RICHARD WAGNER

3 August 2009

I was checking Twitter and saw this tonight:

stephenfry Just going into the theatre. Götterdämmerung begins in 7 mins and ends in 6 hours and 40. I shall emerge a finer, purer better person.<2:53 PM Aug 1st from Tweetie

Stephen Fry has been going on about Wagner a lot recently, from his Tweets, it seems that he’s attending this year’s “Bayreuth Festival” at the “Festspielhaus”.

My my, it took me back. I can well remember feeling almost overwhelmed by Wagner — everything about the man was legendarily awe-inspiring.

For example, imagine me as a young, wide-eyed lad faced with “Der Ring des Nibelungen” — Wagner didn’t just write the music for this opera, he wrote the libretto, and this libretto is of his own story. It took him a massive twenty-six years — from 1848 to 1874 — to compose (on and off).

Wow.

He even invented special instruments for the orchestra to fill in the tonal gaps he spotted!

Wow.

It is for an unprecedentedly massive orchestra and takes about 15 hours.

Big Wow!

As a result of which, Wagner encouraged an annual festival for the performance of “the Ring”, and he helped design and build the “Festspielhaus” to cope with the orchestra size and staging.

Double wow.

But there’s still more — he was close pals with philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and was championed by Adolph Hitler! I was a pubescent schoolboy when I first heard about it, along with the intriguing information that initial performances were infamous for bringing women in the audience to sexual orgasm by virtue of the overwhelmingly powerful music!

— see what I mean?  It’s all pretty intimidating isn’t it?

This needed a run-up.  One needed to prepare for this. Loins need to be girded, mainsails hoisted, hatches battened and vitals stapped.

I had to approach “The Ring of the Nibelung” the same way I approached Joyce’s “Ulysses” — that is, slowly, and over time; some things cannot be rushed.

Now “The Ring of the Nibelung” was always intended to be a single work, one opera broken down into four parts which are often performed on their own:

  • Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold);
  • Die Walküre (The Valkyrie);
  • Siegfried; and
  • Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods).

I missed “The Rhinegold” at The Theatre Royal in Glasgow back in 2000 because I was in Sweden, so when the complete cycle came up in 2003, I thought I would give “The Twilight of the Gods” a whirl (there was no way I could devote so much time and money to seeing the whole thing). The Scottish Opera director was Tim Albery, and the conductor was Richard Armstrong.

I got Ruthie a ticket, but she couldn’t make it, and I had to go all by myself, leaving work early and rushing like mad through the so-called “rush hour” traffic to the Theatre Royal.  It was weird to go into an opera so early – in broad daylight no less.  If I remember rightly it was about 5pm or so! I emerged at midnight or thereabouts!

I heard later that this “Ring Cycle” won awards, which surprised me as it seemed to me to have been done on a small budget, but you cannot argue with the music — what a night!  Ruthie really missed something special that night, and I was so sad to have to throw away her ticket (even though it gave me room for my suit jacket!). Graham Sanders’s “Siegfried” seemed a bit tired and frayed at the edges, but Matthew Best’s “Wotan” was stupendous — he really kept the whole thing going, although Elizabeth Byrne was pretty good too, especially in the love duet with Sanders.

Anyway, I hope Stephen Fry enjoys the authentic experience in Bayreuth, we lowly folk can merely dream of such things!  — I don’t know that I would have the patience to suffer the waiting list for tickets, nor the finances to afford the whole thing, nor the ability to clear my diary for that long!

Anyway, I have the whole thing in FLAC format as I didn’t think MP3 would be of much use — would I really listen to this stuff on the walk to the office? It’s definitely one for the headphones and a nice bottle of French Merlot!

— Now there’s a “night in” — this is my equivalent of a girl’s pampering night — they can bathe by candlelight, all bubblebath and facepacks, and leave me to recline with my music! Bliss!

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2 Responses to “RICHARD WAGNER”


  1. […] so it was nice to finally get to see it. Fry’s tweets in this regard encouraged me to post on RICHARD WAGNER on this very […]


  2. […] There wasn’t much going on through spring to be honest.  I delved back into technical guitar music for a while, listening to Vai, Holdsworth, and the jazz theme continued for summer with Hiromi Uehara and Tal Wilkenfeld — and any need for classical for Autumn, and this was met in the form of Danielle de Niese or Wagner. […]


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