Friday, August 27, 2004

And so to Wagner.....


And that brings us to the problem of Wagner, whose epic musical journys must form part of An Overgrown Path . Many writers far better qualified and more talented than me have written about him, and there is very little left to be said. All I can add is that two of the most profoundly moving experiences I have had in a theatre occurred in the last twelve months, and they were both while under the spell of Richard Wagner.

Last December it was that most profoundly disturbing of his works, Parsifal. I challenge any balanced person to explain the reason why (supposedly) civilised and educated people like me remain infatuated by this opera, given the horrendous baggage it brings with it. But Anthony Negus' reading with the Welsh National Opera left me in doubt that this is one of the most important, and probably the most disturbing, works of music theatre.

In July I went to Longborough Opera to see their abreviated Ring. I must say I went a sceptic about this particular production. Just two hours of Siegreid, and two and a half hours of Gottedamerung with no Rhine Journey or Funeral March and a band of just twenty-three players including an electronic keyboard seemed to risk undermining this most monumental of operatic experiences, even if hands as talented as Jonathan Dove had performed the surgery. But how I lacked faith. The Gods smiled metaphorically, if not actually, on the balmy August evenings. Sir Donald McIntyre as Wotan, the young Jenny Miller as Brunnhilde, and above all the ubiquitous Anthony Negus made this a towering, as oppossed to truncated experience. The last scene of Gottadamerung left me as moved as any production I have seen. Word is that Longborough are going to offer a full length Ring in 2006 with Sir Donald McIntyre involved in the preparation as well as performances. Be there!

My posting on Wagner cannot end without a mention of that peerless Wagnerian Bernard Levin, who sadly died last week. Tragically for one so eloquent Levin died suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Fascinating work using music as a therapy for this disease is being done, particularly by Paul Robertson who was previously leader of the Medici Quartet, see his fascinating and illuminating web site Music, Mind & Spirit

Bernard Levin was a master of the English language, and one of our greatest journalists. He once said the last work he wanted to hear before he died was Die Meistersingers von Nuremberg. I do hope he was granted that wish.

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