Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
12:52 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
22 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Music
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Musical world celebrates Wagner's 200th birthday
Agence France Presse
German soprano Annette Dasch performs as Elsa von Brabant during the rehearsal of the opera "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, southern Germany, in this file picture taken July 17, 2010. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files
German soprano Annette Dasch performs as Elsa von Brabant during the rehearsal of the opera "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, southern Germany, in this file picture taken July 17, 2010. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files
A+ A-

BAYREUTH, Germany: Opera houses the world over are scrambling to pay tribute to Richard Wagner, the controversial German composer often referred to as Hitler's favourite, who would have turned 200 this year.

More has purportedly already been written about Wagner than any other artist and composer in history, but publishers are churning out countless new biographies, critical studies and books.

Magazines and daily newspapers are bursting with reviews, interviews and articles, while a plethora of new and re-issued recordings jostle for attention.

In the run-up to this week's bicentenary, all the world's leading opera houses -- including the Met in New York, Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Bastille in Paris and Vienna State Opera -- have unveiled new stagings of Wagner's opus magnum, the 16-hour-long, four-opera "Ring" cycle.

In Germany, which boasts around 80 opera houses, even the most dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerian would struggle to keep track.

Among the more outlandish projects is a staging of "Rhinegold" on a barge on the river Rhine.

But for true Wagnerians, perhaps the main highlights of the year take place in Bayreuth, the small, sleepy town in Franconia where Wagner designed and built his Festspielhaus, and which remains the centre of the ardent cult around him.

The hallowed theatre with its incomparable acoustics usually only opens its doors for four weeks in the summer.

But on May 22, it will host Wagner's 200th birthday concert, with German maestro Christian Thielemann conducting excerpts from his best-known operas.

Then the centrepiece of this year's Bayreuth Festival, which begins on July 25, will be a hotly anticipated new production of the "Ring" by the deconstructivist and iconoclastic German theatre director, Frank Castorf.

As always with Wagner, the bicentenary celebrations are never far from controversy.

In Duesseldorf this month, a new staging of his "Tannhaeuser" ended in an eclat, when director Burkhard Kosminski set the composer's story of the medieval knight-minstrel in the Nazi era and included a graphic portrayal of the gassing and execution of Jews.

After unprecedented protests, the opera house pulled the production after just one performance.

But the incident goes to the heart of the controversy surrounding a composer who is reviled as much as he is revered.

"I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees," the legendary Jewish maestro Leonard Bernstein once said of Wagner, succinctly summing up the deep ambivalence many people tend to harbour towards him.

Wagner was born in Leipzig on May 22, 1813 and died in Venice on February 13, 1883, long before the rise of Nazism.

But Hitler was an ardent admirer of his music, as well as a regular visitor to Bayreuth. And he became a close friend of the Wagner family, who affectionately called him "Uncle Wolf".

Hitler claimed that it was one of Wagner's early operas, about the Roman tribune "Rienzi", which inspired him to begin thinking about a political career.

The Nazis made prodigious use of Wagner's music in their propaganda films and rallies, so much so that the composer's works are still banned for performance in Israel.

Music scholars, historians, musicians and conductors still fiercely debate the extent to which Wagner's musical and artistic legacy is impregnated with anti-Semitism, misogyny and proto-Nazi ideas of racial purity.

In addition to his 13 completed operas, Wagner was a prolific writer and theorist, and among his most infamous publications is a virulently anti-Semitic pamphlet entitled "Judaism in Music".

The bone of contention for his supporters and detractors alike is whether Wagner's "Gesamtkunstwerk", or total work of art, is innately apolitical, or whether he uses it to propagate his racist, anti-Semitic and nihilistic worldview.

In purely musical terms, Wagner's achievements are undeniable.

His medieval love epic, "Tristan and Isolde" and his final stage work "Parsifal" broke the boundaries of tonality, influencing the work of a wealth of later composers including Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg.

Wagner's use of the orchestra, with exotic new instruments specially designed to his own demands, was similarly revolutionary.

But critics, such as the composer's great-grandson, Gottfried Wagner, said the man cannot and should not be separated from his art.

"There are terrific sides and dark sides" to Wagner, he told AFP in an interview.

 
Home Music
 
     
 
Germany
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Thursday April 24, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS