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Richard Wagner
 
 
 
 
Richard Wagner, in full Wilhelm Richard Wagner (born May 22, 1813, Leipzig [Germany]—died February 13, 1883, Venice, Italy), German dramatic composer and theorist whose operas and music had a revolutionary influence on the course of Western music, either by extension of his discoveries or reaction against them. Among his major works are The Flying Dutchman (1843), Tannhäuser (1845), Lohengrin (1850), Tristan und Isolde (1865), Parsifal (1882), and his great tetralogy, The Ring of the Nibelung (1869–76).

Early life
The artistic and theatrical background of Wagner’s early years (several elder sisters became opera singers or actresses) was a main formative influence. Impulsive and self-willed, he was a negligent scholar at the Kreuzschule, Dresden, and the Nicholaischule, Leipzig. He frequented concerts, however, taught himself the piano and composition, and read the plays of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller.

Wagner, attracted by the glamour of student life, enrolled at Leipzig University, but as an adjunct with inferior privileges, since he had not completed his preparatory schooling. Although he lived wildly, he applied himself earnestly to composition. Because of his impatience with all academic techniques, he spent a mere six months acquiring a groundwork with Theodor Weinlig, cantor of the Thomasschule; but his real schooling was a close personal study of the scores of the masters, notably the quartets and symphonies of Beethoven. His own Symphony in C Major was performed at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts in 1833. On leaving the university that year, he spent the summer as operatic coach at Würzburg, where he composed his first opera, Die Feen (The Fairies), based on a fantastic tale by Carlo Gozzi. He failed to get the opera produced at Leipzig and became conductor to a provincial theatrical troupe from Magdeburg, having fallen in love with one of the actresses of the troupe, Wilhelmine (Minna) Planer, whom he married in 1836. The single performance of his second opera, Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), after Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, was a disaster.

In 1839, fleeing from his creditors, he decided to put into operation his long-cherished plan to win renown in Paris, but his three years in Paris were calamitous. Despite a recommendation from the influential gallicized German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner could not break into the closed circle at the Opéra. Living with a colony of poor German artists, he staved off starvation by means of musical journalism and hackwork. Nevertheless, in 1840 he completed Rienzi (after Bulwer-Lytton’s novel), and in 1841 he composed his first representative opera, Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), based on the legend about a ship’s captain condemned to sail forever.

In 1842, aged 29, he gladly returned to Dresden, where Rienzi was triumphantly performed on October 20. The next year The Flying Dutchman (produced at Dresden, January 2, 1843) was less successful, since the audience expected a work in the French-Italian tradition similar to Rienzi and was puzzled by the innovative way the new opera integrated the music with the dramatic content. But Wagner was appointed conductor of the court opera, a post that he held until 1849. On October 19, 1845, Tannhäuser (based, like all his future works, on Germanic legends) was coolly received but soon proved a steady attraction; after this, each new work achieved public popularity despite persistent hostility from many critics.

The refusal of the court opera authorities in Dresden to stage his next opera, Lohengrin, was not based on artistic reasons; rather, they were alienated by Wagner’s projected administrative and artistic reforms. His proposals would have taken control of the opera away from the court and created a national theatre whose productions would be chosen by a union of dramatists and composers. Preoccupied with ideas of social regeneration, he then became embroiled in the German revolution of 1848–49. Wagner wrote a number of articles advocating revolution and took an active part in the Dresden uprising of 1849. When the uprising failed, a warrant was issued for his arrest and he fled from Germany, unable to attend the first performance of Lohengrin at Weimar, given by his friend Franz Liszt on August 28, 1850.



Richard Wagner
 

Exile
For the next 15 years Wagner was not to present any further new works. Until 1858 he lived in Zürich, composing, writing treatises, and conducting (he directed the London Philharmonic concerts in 1855). Having already studied the Siegfried legend and the Norse myths as a possible basis for an opera and having written an operatic “poem,” Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death), in which he conceived of Siegfried as the new type of man who would emerge after the successful revolution he hoped for, he now wrote a number of prose volumes on revolution, social and artistic. From 1849 to 1852 he produced his basic prose works: Die Kunst und die Revolution (Art and Revolution), Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (The Art Work of the Future), Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde (A Communication to My Friends), and Oper und Drama (Opera and Drama). The latter outlined a new, revolutionary type of musical stage work—the vast work, in fact, on which he was engaged. By 1852 he had added to the poem of Siegfrieds Tod three others to precede it, the whole being called Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) and providing the basis for a tetralogy of musical dramas: Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold); Die Walküre (The Valkyrie); Der junge Siegfried (Young Siegfried), later called simply Siegfried; and Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death), later called Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods).

The Ring reveals Wagner’s mature style and method, to which he had found his way at last during the period when his thought was devoted to social questions. Looking forward to the imminent creation of a socialist state, he prophesied the disappearance of opera as artificial entertainment for an elite and the emergence of a new kind of musical stage work for the people, expressing the self-realization of free humanity. This new work was later to be called “music drama,” though Wagner never used this term, preferring “drama.”

Wagner’s new art form would be a poetic drama that should find full expression as a musical drama when it was set to a continuous vocal-symphonic texture. This texture would be woven from basic thematic ideas, which have come to be known as leitmotifs (from the German Leitmotive, literally “leading motives,” singular Leitmotiv). These musical figures would arise naturally as expressive vocal phrases sung by characters and would be developed by the orchestra as “reminiscences” to express the dramatic and psychological development.

This conception found full embodiment in The Ring, except that the leitmotifs did not always arise as vocal utterances but were often introduced by the orchestra to portray characters, emotions, or events in the drama. With his use of this method, Wagner rose immediately to his amazing full stature: his style became unified and deepened immeasurably, and he was able to fill his works from end to end with intensely characteristic music. Except for moments in Das Rhinegold, his old weaknesses, formal and stylistic, vanished altogether, and with them disappeared the last vestiges of the old “opera.” By 1857 his style had been enriched by the stimulus of Liszt’s tone poems and their new harmonic subtleties, and he had composed Das Rhinegold, Die Walküre, and two acts of Siegfried. But he now suspended work on The Ring: the impossibility of mounting this colossus within the foreseeable future was enforcing a stalemate on his career and led him to project a “normal” work capable of immediate production. Also, his optimistic social philosophy had yielded to a metaphysical, world-renouncing pessimism, nurtured by his discovery of the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. The outcome was Tristan und Isolde (1857–59), of which the crystallizing agent was his hopeless love for Mathilde Wesendonk (the wife of a rich patron), which led to separation from his wife, Minna.

Because of the Wesendonk affair, life in Zürich had become too embarrassing, and Wagner completed Tristan in Venice and Lucerne, Switzerland. The work revealed a new subtlety in his use of leitmotifs, which in Das Rhinegold and Die Walküre he had used mainly to explain the action of the drama. The impact of Schopenhauer’s theory of the supremacy of music among the arts led him to tilt the expressive balance of musical drama more toward music: the leitmotifs ceased to remain neatly identifiable with their dramatic sources but worked with greater psychological complexity, in the manner of free association.




Richard and Cosima Wagner, photographed in 1872


 

Return from exile
In 1859 Wagner went to Paris, where, the following year, productions of a revised version of Tannhäuser were fiascoes. But in 1861 an amnesty allowed him to return to Germany; from there he went to Vienna, where he heard Lohengrin for the first time. He remained in Vienna for about a year, then travelled widely as a conductor and awaited a projected production of Tristan. When this work was not produced because the artists were bewildered by its revolutionary stylistic innovations, Wagner began a second “normal” work, the comedy-opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Meistersingers of Nürnberg), for which he incorporated into his new conception of music drama certain of the old “operatic” elements. By 1864, however, his expenditure on a grand scale and inveterate habits of borrowing and living on others had brought him to financial disaster: he had to flee from Vienna to avoid imprisonment for debt. He arrived in Stuttgart without a penny, a man of 51 without a future, almost at the end of his tether.

Something like a miracle saved him. He had always made loyal friends, owing to his fascinating personality, his manifest genius, and his artistic integrity, and now a new friend of the highest influence came to his rescue. In 1864 Louis II, a youth of 18, ascended the throne of Bavaria; he was a fanatical admirer of Wagner’s art and, having read the poem of The Ring (published the year before with a plea for financial support), invited Wagner to complete the work in Munich.

The king set him up in a villa, and during the next six years there were successful Munich productions of all of Wagner’s representative works to date, including the first performances of Tristan (1865), Die Meistersinger (1868), Das Rhinegold (1869), and Die Walküre (1870)—the first two directed by the great Wagner conductor Hans von Bülow. Initially a new theatre at Munich was projected for this purpose, with a music school attached, but this came to nothing because of the opposition aroused by Wagner’s way of living. Not only did he constantly run into debt, despite his princely salary, but he also attempted to interfere in the government of the kingdom; in addition, he became the lover of von Bülow’s wife, Cosima, the daughter of Liszt. She bore him three children—Isolde, Eva, and Siegfried—before her divorce in 1870 and her marriage to Wagner in the same year. For all these reasons, Wagner thought it advisable to leave Munich as early as 1865, but he never forfeited the friendship of the king, who set him up at Triebschen on the Lake of Lucerne.



Richard Wagner, painting by Franz von Lenbach,
1882, Bayreuth, Germany.

 

Last years in Bayreuth
In 1869 Wagner had resumed work on The Ring which he now brought to its world-renouncing conclusion. It had been agreed with the king that the tetralogy should be first performed in its entirety at Munich, but Wagner broke the agreement, convinced that a new type of theatre must be built for the purpose. Having discovered a suitable site at the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, he toured Germany, conducting concerts to raise funds and encouraging the formation of societies to support the plan, and in 1872 the foundation stone was laid. In 1874 Wagner moved into a house at Bayreuth that he called Wahnfried (“Peace from Illusion”). The whole vast project was eventually realized, in spite of enormous artistic, administrative, and financial difficulties. The king, who had provided Wahnfried for Wagner, contributed a substantial sum, and mortgages were raised that were later paid off by royalties. The Ring received its triumphant first complete performance in the new Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on August 13, 14, 16, and 17, 1876.

Wagner spent the rest of his life at Wahnfried, making a visit to London in 1877 to give a successful series of concerts and then making several to Italy. During these years he composed his last work, the sacred festival drama Parsifal, begun in 1877 and produced at Bayreuth in 1882; he also dictated to his wife his autobiography, Mein Leben (My Life), begun in 1865. He died of heart failure, at the height of his fame, and was buried in the grounds of Wahnfried in the tomb he had himself prepared. Since then, except for interruptions caused by World Wars I and II, the Festspielhaus has staged yearly festivals of Wagner’s works.





Portrait of Richard Wagner, oil on canvas, 1883,
by Giuseppe Tivoli; in the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale, Bologna, Italy.

 

Achievement and influence
Wagner’s single-handed creation of his own type of musical drama was a fantastic accomplishment, considering the scale and scope of his art. His method was to condense the confused mass of material at his disposal—the innumerable conflicting versions of the legend chosen as a basis—into a taut dramatic scheme. In this scheme, as in his model, the Oresteia of Aeschylus, the stage events are few but crucial, the main part of the action being devoted to the working out of the characters’ motivations.

In setting the poem, he used his mastery of construction on the largest scale, which he had learned from studying Beethoven, to keep the broad outlines clear while he consistently developed the leitmotifs to mirror every shifting nuance of the psychological situation. Criticism of the leitmotifs as arbitrary factual labels shows a misunderstanding of Wagner. He called them “carriers of the feeling,” and, because of their essentially emotional character, their pliability, and Wagner’s resource in alternating, transforming, and combining them, they function as subtle expressions of the changing feelings behind the dramatic symbols.

The result of these methods was a new art form, of which the distinguishing feature was a profound and complex symbolism working on three indivisible planes—dramatic, verbal, and musical. The vital significance of this symbolism has been increasingly realized. The common theme of all his mature works, except Die Meistersinger, is the romantic concept of “redemption through love,” but this element, used rather naively in the three early operas, became, in the later musical dramas, a mere catalyst for much deeper complexes of ideas. In The Ring there are at least five interwoven strands of overt meaning concerned with German nationalism, international socialism, the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Buddhism, and Christianity. On another level there is a prophetic treatment of some of the themes of psychoanalysis: power complex arising from sexual inhibition; incest; mother fixation; and Oedipus complex.

Tristan stands in a line of symbolism extending from the themes of “night” and “death” explored by such German Romantic poets as Novalis (1772–1801), through the Schopenhauerian indictment of life as an evil illusion and the renunciation of the will to live, to the modern psychological discovery of a close connection between erotic desire and the death wish. Die Meistersinger stands apart as a work in which certain familiar themes are treated on a purely conscious plane with mellow wisdom and humour: the impulsiveness of youth and the resignation of age, the ecstasy of youthful love, the value of music itself as an art. In Wagner’s last work, Parsifal, the symbolism returns on a deeper level than before. He has been much criticized for this strongly personal treatment of a religious subject, which mingles the concepts of sacred and profane love; but in the light of later explorations in the field of psychology his insight into the relationship between religious and sexual experience seems merely in advance of its time. The themes of innocence and purity, sexual indulgence and suffering, remorse and sexual renunciation are treated in Parsifal with a subtle intensity and depth of compassion that probe deeply into the unconscious and make the opera in some ways the most visionary of all Wagner’s works.

Wagner’s influence, as a musical dramatist and as a composer, was a powerful one. Although few operatic composers have been able to follow him in providing their own librettos, all have profited from his reform in the matter of giving dramatic depth, continuity, and cohesion to their works.

In the purely musical field, Wagner’s influence was even more far-reaching. He developed such a wide expressive range that he was able to make each of his works inhabit a unique emotional world of its own, and, in doing so, he raised the melodic and harmonic style of German music to what many regard as its highest emotional and sensuous intensity. Much of the subsequent history of music stems from him, either by extension of his discoveries or reaction against them.

Deryck V. Cooke

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
Wagner’s anti-Semitism
That Wagner harboured anti-Semitic sentiments is both well known and uncontested within the realm of musicological inquiry. The composer openly articulated his views in a number of publications, most notably Judaism in Music (Das Judentum in der Musik; 1850), in which he identified Jewish musicians as the ultimate source of what he perceived as substanceless music and misplaced values in the arts as a whole. What has remained a controversy, however, is the extent to which Wagner’s anti-Semitism informed his musical compositions.

On the one hand, many have contended that Wagner’s anti-Semitism was no more significant to his musical creation than was any other peculiarity of his personality. Indeed, the composer regularly found a scapegoat—such as the Jewish population—to account for his personal and musical misfortunes. Moreover, because Wagner lived during an era of widespread resentment toward Jews in Europe, it is not unusual that his dramatic works would contain anti-Semitic nuances. Such elements, some have argued, are superficial and should not be read as signs of a deeper ideology of anti-Semitism that permeates the composer’s work. By contrast, another school of thought has maintained that much of Wagner’s music is an embodiment of his anti-Semitic ideas and that a knowledge of the nature and depth of his anti-Jewish sentiment is indispensable to the understanding of his music. This perspective has been used not only to explain Wagner’s position as a favourite composer of Adolf Hitler but also to justify the unofficial banning of Wagner’s music in Israel.

Despite the enduring controversy over his religious and political views, Wagner’s works have been performed by both Jewish and non-Jewish musicians since the 19th century, although some performances—such as that led by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim in Jerusalem in 2001—have caused a public outcry. For some, Wagner’s anti-Semitism diminishes or even invalidates his accomplishment as a composer; for others, however, it is a personality flaw that has no bearing on his landmark status in the history of Western music. Whether inconsequential or a detriment to his artistic legacy, Wagner’s anti-Semitism and its role in his musical production will likely remain a matter of dispute.

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
 
 

Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig but brought up in Dresden, where his family moved soon after his birth. Though he developed early passions for philosophy and literature, it was music he went to study at Leipzig University in 1831. His early pieces include a symphony and two concert overtures, and in 1833 he began his first opera, Die Feen, but the work was never performed during his lifetime.

Wagner's first work in the opera world was as a choral conductor at Wurzburg, followed a year later by an appointment as musical director of Magdeburg Opera. There he saw Das Liebesverbot (Forbidden Love) performed, his first opera to gain a hearing. In 1836 he married a singer and actress, Minna Planer, a union that lasted 30 years, although Wagner's frequent affairs were the cause of much unhappiness for Minna.

Desperately wanting to compose rather than conduct, Wagner embarked on a series of travels. In Paris he was reduced to arranging dance music and writing songs and articles. The Wagners returned to Germany in 1842 almost destitute, but not before Richard had composed two valuable opera scores: Rienzi, a grand historical opera influenced by both Italian and French opera; and The flying Dutchman, the first of Wagner's operas that points the way ahead to his own mature style.

Both were great successes when first performed in Dresden in 1842 and 1843 and led to Wagner's being appointed Court Opera conductor in the city. During his time there he wrote Tannhauser and Lohengrin, both addressing themes of spiritual and sensual love. As with all Wagner's operas, the librettos are his own, Tannhauser adapted from a thirteenth-century German poem and Lohengrin from an anonymous epic.

In 1849 Wagner was forced to flee Saxony when a warrant was issued for his arrest following his support for revolutionary causes. He spent most of his 12-year exile in Switzerland. There he wrote books on subjects such as race, vegetarianism, and hygiene, as well as two influential volumes on music and art.

It was also during this period that he began his monumental masterpiece Der Ring des Nibelungen (The ring of the Nibelung). This huge work consists or four full-length operas - Rheingold, Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) - and occupied Wagner intermittently until 1874. He found the source for his libretto m the ancient Nibelung saga, which explores the theme (among many others of the conflict between love and money. The ring exemplifies Wagner's revolutionary approach to opera, which sees him dispense with recitative and individual numbers in favour of long stretches of continuous music. Also distinctive is Wagner's use of "leitmotifs" — tunes or phrases that represent a character or an idea, and are used to evoke or chart some development in the thing they represent.

Wagner broke off from writing Siegfried to work on Tristan und Isolde. inspired in part by his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, the impetus too for the songs known as Wesendonck Lieder. Tristan deals with the theme of an all-embracing love, denied on earth and attainable only in death. Its startling harmonies foreshadowed the work of Schoenberg and Berg half a century later and resulted in an opera of great passion and beauty so difficult to stage that the original production was abandoned after 77 rehearsals.

One of Wagner's few purely instrumental pieces is Siegfried Idyll, composed as a birthday present for his new wife Cosima, whom he married in 1870 following Minna's death. It was performed outside Cosima's bedroom on Christmas morning 1870, with Wagner conducting. During a respite from The ring, Wagner also composed his only comic opera, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (The mastersingers of Nuremberg), produced in Munich m 1868. During its composition Wagner's desperate financial difficulties were relieved by the young King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, a fanatical admirer of Wagner's music. His funds enabled Wagner to pursue his dream of establishing a festival devoted to his own operas. At an opera house built at Bayreuth in southern Germany, the festival was inaugurated in 1876 with a production of The ring. Despite interruptions during the World Wars, the festival continues; to this day the opera house has never been used to stage an opera not written by Wagner.

For his final masterpiece, Parsifal, Wagner drew on the ancient legend of the Holy Grail, advancing the themes of love, renunciation, and redemption explored in earlier works. Because of the work's sacred nature Wagner wished it to be performed only at Bayreuth, but when the copyright lapsed in 1913 his heirs could not prevent performances elsewhere.

A year after the completion of Parsifal in 1882, Wagner suffered a fatal heart attack in Venice. His operas and forceful personality had dominated German music in the second half of the nineteenth century, a powerful influence that has not waned in the intervening hundred vears.

 
 
 
   
 

"Der fliegende Hollander"
Caltech Women's Glee Club
Spinning Chorus
Tomasz Konieczny
Die Frist ist um

 

"Tristan und Isolde"
Prelude
Tomasz Konieczny
Szene des Konigs Marke

 

"Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg"
Prelude

Willem Mengelberg
Overture

 

"Die Walkure"

Christian Elsner
Wintersturme

 

"Lohengrin"
Tomasz Konieczny

Mein Herr und Gott
Karin Van Arkel (with Peter Nilsson at the piano)
Einsam in trueben Tagen
Coro de la Universidad de Alcalá
Marcha Nupcial

 

"Parsifal"
Tomasz Konieczny
Mein Vater...

 

"Tanhauser"
Coro de la Universidad de Alcalá
Coro de los peregrinos
Entrada de los invitados

Men's Glee Club
Pligrims' Chorus

 
 
 
 
The Best of Wagner
 
KPM Philharmonic Orchestra - The Best of Wagner

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, I: "Overture"
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Act III: "Prelude" ( 10:44 )
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Act III: "Dance of the Apprentices" ( 16:37 )
Lohengrin, WWV 75, I: "Prelude" ( 19:00 )
Lohengrin, III: "Prelude" ( 27:57 )
The Valkyrie, WWV 86B, III: "The Ride of the Valkyries" ( 30:21 )
The Valkyrie, III: "Magic Fire Music" ( 36:20 )
Parsifal, WWV 111: "Overture" ( 39:52 )
Parsifal, III: "Good Friday Spell" ( 42:02 )
Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes, WWV 49, I: "Overture" ( 46:00 )
Tannhäuser, WWV 70, I: "Overture" ( 51:17 )
The Flying Dutchman, WWV 63, I: "Overture" ( 1:06:22 )
Tristan and Isolde, WWV 90, I: "Prelude" ( 1:16:53 )

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen - Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes - 1842
 
 
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (WWV 49) (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name (1835). The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi. Written between July 1838 and November 1840, it was first performed at the Hofoper, Dresden, on 20 October 1842, and was the composer's first success.

The opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a late medieval Italian populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and then defeating the nobles and their followers and in raising the power of the people.

Magnanimous at first, he is forced by events to crush the nobles' rebellion against the people's power, but popular opinion changes and even the Church, which had urged him to assert himself, turns against him. In the end the populace burns the Capitol, in which Rienzi and a few adherents have made a last stand.


Composition history

Rienzi is Wagner's third completed opera, and is mostly written in a grand opera style; depictions of the mob, the liberal ethos associated with the hero and the political intervention of a reactionary clergy recall La vestale, Les Huguenots, and also Fromental Halévy's La Juive. Each act ends with an extended finale ensemble and is replete with solos, duets, trios and crowd scenes. There is also an extended ballet in Act II according to the accepted Grand Opera format. Hans von Bülow was later to joke that "Rienzi is Meyerbeer's best opera".

Wagner began to draft the opera in Riga in 1837, after reading Lytton's novel. In 1839, meeting Meyerbeer by chance in Boulogne, he was able to read the latter the first three acts of the libretto, and to gain his interest. Meyerbeer also introduced Wagner to Ignaz Moscheles, who was also staying at Boulogne; as Ernest Newman comments, this was "Wagner's first meeting with real international musical celebrities". When the opera was completed in 1840, Wagner had hoped for it to be premiered at the Paris Opéra.

Several circumstances, including his lack of influence, prevented this. Moreover, Wagner's wife Minna, in a letter of 28 October 1840 to Wagner's friend Apel, who had likely first made the suggestion that Wagner compose Rienzi, mentions a plan to perform the overture to Rienzi "a fortnight hence", but contains a clear indication that her husband had just been committed to a debtors' prison. The full score of Rienzi was completed on 19 November 1840.

In 1841 Wagner moved to Meudon, just outside Paris, where the debt laws could be more easily evaded, whilst awaiting developments for Rienzi, having already written to King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, requesting that he order a production of the work in Dresden.

With the support of Meyerbeer, a staging of Rienzi was arranged in Dresden; Meyerbeer wrote to the Director of the Opera in Dresden, Baron von Lüttichau, that he found the opera "rich in fantasy and of great dramatic effect". This, with the proposed staging of The Flying Dutchman in Berlin, also supported by Meyerbeer, persuaded Wagner to return to Germany in April 1842. During rehearsals the performers were highly enthusiastic; the tenor Tichatschek, in the title role, was so impressed with a passage from Act III (later deleted because of the opera's length), that 'at each rehearsal, each of the soloists contributed a silver groschen to [a] fund that Tichatschek had started ... No one suspected that what was an amiable joke for them was the means of buying [Wagner] an extra morsel of sorely-needed food'.

The premiere of Rienzi took place on 20 October in the new Dresden Opera House, designed by the architect Gottfried Semper and opened on 14 April 1841. Semper and Wagner were later to become friends in Dresden, a connection which eventually led to Semper providing designs which became a basis of Wagner's Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.

The first performance of Rienzi was well received in Dresden despite running over six hours (including intermissions). One legend is that, fearful of the audience departing, Wagner stopped the clock above the stage. In his later memoirs, Mein Leben, Wagner recalled:

No subsequent experience has given me feelings even remotely similar to those I had on this day of the first performance of Rienzi. The only too well-founded anxiety as to their success has so dominated my feelings at all subsequent first performances of my works that I could never really enjoy them or take much notice of the way the audience was behaving.[...] The initial success of Rienzi was no doubt assured beforehand. But the uproarious way in which the public declared its partiality for me was extraordinary ... The public had been forcibly predisposed to accept it, because everyone connected with the theatre had been spreading such favourable reports ... that the entire population was looking forward to what was heralded as a miracle ... In trying to recall my condition that evening, I can remember it only as possessing all the features of a dream.

Subsequently, Wagner experimented with giving the opera over two evenings (at the suggestion of von Lüttichau), and making cuts to enable a more reasonable performance in a single evening.

Performance history
Despite Wagner's reservations, Rienzi remained one of his most successful operas until the early 20th century. In Dresden alone, it reached its 100th performance in 1873 and 200th in 1908 and it was regularly performed throughout the 19th century in major opera houses throughout Europe and beyond, including those in America and England in 1878/9. Recent productions have been rare, in part because of the large forces required and the work being so atypical of "received" Wagner to contemporary audiences.

The US premiere took place on 4 March 1848 at the Academy of Music in New York and was followed on 27 January 1879 by the first UK performance at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. A staging at the English National Opera in London, produced by Nicholas Hytner in 1983, placed the hero in the context of 20th-century totalitarianism. A production by David Pountney at the Vienna State Opera in 1999 set the work in the "near future". Of this production Pountney wrote:

Wagner invested the musical realization of Rienzi with the unashamed extravagance and tasteless exaggeration of a Las Vegas hotel ... only the self-consciously deliberate and unabashed use of kitsch could match this musical egomania.
In recent time, performances at the Theater Bremen were given in April/May 2009 and at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Oper Leipzig in April/May 2010.

In July 2013, the bicentennial year of Wagner's birth, performances of all three of Wagner's early operas, including Rienzi, took place for the first time at Bayreuth, at the Oberfrankenhalle.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Wagner - Rienzi der Letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) Full
 
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (WWV 49) (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name (1835).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"The Ring of the Nibelung"
 
 
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), WWV 86, is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883). The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel" (stage festival play), structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend ("ante-evening"). It is often referred to as the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply the Ring.

Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to 1874. The four operas that constitute the Ring cycle are, in sequence:

Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
Siegfried
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)

Although individual operas of the sequence are sometimes performed separately, Wagner intended them to be performed in series. The first performance as a cycle opened the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, beginning with Das Rheingold on 13 August and ending with Götterdämmerung on 17 August.
 

Title
Wagner's title is most literally rendered in English as The Ring of the Nibelung. The Nibelung of the title is the dwarf Alberich, and the ring in question is the one he fashions from the Rhine Gold. The title therefore denotes "Alberich's Ring".[1] The "-en" suffix in "Nibelungen" can occur in a genitive singular, accusative singular, dative singular, or a plural in any case (in weak masculine German nouns), but the article "des" immediately preceding makes it clear that the genitive singular is intended here. "Nibelungen" is occasionally mistaken as a plural, but the Ring of the Nibelungs (in German Der Ring der Nibelungen) is incorrect.

Content
The cycle is a work of extraordinary scale. Perhaps the most outstanding facet of the monumental work is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera, with a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor's pacing. The first and shortest opera, Das Rheingold, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, Götterdämmerung, takes up to five hours, excluding intervals. The cycle is modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one satyr play. The Ring proper begins with Die Walküre and ends with Götterdämmerung, with Rheingold as a prelude. Wagner called Das Rheingold a Vorabend or "Preliminary Evening", and Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung were subtitled First Day, Second Day and Third Day, respectively, of the trilogy proper.

The scale and scope of the story is epic. It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic ring that grants domination over the entire world. The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.

The music of the cycle is thick and richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds. Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments such as the Wagner tuba, bass trumpet and contrabass trombone. Remarkably, he uses a chorus only relatively briefly, in acts 2 and 3 of Götterdämmerung, and then mostly of men with just a few women. He eventually had a purpose-built theatre constructed, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, in which to perform this work. The theatre has a special stage that blends the huge orchestra with the singers' voices, allowing them to sing at a natural volume. The result was that the singers did not have to strain themselves vocally during the long performances.

 
 
 
 
Das Rheingold
 
 
Das Rheingold (About this sound pronunciation (help·info); The Rhine Gold), WWV 86A, is the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen ('The Ring of the Nibelung'). It was originally written as an introduction to the tripartite Ring, but the cycle is now generally regarded as consisting of four individual operas.

Das Rheingold premiered at the National Theatre Munich on 22 September 1869, with August Kindermann in the role of Wotan, Heinrich Vogl as Loge, and Karl Fischer as Alberich. Wagner wanted this opera to premiere as part of the entire cycle, but was forced to allow the performance at the insistence of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The opera was first performed as part of the complete cycle on 13 August 1876, in the Bayreuther Festspielhaus.

Composition history
Although Das Rheingold comes first in the sequence of Ring operas, it was the last to be conceived. Wagner's plans for the cycle grew backwards from the tale of the death of the hero Siegfried, to include his youth and then the story of the events around his conception and of how the Valkyrie Brünnhilde was punished for trying to save his parents against Wotan's instructions. So in August 1851, Wagner wrote in "Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde" (A Communication to My Friends), "I propose to produce my myth in three complete dramas....". However, by October, he had decided that this trilogy required a prelude and the text of "Eine Mittheilung" was duly altered to reflect the change. To the sentence quoted above he added the words, "which will be preceded by a great prelude".

He started work on the prelude producing a three paragraph prose sketch that month, although he remained uncertain of the name, considering in turn Der Raub: Vorspiel (The Theft: Prelude), Der Raub des Rheingoldes (The Theft of the Rhinegold) and Das Rheingold (Vorspiel) (The Rhinegold (Prelude)). A letter Wagner wrote to Theodor Uhlig confirms that at this time the opera was intended to have three acts. Wagner continued to develop the text and storyline of the prelude in parallel with those of Die Walküre. The prose draft of Das Rheingold was completed between 21 March and 23 March 1852 and its verse draft between 15 September and 3 November. A fair copy of the text was finished by 15 December.

During the early years of the 1850s Wagner produced some musical sketches for parts of the Ring and noted down various motifs that were to be used in the work. Of particular note is 5 September 1853; Wagner claimed in his autobiography Mein Leben that on this date the musical idea came to him while he was half asleep in a hotel in La Spezia in Italy, but this has been disputed by John Deathridge and others.

There also exist three sets of isolated musical sketches for Das Rheingold which were composed between 15 September 1852 and November 1853. The first of these was entered into the verse draft of the text, the second into Wagner's copy of the 1853 printing of the text; the third was written on an undated sheet of music paper. All three were subsequently used by Wagner.

Proper sequential development of the score started on 1 November 1853. By 14 January, Wagner had completed the first draft of the opera on between two and three staves. The next stage involved the development of a more detailed draft that indicated most of the vocal and instrumental details. This was completed by 28 May. In parallel with this Wagner started work on a fair copy of the score on 15 February, a task he completed on 26 September 1854, by which time he had also started work on the sketches of Die Walküre.

Performance history
Das Rheingold was first performed at Munich on 22 September 1869. Its first performance as part of the complete Ring cycle took place at Bayreuth on 13 August 1876. It continues to be performed on a regular basis both in Bayreuth and elsewhere either as part of a complete Ring or separately.



The giants seize Freia - illustration by Arthur Rackham

 

Synopsis

Scene 1 of Das Rheingold from the Bayreuth Festival production in 1876
Das Rheingold, considerably shorter than its three successors, consists of four scenes performed without a break.

Scene 1
The scale of the whole work is established in the prelude, over 136 bars, beginning with a low E flat, and building in more and more elaborate figurations of the chord of E flat major, to portray the motion of the river Rhine. It is considered the best-known drone piece in the concert repertory, lasting approximately four minutes.[5]

The curtain rises to show, at the bottom of the Rhine, the three Rhine maidens, Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde, playing together. The key shifts to A flat as Woglinde begins an innocent song whose melody is frequently used to characterise the Rhine maidens later in the cycle. Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf, appears from a deep chasm and tries to woo them. Struck by Alberich's ugliness, the Rhine maidens mock his advances and he grows angry. As the sun begins to rise, the maidens praise the golden glow atop a nearby rock; Alberich asks what it is. The Rhine maidens tell him about the Rhine gold, which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic ring which will let its bearer rule the world, but only by someone who first renounces love. They think they have nothing to fear from the lustful dwarf, but Alberich, embittered by their mockery, curses love, seizes the gold and returns to his chasm, leaving them screaming in dismay.

Scene 2
Wotan, ruler of the gods, is asleep on a mountaintop with Fricka, his wife. Fricka awakes and sees a magnificent castle behind them. She wakes Wotan and points out that their new home has been completed. The giants Fasolt and Fafner built the castle; in exchange Wotan has promised to give them Fricka's sister Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty and feminine love. Fricka is worried for her sister, but Wotan is confident that they will not have to give Freia away, because he has dispatched his clever servant Loge to search the world for something else to give the giants instead.

Freia rushes onstage in a panic, followed by Fasolt and Fafner. Fasolt demands payment for their finished work. He points out that Wotan's authority is sustained by the treaties carved into his spear, including his contract with the giants, which Wotan therefore cannot violate. Donner (god of thunder) and Froh (god of spring) arrive to defend their sister Freia, but Wotan stops them; as ruler of the gods, he cannot permit the use of force to break the agreement. Hoping Loge will arrive with the alternative payment he promised, Wotan tries to stall.

Loge finally returns with a discouraging report: there is nothing that men will accept in exchange for feminine love, and, by extension, nothing the giants would accept in exchange for Freia. Loge tells them that he was able to find only one instance where someone willingly gave up love for something else: Alberich the dwarf has renounced love, stolen the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. A general discussion of the ring ensues and everyone finds good reasons for wanting it. Fafner makes a counteroffer: the giants will accept the Nibelung's treasure in payment, instead of Freia. When Wotan tries to haggle, the giants depart, taking Freia with them as hostage.

Freia's golden apples had kept the Gods eternally young; in her absence, they begin to age and weaken. In order to win Freia back, Wotan resolves to follow Loge down into the earth, in pursuit of the gold.

An orchestral interlude follows: it "paints" the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. As the orchestra fades, it gives way to a choir of 18 tuned anvils (indicated in the score with specific size, quantity and pitch) beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to give a stark depiction of the toiling of the enslaved dwarves.



Emil Fischer in the role of Wotan at the 1889 New York premiere of Das Rheingold.



Scene 3

In Nibelheim, Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves with the power of the ring. He has forced his brother Mime, the most skillful smith, to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm's power by making himself invisible, the better to torment his subjects. (The Tarnhelm can also change the wearer's shape, and teleport him long distances.)

Wotan and Loge arrive and happen upon Mime, who tells them about Alberich's forging of the ring and the misery of the Nibelungs under his rule. Alberich returns, driving his slaves to pile up a huge mound of gold. When they have finished, he dismisses them and turns his attention to the two visitors. He boasts to them about his plans to conquer the world. Loge asks how he can protect himself against a thief while he sleeps. Alberich says the Tarnhelm would hide him, by allowing him to turn invisible or change his form. Loge says he doesn't believe it and requests a demonstration. Alberich complies, turning into a giant snake. Loge acts suitably impressed and then he asks if he can also reduce his size, which would be very useful for hiding. Alberich transforms himself into a toad. The two gods quickly seize him, tie him up, and drag him up to the mountain top.

Scene 4
On the mountaintop, Wotan and Loge force Alberich to exchange his wealth for his freedom. They untie his right hand, and he uses the ring to summon his Nibelung slaves, who bring the hoard of gold. After the gold has been delivered, he asks for the return of the Tarnhelm, but Loge says that it is part of his ransom. Finally, Wotan demands the ring. Alberich refuses, but Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. Alberich is crushed by his loss, and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it should return to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner. Alberich's discordant "Death-Curse" leitmotif is one of the few leitmotifs which occur regularly and unchanged in all four parts of the Ring Cycle.

The gods reconvene. Fasolt and Fafner return, carrying Freia. Reluctant to release Freia, Fasolt insists that the gold be heaped high enough to hide her from view. They pile up the gold, and Wotan is forced to relinquish the Tarnhelm to help cover Freia completely. However, Fasolt spots a remaining crack in the gold, through which Freia's eye can be seen. He demands that Wotan fill the crack by yielding the ring. Loge reminds all present that the ring rightly belongs to the Rhine maidens. Wotan angrily and defensively declares that he will keep it for his own. The giants seize Freia and start to leave, this time forever.

Suddenly, Erda the earth goddess, a primeval goddess older than Wotan, appears out of the ground. She warns Wotan of impending doom and urges him to give up the cursed ring. Troubled, Wotan calls the giants back and surrenders the ring. The giants release Freia and begin dividing the treasure, but they quarrel over the ring itself. Fafner clubs Fasolt to death (the orchestra repeats the "Death-Curse" leitmotif). Wotan, horrified, realizes that Alberich's curse has terrible power. Loge remarks that Wotan is indeed a lucky fellow: his enemies are killing each other for the gold he gave up.

At last, the gods prepare to enter their new home. Donner summons a thunderstorm to clear the air. After the storm has ended, Froh creates a rainbow bridge that stretches to the gate of the castle. Wotan leads them across the bridge to the castle, which he names Valhalla. Fricka asks him about the name, and he replies enigmatically that its meaning will become clear when his plans come to fruition.

Loge, who knows that the end of the gods is coming, does not follow the others into Valhalla; he tells the audience that he is tempted to destroy the gods and all they have deceitfully acquired. Far below, the Rhine maidens mourn the loss of their gold and proclaim that the glory of the gods is only an illusion. The curtain falls

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Wagner: Das Rheingold
 
Herbert von Karajan 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Die Walkure
 
 
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), WWV 86B, is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with a German libretto by the composer. It is the second of the four operas that form Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

The story of the opera is based on the Norse mythology told in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda. In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one in a group of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and which live. Die Walküre's best-known excerpt is the "Ride of the Valkyries".

It received its premiere at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich on 26 June 1870. Wagner originally intended the opera to be premiered as part of the entire cycle, but was forced to allow the performance at the insistence of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was first presented as part of the complete cycle on 14 August 1876 at Wagner's Bayreuth Festival. The opera made its United States premiere at the Academy of Music in New York on 2 April 1877.


Composition

Although Die Walküre is the second of the Ring operas, it was the third in order of conception. Wagner worked backwards from planning an opera about Siegfried's death, then deciding he needed another opera to tell of Siegfried's youth, then deciding he needed to tell the tale of Siegfried's conception and of Brünnhilde's attempts to save Siegfried's parents, and finally deciding he also needed a prelude that told of the original theft of the Rheingold and the creation of the ring.

Wagner intermingled development of the text of these last two planned operas, i.e. Die Walküre, originally entitled Siegmund und Sieglinde: der Walküre Bestrafung ("Siegmund and Sieglinde: the Valkyrie's Punishment") and what became Das Rheingold. Wagner had first written of his intention to create a trilogy of operas in the August 1851 draft of "Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde" (A Communication to My Friends), but did not produce any sketches of the plot of Siegmund and Sieglinde until November. The following summer, Wagner and his wife rented the Pension Rinderknecht, a pied-à-terre on the Zürichberg (now Hochstrasse 56–58 in Zürich). There he worked on the prose draft of Die Walküre, an extended description of the story including dialogue between 17 and 26 May 1852 and the verse draft between 1 June and 1 July. It was between these drafts that Wagner made the decision not to introduce Wotan in act 1, instead leaving the sword the god had been going to bring on stage already embedded in the tree before the action starts. The fair copy of the text was completed by 15 December 1852.

Even before the text of the Ring was finalised, Wagner had begun to sketch some of the music. On 23 July 1851 he wrote down on a loose sheet of paper what was to become the best-known leitmotif in the entire cycle: the theme from the "Ride of the Valkyries" (Walkürenritt). Other early sketches for Die Walküre were made in the summer of 1852. But it was not until 28 June 1854 that Wagner began to transform these into a complete draft of all three acts of the opera. This preliminary draft (Gesamtentwurf) was completed by 27 December 1854. Much of the work of this stage of development of the opera overlapped with work on the final orchestral version of Das Rheingold.

As Wagner had included some indication of the orchestration in the draft, he decided to move straight on to developing a full orchestral score in January 1855 without bothering to write an intermediate instrumentation draft as he had done for Das Rheingold. This was a decision he was soon to regret, as numerous interruptions including a four-month visit to London made the task of orchestrating more difficult than he had expected. If he allowed too much time to elapse between the initial drafting of a passage and its later elaboration, he found that he could not remember how he had intended to orchestrate the draft. Consequently some passages had to be composed again from scratch. Wagner, nevertheless, persevered with the task and the full score was finally completed on 20 March 1856. The fair copy was begun on 14 July 1855 in the Swiss resort of Seelisberg, where Wagner and his wife spent a month. It was completed in Zürich on 23 March 1856, just three days after the completion of the full score.



The end of act 1 in the 1876 production


Synopsis
Act 1

During a raging storm, Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. Hunding is not present, and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde, Hunding's unhappy wife. Siegmund tells her that he is fleeing from enemies. After taking a drink of mead, he moves to leave, claiming to be cursed by misfortune. But Sieglinde bids him stay, saying he can bring no misfortune to the "house where ill luck lives".

Returning, Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund the hospitality demanded by custom. Sieglinde, increasingly fascinated by the visitor, urges him to tell his tale. Siegmund describes returning home with his father one day to find his mother dead and his twin sister abducted. He then wandered with his father until he was parted from him as well. One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl's relatives. His weapons were broken and the bride was killed, and he was forced to flee to Hunding's home. Initially Siegmund does not reveal his name, choosing to call himself Wehwalt, 'filled with woe'.

When Siegmund finishes, Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund's pursuers. He grants Siegmund a night's stay, but they are to do battle in the morning. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde, ignoring his wife's distress. Siegmund laments his misfortune, recalling his father's promise that he would find a sword when he most needed it.

Sieglinde returns, having drugged Hunding's drink to send him into a deep sleep. She reveals that she was forced into a marriage with Hunding. During their wedding feast, an old man appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room, which neither Hunding nor any of his companions could remove. She expresses her longing for the hero who could draw the sword and save her. Siegmund expresses his love for her, which she reciprocates, and as she strives to understand her recognition of him, she realises it is in the echo of her own voice, and reflection of her image, that she already knows him. When he speaks the name of his father, Wälse, she declares that he is Siegmund, and that the Wanderer left the sword for him.

Siegmund now easily draws the sword forth, and she tells him she is Sieglinde, his twin sister. He names the blade "Nothung" (or needful, for this is the weapon that he needs for his forthcoming fight with Hunding). As the act closes he calls her "bride and sister", and draws her to him with passionate fervour.

Act 2
Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhilde, his Valkyrie daughter. He instructs Brünnhilde to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Fricka, Wotan's wife and the guardian of wedlock, arrives demanding the punishment of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have committed adultery and incest. She knows that Wotan, disguised as the mortal man Wälse, fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero (i.e., one not ruled by him) to aid his plans, but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero but Wotan's creature and unwitting pawn. Backed into a corner, Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund will die.


Fricka exits, leaving Brünnhilde with a despairing Wotan. Wotan explains his problems: troubled by the warning delivered by Erda (at the end of Das Rheingold), he had seduced the earth-goddess to learn more of the prophesied doom; Brünnhilde was born to him by Erda. He raised Brünnhilde and eight other daughters as the Valkyries, warrior maidens who gather the souls of fallen heroes to form an army against Alberich. Valhalla's army will fail if Alberich should ever wield the ring, which is in Fafner's possession. Using the Tarnhelm the giant has transformed himself into a dragon, lurking in a forest with the Nibelung treasure. Wotan cannot wrest the ring from Fafner, who is bound to him by contract; he needs a free hero to defeat Fafner in his stead. But as Fricka pointed out, he can create only thralls (i.e. servants) to himself. Bitterly, Wotan orders Brünnhilde to obey Fricka and ensure the death of his beloved child Siegmund.

Having fled Hunding's hall, Siegmund and Sieglinde enter the mountain pass, where Sieglinde faints in guilt and exhaustion. Brünnhilde approaches Siegmund and tells him of his impending death. Siegmund refuses to follow Brünnhilde to Valhalla when she tells him Sieglinde cannot accompany him there. Siegmund dismisses Brünnhilde's warning since he has Wälse's sword, which his father assured him would win victory for him, but Brünnhilde tells him it has lost its power. Siegmund draws his sword and threatens to kill both Sieglinde and himself. Impressed by his passion, Brünnhilde relents and agrees to grant victory to Siegmund instead of Hunding.

Hunding arrives and attacks Siegmund. Blessed by Brünnhilde, Siegmund begins to overpower Hunding, but Wotan appears and shatters Nothung (Siegmund's sword) with his spear. While Siegmund is thus disarmed and helpless, Hunding stabs him to death. Wotan looks down on Siegmund's body, grieving, and Brünnhilde gathers up the fragments of Nothung and flees on horseback with Sieglinde. Wotan strikes Hunding dead with a contemptuous gesture, and angrily sets out in pursuit of his disobedient daughter.

Act 3
The other Valkyries assemble on the summit of a mountain, each with a dead hero in her saddlebag. They are astonished when Brünnhilde arrives with Sieglinde, a living woman. She begs them to help, but they dare not defy Wotan. Brünnhilde decides to delay Wotan as Sieglinde flees. She also reveals that Sieglinde is pregnant by Siegmund, and names the unborn son Siegfried.

Wotan arrives in wrath and passes judgement on Brünnhilde: she is to be stripped of her Valkyrie status and become a mortal woman, to be held in a magic sleep on the mountain, prey to any man who happens by. Dismayed, the other Valkyries flee. Brünnhilde begs mercy of Wotan for herself, his favorite child. She recounts the courage of Siegmund and her decision to protect him, knowing that was Wotan's true desire. With the words 'Der diese Liebe mir ins Herz gehaucht' (He who breathed this love into me), introducing the key of E major, she identifies her actions as Wotan's true will. Wotan consents to her last request: to encircle the mountaintop with magic flame, which will deter all but the bravest of heroes (who, as shown through the leitmotif, they both know will be the yet unborn Siegfried). Wotan lays Brünnhilde down on a rock and, in a long embrace, kisses her eyes closed into an enchanted sleep. He summons Loge (the Norse demigod of fire) to ignite the circle of flame that will protect her, then slowly departs in sorrow, after pronouncing: "Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire." The curtain falls as the Magic Fire Music again resolves into E major.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Richard Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Erster tag - Die Walküre
 
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Live recording in stereo from
Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe
1993 - 95
Conductor: Günter Neuhold, Badische Staatskapelle. Badischer Staatsopernchor

Die Walküre
January 29, 1994 - April 17, 1995
Siegmund, Edward Cook
Sieglinde, Gabriéle Maria Ronge
Wotan, John Wegner
Brünnhilde, Carla Pohl
Hunding, Frode Olsen
Fricka, Zlatomira Nikolova
Gerhilde, Claudia Egler
Ortlinde, Ruth Floeren
Waltraute, Zlatomira Nikolova
Schwertleite, Cornelia Wulkopf
Helmwige, Margaret Chalker
Siegrune, Clara O'Brien
Grimgerde, Katarzyna Kempa
Roßweiße, Wilja Ernst-Mosuraitis

Erster tag
Die Walküre

Erster Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (3:33)

Erste Szene
2. Wes Herd dies auch sei, hier muss ich rasten (Siegmund, Sieglinde) (12:12)
Zweite Szene
3. Müd' am Herd fand ich den Mann (Sieglinde, Hunding, Siegmund) (4:31)
4. Friedmund darf ich nicht heissen (Sieglinde, Hunding, Siegmund) (9:25)
5. Ich weiss ein wildes Geschlecht (Hunding) (5:40)

Dritte Szene
6. Ein Schwert verhiess mir den Vater (Siegmund) (5:40)
7. Schläfst du, Gast? (Sieglinde, Siegmund) (1:04)
8. Der Männer Sippe sas hier im Saal (Sieglinde, Siegmund) (5:37)
9. Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond (Sieglinde, Siegmund) (4:45)
10. O süsseste Wonne! Seligstes Weih! (Sieglinde, Siegmund) (5:47)
11. Siegmund heiss' ich und Siegmund bin ich (Sieglinde, Siegmund) (3:58)

Zweiter Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (1:53)

Erste Szene
2. Nun zäume dein Ross, reisige Maid! (Wotan, Brünnhilde) (2:42)
3. Der alte Sturm, die alte Müh! (Wotan, Fricka) (4:30)
4. So ist es dann aus mit den ewigen Göttern (Wotan, Fricka) (8:48)
5. Was verlangst du? (Wotan, Fricka, Brünnhilde) (5:30)

Zweite Szene
6. Schlimm, fürcht' ich, schloss der Streit (Wotan, Brünnhilde) (5:39)
7. Als junger Liebe Lust mir verblich (Wotan, Brünnhilde) (14:54)
8. O sag, künde, was soll nun dein kind (Brünnhilde) (4:02)

 
 
 
 
 
Wagner - Die Walküre, Bayreuth 1992 (Barenboim, Tomlinson, Elming, Secunde)
 
Die Walküre
Bayreuth 1992

Brünnhilde - Anne Evans
Wotan - John Tomlinson
Siegmund - Poul Elming
Sieglinde - Nadine Secunde
Hunding - Matthias Hölle
Fricka - Linda Finnie
Gerhilde - Eva Johansson
Ortlinde Ruth Floeren
Waltraute - Shirley Close

 
 
 
 
 
Die Walküre (Meier, Domingo, Lipovsek, Schnaut; La Scala, Riccardo Muti, 07.12.1994)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Wagner - Ride Of The Valkyries
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Siegfried - 1876
 
Siegfried, WWV 86C, is the third of the four operas that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner. It premiered at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of The Ring. This part of the opera is primarily inspired by the story of the legendary hero Sigurd in Norse mythology.


Composition history

Sources
Siegfried is a man without fear, and he expresses to his foster father Mime his wish to learn to fear. Mime tells him that the wise learn fear quickly, but the stupid find it more difficult. In a letter to his friend Theodor Uhlig, Wagner recounted The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was, about a boy so stupid he had never learned to be afraid. Wagner wrote that the boy and Siegfried are the same character. The boy is taught to fear by his wife, and Siegfried learns it when he discovers the sleeping Brünnhilde.

Act 3, Scene 1 (between The Wanderer and Erda) is based on the Eddic poem Baldrs draumar.
 

Synopsis
Act 1

In a cave in the forest, the Nibelung dwarf Mime, Alberich's brother, is forging a sword. Mime is plotting to obtain the ring for himself. He has raised the human boy Siegfried as a foster child, to kill the dragon, Fafner, who guards the ring and other treasures. He needs a sword for Siegfried to use, but the youth has broken every sword Mime has made. Siegfried returns from his wanderings in the forest with a wild bear that he caught and demands his new sword, which he immediately breaks. After Siegfried's tantrum and a carefully studied speech by Mime about Siegfried's ingratitude toward him, Siegfried comes to understand why he keeps coming back to Mime although he despises him: he wants to know his parentage. Mime is forced to explain how he took in Siegfried's mother, Sieglinde, who then died, giving birth to Siegfried. He shows Siegfried the broken pieces of Nothung, which Mime had obtained from her. Siegfried orders him to reforge the sword; Mime, however, has been unable to accomplish this because the metal refuses to yield to his best techniques.

Siegfried departs, leaving Mime in despair. An old man (Wotan in disguise) arrives at the door and introduces himself as the Wanderer. In return for the hospitality due a guest, he wagers his head on answering any three questions or riddles from Mime. The dwarf agrees in order to get rid of his unwelcome guest. He asks the Wanderer to name the races that live beneath the ground, on the earth, and in the skies. These are the Nibelung, the Giants, and the Gods, as the Wanderer answers correctly. Mime tells the Wanderer to be on his way but is forced to wager his own head on three more riddles for breaking the law of hospitality. The Wanderer asks him to name the race most beloved of Wotan, but most harshly treated; the name of the sword that can destroy Fafner; and the person who can repair the sword. Mime answers the first two questions: the Wälsungs and Nothung. However, he cannot answer the last. Wotan spares Mime, telling him that only "he who does not know fear" can reforge Nothung, and leaves Mime's head forfeit to that person.

Siegfried returns and is annoyed by Mime's lack of progress. Mime realizes that Siegfried is "the one who does not know fear" and that unless he can instill fear in him, Siegfried will kill him in accordance with the Wanderer's prediction. He tells Siegfried that fear is an essential craft; Siegfried is eager to learn it, and Mime promises to teach him by taking him to Fafner. Since Mime was unable to forge Nothung, Siegfried decides to do it himself. He succeeds by shredding the metal, melting it, and casting it anew. In the meantime, Mime brews a poisoned drink to offer Siegfried after the youth has defeated the dragon. After he finishes forging the sword, Siegfried demonstrates its strength by chopping the anvil in half with it.

Act 2
The Wanderer arrives at the entrance to Fafner's cave, outside of which Alberich has been keeping vigil. The old enemies quickly recognize each other. Alberich blusters, boasting of his plans for regaining the ring and ruling the world. Wotan calmly states that he does not intend to interfere, only to observe. He even offers to awaken Fafner so that Alberich can bargain with him. Alberich warns the dragon that a hero is coming to fight him, and offers to prevent the fight in return for the ring. Fafner dismisses the threat, declines Alberich's offer, and returns to sleep. Wotan leaves and Alberich withdraws.

At daybreak, Siegfried and Mime arrive. Mime decides to draw back while Siegfried confronts the dragon. As Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear, he notices a woodbird in a tree. Befriending it, he attempts to mimic the bird's song using a reed pipe, but is unsuccessful. He then plays a tune on his horn, which brings Fafner out of his cave. After a short exchange, they fight; Siegfried stabs Fafner in the heart with Nothung.

In his last moments, Fafner learns Siegfried's name, and tells him to beware of treachery. When Siegfried draws his sword from the corpse, his hands are burned by the dragon's blood, and he instinctively puts them to his mouth. On tasting the blood, he finds that he can understand the woodbird's song. Following its instructions, he takes the ring and the Tarnhelm from Fafner's hoard. Outside the cave, Alberich and Mime quarrel loudly over the treasure. Alberich hides as Siegfried comes out of the cave. Mime greets Siegfried; Siegfried complains that he has still not learned the meaning of fear. Mime offers him the poisoned drink. However, the lingering effect of the dragon's blood allows Siegfried to read Mime's treacherous thoughts, and he stabs him to death. Alberich, observing from offstage, laughs sadistically. Siegfried then throws Mime's body into the treasure cave and places Fafner's body in the cave entrance to block it as well.

The woodbird now sings of a woman sleeping on a rock surrounded by magic fire. Siegfried, wondering if he can learn fear from this woman, heads toward the mountain.



Siegfried awakens Brunhild - Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1892)
 

Act 3
The Wanderer appears on the path to Brünnhilde's rock and summons Erda, the earth goddess. Erda, appearing confused, is unable to offer any advice. Wotan informs her that he no longer fears the end of the gods; indeed, it is his desire. His heritage will be left to Siegfried the Wälsung, and their (Erda's and Wotan's) child, Brünnhilde, will "work the deed that redeems the World." Dismissed, Erda sinks back into the earth.

Siegfried arrives, and the Wanderer questions the youth. Siegfried, who does not recognize his grandfather, answers insolently and starts down the path toward Brünnhilde's rock. The Wanderer blocks his path, but Siegfried breaks his spear with a blow from Nothung. Wotan calmly gathers up the pieces and vanishes.

Siegfried enters the ring of fire, emerging on Brünnhilde's rock. At first, he thinks the armored figure is a man. However, when he removes the armor, he finds a woman beneath. At the sight of the first woman he has ever seen, Siegfried at last experiences fear. In desperation, he kisses Brünnhilde, waking her from her magic sleep. Hesitant at first, Brünnhilde is won over by Siegfried's love, and renounces the world of the gods. Together, they hail "light-bringing love, and laughing death."

Noted excerpts
As with the rest of the Ring, a few excerpts are heard outside the opera house. The most commonly heard excerpt from Siegfried is the Forest Murmurs.

Other famous excerpts include

Prelude to Act I
Siegfried's Forging Song (Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert!) (Act I)
Forest Murmurs (Act II)
Prelude to Act III
Siegfried passing through the magic fire
Brünnhilde's Awakening (Heil dir, Sonne!) (Act III)
Quotations of the Siegfried Idyll (Act III)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
Richard Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Zweiter Tag - Siegfried
 
 
Siegfried
October 1, 1994 - April 23, 1995
Siegfried, Wolfgang Neumann
Mime, Hans-Jörg Weinschenk
Brünnhilde, Carla Pohl
Wanderer, John Wegner
Albericht, Oleg Bryjak
Fafner, Simon Yang
Erda, Ortrun Wenkel
Waldvogel, Tiny Peters

Zweiter tag
Siegfried

1. Vorspiel (3:45)

Erste Szene
2. Zwangvolle Plage! Müh' ohne Zweck (Mime) (3:34)
3. Hoiho! Hoiho! Hau ein! Hau ein! (Siegfried, Mime) (5:29)
4. Vieles lehrtest du, Mime (Siegfried, Mime) (8:06)
5. Einst lag wimmernd ein Weib da draussen im wilden Wald (Siegfried, Mime) (5:32)
6. Und seise Stücke sollst du mir schmieden (Siegfried, Mime) (3:26)

Zweite Szene
7. Heil dir, weise Schmied (Wanderer, Mime) (3:18)
8. Hier sitz ic ham Herd (Wanderer, Mime) (10:13)
9. Was zu wissen dir frommt, solltest du fragen (Wanderer, Mime) (7:53)
10. Nach eitlen Fernen forschest du (Wanderer) (2:01)

Dritte Szene
11. Verfluchtes Licht! (Mime, Siegfried) (1:31)
12. Bist du es, Kind? (Mime, Siegfried) (3:09)
13. Fühltest du nie im finst'ren Wald (Mime, Siegfried) (8:37)
14. Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert! (Mime, Siegfried) (8:20)
15. Hoho! Hoho! Hohei! Schmiede, mein Hammer (Mime, Siegfried) (6:56)

Zweiter Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (5:08)

Erste Szene
2. Im Wald und Nacht vor Neidhöhl (Alberich) (2:51)
3. Zur Neidhöhl fuhr ich bei Nacht (Wanderer, Alberich) (8:27)
4. Fafner, Fafner! Erwache, Wurm! (Wanderer, Alberich, Fafner) (6:55)

Zweite Szene
5. Wir sind zur Stelle! Bleib' hier steh'n! (Mime, Siegfried) (5:51)
6: Dass der mein Vater nicht ist (Siegfried) (1:20)
7. Aber, wie sah meine Mutter wohl aus? (Siegfried) (10:16)
8. Haha! Da hätte mein Lied mir was Liebes erblasen (Siegfried, Fafner, Stimme des Waldvogels) (2:51)
9. Wer bist du, kühner Knabe? (Siegfried, Fafner) (3:57)
10. Zur Kunde taugt kein Toter (Siegfried, Stimme des Waldvogels) (2:02)

Dritte Szene
11. wohin schleichst du so eilig und schlau, schlimmer Gesell'? (Siegfried, Alberich, Mime, Stimme des Waldvogels) (5:20)
12. Wilkommen, Siegfried (Mime, Siegfried, Alberich) (9:48)
13. Heiss war mir von der harten Last (Siegfried, Stimme des Waldvogels) (7:52)

Dritter Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (2:22)

Erste Szene
2. Wache, Wala! Wache, Wala! Erwach! (Wanderer) (1:42)
3. Stark ruft das Lied (Erda, Wanderer) (10:02)
4. Dir unweisen ruf' ich ins Ohr! (Wanderer) (3:49)

Zweite Szene
5. Dort seh' ich Siegfried nah'n (Wanderer, Siegfried) (7:55)
6. Bleibst du mir stumm, störrischer Wicht? (Siegfried, Wanderer) (3:48)
7. Mit zerfochtner Waffe wich mir der Feige? (3:39)

Dritte Szene
8. Selige Öde auf sonniger Höh (Siegfried) (6:44)
9. Das ist kein Mann! (Siegfried) (6:52)
10. Heil dir, Sonne! Heil der, Licht! (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (5:44)
11. O Siegfried! Siegfried! Seliger Held (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (5:35)
12. Dort seh'ich Grane, mein selig' Ross (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (8:10)
13. Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (12:11)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gotterdammerung
 
 
Gotterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods),is the last in Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung, or The Ring for short). It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 17 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of the Ring.

The title is a translation into German of the Old Norse phrase Ragnarök, which in Norse mythology refers to a prophesied war among various beings and gods that ultimately results in the burning, immersion in water, and renewal of the world. However, as with the rest of the Ring, Wagner's account diverges significantly from his Old Norse sources.

The term Götterdämmerung is occasionally used in English to refer to a disastrous conclusion of events.

Synopsis
Prologue

The three Norns, daughters of Erda, gather beside Brünnhilde's rock, weaving the rope of Destiny. They sing of the past and the present, and of the future when Wotan will set fire to Valhalla to signal the end of the gods. Without warning, their rope breaks. Lamenting the loss of their wisdom, the Norns disappear.

As day breaks, Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from their cave, high on a mountaintop surrounded by magic fire. Brünnhilde sends Siegfried off to new adventures, urging him to keep their love in mind. As a pledge of fidelity, Siegfried gives her the ring of power that he took from Fafner's hoard. Bearing Brünnhilde's shield and mounting her horse Grane, Siegfried rides away as an orchestral interlude (Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine) starts.



Brünnhilde is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute. By Arthur Rackham (1912)
 

Act 1
The act begins in the Hall of the Gibichungs, a population dwelling by the Rhine. Gunther, lord of the Gibichungs, sits enthroned. His half-brother and chief minister, Hagen, advises him to find a wife for himself and a husband for their sister Gutrune. He suggests Brünnhilde for Gunther's wife, and Siegfried for Gutrune's husband. He reminds Gutrune that he has given her a potion that she can use to make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde and fall in love with Gutrune; under its influence, Siegfried will win Brünnhilde for Gunther. Gunther and Gutrune agree enthusiastically with this plan.

Siegfried appears at Gibichung Hall, seeking to meet Gunther. Gunther extends his hospitality to the hero, and Gutrune offers him the love potion. Unaware of the deception, Siegfried toasts Brünnhilde and their love. Drinking the potion, he loses his memory of Brünnhilde and falls in love with Gutrune instead. In his drugged state, Siegfried offers to win a wife for Gunther, who tells him about Brünnhilde and the magic fire which only a fearless person can cross. They swear blood-brotherhood (Hagen holds the drinking horn in which they mix their blood, but he does not join in the oath) and leave for Brünnhilde's rock. Hagen, left on guard duty, gloats that his so-called masters are unwittingly bringing the ring to him (Monologue: Hagen's watch).

Meanwhile, Brünnhilde is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute, who tells her that Wotan returned from his wanderings with his spear Gungnir shattered. Wotan is dismayed at losing his spear, as it has all the treaties and bargains he has made—everything that gives him power—carved into its shaft. Wotan ordered branches of Yggdrasil, the World tree, to be piled around Valhalla; sent his magic ravens to spy on the world and bring him news; and currently waits in Valhalla for the end. Waltraute begs Brünnhilde to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens, since the ring's curse is now affecting their father, Wotan. However, Brünnhilde refuses to relinquish Siegfried's token of love, and Waltraute rides away in despair.

Siegfried arrives, disguised as Gunther by using the Tarnhelm, and claims Brünnhilde as his wife. Though Brünnhilde resists violently, Siegfried overpowers her, snatching the ring from her hand and placing it on his own.

Act 2
Hagen, waiting by the bank of the Rhine, is visited in his semi-waking sleep (sitting up, eyes open, but motionless) by his father, Alberich. On Alberich's urging, he swears to kill Siegfried and acquire the ring. Alberich exits as dawn breaks. Siegfried arrives via Tarnhelm-magic, having resumed his natural form and left Brünnhilde on the boat with Gunther. Hagen summons the Gibichung vassals to welcome Gunther and his bride. He does this by sounding the war-alarm. The vassals are surprised to learn that the occasion is not battle, but their master's wedding and party.

Gunther leads in a downcast Brünnhilde, who is astonished to see Siegfried. Noticing the ring on Siegfried's hand, she realizes she has been betrayed—that the man who conquered her was not Gunther, but Siegfried in disguise. She denounces Siegfried in front of Gunther's vassals and accuses Siegfried of having seduced her himself. Siegfried swears on Hagen's spear that her accusations are false. Brünnhilde seizes the tip of the spear and swears that they are true. Once again Hagen supervises silently as others take oaths to his advantage. But this time, since the oath is sworn on a weapon, the understanding is that if the oath is proven false, the weapon's owner should avenge it by killing the perjurer with that weapon. Siegfried then leads Gutrune and the bystanders off to the wedding feast, leaving Brünnhilde, Hagen, and Gunther alone by the shore. Deeply shamed by Brünnhilde's outburst, Gunther agrees to Hagen's suggestion that Siegfried must be killed for Gunther's standing to be regained. Brünnhilde, seeking revenge for Siegfried's manifest treachery, joins the plot and tells Hagen that Siegfried would be vulnerable to a stab in the back. Hagen and Gunther decide to lure Siegfried on a hunting-trip and murder him. They sing a trio in which Brünnhilde and Gunther vow in the name of Wotan, "guardian of oaths", to kill Siegfried, while Hagen repeats his pledge to Alberich: to acquire the ring and rule the world through its power.

Act 3
In the woods by the bank of the Rhine, the Rhinemaidens mourn the lost Rhine gold. Siegfried happens by, separated from the hunting party. The Rhinemaidens urge him to return the ring and avoid its curse, but he laughs at them and says he prefers to die rather than bargain for his life. They swim away, predicting that Siegfried will die and that his heir, a lady, will treat them more fairly.

Siegfried rejoins the hunters, who include Gunther and Hagen. While resting, he tells them about the adventures of his youth. Hagen gives him another potion, which restores his memory, and he tells of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains in three words ("Meineid rächt' ich!" – "I have avenged perjury!") that since Siegfried admitted loving Brünnhilde, the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false, therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. His body is carried away in a solemn funeral procession (Siegfried's funeral march) that forms the interlude as the scene is changed and recapitulates many of the themes associated with Siegfried and the Wälsungs.

Back in the Gibichung Hall, Gutrune awaits Siegfried's return. Hagen arrives ahead of the funeral party. Gutrune is devastated when Siegfried's corpse is brought in. Gunther blames Siegfried's death on Hagen, who replies that Siegfried had incurred the penalty of his false oath, and further, claims the ring on Siegfried's finger by right of conquest. When Gunther objects, Hagen appeals to the vassals to support his claim. Gunther draws his sword but Hagen attacks and easily kills him. However, as Hagen moves to take the ring, Siegfried's hand rises threateningly. Hagen recoils in fear. Gutrune meanwhile dies of grief.

Brünnhilde makes her entrance and takes charge of events (the Immolation Scene). Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river. She takes the ring and tells the Rhinemaidens to claim it from her ashes, once fire has cleansed it of its curse. Lighting the pyre with a firebrand, she sends Wotan's ravens home with "anxiously longed-for tidings"; they fly off. After an apostrophe to the dead hero, Brünnhilde mounts her horse Grane and rides into the flames.

The fire flares up, and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses. The Rhine overflows its banks, quenching the fire, and the Rhinemaidens swim in to claim the ring. Hagen tries to stop them but they drag him into the depths and drown him. As they celebrate the return of the ring and its gold to the river, a red glow is seen in the sky. As the people watch, deeply moved, the interior of Valhalla is finally seen, with gods and heroes visible as described by Waltraute in Act 1. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely. As the gods are consumed in the flames, the curtain falls.

Noted excerpts
Two extended orchestral selections—"Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey", an abridged excerpt from the Prologue without the singers; and "Siegfried's Funeral March", lifted uncut from act 3—are often presented outside the opera house, and are published separately from the lengthy work. Early versions of these selections were approved by the composer himself. These excerpts include specially composed endings so that the excerpt is better able to stand on its own as a complete composition.

Other notable excerpts include

Siegfried and Brünnhilde's duet (Prologue). This is part of "Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey".
Hagen's Watch (Act 1)
Hagen summons the vassals and the Wedding March (Act 2)
Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene (Act 3) as a soprano solo with orchestra (Hagen's single line is omitted).
According to Albert Speer, the Berlin Philharmonic's last performance before their evacuation from Berlin at the end of World War II was of Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene at the end of the opera.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
Richard Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Dritter Tag - Götterdämmerung
 
Götterdämmerung
April 1 - June 25, 1995
Brünnhilde, Carla Pohl
Siegfried, Edward Cook
Hagen, Markku Tervo
Alberich, Oleg Bryjak
Gunther, Bodo Brinkmann
Gutrune, Gabriéle Maria Ronge
Waltraute, Zlatomira Nikolova
Woglinde, Doris Brüggemann
Wellgunde, Ruxandra Voda
Floßhilde, Wilja Ernst-Mosuraitis
1. Norne, Ortrun Wenkel
2. Norne, Zlatomira Nikolova
3. Norne, Gabriéle Maria Ronge

Dritter tag
Götterdämmerung

Vorspiel
1. Welch' Licht leuchtet dort? (Die drei Nornen) (10:31)
2. Dämmert der Tag? (Die drei Nornen) (9:02)
3. Zu neuen Taten, teurer Helde (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (11:10)
4. Orchester Zwischenspiel: Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (5:17)

Erster Aufzug

Erste Szene
5. Nun hör, Hagen, sage mir, Held (Gunther, Hagen, Gutrune) (9:07)
6. Jagt er auf Taten wonnig umher (Hagen, Gunther, Siegfrieds Stimme) (3.02)

Zweite Szene
7. Heil! Siegfried, teurer Held (Hagen, Siegfried, Gunther, Gutrune) (9:07)
8. Begrüsse froh, o Held, die Halle meines Vaters (Gunther, Siegfried, Hagen) (3:43)
9. Willkommen, Gast, in Gibbichs Haus! (Gutrune, Siegfried, Gunther) (2:42)
10. Deinem Bruder bot ich mich zum Mann (Siegfried, Gunther) (4:36)
11. Blühenden Lebens labendes Blut (Siegfried, Gunther, Hagen, Gutrune) (9:11)
12. Hier sitz ich zur Wacht (Hagen) (9:11)

Dritte Szene
13. Altgewohntes Geräusch (Waltraute, Brünnhilde) (7:41)
14. Höre mit Sinn, was ich der sage (Waltraute) (8:39)
15. Welch banger Träume Mären (Waltraute, Brünnhilde) (5:59)
16. Blitzend Gewölk wom Wind getragen (Brünnhilde) (3:14)
17. Brünnhilde! Ein Freier kam (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (5:35)
18. Jetzt bist du mein (Siegfried, Brünnhilde) (3:08)

Zweiter Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (2:47)

Erste Szene
2. Schläfst du, Hagen, mein Sohn? (Alberich, Hagen) (9:54)

Zweite Szene
3. Hoiho! Hagen! Müder Mann! (Siegfried, Hagen, Gutrune) (4:48)

Dritte Szene
4. Hoiho! Hoihohoho! Ihr Gibichsmannen (Hagen, Mannen) (8:20)

Vierte Szene
5. Heil dir, Gunther! Heil dir und deiner Braut (Hagen, Frauen, Gutrune, Brünnhilde, Mannen, Gunther, Siegfried) (8:44)
6. Betrug! Betrug! (Brünnhilde, Gutrune, Mannen, Frauen, Gunther, Hagen) (6:41)
7. Helle Wehr! Heilige Waffe (Brünnhilde, Siegfried, Mannen) (6:46)

Fünfte Szene
8. Welchen Unholds List liegt hier verhohlen? (Brünnhilde, Hagen, Gunther) (5:36)
9. Auf Gunther, edler Gibichung! (Brünnhilde, Hagen, Gunther) (8:08)

Dritter Aufzug
1. Vorspiel (2:31)

Erste Szene
2. Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen (Die drei Rheintöchter, Siegfried) (3:34)
3. Ein Albe führte mich irr (Siegfried, Die drei Rheintöchter) (12:50)

Zweite Szene
4. Hoiho!...Finden wir endlich, wohin du flogest? (Hagen, Mannen, Siegfried, Gunther) (6:13)
5. Mime hiess ein mürrischer Zwerg (Hagen, Mannen, Siegfried) (4:57)
6. In Leid zu dem Wipfel lauscht' ich hinauf (Hagen, Mannen, Siegfried, Gunther) (4:22)
7. Brünnhilde, heilige Braut! (Siegfried) (4:27)
8. Orchesterzwischenspiel: Trauermarsch (6:06)

Dritte Szene
9. War das sein Horn? (Gunther, Gutrune, Hagen) (2:32)
10. Hoiho! Hoiho! Wacht auf! Wacht auf! (Hagen, Gutrune, Gunther) (4:24)
11. Schweigt eures Jammers jauchzenden Schwall (Brünnhilde, Gutrune) (2:58)
12. Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort (Brünnhilde) (9:44)
13. Flieg heim, ihr Raben (Hagen, Brünnhilde) (8.03)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tristan und Isolde
 
 
Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde, or Tristan and Isolda, or Tristran and Ysolt) is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to the work not as an opera, but called it "eine Handlung" (literally a drama. a plot or an action), which was the equivalent of the term used by the Spanish playwright Calderón for his dramas.

Wagner's composition of Tristan und Isolde was inspired by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (particularly The World as Will and Representation) and his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck. Widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertoire, Tristan was notable for Wagner's unprecedented use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.

The opera was enormously influential among Western classical composers and provided direct inspiration to composers such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Karol Szymanowski, Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Benjamin Britten. Other composers like Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky formulated their styles in contrast to Wagner's musical legacy. Many see Tristan as the beginning of the move away from common practice harmony and tonality and consider that it lays the groundwork for the direction of classical music in the 20th century. Both Wagner's libretto style and music were also profoundly influential on the Symbolist poets of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Composition history
Wagner was forced to abandon his position as conductor of the Dresden Opera in 1849, as there was a warrant posted for his arrest for his participation in the unsuccessful May Revolution. He left his wife, Minna, in Dresden, and fled to Zürich. There, in 1852, he met the wealthy silk trader Otto Wesendonck. Wesendonck became a supporter of Wagner and bankrolled the composer for several years. Wesendonck's wife, Mathilde, became enamoured of the composer. Though Wagner was working on his epic Der Ring des Nibelungen, he found himself intrigued by the legend of Tristan and Iseult.

The re-discovery of mediaeval Germanic poetry, including Gottfried von Strassburg's version of Tristan, the Nibelungenlied and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, left a large impact on the German Romantic movements during the mid-19th century. The story of Tristan and Isolde is a quintessential romance of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Several versions of the story exist, the earliest dating to the middle of the 12th century. Gottfried's version, part of the "courtly" branch of the legend, had a huge influence on later German literature.

According to his autobiography, Mein Leben, Wagner decided to dramatise the Tristan legend after his friend, Karl Ritter, attempted to do so, writing that:

He had, in fact, made a point of giving prominence to the lighter phases of the romance, whereas it was its all-pervading tragedy that impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details.

This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a "serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde."

Wagner wrote of his preoccupations with Schopenhauer and Tristan in a letter to Franz Liszt (December 16, 1854):

Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams in which, from the first to the last, love shall, for once, find utter repletion. I have devised in my mind a Tristan und Isolde, the simplest, yet most full-blooded musical conception imaginable, and with the ‘black flag’ that waves at the end I shall cover myself over – to die.

By the end of 1854, Wagner had sketched out all three acts of an opera on the Tristan theme, based on Gottfried von Strassburg's telling of the story. While the earliest extant sketches date from December 1856, it was not until August 1857, that Wagner began devoting his attention entirely to the opera, putting aside the composition of Siegfried to do so. On 20 August he began the prose sketch for the opera, and the libretto (or poem, as Wagner preferred to call it) was completed by September 18. Wagner, at this time, had moved into a cottage built in the grounds of Wesendonck's villa, where, during his work on Tristan und Isolde, he became passionately involved with Mathilde Wesendonck. Whether or not this relationship was platonic remains uncertain. One evening in September of that year, Wagner read the finished poem of "Tristan" to an audience including his wife, Minna, his current muse, Mathilde, and his future mistress (and later wife), Cosima von Bülow.

By October 1857, Wagner had begun the composition sketch of the first Act. During November, however, he set five of Mathilde's poems to music known today as the "Wesendonck Lieder". This was an unusual move by Wagner, who almost never set to music poetic texts other than his own. Wagner described two of the songs - "Im Treibhaus" and "Träume" - as "Studies for Tristan und Isolde": "Träume" uses a motif that forms the love duet in Act 2 of "Tristan", while "Im Treibhaus" introduces a theme that later became the Prelude to Act 3. But Wagner resolved to write Tristan only after he had secured a publishing deal with the Leipzig-based firm Breitkopf & Härtel, in January 1858. From this point on, Wagner finished each act and sent it off for engraving before he started on the next - a remarkable feat given the unprecedented length and complexity of the score.

In April 1858 Wagner's wife Minna intercepted a note from Wagner to Mathilde and, despite Wagner's protests that she was putting a "vulgar interpretation" on the note, she accused first Wagner and then Mathilde of unfaithfulness.[10] After enduring much misery, Wagner persuaded Minna, who had a heart condition, to rest at a spa while Otto Wesendonck took Mathilde to Italy. It was during the absence of the two women that Wagner began the composition sketch of the second Act of Tristan. However, Minna's return in July 1858 did not clear the air, and on August 17, Wagner was forced to leave both Minna and Mathilde and move to Venice.

Wagner would later describe his last days in Zurich as "a veritable Hell". Minna wrote to Mathilde before departing for Dresden:

I must tell you with a bleeding heart that you have succeeded in separating my husband from me after nearly twenty-two years of marriage. May this noble deed contribute to your peace of mind, to your happiness.

Wagner finished the second Act of Tristan during his eight-month exile in Venice, where he lived in the Palazzo Giustinian. In March 1859, fearing extradition to Saxony, where he was still considered a fugitive, Wagner moved to Lucerne where he composed the last Act, completing it in August 1859.




Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld as Tristan and Isolde
 

Premiere
Tristan und Isolde proved to be a difficult opera to stage. Paris, the centre of the operatic world in the middle of the 19th century, was an obvious choice. However, after a disastrous staging of Tannhäuser at the Paris Opéra, Wagner offered the work to the Karlsruhe opera in 1861. When he visited the Vienna Court Opera to rehearse possible singers for this production, the management at Vienna suggested staging the opera there. Originally, the tenor Alois Ander was employed to sing the part of Tristan, but later proved incapable of learning the role. Despite over 70 rehearsals between 1862 and 1864, Tristan und Isolde was unable to be staged in Vienna, winning the opera a reputation as unperformable.

It was only after Ludwig II of Bavaria became a sponsor of Wagner (he granted the composer a generous stipend and in other ways supported Wagner's artistic endeavours) that enough resources could be found to mount the premiere of Tristan und Isolde. Hans von Bülow was chosen to conduct the production at the Munich Opera, despite the fact that Wagner was having an affair with his wife, Cosima von Bülow. Even then, the planned premiere on 15 May 1865 had to be postponed because the Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, had gone hoarse. The work finally premiered on 10 June 1865. Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld sang the role of Tristan and Malvina, his wife, sang Isolde.

On 21 July 1865, having sung the role only four times, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld died suddenly—prompting speculation that the exertion involved in singing the part of Tristan had killed him. (The stress of performing Tristan has also "claimed" the lives of conductors Felix Mottl in 1911 and Joseph Keilberth in 1968. Both men died after collapsing while conducting the second Act of the opera.) Malvina sank into a deep depression over her husband's death, and never sang again, although she lived for another 38 years.

For some years thereafter, the only performers of the roles were another husband-wife team, Heinrich Vogl and Therese Vogl.

Performance history
The next production of Tristan was in Weimar in 1874, and Wagner himself supervised another production of Tristan, this time in Berlin, in March 1876, but the opera was only given in his own theatre at the Bayreuth Festival, after Wagner's death. Cosima Wagner, his widow, oversaw the first Bayreuth production of Tristan in 1886, a production that was widely acclaimed.

The first production outside of Germany was given at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1882; the Tristan was Hermann Winkelmann, later that year to create Parsifal at Bayreuth. It was conducted by Hans Richter, who also conducted the first Covent Garden production two years later. Winkelmann was also the first Vienna Tristan, in 1883. The first American performance was at the Metropolitan Opera in December 1886 under the baton of Anton Seidl. Perhaps the most celebrated was Herbert von Karajan's live 1952 performance from Bayreuth, with Martha Mödl and Ramón Vinay in the title roles.

Significance in the development of romantic music
The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been cited as a landmark in the development of Western music. Wagner uses throughout Tristan a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony and polyphony and does so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas. The very first chord in the piece, the Tristan chord, is of great significance in the move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord:

The opera is noted for its numerous expansions of harmonic practice; for instance, one significant innovation is the frequent use of two consecutive chords containing tritones (diminished fifth or augmented fourth) neither of which is a diminished seventh chord (F-B, bar 2; E-A-sharp, bar 3). Tristan und Isolde is also notable for its use of harmonic suspension—a device used by a composer to create musical tension by exposing the listener to a series of prolonged unfinished cadences, thereby inspiring a desire and expectation on the part of the listener for musical resolution. While suspension is a common compositional device (in use since before the Renaissance), Wagner was one of the first composers to employ harmonic suspension over the course of an entire work. The cadences first introduced in the Prelude are not resolved until the finale of Act 3, and, on a number of occasions throughout the opera, Wagner primes the audience for a musical climax with a series of chords building in tension—only to deliberately defer the anticipated resolution. One particular example of this technique occurs at the end of the love duet in Act 2 ("Wie sie fassen, wie sie lassen...") where Tristan and Isolde gradually build up to a musical climax, only to have the expected resolution destroyed by the dissonant interruption of Kurwenal ("Rette Dich, Tristan!"). The deferred resolutions are frequently interpreted as symbolising both physical sexual release and spiritual release via suicide. The long-awaited completion of this cadence series arrives only in the final Liebestod (""Love-Death""), during which the musical resolution (at "In des Welt-Atems wehendem All") coincides with the moment of Isolde's death.

The tonality of Tristan was to prove immensely influential in western Classical music. Wagner's use of musical colour also influenced the development of film music. Bernard Herrmann's score for Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo, is heavily reminiscent of the Liebestod, most evident concerning the resurrection scene. The Liebestod was incorporated in Luis Buñuel's Surrealist film L'Age d'Or. Not all composers, however, reacted favourably: Claude Debussy's piano piece "Golliwog's Cakewalk" mockingly quotes the opening of the opera in a distorted form, instructing the passage to be played 'avec une grande emotion'. However, Debussy was highly influenced by Wagner and was particularly fond of "Tristan." Frequent references to "Tristan" tonality mark Debussy's early compositions.

Synopsis

Act 1

Isolde, promised to King Marke in marriage, and her handmaid, Brangäne, are quartered aboard Tristan's ship being transported to the king's lands in Cornwall. The opera opens with the voice of a young sailor singing of a "wild Irish maid", ("West-wärts schweift der Blick") which Isolde construes to be a mocking reference to herself. In a furious outburst, she wishes the seas to rise up and sink the ship, killing herself and all on board ("Erwache mir wieder, kühne Gewalt"). Her scorn and rage are directed particularly at Tristan, the knight responsible for taking her to Marke, and Isolde sends Brangäne to command Tristan to appear before her ("Befehlen liess' dem Eigenholde"). Tristan, however, refuses Brangäne's request, claiming that his place is at the helm. His henchman, Kurwenal, answers more brusquely, saying that Isolde is in no position to command Tristan and reminds Brangäne that Isolde's previous fiancé, Morold, was killed by Tristan ("Herr Morold zog zu Meere her.")

Brangäne returns to Isolde to relate these events, and Isolde, in what is termed the "narrative and curse", sadly tells her of how, following the death of Morold, she happened upon a stranger who called himself Tantris. Tantris was found mortally wounded in a barge ("von einem Kahn, der klein und arm"), Isolde used her healing powers to restore him to health. She discovered during Tantris' recovery, however, that he was actually Tristan, the murderer of her fiancé. Isolde attempted to kill the man with his own sword as he lay helpless before her. However, Tristan looked not at the sword that would kill him or the hand that wielded the sword, but into her eyes ("Er sah' mir in die Augen"). His action pierced her heart and she was unable to slay him. Tristan was allowed to leave with the promise never to come back, but he later returned with the intention of marrying Isolde to his uncle, King Marke. Isolde, furious at Tristan's betrayal, insists that he drink atonement to her, and from her medicine-chest produces a vial to make the drink. Brangäne is shocked to see that it is a lethal poison.

Kurwenal appears in the women's quarters ("Auf auf! Ihr Frauen!") and announces that the voyage is coming to an end, Isolde warns Kurwenal that she will not appear before the King if Tristan does not come before her as she had previously ordered and drink atonement to her. When Tristan arrives, Isolde reproaches him about his conduct and tells him that he owes her his life and how his actions have undermined her honour, since she blessed Morold's weapons before battle and therefore she swore revenge. Tristan first offers his sword but Isolde refuses, they must drink atonement. Brangäne brings in the potion that will seal their pardon, Tristan knows that it may kill him, since he knows Isolde's magic powers ("Wohl kenn' ich Irland's Königin"). The journey is almost at its end, Tristan drinks and Isolde takes half the potion for herself. The potion seems to work but it does not bring death but relentless love ("Tristan! Isolde!"). Kurwenal, who announces the imminent arrival on board of King Marke, interrupts their rapture. Isolde asks Brangäne which potion she prepared and Brangäne replies, as the sailors hail the arrival of King Marke, that it was not poison, but rather a love potion.


Act 2

King Marke leads a hunting party out into the night, leaving the castle empty save for Isolde and Brangäne, who stand beside a burning brazier. Isolde, listening to the hunting horns, believes several times that the hunting party is far enough away to warrant the extinguishing of the brazier—the prearranged signal for Tristan to join her ("Nicht Hörnerschall tönt so hold"). Brangäne warns Isolde that Melot, one of King Marke's knights, has seen the amorous looks exchanged between Tristan and Isolde and suspects their passion ("Ein Einz'ger war's, ich achtet' es wohl"). Isolde, however, believes Melot to be Tristan's most loyal friend, and, in a frenzy of desire, extinguishes the flames. Brangäne retires to the ramparts to keep watch as Tristan arrives.

The lovers, at last alone and freed from the constraints of courtly life, declare their passion for each other. Tristan decries the realm of daylight which is false, unreal, and keeps them apart. It is only in night, he claims, that they can truly be together and only in the long night of death can they be eternally united ("O sink' hernieder, Nacht der Liebe"). During their long tryst, Brangäne calls a warning several times that the night is ending ("Einsam wachend in der Nacht"), but her cries fall upon deaf ears. The day breaks in on the lovers as Melot leads King Marke and his men to find Tristan and Isolde in each other's arms. Marke is heart-broken, not only because of his nephew's betrayal but also because Melot chose to betray his friend Tristan to Marke and because of Isolde's betrayal as well ("Mir - dies? Dies, Tristan - mir?").

When questioned, Tristan says he cannot answer to the King the reason of his betrayal since he would not understand, he turns to Isolde, who agrees to follow him again into the realm of night. Tristan announces that Melot has fallen in love with Isolde too. Melot and Tristan fight, but, at the crucial moment, Tristan throws his sword aside and allows Melot to severely wound him.

Act 3
Kurwenal has brought Tristan home to his castle at Kareol in Brittany. A shepherd pipes a mournful tune and asks if Tristan is awake. Kurwenal replies that only Isolde's arrival can save Tristan, and the shepherd offers to keep watch and claims that he will pipe a joyful tune to mark the arrival of any ship. Tristan awakes ("Die alte Weise - was weckt sie mich?") and laments his fate — to be, once again, in the false realm of daylight, once more driven by unceasing unquenchable yearning ("Wo ich erwacht' Weilt ich nicht"). Tristan's sorrow ends when Kurwenal tells him that Isolde is on her way. Tristan, overjoyed, asks if her ship is in sight, but only a sorrowful tune from the shepherd's pipe is heard.

Tristan relapses and recalls that the shepherd's mournful tune is the same as was played when he was told of the deaths of his father and mother ("Muss ich dich so versteh'n, du alte, ernst Weise"). He rails once again against his desires and against the fateful love-potion ("verflucht sei, furchtbarer Trank!") until, exhausted, he collapses in delirium. After his collapse, the shepherd is heard piping the arrival of Isolde's ship, and, as Kurwenal rushes to meet her, Tristan tears the bandages from his wounds in his excitement ("Hahei! Mein Blut, lustig nun fliesse!"). As Isolde arrives at his side, Tristan dies with her name on his lips.

Isolde collapses beside her deceased lover just as the appearance of another ship is announced. Kurwenal spies Melot, Marke and Brangäne arriving ("Tod und Hölle! Alles zur Hand!"), he believes they have come to kill Tristan and, in an attempt to avenge him, furiously attacks Melot. Marke tries to stop the fight to no avail. Both Melot and Kurwenal are killed in the fight. Marke and Brangäne finally reach Tristan and Isolde. Marke, grieving over the body of his "truest friend" ("Tot denn alles!"), explains that Brangäne revealed the secret of the love-potion and has come not to part the lovers, but to unite them ("Warum Isolde, warum mir das?"). Isolde appears to wake at this and in a final aria describing her vision of Tristan risen again (the "Liebestod", "love death"), dies ("Mild und leise wie er lächelt").

Influence of Schopenhauer on Tristan und Isolde
Wagner's friend Georg Herwegh introduced him in late 1854 to the work of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The composer was immediately struck by the philosophical ideas to be found in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation), and the similarities between the two men's world-views became clear.

Man, according to Schopenhauer, is driven by continued, unachievable desires, and the gulf between our desires and the possibility of achieving them leads to misery while the world is a representation of an unknowable reality. Our representation of the world is Phenomenon, while the unknowable reality is Noumenon: concepts originally posited by Kant. Schopenhauer's influence on Tristan und Isolde is most evident in the second and third acts. The second act, in which the lovers meet, and the third act, during which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer's work.

Wagner uses the metaphor of day and night in the second act to designate the realms inhabited by Tristan and Isolde. The world of Day is one in which the lovers are bound by the dictates of King Marke's court and in which the lovers must smother their mutual love and pretend as if they do not care for each other: it is a realm of falsehood and unreality. Under the dictates of the realm of Day, Tristan was forced to remove Isolde from Ireland and to marry her to his Uncle Marke—actions against Tristan's secret desires. The realm of Night, in contrast, is the representation of intrinsic reality, in which the lovers can be together and their desires can be openly expressed and reach fulfilment: it is the realm of oneness, truth and reality and can only be achieved fully upon the deaths of the lovers. The realm of Night, therefore, becomes also the realm of death: the only world in which Tristan and Isolde can be as one forever, and it is this realm that Tristan speaks of at the end of Act Two ("Dem Land das Tristan meint, der Sonne Licht nicht scheint"). In Act Three, Tristan rages against the daylight and frequently cries out for release from his desires (Sehnen). In this way, Wagner implicitly equates the realm of Day with Schopenhauer's concept of Phenomenon and the realm of Night with Schopenhauer's concept of Noumenon. While none of this is explicitly stated in the libretto, Tristan's comments on Day and Night in Acts 2 and 3, as well as musical allusions to "Tristan" in The Mastersingers of Nürnberg and Parsifal make it very clear that this was, in fact, Wagner's intention.

The world-view of Schopenhauer dictates that the only way for man to achieve inner peace is to renounce his desires: a theme that Wagner explored fully in his last opera, Parsifal. In fact Wagner even considered having the character of Parsifal meet Tristan during his sufferings in Act 3, but later rejected the idea.

Reactions to Tristan und Isolde
Although Tristan und Isolde is now widely performed in major opera houses around the world, critical opinion of the opera was initially unfavourable. The 5 July 1865 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung reported:

Not to mince words, it is the glorification of sensual pleasure, tricked out with every titillating device, it is unremitting materialism, according to which human beings have no higher destiny than, after living the life of turtle doves, ‘to vanish in sweet odours, like a breath'. In the service of this end, music has been enslaved to the word; the most ideal of the Muses has been made to grind the colours for indecent paintings... (Wagner) makes sensuality itself the true subject of his drama.... We think that the stage presentation of the poem Tristan und Isolde amounts to an act of indecency. Wagner does not show us the life of heroes of Nordic sagas which would edify and strengthen the spirit of his German audiences. What he does present is the ruination of the life of heroes through sensuality.
Eduard Hanslick's reaction in 1868 to the Prelude to Tristan was that it "reminds one of the old Italian painting of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel." The first performance in London's Drury Lane Theatre drew the following response from The Era in 1882:

We cannot refrain from making a protest against the worship of animal passion which is so striking a feature in the late works of Wagner. We grant there is nothing so repulsive in Tristan as in Die Walküre, but the system is the same. The passion is unholy in itself and its representation is impure, and for those reasons we rejoice in believing that such works will not become popular. If they did we are certain their tendency would be mischievous, and there is, therefore, some cause for congratulation in the fact that Wagner's music, in spite of all its wondrous skill and power, repels a greater number than it fascinates.
Mark Twain, on a visit to Germany, heard Tristan at Bayreuth and commented: "I know of some, and have heard of many, who could not sleep after it, but cried the night away. I feel strongly out of place here. Sometimes I feel like the one sane person in the community of the mad; sometimes I feel like the one blind man where all others see; the one groping savage in the college of the learned, and always, during service, I feel like a heretic in heaven."

Clara Schumann wrote that Tristan und Isolde was "the most repugnant thing I have ever seen or heard in all my life".

With the passage of time, Tristan became more favourably regarded. In an interview shortly before his death, Giuseppe Verdi said that he "stood in wonder and terror" before Wagner's Tristan.[29] In The Perfect Wagnerite, writer and satirist George Bernard Shaw writes that Tristan was "an astonishingly intense and faithful translation into music of the emotions which accompany the union of a pair of lovers" and described it as "a poem of destruction and death". Richard Strauss, initially dismissive of Tristan, claimed that Wagner's music "would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of [its] hideous discords." Later, however, Strauss became part of the Bayreuth coterie and writing to Cosima Wagner in 1892 declared: "I have conducted my first Tristan. It was the most wonderful day of my life." He later wrote that "Tristan und Isolde marked the end of all romanticism. Here the yearning of the entire 19th century is gathered in one focal point."[citation needed]

The conductor Bruno Walter heard his first Tristan und Isolde in 1889 as a student:

So there I sat in the topmost gallery of the Berlin Opera House, and from the first sound of the cellos my heart contracted spasmodically... Never before has my soul been deluged with such floods of sound and passion, never had my heart been consumed by such yearning and sublime bliss... A new epoch had begun: Wagner was my god, and I wanted to become his prophet.
Arnold Schoenberg referred to Wagner's technique of shifting chords in Tristan as "phenomena of incredible adaptability and nonindependence roaming, homeless, among the spheres of keys; spies reconnoitering weaknesses; to exploit them in order to create confusion, deserters for whom surrender of their own personality is an end in itself".

Friedrich Nietzsche, who in his younger years was one of Wagner's staunchest allies, wrote that, for him, "Tristan and Isolde is the real opus metaphysicum of all art ... insatiable and sweet craving for the secrets of night and death ... it is overpowering in its simple grandeur". In a letter to his friend Erwin Rohde in October 1868, Nietzsche described his reaction to Tristan's Prelude: "I simply cannot bring myself to remain critically aloof from this music; every nerve in me is atwitch, and it has been a long time since I had such a lasting sense of ecstasy as with this overture". Even after his break with Wagner, Nietzsche continued to consider Tristan a masterpiece: "Even now I am still in search of a work which exercises such a dangerous fascination, such a spine-tingling and blissful infinity as Tristan — I have sought in vain, in every art."

Marcel Proust, greatly influenced by Wagner, refers to Tristan und Isolde and its "inexhaustible repetitions" throughout his novel In Search of Lost Time. He describes the Prelude theme as "linked to the future, to the reality of the human soul, of which it was one of the most special and distinctive ornaments."

Recordings
Tristan und Isolde has a long recorded history and most of the major Wagner conductors since the end of the First World War have had their interpretations captured on disc. The limitations of recording technology meant that until the 1930s it was difficult to record the entire opera, however recordings of excerpts or single acts exist going back to 1901, when excerpts of Tristan were captured on the Mapleson Cylinders recorded during performances at the Metropolitan opera.

In the years before World War II, Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior were considered to be the prime interpreters of the lead roles, and mono recordings exist of this pair in a number of live performances led by conductors such as Thomas Beecham, Fritz Reiner, Artur Bodanzky and Erich Leinsdorf. Flagstad recorded the part commercially only near the end of her career in 1952, under Wilhelm Furtwängler for EMI, producing a set which is considered a classic recording.

Following the war, another classic recording is the 1952 performance at the Bayreuth Festival with Martha Mödl and Ramon Vinay under Herbert von Karajan, which is noted for its strong, vivid characterizations and is now available as a live recording. In the 1960s, the soprano Birgit Nilsson was considered the major Isolde interpreter, and she was often partnered with the Tristan of Wolfgang Windgassen. Their performance at Bayreuth in 1966 under the baton of Karl Böhm was captured by Deutsche Grammophon—a performance often hailed as one of the best Tristan recordings.

Karajan did not record the opera officially until 1971–72. Karajan's selection of a lighter soprano voice (Helga Dernesch) as Isolde, paired with an extremely intense Jon Vickers and the unusual balance between orchestra and singers favoured by Karajan was controversial. In the 1980s recordings by conductors such as Carlos Kleiber, Reginald Goodall and Leonard Bernstein were mostly considered to be important for the interpretation of the conductor, rather than that of the lead performers. The set by Kleiber is notable as Isolde was sung by the famous Mozartian soprano Margaret Price, who never sang the role of Isolde on stage. The same is true for Plácido Domingo, who sang the role of Tristan to critical acclaim in the 2005 EMI release under the baton of Antonio Pappano despite never having sung the role on stage. In the last ten years acclaimed sets include a studio recording with the Berlin Philharmonic by Daniel Barenboim and a live set from the Vienna Staatsoper led by Christian Thielemann.

There are several DVD productions of the opera including Götz Friedrich's production at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin featuring the seasoned Wagnerians René Kollo and Dame Gwyneth Jones in the title roles. Deutsche Grammophon released a DVD of a Metropolitan Opera performance featuring Jane Eaglen and Ben Heppner, conducted by James Levine, in a production staged by Dieter Dorn and a DVD of the 1993 Bayreuth festival production with conductor Daniel Barenboim and featuring Waltraud Meier as Isolde and Siegfried Jerusalem as Tristan, staged by Heiner Mueller. More recently Barenboim's production at La Scala, Milan in the production by Patrice Chéreau has also been issued on DVD. There is also a technically flawed, but historically important video recording with Birgit Nilsson and Jon Vickers from a 1973 live performance at the Théâtre antique d'Orange, conducted by Karl Böhm.

In a world first, the British opera house Glyndebourne made a full digital video download of the opera available for purchase online in 2009. The performance stars Robert Gambill as Tristan, Nina Stemme as Isolde, Katarina Karnéus as Brangäne, Bo Skovhus as Kurwenal, René Pape as King Marke, and Stephen Gadd as Melot, with Jiří Bělohlávek as the conductor, and was recorded on 1 and 6 August 2007.

Concert extracts and arrangements
The Prelude and Liebestod is a concert version of the overture and Isolde's Act 3 aria, "Mild und leise". The arrangement was by Wagner himself, and it was first performed in 1862, several years before the premiere of the complete opera in 1865. The Liebestod can be performed either in a purely orchestral version, or with a soprano singing Isolde's vision of Tristan resurrected.

However, the very first time the Prelude and its opening "Tristan chord" was heard publicly was on 12 March 1859, when it was performed at the Sophieninselsaal in Prague, in a charity concert in aid of poor medical students, conducted by Hans von Bülow, who provided his own concert ending for the occasion. Wagner had authorised such an ending, but did not like what Bülow had done with it and later wrote his own.

Wagner called the Prelude the "Liebestod" (Love-death) while Isolde's final aria "Mild und leise" he called the "Verklärung" (Transfiguration). In 1867 his father-in-law Franz Liszt made a piano transcription of "Mild und leise", which he called Liebestod (S.447); he prefaced his score with a four-bar motto from the Love Duet from Act II, which in the opera is sung to the words "sehnend verlangter Liebestod". Liszt's transcription became well known throughout Europe well before Wagner's opera reached most places, and it is Liszt's title for the final scene that persists. The transcription was revised in 1875.

Another composer to rework material from Tristan was Emmanuel Chabrier in his humorous Souvenirs de Munich - quadrilles on themes from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. These were augmented and orchestrated by Markus Lehmann in 1988. Leopold Stokowski made a series of purely orchestral "Symphonic Syntheses" of Wagner's operas during his time as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, bringing to concert audiences of the 1920s and '30s music they might not otherwise have heard. He made a 'long version' of music from Tristan and Isolde which consisted mainly of the Act 1 Prelude, the Liebesnacht from Act 2 and the Liebestod from Act 3. A shorter version of music from the 2nd and 3rd acts was called "Love Music from Tristan and Isolde". He made recordings of both versions on 78s and again on LP.

Other works based on the opera include:

Clément Doucet's piano rags Isoldina and Wagneria.
Hans Werner Henze's Tristan: Préludes für Klavier, Tonbänder un Orchester (1973);
a 'symphonic compilation' Tristan und Isolde: an orchestral passion (1994) by Henk de Vlieger;
a six-minute paraphrase by Enjott Schnieder, Der Minuten-Tristan (1996), originally written for 12 pianists at six pianos;
the Nachtstück (1980–83) for viola and chamber orchestra by Volker David Kirchner
David Bowerman's 'Isolde Fantasy' for violin and piano

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
Wagner - Tristan und Isolde
 
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra: Berliner Philarmoniker
Vocal: H. Dernesch, J. Vickers, C. Ludwig, W. Berry

0:00 Act I
1:25:10 Act II
2:45:28 Act III

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Flying Dutchman - 1843
 
 
Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), WWV 63, is a German-language opera, with libretto and music by Richard Wagner.

Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write the opera following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839. In his 1843 Autobiographic Sketch, Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from Heinrich Heine's retelling of the legend in his 1833 satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski). The central theme is redemption through love.

Wagner conducted the premiere at the Semper Oper in Dresden in 1843. This work shows early attempts at operatic styles that would characterise his later music dramas. In Der fliegende Holländer Wagner uses a number of leitmotifs (literally, "leading motifs") associated with the characters and themes. The leitmotifs are all introduced in the overture, which begins with a well-known ocean or storm motif before moving into the Dutchman and Senta motifs.

Wagner originally wrote the work to be performed without intermission – an example of his efforts to break with tradition – and, while today's opera houses sometimes still follow this directive, it is also performed in a three-act version.


Composition history

By the beginning of 1839, the now 26 year old Richard Wagner was employed as a conductor at the Court Theatre in Riga. His extravagant lifestyle plus the retirement from the stage of his actress wife, Minna, caused him to run up huge debts that he was unable to repay. Wagner was writing Rienzi and hatched a plan to flee his creditors in Riga, escape to Paris via London and make his fortune by putting Rienzi on to the stage of the Paris Opéra. However, this plan quickly turned to disaster: his passport having been seized by the authorities on behalf of his creditors, he and Minna had to make a dangerous and illegal crossing over the Prussian border, during which Minna suffered a miscarriage. Boarding the ship Thetis, whose captain had agreed to take them without passports, their sea journey was hindered by storms and high seas. The ship at one point took refuge in the Norwegian fjords at Tvedestrand, and a trip that was expected to take eight days finally delivered Wagner to London three weeks after leaving Riga.

Wagner's experience of Paris was also disastrous. He was unable to get work as a conductor, and the Opéra did not want to produce Rienzi. The Wagners were reduced to poverty, relying on handouts from friends and from the little income that Wagner could make writing articles on music and copying scores. Wagner hit on the idea of a one-act opera on the theme of the Flying Dutchman, which he hoped might be performed before a ballet at the Opéra.

The voyage through the Norwegian reefs made a wonderful impression on my imagination; the legend of the Flying Dutchman, which the sailors verified, took on a distinctive, strange colouring that only my sea adventures could have given it.

Wagner wrote the first prose draft of the story in Paris early in May 1840, basing the story on Heinrich Heine's satire "The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski" ("Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski") published in Der Salon in 1834. In Heine's tale, the narrator watches a performance of a fictitious stage play on the theme of the sea captain cursed to sail forever for blasphemy. Heine introduces the character as a Wandering Jew of the ocean, and also added the device taken up so vigorously by Wagner in this, and many subsequent operas: the Dutchman can only be redeemed by the love of a faithful woman. In Heine's version, this is presented as a means for ironic humour; however, Wagner took this theme literally and in his draft, the woman is faithful until death.

By the end of May 1841 Wagner had completed the libretto or poem as he preferred to call it. Composition of the music had begun during May to July of the previous year, 1840, when Wagner wrote Senta's Ballad, the Norwegian Sailors' song in act 3 ("Steuermann, lass die Wacht!") and the subsequent Phantom song of the Dutchman's crew in the same scene. These were composed for an audition at the Paris Opéra, along with the sketch of the plot. Wagner actually sold the sketch to the Director of the Opéra, Léon Pillet, for 500 francs, but was unable to convince him that the music was worth anything. Wagner composed the rest of the Der Fliegende Holländer during the summer of 1841, with the Overture being written last, and by November 1841 the orchestration of the score was complete. While this score was designed to be played continuously in a single act, Wagner later divided the piece into a three-act work. In doing so, however, he did not alter the music significantly, but merely interrupted transitions that had originally been crafted to flow seamlessly (the original one-act layout is restored in some performances).

In his original draft Wagner set the action in Scotland, but he changed the location to Norway shortly before the first production staged in Dresden and conducted by himself in January 1843.

In his essay "A Communication to My Friends" in 1851, Wagner claimed that The Dutchman represented a new start for him: "From here begins my career as poet, and my farewell to the mere concoctor of opera-texts." Indeed, to this day the opera is the earliest of Wagner's works to be performed at the Bayreuth Festival, and, at least for that theatre, marks the start of the mature Wagner canon.

Synopsis
Place: On the coast of Norway

Act 1

On his homeward journey, the sea captain Daland is compelled by stormy weather to seek a port of refuge near Sandwike, Norway. He leaves the helmsman on watch and he and the sailors retire. (Song of the helmsman: "Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer" – "With tempest and storm on distant seas.") The helmsman falls asleep. A ghostly vessel appearing astern is dashed against Daland's vessel by the sea and the grappling irons hold the two ships together. Invisible hands furl the sails. A man of pale aspect, dressed in black, his face framed by a thick black beard, steps ashore. He laments his fate. (Aria: "Die Frist ist um, und abermals verstrichen sind sieben Jahr" – "The time has come and seven years have again elapsed") Because he once invoked Satan, the ghost captain is cursed to roam the sea forever without rest. An angel brought to him the terms of his redemption: every seven years the waves will cast him upon the shore; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse.

Daland wakes up and meets the stranger. The stranger hears that Daland has an unmarried daughter named Senta, and he asks for her hand in marriage, offering a chest of treasure as a gift. Tempted by gold, Daland agrees to the marriage. The southwind blows and both vessels set sail for Daland's home.

Act 2
A group of local girls are singing and spinning in Daland's house. (Spinning chorus: "Summ und brumm, du gutes Rädchen" – "Whir and whirl, good wheel") Senta, Daland's daughter, dreamily gazes upon a gorgeous picture of the legendary Dutchman that hangs from the wall; she desires to save him. Against the will of her nurse, she sings to her friends the story of the Dutchman (Ballad with the Leitmotiv), how Satan heard him swear and took him at his word. She vows to save him by her fidelity.

The huntsman Erik, Senta's former boyfriend, arrives and hears her; the girls depart, and the huntsman, who loves the maiden, warns her, telling her of his dream, in which Daland returned with a mysterious stranger, who carried her off to sea. She listens with delight, and Erik leaves in despair.

Daland arrives with the stranger; he and Senta stand gazing at each other in silence. Daland is scarcely noticed by his daughter, even when he presents his guest as her betrothed. In the following duet, which closes the act, Senta swears to be true till death.

Act 3
Later in the evening, the local girls bring Daland's men food and drink. They invite the crew of the strange vessel to join in the merry-making, but in vain. The girls retire in wonder; ghostly forms appear at work upon the vessel The Flying Dutchman, and Daland's men retreat in fear.

Senta arrives, followed by Erik, who reproves her for deserting him, as she had formerly loved him and vowed constancy. When the stranger, who has been listening, hears these words, he is overwhelmed with despair, as he thinks he is now forever lost. He summons his men, tells Senta of the curse, and to the consternation of Daland and his crew declares that he is the "Flying Dutchman".

As the Dutchman sets sail, Senta throws herself into the sea, claiming that she will be faithful to him unto death. This is his salvation. The spectral ship disappears, and Senta and the Dutchman are seen ascending to heaven.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
 
Wagner - Der Fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tannhauser - 1845
 
 
Tannhauser (full title Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg / Tannhäuser and the Singers' Contest at Wartburg Castle) is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg. The story centers on the struggle between sacred and profane love, and redemption through love, a theme running through most of Wagner's mature work.
 
 

John Collier - Venusberg Scene from Tannhäuser
 
 




Dresden 1845
 

Dresden première
The first performance was given in the Royal Theater in Dresden on 19 October 1845. The composer Ferdinand Hiller, at that time a friend of the composer, assisted in the musical preparations for the production. The part of Elizabeth was sung by Wagner's niece Johanna Wagner. Wagner had intended to premiere the opera on 13 October, Johanna's 19th birthday, but she was ill, so it was postponed by six days. Venus was created by Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, and the title role was taken by Josef Tichatschek. The performance was conducted by the composer. Tannhäuser was not the success that Rienzi had been, and Wagner almost immediately set to modifying the ending, tinkering with the score through 1846 and 1847. There were performances in Schwerin, Breslau, Freiburg, Wiesbaden [1852]; Frankfurt-am-Main., Riga, Leipzig, Poznan, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Königsberg, Köln [1853]; Graz and Prague [1854]

This version of the opera, as revised for publication in 1860 (including some changes to the final scene) is generally known as the "Dresden" version.

The Paris version
Wagner substantially amended the opera for a special 1861 performance by the Paris Opéra. This had been requested by Emperor Napoleon III at the suggestion of Princess Pauline von Metternich, wife of the Austrian ambassador to France. This revision forms the basis of what is now known as the "Paris version" of Tannhäuser.

Wagner had originally hoped the Parisian première would take place at the Théâtre Lyrique. However, the première was at the Paris Opéra, so the composer had to insert a ballet into the score, according to the traditions of the house. Wagner agreed to this condition since he believed that a success at the Opéra represented his most significant opportunity to re-establish himself following his exile from Germany. However, rather than put the ballet in its traditional place in Act II, he chose to place it in Act I, where it could at least make some dramatic sense by representing the sensual world of Venus's realm. Thus in Tannhäuser the ballet takes the form of a bacchanale.

The changes to the score in the Paris version, apart from the ballet, included:

The text was translated into French (by Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter and others).
Venus, a role that in the Dresden version was considered a soprano, now calls for a mezzo soprano.
Venus' aria "Geliebter, komm!" was transposed down half a step and was completely altered from "...wonnige Glut durchschwelle dein Herz". From this point the Dresden and the Paris version arias go in two different directions.
A solo for Walther was removed from Act 2.
Extra lines for Venus following Tannhäuser's "Hymn to Love" were added.
The orchestral introduction to Act 3 was shortened.
The end of the opera was reworked to include Venus on stage, where before the audience only heard the Venus motif. Wagner thought that prior to the change, audiences were confused about what was happening onstage.

The Paris première

Tannhäuser's first performance in Paris was given on 13 March 1861 at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opéra. The composer had been closely involved in its preparation and there had been 164 rehearsals.

However, there was a serious planned assault on the opera's reception by members of the wealthy and aristocratic Jockey Club. Their custom was to arrive at the Opéra only in time for the Act II ballet, after previously dining, and, as often as not, to leave after the close of the ballet, some of whose dancers were romanced by members of the Jockey Club. They objected to the ballet coming in Act I, since this meant they would have to be present from the beginning of the opera. Furthermore, they disliked Princess von Metternich, who had arranged the performance, and her native country of Austria. Club members led barracking from the audience with whistles and cat-calls. At the third performance on 24 March, this uproar caused several interruptions of up to fifteen minutes at a time. As a consequence, Wagner withdrew the opera after the third performance. This marked the end to Wagner's hopes of establishing himself in Paris, at that time the center of the operatic world.

Performance history
A few further changes to Tannhäuser were made for an 1875 performance of the opera in Vienna, carried out under Wagner's supervision. These included linking the end of the overture to the start of the opera proper. The 1875 Vienna version is that normally used in modern productions of the "Paris" version, often with the reinstatement of Walther's Act 2 solo.[10] Wagner remained unsatisfied with the opera. His wife Cosima noted in her diary on 23 January 1883 (three weeks before he died) "He says he still owes the world Tannhäuser."

Other premières
First performances of the "Dresden" version" of Tannhäuser',

Riga on 18 January 1853, the first performance abroad.
Prague on 25 November 1854 at Theatre of the Estates.
New York on 4 April 1859 at the Stadt Theatre, the first performance in the United States.
Timisoara on 13 January 1866
London on 6 May 1876 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the first performance in England.
Sydney on 14 January 1901 at the Royal Theatre, the first performance in Australia.
Premieres of the "Paris" version were given in New York at the Metropolitan Opera on 30 January 1889, at London's Royal Opera House on 15 July 1895 and in Bologna on 7 November 1872 at the Teatro Comunale, the first performance in Italy under conductor Angelo Mariani with Gottardo Aldighieri.

Roles
Note

Although the libretto and the score always use the single name Tannhäuser in stage directions involving the title character or in indicating which passages are sung by him, that name never appears as part of the lyrics. Rather, each character who addresses Tannhäuser by name uses the given name Heinrich.
The distinct character Heinrich der Schreiber sings many melodies distinct from all other named characters, and occasionally unique lyrics. However, in the libretto he finds individual mention only in the list of characters, with the ensemble numbers that include him being labelled for the Ritter (i.e., "knights", referring to the Minnesinger, who all share knightly rank). The score (at least in the Schirmer edition) labels his melody line simply "Schreiber".


Instrumentation

Tannhäuser is scored for the following instruments:

3 flutes (one doubles piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba
timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine
harp
1st and 2nd violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses
on-stage
cor anglais, 4 oboes, 6 clarinets, 4 bassoons, 12 horns, 12 trumpets, 4 trombones, snare drum, cymbals, tambourine



Final Scene of Tannhäuser- Bayreuth 1930


Synopsis

Place: near Eisenach
Time: early 13th century

Act 1

The Venusberg, (the Hörselberg of "Frau Holda" in Thuringia, in the vicinity of Eisenach)

Tannhäuser is held there a willing captive through his love for Venus. (Ballet scene; bacchanalian music.) Following the orgy of the ballet, Tannhäuser's desires are finally satiated, and he longs for freedom, spring and the sound of church bells. Once again he takes up his harp and pays homage to the goddess in a passionate love song, which he ends with an earnest plea to be allowed to depart. When Venus again tries to charm him, he declares: "My salvation rests in Mary, the mother of God." These words break the unholy spell. Venus and her attendants disappear, and he suddenly finds himself just below the Wartburg. It is springtime; a young shepherd sits upon a rock and pipes an ode to spring. Pilgrims in procession pass Tannhäuser as he stands motionless, and he sinks to his knees, overcome with gratitude. He is discovered by the landgrave and his companions, Wolfram, Walther, Biterolf, Reinmar, and Heinrich. They joyfully welcome the young singer, who had originally fled from the court because he was shamefully bested in the prize-singing contest. He initially refuses to join them, but when Wolfram informs him that his song has gained for him the heart of Elisabeth, he relents and follows the landgrave and the singers to the Wartburg.

Act 2

The Wartburg in Eisenach
Hall of the Wartburg

Elisabeth has been living in seclusion since Tannhäuser's disappearance. When she hears of his return, she joyfully agrees to be present at a prize contest of song, and enters the hall. ("Dich, teure Halle.") Wolfram leads Tannhäuser to her; he loves her, but dares not tell her the evil he has done. The Landgrave and Elisabeth receive the guests who assemble for the contest, the noblemen of the neighbourhood, who appear in rich attire. (March and chorus.) The Landgrave announces the subject of the contestants' songs is to be "love's awakening". Elisabeth will grant the victor one wish, whatever it may be. Wolfram performs first; he declares that love is like a pure stream, which should never be troubled. Tannhäuser replies hotly that he finds the highest love only in the pleasure of the senses. The other singers support Wolfram. Tannhäuser replies to each separately, and at last in growing excitement he answers Wolfram with a love song to Venus, and declares that if the knights wish to know love as it is they should repair to the Venusberg. The women, with the exception of Elisabeth, leave the hall in horror, and the knights draw swords upon Tannhäuser, but Elisabeth protects him. Tannhäuser then expresses his penitence for his outburst, and the Landgrave allows him to join a band of pilgrims bound for Rome, where he may perhaps obtain forgiveness and redemption from the Pope.

Act 3
The valley of the Wartburg, in autumn


Orchestral music describes the pilgrimage of Tannhäuser. Elisabeth, accompanied by Wolfram, falls on her knees in prayer. She asks the returning pilgrims for news of Tannhäuser, but in vain. Once again she prays earnestly and returns broken-hearted to the Wartburg. Wolfram, who loves her with faithful devotion, has a presentiment of her death. (Wolfram: "Song to the evening star.") He sees before him a tottering pilgrim in torn garments. It is Tannhäuser, who informs Wolfram that the Pope refused his plea for absolution, and declared that he had no more chance of being forgiven than the Pope's staff had of sprouting leaves. Utterly despairing, Tannhäuser is now seeking the way back to the Venusberg and presently calls to Venus, who appears before him and bids him welcome back to her cavern. Suddenly, Wolfram notices a funeral procession descending the hill, and sees the mourners bearing the corpse of Elisabeth on a bier. Tannhäuser races to her side and collapses upon her body with the words, "Holy Elisabeth, pray for me" upon his lips. The younger pilgrims enter and announce that the Pope's staff has sprouted young leaves, a sign that Tannhäuser has obtained God's forgiveness.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 

Paul Cézanne. The Overture to Tannhäuser: A Girl at the Piano, 1868.
 
 
 
Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser
 
Peter Seiffert (Tannhäuser)
Petra Maria Schnitzer (Elisabeth)
Beatrice Uria-Monzon (Venus)
Günther Groissböck (Hermann)
Markus Eiche (Wolfram).
Conductor: Sebastian Weigle
Production: Robert Carsen
Liceu Barcelona 2008
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wagner - Tannhäuser - Overture
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lohengrin - 1850
 
 
Lohengrin is a Romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself inspired by the epic of Garin le Loherain. It is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition.

The opera has proved inspirational towards other works of art. Among those deeply moved by the fairy-tale opera was the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria. "Der Märchenkönig" ("The Fairy-tale King"), as he was dubbed, later built his ideal fairy-tale castle and dubbed it "New Swan Stone", or "Neuschwanstein", after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig's patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to compose, build a theatre for, and stage his epic cycle The Ring of the Nibelung.

The most popular and recognizable part of the opera is the Bridal Chorus, better known as "Here Comes the Bride", often played as a processional at weddings in the West.


Performance history

The first production of Lohengrin was in Weimar, Germany, on 28 August 1850 at the Staatskapelle Weimar under the direction of Franz Liszt, a close friend and early supporter of Wagner. Liszt chose the date in honour of Weimar's most famous citizen, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born on 28 August 1749. Despite the inadequacies of the lead tenor Karl Beck, it was an immediate popular success.

Wagner himself was unable to attend the first performance, having been exiled because of his part in the 1849 May Uprising in Dresden. Although he conducted various extracts in concert in Zurich, London, Paris and Brussels, it was not until 1861 in Vienna that he was able to attend a full performance.

The opera's first performance outside German-speaking lands was in Riga on 5 February 1855. The Austrian premiere took place at the Burgtheater on 19 August 1859, with Róza Csillag as Ortrud. The work was produced in Munich for the first time at the National Theatre on 16 June 1867, with Heinrich Vogl in the title role and Mathilde Mallinger as Elsa. Mallinger also took the role of Elsa in the work's premiere at the Berlin State Opera on 6 April 1869.

Lohengrin's Russian premiere, outside Riga, took place at the Mariinsky Theatre on 16 October 1868.

The Belgian premiere of the opera was given at La Monnaie on 22 March 1870 with Étienne Troy as Friedrich of Telramund and Feliciano Pons as Heinrich der Vogler.

The United States premiere of Lohengrin took place at the Stadt Theater at the Bowery in New York City on 3 April 1871. Conducted by Adolf Neuendorff, the cast included Theodor Habelmann as Lohengrin, Luise Garay-Lichtmay as Elsa, Marie Frederici as Ortrud, Adolf Franosch as Heinrich and Edward Vierling as Telramund. The first performance in Italy took place seven months later at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 1 November 1871 in an Italian translation by operatic baritone Salvatore Marchesi. It was notably the first performance of any Wagner opera in Italy. Angelo Mariani conducted the performance, which starred Italo Campanini as Lohengrin, Bianca Blume as Elsa, Maria Löwe Destin as Ortrud, Pietro Silenzi as Telramund, and Giuseppe Galvani as Heinrich der Vogler. The performance on 9 November was attended by Giuseppe Verdi, who annotated a copy of the vocal score with his impressions and opinions of Wagner (this was almost certainly his first exposure to Wagner's music).

La Scala produced the opera for the first time on 30 March 1873, with Campanini as Lohengrin, Gabrielle Krauss as Elsa, Philippine von Edelsberg as Ortrud, Victor Maurel as Friedrich, and Gian Pietro Milesi as Heinrich.

The United Kingdom premiere of Lohengrin took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 8 May 1875 using the Italian translation by Marchesi. Auguste Vianesi[it] conducted the performance, which featured Ernesto Nicolini as Lohengrin, Emma Albani as Elsa, Anna D'Angeri as Ortruda, Maurel as Friedrich, and Wladyslaw Seideman as Heinrich. The opera's first performance in Australia took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Melbourne on 18 August 1877. The Metropolitan Opera mounted the opera for the first time on 7 November 1883, in Italian, during the company's inaugural season. Campanini portrayed the title role with Christina Nilsson as Elsa, Emmy Fursch-Madi as Ortrud, Giuseppe Kaschmann as Telramund, Franco Novara as Heinrich, and Auguste Vianesi conducting.


Ludwig II of Bavaria portrayed as Lohengrin below a moon
with Wagner's face. Brochure in Der Floh, 1885.



Lohengrin was first publicly performed in France at the Eden-Théâtre in Paris on 30 April 1887 in a French translation by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter. Conducted by Charles Lamoureux, the performance starred Ernest van Dyck as the title hero, Fidès Devriès as Elsa, Marthe Duvivier as Ortrud, Emil Blauwaert as Telramund, and Félix-Adolphe Couturier as Heinrich. There was however an 1881 French performance given as a Benefit, in the Cercle de la Méditerranée Salon at Nice, organized by Sophie Cruvelli, in which she took the role of Elsa. The opera received its Canadian premiere at the opera house in Vancouver on 9 February 1891 with Emma Juch as Elsa. The Palais Garnier staged the work for the first time the following 16 September with van Dyck as Lohengrin, Rose Caron as Elsa, Caroline Fiérens-Peters as Ortrude, Maurice Renaud as Telramund, and Charles Douaillier as Heinrich.

The first Chicago performance of the opera took place at the Auditorium Building (now part of Roosevelt University) on 9 November 1891. Performed in Italian, the production starred Jean de Reszke as the title hero, Emma Eames as Elsa, and Édouard de Reszke as Heinrich.



Oslo Opera 2015

 

Instrumentation
Lohengrin is scored for the following instruments:

3 flutes (3rd doubles piccolo), 3 oboes, cor anglais, 3 clarinets in B-flat, A and C, bass clarinet in B-flat and A, 3 bassoons
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
timpani, triangle, cymbals, tambourine
harp
1st and 2nd violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses
on-stage

3 flutes (3rd doubles piccolo), 3 oboes, 3 clarinets in B-flat, A and C, 3 bassoons
4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones
timpani in D, triangle, snare drum
organ, harp



Illustration from the London première


Synopsis

Place: Antwerp, on the Scheldt.
Time: 10th century

Act 1

King Henry the Fowler has arrived in Brabant where he has assembled the German tribes in order to expel the marauding Hungarians from his dominions. He also needs to settle a dispute involving the disappearance of the child-Duke Gottfried of Brabant. The Duke's guardian, Count Friedrich von Telramund, has accused the Duke's sister, Elsa, of murdering her brother in order to become the Duchess of Brabant. He calls upon the King to punish Elsa and to make him, Telramund, the new Duke of Brabant, since he is the next of kin to the late Duke.

The King calls for Elsa to answer Telramund's accusation. She enters, surrounded by her attendants. She does not answer to the King's inquiries, only lamenting her brother's fate. The King declares that he cannot resolve the matter and defers it to God's judgment through ordeal by combat. Telramund, a strong and seasoned warrior, agrees enthusiastically. When the King asks Elsa who shall be her champion, Elsa describes a knight she has beheld in her dreams (Narrative: "Alone in dark days").

Twice the Herald sounds the horn in summons, without response. Elsa sinks to her knees and prays to God. A boat drawn by a swan appears on the river and in it stands a knight in shining armour. He disembarks, dismisses the swan, respectfully greets the king, and asks Elsa if she will have him as her champion, and marry him. Elsa kneels in front of him and places her honour in his keeping. He asks but one thing in return for his service: she is never to ask him his name or where he has come from. Elsa agrees to this.

Telramund's people advise him to withdraw because he cannot prevail against the Knight's powers, but he proudly refuses and the combat area is prepared. The company prays to God ("Herr und Gott") for victory for the one whose cause is just. Ortrud does not join the prayer, but privately expresses confidence that Telramund will win. The combat commences. The unknown knight defeats Telramund but spares his life. Taking Elsa by the hand, he declares her innocent. The crowd exits, cheering and celebrating.



Johanna Jachmann-Wagner as Ortrud, ca. 1860
 

Act 2

Night in the courtyard outside the cathedral

Telramund and Ortrud, banished, listen unhappily to the distant party-music. Ortrud reveals that she is a pagan witch (daughter of Radbod Duke of Frisia), and tries to revive Telramund's courage, assuring him that her people (and he) are destined to rule the kingdom again. She plots to induce Elsa to violate the mysterious knight's only condition.

When Elsa appears on the balcony in the twilight before dawn she hears Ortrud lamenting and pities her. While Elsa descends to open the castle door, Ortrud prays to her pagan gods, Wodan and Freia, for malice, guile, and cunning, in order to deceive Elsa and restore pagan rule to the region. When Elsa appears, Ortrud warns her that since she knows nothing about her rescuer, he could leave her any time, as suddenly as he came, but Elsa is sure of the virtues of her rescuer.

The sun rises and the people assemble. The Herald announces that Telramund is now outlawed, and that anyone who follows Telramund is an outlaw by the law of the land. In addition, he announces that the King has offered to make the unnamed knight the Duke of Brabant; however, the Knight has declined the title, and prefers to be known only as "Protector of Brabant". The Herald further announces that the Knight will lead the people to glorious new conquests, and will celebrate the marriage of him and Elsa. Behind the crowd, four noblemen quietly express misgivings to each other because the Protector of Brabant has rescinded their privileges and is calling them to arms. Telramund appears, and, concealing himself from the crowd, draws these four knights aside and assures them that he will regain his position and stop the Knight, by accusing him of sorcery.

As Elsa and her attendants are about to enter the church, Ortrud, as part of her retinue, challenges Elsa to tell who her husband is, and to explain why anyone should follow him. The ensuing exchange is interrupted by the entrance of the King with the Knight. Elsa tells both of them that Ortrud was interrupting the ceremony. The Knight tells Ortrud to go back into the crowd, then takes Elsa to the wedding. The King leads at the front of the couple. When they are about to go inside the church (once more), Telramund enters. He pleads to the king that his defeat in combat was invalid because the Knight did not give his name (trial by combat traditionally being open only to established citizens), then accuses the Knight of sorcery. The Knight refuses to reveal his identity and claims that only one person in the world has the right to know his origin – his beloved Elsa and no other person. Elsa, though visibly shaken and uncertain, assures him of her confidence. King Henry refuses Telramund's questioning of the Knight, and the nobles of Brabant and Saxony praise and give respect to the Knight. Elsa, not seeing her beloved, falls back to the crowd where Ortrud and Telramund take her and try to intimidate her, but the Knight forces both to leave the ceremony. The Knight consoles Elsa. Finally, the King, the Knight and Elsa, together with the men and women around, go forward. Elsa takes one last look at the banished Ortrud, then they enter the church.
 


Joseph O'Mara in the title role, 1894–1895



Act 3

Scene 1: The bridal chamber

Elsa and her new husband are ushered in with the well-known bridal chorus, and the couple express their love for each other. Ortrud's words, however, are impressed upon Elsa, she laments that her name sounds so sweet in her husband's lips but she cannot utter his name, afterwards she asks him to confide on her his name to keep it secret, when no one is around, but at all instances he refuses, finally, despite his warnings, she asks her husband the fatal questions. Before the Knight can answer, Telramund and his four recruits rush into the room in order to attack him. The knight defeats and kills Telramund. Then, he sorrowfully turns to Elsa and asks her to follow him to the king, to whom he will now reveal his mystery.

Scene 2: On the banks of the Scheldt (as in Act 1)

The troops arrive equipped for war. Telramund's corpse is brought in, Elsa comes forward, then the Knight. He tells the King that Elsa has broken her promise and he discloses his identity by telling the story of the Holy Grail, on Monsalvat, and reveals himself as Lohengrin, Knight of the Holy Grail and son of King Parsifal sent to protect an unjustly accused woman. The rules of the Holy Grail determine that Knights of the Grail must remain anonymous, retiring from all human sight if their identity is revealed; so the time for his return has come.

As he sadly bids farewell to his beloved bride, the swan reappears. Lohengrin tells Elsa that if she had maintained her oath, she could have recovered her lost brother, and gives her his sword, horn and ring, for he is to become the future leader of Brabant. Then, when Lohengrin tries to get in the boat, Ortrud appears. She tells Elsa that the swan who drove Lohengrin to the bank was actually Gottfried, Elsa's brother, on whom she put a curse by transforming him into a swan. The people consider Ortrud guilty of witchcraft. Lohengrin prays and the swan turns into another form, a young Gottfried. He elects him as the Duke of Brabant. Ortrud sinks as she sees Gottfried and her plans thwarted.

A dove descends from heaven and, taking the place of the swan at the head of the boat, leads Lohengrin to the castle of the Holy Grail. Elsa is stricken with grief and falls to the ground dead.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
 
LOHENGRIN de Richard Wagner - Opera completa subtitulada en español
 
Ópera Estatal de Viena

Enrique I el Pajarero - Robert Lloyd
Lohengrin - Plácido Domingo
Elsa de Brabante - Cheryl Studer
Friedrich de Telramund - Hartmut Welker
Ortrud, esposa de Telramund - Dunja Vejzovic
El heraldo del rey - Georg Tichy

Coro y Orquesta de la Ópera Estatal de Viena

Director - Claudio Abbado

 
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Wagner - Lohengrin - Overture
 
Der Beginn von Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin". Der Geschichte vom edlen Schwanenritter.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - 1868
 
 
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg ("The Master-Singers of Nuremberg") is a music drama (or opera) in three acts, written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas commonly performed, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater, today's home of the Bavarian State Opera, in Munich, on 21 June 1868. The conductor at the premiere was Hans von Bülow.

The story takes place in Nuremberg during the middle of the 16th century. At the time, Nuremberg was a free imperial city, and one of the centers of the Renaissance in Northern Europe. The story revolves around the real-life guild of Meistersinger (Master Singers), an association of amateur poets and musicians, mostly from the middle class and often master craftsmen in their main professions. The mastersingers developed a craftsmanlike approach to music-making, with an intricate system of rules for composing and performing songs. The work draws much of its charm from its faithful depiction of the Nuremberg of the era and the traditions of the mastersinger guild. One of the main characters, the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs, is based on an actual historical figure: Hans Sachs (1494–1576), the most famous of the historical mastersingers.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg occupies a unique place in Wagner's oeuvre. It is the only comedy among his mature operas (he having come to reject his early Das Liebesverbot), and is also unusual in being set in a historically well-defined time and place rather than a mythical or legendary setting. It is the only mature Wagner opera to be based on an entirely original story, devised by Wagner himself. It is also the only one of Wagner's mature operas in which there are no supernatural or magical powers or events. It incorporates many of the operatic conventions that Wagner had railed against in his essays on the theory of opera: rhymed verse, arias, choruses, a quintet, and even a ballet. Die Meistersinger is, like L'Orfeo, Capriccio, and Wagner's own earlier Tannhäuser, a musical composition in which the composition of music is a pivotal part of the story.


Composition history

Wagner's autobiography Mein Leben (My Life) described the genesis of Die Meistersinger. Taking the waters at Marienbad in 1845 he began reading Georg Gottfried Gervinus' Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung (History of German Poetry). This work included chapters on Mastersong and on Hans Sachs.

I had formed a particularly vivid picture of Hans Sachs and the mastersingers of Nuremberg. I was especially intrigued by the institution of the Marker and his function in rating master-songs ... I conceived during a walk a comic scene in which the popular artisan-poet, by hammering upon his cobbler's last, gives the Marker, who is obliged by circumstances to sing in his presence, his come-uppance for previous pedantic misdeeds during official singing contests, by inflicting upon him a lesson of his own.

Gervinus' book also mentions a poem by the real-life Hans Sachs on the subject of Protestant reformer Martin Luther, called Die Wittenbergisch Nachtigall (The Wittenberg Nightingale). The opening lines for this poem, addressing the Reformation, were later used by Wagner in act 3 scene 5 when the crowd acclaims Sachs: Wacht auf, es nahet gen den Tag; ich hör' singen im grünen Hag ein wonnigliche Nachtigall. (Awake, the dawn is drawing near; I hear, singing in the green grove, a blissful nightingale)

In addition to this, Wagner added a scene drawn from his own life, in which a case of mistaken identity led to a near-riot: this was to be the basis for the finale of act 2.

Out of this situation evolved an uproar, which through the shouting and clamour and an inexplicable growth in the number of participants in the struggle soon assumed a truly demoniacal character. It looked to me as if the whole town would break out into a riot...Then suddenly I heard a heavy thump, and as if by magic the whole crowd dispersed in every direction...One of the regular patrons had felled one of the noisiest rioters ... And it was the effect of this which had scattered everybody so suddenly.

This first draft of the story was dated "Marienbad 16 July 1845". Wagner later said, in Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde (1851) (A Communication to my Friends)  that Meistersinger was to be a comic opera to follow a tragic opera, i.e. Tannhäuser. Just as the Athenians had followed a tragedy with a comic satyr play, so Wagner would follow Tannhäuser with Meistersinger: the link being that both operas included song-contests.

Influence of Schopenhauer
In 1854, Wagner first read Schopenhauer, and was struck by the philosopher's theories on aesthetics. In this philosophy, art is a means for escaping from the sufferings of the world, and music is the highest of the arts since it is the only one not involved in representation of the world (i.e. it is abstract). It is for this reason that music can communicate emotion without the need for words. In his earlier essay Oper und Drama (Opera and Drama) (1850–1) Wagner had derided the staples of operatic construction: arias, choruses, duets, trios, recitatives, etc. As a result of reading Schopenhauer's theories on the role of music, Wagner now re-evaluated this prescription for opera, and hence many of these features can be found in Die Meistersinger.

Although Die Meistersinger is a comedy, it also elucidates Wagner's ideas on the place of music in society, on renunciation of Wille (Will), and of the solace that music brings in a world full of Wahn (which may be translated into English as "illusion", "madness", "folly" or "self-deception"). It is Wahn which causes the riot in act 2 — a sequence of events arising from a case of mistaken identity, which can be seen as a form of self-delusion. Many commentators have pointed out that Sachs in his famous act 3 monologue Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn (Madness! Madness!, Everywhere madness!) is paraphrasing Schopenhauer when he describes the way that Wahn, or self-delusion, drives men to behave in ways which are actually destroying them.

in Flucht geschlagen, wähnt er zu jagen; hört nicht sein eigen Schmerzgekreisch,
wenn er sich wühlt ins eig'ne Fleisch, wähnt Lust sich zu erzeigen!

driven into flight he believes he is hunting, and does not hear his own cry of pain:
when he tears into his own flesh, he imagines he is giving himself pleasure!

Following the completion of Tristan und Isolde, Wagner resumed work on Die Meistersinger in 1861 with a completely different philosophical outlook from that he held when he first drafted his comedy. The character of Hans Sachs becomes one of the most Schopenhauerian of all Wagner's creations. Wagner scholar Lucy Beckett has pointed out the remarkable similarity between Wagner's Sachs and Schopenhauer's description of noble man:

We always picture a very noble character to ourselves as having a certain trace of silent sadness... It is a consciousness that has resulted from knowledge of the vanity of all achievements and of the suffering of all life, not merely of one's own. (Schopenhauer: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung – The World as Will and Representation)

The other major facet of Sachs's personality – his renunciation of his hope of winning Eva's love – is also deeply Schopenhauerian. Sachs here denies the Will in its supposedly most insistent form, that of sexual love. Wagner marks this moment with a direct musical and textual reference to Tristan und Isolde: Mein Kind, von Tristan und Isolde kenn' ich ein traurig Stück. Hans Sachs war klug und wollte nichts von Herrn Markes Glück. (My child, I know a sad tale of Tristan and Isolde. Hans Sachs is sensible and does not wish to share King Mark's fate.)

Completion and premiere
Having completed the scenario, Wagner began writing the libretto in 1862, and followed this by composing the overture. The overture was publicly performed in Leipzig on 2 November 1862, conducted by the composer. Composition of act 1 was begun in spring of 1863 in the Viennese suburb of Penzing, but the opera in its entirety was not finished until October 1867, when Wagner was living at Tribschen near Lucerne. These years were some of Wagner's most difficult: the 1861 Paris production of Tannhäuser was a fiasco, Wagner gave up hope of completing Der Ring des Nibelungen, the 1864 Vienna production of Tristan und Isolde was abandoned after 77 rehearsals, and finally in 1866 Wagner's first wife, Minna died. Cosima Wagner was later to write: "When future generations seek refreshment in this unique work, may they spare a thought for the tears from which the smiles arose."

The premiere was given at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater, Munich, on June 21, 1868. The production was sponsored by Ludwig II of Bavaria and the conductor was Hans von Bülow. Franz Strauss, the father of the composer Richard Strauss played the French horn at the premiere, despite his often-expressed dislike of Wagner, who was present at many of the rehearsals. Wagner's frequent interruptions and digressions made rehearsals a very long-winded affair. After one 5 hour rehearsal, Franz Strauss led a strike by the orchestra, saying that he could not play any more. Despite these problems, the premiere was a triumph, and the opera was hailed as one of Wagner's most successful works. At the end of the first performance, the audience called for Wagner, who appeared at the front of the Royal box, which he had been sharing with King Ludwig. Wagner bowed to the crowd, breaking court protocol, which dictated that only the monarch could address an audience from the box.

Synopsis
Nuremberg, towards the middle of the sixteenth century.

Act 1
Scene 1: Interior of Katharinenkirche (St. Catherine's Church)[notes 1] in Nuremberg, St John's Eve or Midsummer's Eve, June 23

After a magnificent prelude, a church service is just ending with a singing of Da zu dir der Heiland kam (When the Saviour came to thee), an impressive pastiche of a Lutheran chorale, as Walther von Stolzing, a young knight from Franconia, addresses Eva Pogner, whom he had met earlier, and asks her if she is engaged to anyone. Eva and Walther have fallen in love at first sight, but she informs him that her father, the goldsmith and mastersinger Veit Pogner, has arranged to give her hand in marriage to the winner of the guild's song contest on St. John's Day (Midsummer's Day), tomorrow. Eva's maid, Magdalena, gets David, Hans Sachs's apprentice, to tell Walther about the mastersingers' art. The hope is for Walther to qualify as a mastersinger during the guild meeting, traditionally held in the church after Mass, and thus earn a place in the song contest despite his utter ignorance of the master-guild's rules and conventions.

Scene 2

As the other apprentices set up the church for the meeting, David warns Walther that it is not easy to become a mastersinger; it takes many years of learning and practice. David gives a confusing lecture on the mastersingers' rules for composing and singing. (Many of the tunes he describes were real master-tunes from the period.) Walther is confused by the complicated rules, but is determined to try for a place in the guild anyway.

Scene 3

The first mastersingers file into the church, including Eva's wealthy father Veit Pogner and the town clerk Beckmesser. Beckmesser, a clever technical singer who was expecting to win the contest without opposition, is distressed to see that Walther is Pogner's guest and intends to enter the contest. Meanwhile, Pogner introduces Walther to the other mastersingers as they arrive. Fritz Kothner the baker, serving as chairman of this meeting, calls the roll. Pogner, addressing the assembly, announces his offer of his daughter's hand for the winner of the song contest. When Hans Sachs argues that Eva ought to have a say in the matter, Pogner agrees that Eva may refuse the winner of the contest, but she must still marry a mastersinger. Another suggestion by Sachs, that the townspeople, rather than the masters, should be called upon to judge the winner of the contest, is squelched by the other masters. Pogner formally introduces Walther as a candidate for admission into the masterguild. Questioned by Kothner about his background, Walther states that his teacher in poetry was Walther von der Vogelweide whose works he studied in his own private library in Franconia, and his teachers in music were the birds and nature itself. Reluctantly the masters agree to admit him, provided he can perform a master-song of his own composition. Walther chooses love as the topic for his song and therefore is to be judged by Beckmesser alone, the "Marker" of the guild for worldly matters. At the signal to begin, Walther launches into a novel free-form tune, breaking all the mastersingers' rules, and his song is constantly interrupted by the scratch of Beckmesser's chalk on his chalkboard, maliciously noting one violation after another. When Beckmesser has completely covered the slate with symbols of Walther's errors, he interrupts the song and argues that there is no point in finishing it. Sachs tries to convince the masters to let Walther continue, but Beckmesser sarcastically tells Sachs to stop trying to set policy and instead, to finish making his (Beckmesser's) new shoes, which are overdue. Raising his voice over the masters' argument, Walther finishes his song, but the masters reject him and he rushes out of the church.

Act 2
Scene 1: Evening in a Nuremberg street, at the corner between Pogner's house and Hans Sachs's house, opposite. A lime tree stands outside Pogner's house, an elder outside Sachs's. The apprentices are closing the shutters

David informs Magdalena of Walther's failure. In her disappointment, Magdalena leaves without giving David the food she had brought for him. This arouses the derision of the other apprentices, and David is about to turn on them when Sachs arrives and hustles his apprentice into the workshop.

Scene 2

Pogner arrives with Eva, engaging in a roundabout conversation: Eva is hesitant to ask about the outcome of Walther's application, and Pogner has private doubts about whether it was wise to offer his daughter's hand in marriage for the song contest. As they enter their house, Magdalena appears and tells Eva about the rumours of Walther's failure. Eva decides to ask Sachs about the matter.

Scene 3

As twilight falls, Hans Sachs takes a seat in front of his house to work on a new pair of shoes for Beckmesser. He muses on Walther's song, which has made a deep impression on him.

Scene 4

Eva approaches Sachs, and they discuss tomorrow's song contest. Eva is unenthusiastic about Beckmesser, who appears to be the only eligible contestant. She hints that she would not mind if Sachs, a widower, were to win the contest. Though touched, Sachs protests that he would be too old a husband for her. Upon further prompting, Sachs describes Walther's failure at the guild meeting. This causes Eva to storm off angrily, confirming Sachs's suspicion that she has fallen in love with Walther. Eva is intercepted by Magdalena, who informs her that Beckmesser is coming to serenade her. Eva, determined to search for Walther, tells Magdalena to pose as her (Eva) at the bedroom window.

Scene 5

Just as Eva is about to leave, Walther appears. He tells her that he has been rejected by the mastersingers, and the two prepare to elope. However, Sachs has overheard their plans. As they are passing by, he illuminates the street with his lantern, forcing them to hide in the shadow of Pogner's house. Walther makes up his mind to confront Sachs, but is interrupted by the arrival of Beckmesser.

Scene 6

As Eva and Walther retreat further into the shadows, Beckmesser begins his serenade. Sachs interrupts him by launching into a full-bellied cobbling song, and hammering the soles of the half-made shoes. Annoyed, Beckmesser tells Sachs to stop, but the cobbler replies that he has to finish tempering the soles of the shoes, whose lateness Beckmesser had publicly complained about in Act 1. Sachs offers a compromise: he will be quiet and let Beckmesser sing, but he (Sachs) will be Beckmesser's "marker", and mark each of Beckmesser's musical/poetical errors by striking one of the soles with his hammer. Beckmesser, who has spotted someone at Eva's window (Magdalena in disguise), has no time to argue. He tries to sing his serenade, but he makes so many mistakes (his tune repeatedly places accents on the wrong syllables of the words) that from the repeated knocks Sachs finishes the shoes. David wakes up and sees Beckmesser apparently serenading Magdalena. He attacks Beckmesser in a fit of jealous rage. The entire neighborhood is awakened by the noise. The other apprentices rush into the fray, and the situation degenerates into a full-blown riot. In the confusion, Walther tries to escape with Eva, but Sachs pushes Eva into her home and drags Walther into his own workshop. Quiet is restored as abruptly as it was broken. A lone figure walks through the street – the night watchman, calling out the hour.

Act 3
A meditative prelude introduces music from two key episodes to be heard in Act 3: Sachs's Scene 1 monologue "Wahn! Wahn!" and the "Wittenburg Nightingale" quasi-chorale sung by the townspeople to greet Sachs in Scene 5.

Scene 1: Sachs's workshop

As morning dawns, Sachs is reading a large book. Lost in thought, he does not respond as David returns from delivering Beckmesser's shoes. David finally manages to attract his master's attention, and they discuss the upcoming festivities – it is St. John's day, Hans Sachs's name day. David recites his verses for Sachs, and leaves to prepare for the festival. Alone, Sachs ponders last night's riot. "Madness! Madness! Everywhere madness!" (Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!) His attempt to prevent an elopement had ended in shocking violence. Nevertheless, he is resolved to make madness work for him today.

Scene 2

Sachs gives Walther an interactive lesson on the history and philosophy of music and mastersinging, and teaches him to moderate his singing according to the spirit (if not the strict letter) of the masters' rules. Walther demonstrates his understanding by composing two sections of a new Prize Song in a more acceptable style than his previous effort from act 1. Sachs writes down the new verses as Walther sings them. A final section remains to be composed, but Walther is tired of words. The two men leave the room to dress for the festival.

Scene 3

Beckmesser, still sore from his drubbing the night before, enters the workshop. He spots the verses of the Prize Song, written in Sachs's handwriting, and infers that Sachs is secretly planning to enter the contest for Eva's hand. The cobbler re-enters the room and Beckmesser confronts him with the verses and asks if he wrote them. Sachs confirms that the handwriting is his, but does not clarify that he was not the author but merely served as scribe. However, he goes on to say that he has no intention of wooing Eva or entering the contest, and he gives the manuscript to Beckmesser as a gift. He promises never to claim the song for his own, and warns Beckmesser that it is a very difficult song to interpret and sing. Beckmesser, his confidence restored by the prospect of using verses written by the famous Hans Sachs, ignores the warning and rushes off to prepare for the song contest. Sachs smiles at Beckmesser's foolishness but expresses hope that Beckmesser will learn to be better in the future.

Scene 4

Eva arrives at the workshop. She is looking for Walther, but pretends to have complaints about a shoe that Sachs made for her. Sachs realizes that the shoe is a perfect fit, but pretends to set about altering the stitching. As he works, he tells Eva that he has just heard a beautiful song, lacking only an ending. Eva cries out as Walther enters the room, splendidly attired for the festival, and sings the third and final section of the Prize Song. The couple are overwhelmed with gratitude for Sachs, and Eva asks Sachs to forgive her for having manipulated his feelings. The cobbler brushes them off with bantering complaints about his lot as a shoemaker, poet, and widower. At last, however, he admits to Eva that, despite his feelings for her, he is resolved to avoid the fate of King Marke (a reference to the subject of another Wagner opera, Tristan und Isolde, in which an old man tries to marry a much-younger woman), thus conferring his blessing upon the lovers. David and Magdalena appear. Sachs announces to the group that a new master-song has been born, which, following the rules of the mastersingers, is to be baptized. As an apprentice cannot serve as a witness for the baptism, he promotes David to the rank of journeyman with the traditional cuff on the ear (and by this also "promoting" him as a groom and Magdalena as a bride). He then christens the Prize Song the Morning Dream Song (Selige Morgentraumdeut-Weise). After celebrating their good fortune with an extended quintet, the group departs for the festival.

Scene 5: The meadow near the Pegnitz River

The Feast of St. John is taking place. The various guilds hold their processions boasting on how each has made Nürnberg a great city, culminating in the arrival of the mastersingers. The crowd sings the praises of Hans Sachs, the most beloved and famous of the mastersingers. The prize contest begins. Beckmesser attempts to sing the verses that he had obtained from Sachs. However, he garbles the words and fails to fit them to an appropriate melody, and ends up singing so clumsily that the crowd laughs him off. Before storming off in anger, he yells that the song was not even his; Hans Sachs tricked him into singing it. The crowd is confused—how could the great Hans Sachs have written such a bad song? Sachs tells them that the song is not his own, and also that it is in fact a beautiful song which the masters will love, when they hear it sung correctly. To prove this, he calls a witness: Walther. The people are so curious about the song that they allow Walther to sing it, and everyone is won over in spite of the song's novelty. They declare Walther the winner, and the mastersingers want to make him a member of their guild on the spot. At first Walther is tempted to reject their offer, but Sachs intervenes once more, and explains that art, even ground-breaking, contrary art like Walther's, can only exist within a cultural tradition, which tradition the art sustains and improves. Walther is convinced; he agrees to join. Pogner places the symbolic Master-hood Medal around his neck, Eva takes his hand, and the people sing once more the praises of Hans Sachs, the beloved mastersinger of Nuremberg.

Interpretation of the character and role of Beckmesser
The Wagner scholar Barry Millington has advanced the idea that Beckmesser represents a Jewish stereotype, whose humiliation by the Aryan Walther is an onstage representation of Wagner's antisemitism. Millington argued in his 1991 "Nuremberg Trial: Is There Anti-Semitism in Die Meistersinger?" that common antisemitic stereotypes prevalent in 19th-century Germany were a part of the "ideological fabric" of Die Meistersinger and that Beckmesser embodied these unmistakable antisemitic characteristics. Millington's article spurred significant debate among Wagner scholars including Charles Rosen, Hans Rudolph Vaget, Paul Lawrence Rose, and Karl A. Zaenker.

In a 2009 interview Katharina Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter and co-director of the Bayreuth Festival, was asked whether she believed Wagner relied on Jewish stereotypes in his operas. Her response was, "With Beckmesser he probably did."

Although the score calls for Beckmesser to rush off in a huff after his self-defeating attempt to sing Walther's song, in some productions he remains and listens to Walther's correct rendition of his song, and shakes hands with Sachs after the final monologue.

Scholars Dieter Borchmeyer, Udo Bermbach (de) and Hermann Danuser (de) support the thesis that with the character of Beckmesser, Wagner did not intend to allude to Jewish stereotypes, but rather to criticize (academic) pedantism in general. They point out similarities to the figure of Malvolio in Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night.

Reactions and criticism
Die Meistersinger was enthusiastically received at its premiere in 1868, and was judged to be Wagner's most immediately appealing work. Eduard Hanslick wrote in Die Neue Freie Presse after the premiere: "Dazzling scenes of colour and splendour, ensembles full of life and character unfold before the spectator's eyes, hardly allowing him the leisure to weigh how much and how little of these effects is of musical origin."

Within a year of the premiere the opera was performed across Germany at Dresden, Dessau, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Weimar, Hanover and Vienna with Berlin following in 1870. It was one of the most popular and prominent German operas during the Unification of Germany in 1871, and in spite of the opera's overall warning against cultural self-centeredness, Die Meistersinger became a potent symbol of patriotic German art. Hans Sachs's final warning at the end of act 3 on the need to preserve German art from foreign threats was a rallying point for German nationalism, particularly during the Franco-Prussian War.

Beware! Evil tricks threaten us; if the German people and kingdom should one day decay, under a false, foreign1 rule, soon no prince would understand his people; and foreign mists with foreign vanities they would plant in our German land; what is German and true none would know, if it did not live in the honour of German Masters. Therefore I say to you: honour your German Masters, then you will conjure up good spirits! And if you favour their endeavours, even if the Holy Roman Empire should dissolve in mist, for us there would yet remain holy German Art!

Hans Sachs's final speech from act 3 of Die Meistersinger

The word translated here as "foreign" ("welsch") is a catch-all term denoting "French and/or Italian." Wagner here referred to the court of Frederick the Great, where French rather than German was spoken.



During the 20th century, the opera continued to be used as a German patriotic emblem during the Wilhelmine Reich, the Weimar Republic, and most notoriously, during the Third Reich. At the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1924 following its closure during World War I Die Meistersinger was performed. The audience rose to its feet during Hans Sachs's final oration, and sang "Deutschland über Alles" after the opera had finished.

Die Meistersinger was frequently used as part of Nazi propaganda. On 21 March 1933, the founding of the Third Reich was celebrated with a performance of the opera in the presence of Hitler. The prelude to act 3 is played over shots of old Nuremberg at the beginning of Triumph of the Will, the 1935 film by Leni Riefenstahl depicting the Nazi party congress of 1934. During World War II, Die Meistersinger was the only opera presented at the Bayreuth festivals of 1943–1944.

The association of Die Meistersinger with Nazism led to one of the most controversial stage productions of the work. The first Bayreuth production of Die Meistersinger following World War II occurred in 1956, when Wieland Wagner, the composer's grandson, attempted to distance the work from German nationalism by presenting it in almost abstract terms, by removing any reference to Nuremberg from the scenery. The production was dubbed Die Meistersinger ohne Nürnberg (The Mastersingers without Nuremberg).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg  - Overture
 
Staatskapelle Dresden
Giuseppe Sinopoli, Conductor

24th January 1998
Live at Suntory Hall, Tokyo

 
 
 
 
 
     
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