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Culture Forum

  1. 18 Sep '13 15:50 / 1 edit
    Wagner and I have never really got on. Which I readily acknowledge is a problem with me, rather than him.

    I fear I am in the camp of 'has some nice moments, but some bad half an hours' to misquote Mr Rossini.

    However, it has always been my intention to give the Ring Cycle a proper chance and hearing scacc, pianoman, Teinosuke etc wax lyrical about it has renewed my determination. I wouldn't want to live my life without having listened to/watched it at least once all the way through.

    This has always represented something of a problem, because no way am I going to sit through an actual production.

    I have a new Spotify account, but following the music alone is not enough without understanding what is going on (it's in German, you know). I tried with the libretto to hand, but finding one wasn't that easy, and to be honest, I find it all a bit distracting.

    But Sky TV has come to my rescue (you don't often say that), as Sky Arts is screening the entire Met version with Bryn Terfel as Wotan.

    So, as they say, I am going in.

    Wish me luck.

    (p.s. Sky Arts is a bit of an oddity. There is some wonderful stuff on it, but then there is endless hours of Andre Rieu and his smiling orchestra. I may not get on with Wagner, but I would emigrate to avoid having to attend one of his concerts.)
  2. Subscriber Pianoman1
    Nil desperandum
    18 Sep '13 16:24 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Rank outsider
    Wagner and I have never really got on. Which I readily acknowledge is a problem with me, rather than him.

    I fear I am in the camp of 'has some nice moments, but some bad half an hours' to misquote Mr Rossini.

    However, it has always been my intention to give the Ring Cycle a proper chance and hearing scacc, pianoman, Teinosuke etc wax lyrical a not get on with Wagner, but I would emigrate to avoid having to attend one his concerts.)
    Such gritty determination is to be admired, and my thoughts will be with you in your Herculean labour that awaits you. One thing I would say:

    DO NOT DIVE IN TO THE RING WITHOUT SOME PREPARATION!!

    Too many people expect to listen to Wagner and to be immediately bowled over by the gesamtkunstwerk.

    The highest point ever reached in human creative achievement was Greek tragedy. This is for five reasons, which should be considered together. First, it represented a successful combination of the arts - poetry, drama, costumes, mime, instrumental music, dance, song - and as such had greater creative scope and expressive powers than any of the arts alone. Second, it took its subject matter from myth, which illuminates human experience to the depths, and in universal terms., being true for all time and inexhaustible for every age. Third, both the the content and the occasion of performance had religious significance. Fourth, it was a religion of the "purely human", a celebration of life. Fifth, the entire community took part. This, in a nutshell, is the Wagner experience! Also what Wagner did above all else was to develop an art form which made possible the expression, and hence the experience, of unbounded feeling about specific things - what he called "the emotionalising of the intellect".

    Wagner's recipe is for a drama which consists not of actions, but reactions. His characters are subjects only of feeling: of action they are always the objects. His main characters are always victims. Wotan, who, in spite of being ruler of the gods, is from the very beginning of The Ring at the mercy of forces he is powerless to control.

    If this is all putting you off, persevere! A sound understanding of story, gleaned from Kobbe or the Internet, is paramount. Then, armed with a knowledge of the "story" an understanding of how the music reflects the libretto with the use of leitmovs - tunes that are associated with ideas, people, things etc. Try to google the leitmotivs, memorise them, so when you hear them in The Ring you can see how the words are thrown into relief.

    Tread carefully and good luck!! A glorious experience awaits.........
  3. Standard member Grampy Bobby
    Boston Lad
    18 Sep '13 19:14
    Originally posted by Pianoman1
    Such gritty determination is to be admired, and my thoughts will be with you in your Herculean labour that awaits you. One thing I would say:

    DO NOT DIVE IN TO THE RING WITHOUT SOME PREPARATION!!

    Too many people expect to listen to Wagner and to be immediately bowled over by the gesamtkunstwerk.

    The highest point ever reached in human creative a ...[text shortened]... own into relief.

    Tread carefully and good luck!! A glorious experience awaits.........
    Spoken with both sensitivity and authority. The post, itself, represents a thing of rare symmetrical beauty
    as if an unwritten scene in the very work it depicts. It's quotable, to say the least. Pianoman1, thanks.
  4. 19 Sep '13 03:22
    Originally posted by Rank outsider
    Wagner and I have never really got on. Which I readily acknowledge is a problem with me, rather than him.

    I fear I am in the camp of 'has some nice moments, but some bad half an hours' to misquote Mr Rossini.

    However, it has always been my intention to give the Ring Cycle a proper chance and hearing scacc, pianoman, Teinosuke etc wax lyrical a ...[text shortened]... t get on with Wagner, but I would emigrate to avoid having to attend one of his concerts.)
    Pianoman1 certainly hit it out of the park on this one. I know you read music so looking at score excerpts should be quite helpful. Ernest Newman in his "Stories of the Great Operas & Their Composers" gives the best accounting of The Ring. You still face a daunting and herculean task sometimes best tackled piecemeal and setting one small step at a time one by one until one climbs this majestic pinnacle of art. Think of getting sucked into the vortex or a whirlwind of passion, emotion, human foibles and stark human darkness explained in sublime art. Don't expect melodiousness a la Verdi or Donizetti as the German mind and language don't quite work that way. Think of the importance of the lyrics and how Wagner deplored "recitative" and had to invent his own mode of expression in his ideal of "sprechtsingen" or sing speak/speak sing as you may want to approach it. Let yourself go and enjoy that first scene from Das Rheingold with the Rhinemaidens teasing Alberich with false promises of easy sex and goad him into stealing the Rheingold and doing something with it if he abjures love. Immerse yourself in the undulating water-like Rhein music with it extraordinary orchestration which wowed the world's most important composers who had never heard music quite like it. Perhaps some preparation by first enjoying Tristan und Isolde is also in order since it embodies the ideals of gesamkunstwerke better then even Das Ring der Nibelungen. Focus on that glorious "look" leitmotif ushered in during the Vorspiel then repeated in the first act when the leitmotifs of love/look/death are interwoven into a terrifying and sublime moment that explains Wagner in a few bars better than any other work for it foretells the overriding themes of redemption through love, but also potential or actual death and eventual resurrection into idyllic afterlife. I assure you you will not be disappointed and shall find great rewards in your efforts for you are truly missing out on one of art's greatest composers! Lastly I disagree entirely with Rossini, despite also loving him dearly. Wagner garrulous? Why certainly, but never without reason for he never really set a bad foot forward musically/artistically. Wagner is like the melding of Bernini/Michelangelo/Raphael but in musical/theatrical form with a wee bit of Picasso/Dali for good measure with the poetry of a Shakespeare to boot.
  5. 19 Sep '13 16:08
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    Perhaps some preparation by first enjoying Tristan und Isolde is also in order since it embodies the ideals of gesamkunstwerke better then even Das Ring der Nibelungen.
    I wonder if the best way to start preparing for the Ring is by listening to / watching The Flying Dutchman? Wagner's most accessible work, and one in which the use of the leitmotif and other Wagnerian techniques are already clearly apparent. Still, I jumped in at the deep end with Tristan and loved it first time!
  6. 19 Sep '13 19:11
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    I wonder if the best way to start preparing for the Ring is by listening to / watching The Flying Dutchman? Wagner's most accessible work, and one in which the use of the leitmotif and other Wagnerian techniques are already clearly apparent. Still, I jumped in at the deep end with Tristan and loved it first time!
    Indeed an excellent idea. Not everyone can jump in at the deep end. I did exactly that as well and never looked back although I did find myself better able to enjoy all of Wagner's earlier operas of which my favorite is Lohengrin. Der Fliegende Hollander is quite a masterpiece and deserves more attention than it gets. A good friend, lucky enough to make it to Bayreuth, but not a classical music fan at all, picked this opera for its length and came out of the Festpielhaus transfixed and a Wagnerian convert.
  7. 20 Sep '13 09:59
    Originally posted by Pianoman1
    Such gritty determination is to be admired, and my thoughts will be with you in your Herculean labour that awaits you. One thing I would say:

    DO NOT DIVE IN TO THE RING WITHOUT SOME PREPARATION!!

    Too many people expect to listen to Wagner and to be immediately bowled over by the gesamtkunstwerk.

    The highest point ever reached in human creative a ...[text shortened]... own into relief.

    Tread carefully and good luck!! A glorious experience awaits.........
    Thanks very much for such a considered and helpful response. Greatly appreciated.

    I have found a couple of sites with the leitmotivs set out. The first was far too comprehensive, the second more manageable, so I will start with that and see where I get to.

    And nothing you say puts me off (the opposite in fact!).
  8. 20 Sep '13 10:10
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    Pianoman1 certainly hit it out of the park on this one. I know you read music so looking at score excerpts should be quite helpful. Ernest Newman in his "Stories of the Great Operas & Their Composers" gives the best accounting of The Ring. You still face a daunting and herculean task sometimes best tackled piecemeal and setting one small step at a time ...[text shortened]... a wee bit of Picasso/Dali for good measure with the poetry of a Shakespeare to boot.
    Same goes to you.

    I certainly will be tackling it piece meal. I have Rheingold recorded now, and will watch it slowly over the next week.

    Of course, it might be better to start elsewhere, but I think I was prompted by the fact that I was thinking this is something I would like to do, and Sky has just laid in on a plate for me (no excuses, so to speak).

    Ironically, the Proms did do a performance of Tristan und Isolde this year and I missed it. I don't think it is available on Iplayer, so I missed the boat there. Even so, there is only so much I can do what with life getting in the way.

    Had I but world enough and time.....
  9. 20 Sep '13 10:22 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    . A good friend, lucky enough to make it to Bayreuth, but not a classical music fan at all, picked this opera for its length and came out of the Festpielhaus transfixed and a Wagnerian convert.
    One of my best men almost never listens to music. He is completely tone deaf, has no sense of rhythm, and no interest in music at all.

    At university, however, he did listen to three things, endlessly.

    1 American Pie - Don Maclean

    2 Billy Joel's Greatest Hits (or some such)

    3 Wagner (don't know what)

    To my knowledge, he has never added to this collection.

    Figure that one out!

    Only one person I have ever met has less interest in music that this, and that is my dad. He never, and I mean never, listens to music, of any description, and never has. Now that is a real rarity.

    Fortunately, my mother was the exact opposite.
  10. 20 Sep '13 11:29
    Originally posted by Rank outsider
    One of my best men almost never listens to music. He is completely tone deaf, has no sense of rhythm, and no interest in music at all.

    At university, however, he did listen to three things, endlessly.

    1 American Pie - Don Maclean

    2 Billy Joel's Greatest Hits (or some such)

    3 Wagner (don't know what)

    To my knowledge, he has never added t ...[text shortened]... , and never has. Now that is a real rarity.

    Fortunately, my mother was the exact opposite.
    Music is a joy, like an oyster with uncertain content simply waiting to be opened. It brings color and spice into our lives. So much of it awaits our pleasure there is always too much music and too little time. Yet once we decide to make time to bring this art, which cannot be enjoyed in one look like pictoric art, it then possesses us like a hyper-jealous mistress, demanding, always looking askance at out feeble efforts to return to pop, not always rewarding us right away for our incursions into deeper classical music. Once Rheingold gets to you you'll never look back. It will no longer be possible. Even some of the subtlest things in Rheingold such as Alberich's sneeze in act one is a thing of pure genius.

    One thing Wagner did few other musicians did, was set out sketches in his mind and notebooks, wrote the libretti, then only tackled the musical part of his dramas once his gifts were up to the task and took 25 years to finish the glorious Ring. Interspersing Tristan and Meistersinger in between all this only adds to the man's legend.