of other characters suffering, he himself suffers. Kundrys music portrays the pain of womanhood from the beginning of time; sometimes as mother, sometimes as lover and always as a human being. You cannot help but empathize with her through her music. And when I hear the searing prelude to Parsifal, I feel as if the music connects me not only to all the other people in the room, but to all the people that have ever existed or ever will exist. All the joy and suffering of humanity distilled into sound. Beyond words. I frequently feel distressed that this art form is too often reserved for the wealthy and powerful. But in this case, I think the wealthy and powerful are maybe the ones that need to hear this music the most. Those who struggle with war and poverty on a daily basis are no strangers to suffering, while those of us experiencing music-theater in Bayreuth are some of the most privileged people in this world. We, who spend our days on the Green Hill this summer, are in a unique position to shape the world we live in. I hope this music reaches us. I hope we can feel compassion for our own suffering, for Amfortas’ suffering, for the suffering of the world. And through that compassion, gain some understanding. (c) Ryan McKinny
In a pre-festival interview in which she says nothing at all, the Bayreuth boss gives the strongest indication yet that the trouble this summer was between two conductors – Nelsons and Thielemann. Bisher bat Andris Nelsons nur um Vertragsauflösung für 2016. Es gab ja sehr viele Spekulationen in der Öffentlichkeit. Herr Nelsons und ich haben eine Abmachung, dass wir die Gründe nicht kommentieren. Ich möchte aber betonen, dass Andris Nelsons und ich persönlich absolut im Guten zueinander stehen. She adds that in conflicts between artists, the buck stops at her desk. Full interview here.
New York musicians are sharing their sorrow at the death of Lloyd Arriola, a widely known and well liked interprter and a powerful advocate of contemporary music. Lloyd died on Sunday. No cause has been given. From his bio: Raised in n San Francisco, Lloyd began his career as a conductor for a local performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amelia Goes to the Ball. He has continued to music direct and conduct operas ranging from Julius Caesar to La Boheme to La Serva Padrona and I Can’t Stand Wagner. Recently Lloyd was one of the pianists for the world premiere of the two piano version of William Bolcom’s opera A View from the Bridge with Vertical Player Repertory theatre. Lloyd Arriola studied at The Peabody Institute and at The Juilliard School, where he received his training from Yoheved Kaplinsky. Lloyd received his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Piano from Juilliard in 2002, the first person of Filipino descent to receive his doctoral degree from that institution. Pianist Lloyd Arriola Performs “Concert Piece” from Riverdale Country School on Vimeo .
Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 - 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or "music dramas", as they were later called). Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. Unlike most other opera composers, Wagner wrote both the music and libretto for every one of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser which were in the romantic traditions of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the "total work of art". This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music. He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which contained many novel design features. It was here that the Ring and Parsifal received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants.
Great composers of classical music