Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

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John F
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Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Fri Jul 01, 2016 11:25 am

More Operatic Drama at Bayreuth as Andris Nelsons Pulls Out
MICHAEL COOPER
JUNE 30, 2016

The Bayreuth Festival in Germany, which Richard Wagner conceived to stage his operas, has a reputation for backstage drama that rivals its music dramas, and this year is no different. Andris Nelsons, one of the world’s leading conductors, announced Thursday that he had withdrawn from the new production of “Parsifal” that will open the festival next month. “Owing to a differing approach in various matters, the atmosphere at this year’s Bayreuth Festival did not develop in a mutually comfortable way for all parties,” said a written statement that was issued on behalf of Mr. Nelsons and his management team, Konzertdirektion Schmid.

It was the latest drama at a festival that has become famous for family squabbles among Wagner’s heirs, who run the festival; provocative productions; and artistic dust-ups — but which is still sacred ground for Wagnerites, who are among the most obsessive of all opera fans.

Mr. Nelsons, 37, who is the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and will be the next music director of the storied Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, has a special fondness for Wagner. He made his Bayreuth debut in 2010 conducting a production of “Lohengrin” that helped start his international career. But he had several concerns about the new “Parsifal,” according to someone briefed on the situation but who was not authorized to speak publicly. He was uncomfortable with certain aspects of the production, which is being directed by Uwe Eric Laufenberg and which contains a reference to Islam. And Christian Thielemann, a Wagner specialist who was given the new title of music director of the festival last year, sat in on some of his rehearsals and offered input — which is unusual among conductors. The director, Mr. Laufenberg, has said that Islam is not a theme of his “Parsifal” production. “There is a brief reference to Islam in ‘Parsifal,’ but this piece doesn’t revolve around Islam,” he was quoted as saying by the news site Deutsche Welle. “It’s about Christianity.”

Peter Emmerich, a spokesman for the festival, confirmed in an email that Mr. Thielemann had sat in on some rehearsals, but said that he done so in his role as music director and at the request of Mr. Nelsons. He said that no replacement had been chosen yet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/arts/ ... tival.html
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Fri Jul 01, 2016 11:43 am

The report is so vague that it's difficult to comment, so I'll just say that it's about time for a conductor on Nelsons's level to walk out on weird stuff, if that's what it was.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by Lance » Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:37 pm

AMEN.
maestrob wrote:The report is so vague that it's difficult to comment, so I'll just say that it's about time for a conductor on Nelsons's level to walk out on weird stuff, if that's what it was.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:51 pm

You're right that the announcements have been diplomatically vague, but my guess is that Nelsons was less bothered by the production (about which we know nothing yet) than by Christian Thielemann kibitzing his rehearsals for "Parsifal" and actually taking part. That's what the report in "Die Welt" says:
Manuel Brug wrote:Er hat den grünen Hügel verlassen, ist Knall auf Fall aus der Neuproduktion ausgestiegen. Der Grund: Christian Thielemann, der Musikdirektor von Bayreuth, hat ihm zu viel hineingeredet, sich in die Proben eingemischt, mitdirigiert. Der 36-jährige Nelsons, in vielem noch ein blauäugig-sensibles, liebes Kind, ist nur wirklich niemand, der zu Wutausbrüchen und Skandalen neigt. Aber das war offenbar selbst ihm zu viel... Wenn der konziliante, sanfte Andris Nelsons also nicht mehr mag, dann muss ein ernstes Problem vorliegen.
http://klassiker.welt.de/2016/06/30/thi ... sifal-hin/

It's a long and informative article, and I don't have time to translate. Sorry! But those who can read German should find it more than interesting.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Fri Jul 01, 2016 9:43 pm

It's weird that Thielemann would interfere in rehearsals with another conductor: in fact it's bizarre. The English article says that Thielemann was there at Nelsons's invitation: I honestly don't believe it. If he was interfering in the rehearsal process, Nelsons was certainly right to walk.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:07 am

maestrob wrote:The report is so vague that it's difficult to comment, so I'll just say that it's about time for a conductor on Nelsons's level to walk out on weird stuff, if that's what it was.
Hear hear!.

In the 2013 Opera Australia Melbourne Ring, the conductor walked too over artistic differences. It's being revived in November/December.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Sat Jul 02, 2016 1:10 am

maestrob wrote:It's weird that Thielemann would interfere in rehearsals with another conductor: in fact it's bizarre. The English article says that Thielemann was there at Nelsons's invitation: I honestly don't believe it. If he was interfering in the rehearsal process, Nelsons was certainly right to walk.
Whatever Thielemann's strengths as a conductor, and I think there are many, he has been a law unto himself and a disruptive force wherever he goes. I can't imagine what possessed Katharina Wagner to appoint him music director of the Bayreuth Festival, a position that did not previously exist and for which there has been no evident need at Bayreuth.

One of the functions of a music director, auditioning and selecting players for the orchestra (which is a pick-up group, though it doesn't change much from year to year), somehow managed to get done even when no one conductor was in charge. Maybe Katharina Wagner felt it was beyond her and her musical staff. Who knows? Well, of course she does, but she's not telling.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by slofstra » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:06 pm

John F wrote:You're right that the announcements have been diplomatically vague, but my guess is that Nelsons was less bothered by the production (about which we know nothing yet) than by Christian Thielemann kibitzing his rehearsals for "Parsifal" and actually taking part. That's what the report in "Die Welt" says:
Manuel Brug wrote:Er hat den grünen Hügel verlassen, ist Knall auf Fall aus der Neuproduktion ausgestiegen. Der Grund: Christian Thielemann, der Musikdirektor von Bayreuth, hat ihm zu viel hineingeredet, sich in die Proben eingemischt, mitdirigiert. Der 36-jährige Nelsons, in vielem noch ein blauäugig-sensibles, liebes Kind, ist nur wirklich niemand, der zu Wutausbrüchen und Skandalen neigt. Aber das war offenbar selbst ihm zu viel... Wenn der konziliante, sanfte Andris Nelsons also nicht mehr mag, dann muss ein ernstes Problem vorliegen.
http://klassiker.welt.de/2016/06/30/thi ... sifal-hin/

It's a long and informative article, and I don't have time to translate. Sorry! But those who can read German should find it more than interesting.

With Google Translate you can get the gist of it.

takes Andris Nelsons now sitting on a Bayreuth rehearsal stage and rehearse the "Parsifal", the new production of this year's Wagner Festival. but he does not. The Latvian star conductor, held by the top job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and from 2018 also at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, is currently at home in Riga. He has left the green hills, is all of a sudden out of the new production disembarked. The reason: Christian Thielemann, the music director of Bayreuth, has promised him into it too much, meddled in the sample, co-directed. The 36-year-old Nelson, in much more a blue-eyed-sensitive, dear child, just really no one who is prone to fits of rage and scandals. But that was apparently even too much for him. And he has drawn the consequences. Pretty radical.

After all, he is not a novice. He has very successfully managed in Bayreuth four years the Neuenfels's rats "Lohengrin", has also contributed to the small animal show in the laboratory quickly became after initial protests to a crowd favorite and cult piece. He has "Parsifal" already performed in concert with a partly identical cast in Birmingham, repeatedly also the third act, the Preludes and the Karfreitagszauber, last recently at the Berlin Philharmonic.

If the conciliatory, gentle Andris Nelsons no longer like, then there must be a serious problem.

And that is quite obvious: Christian Thielemann. As a Menetkel on the wall runs through all the items that the talented conductor, today alongside Daniel Barenboim, the best at least for Wagner held, which always same accusation: musiaklisch great but human incompatible, moody, jealous, domineering, self-centered , There was no job, from which it is not separated in the dispute. In Dresden, where Thielemann Staatskapelle, not projecting the Semperoper, it crashes too long. Only the musicians have grudgingly silent while the music theater had to watch him a designated director (which will be probably resign expensive) lost and much reputation came, since Thielemann mitmischt here, but not want to take responsibility.

He must in this recent scandal now probably. Because Nelson was so in the corner driven that he saw no other way out. It is reported of rehearsals where Thielemann into talking and the orchestra and chorus finally did what Thielemann anschaffte from above. Such a loss of authority may be another conductor course not tolerate.

What drives Thielemann only? Last week was in Bayreuth yet vain joy and beautiful peace. All participants had gathered to the running at full speed samples at any stage prevailed eager bustle. The four "Ring" parts, "Parsifal", "Tristan", "Dutch", nowhere else in the world such heavyweights are parallel in the works.

Christian Thielemann, even with the resumption of "Tristan" busy last year, sat with Crocs and daily the same Polo in the canteen, ate lunch with Andris Nelsons, distributed meat platters in the Directorate, and raved about Marek Janowski, who after a long grave abstinence during the season of krill Petrenko to Castorf "ring" -übernimmt. As paterfamilias he splints to feel comfortable, seemed jovial, they bleated highest over the stupid security fence, which made some appear as a prison fortress, the Festival Area.

Each highlighted how quiet and peaceful, this year everything started off, and you also might not hear from the silly Islamism interpretations against Uwe-Eric Laufenberg Bergs new "Parsifal" production, which after all, as provided by Wagner to parts also will be located in an oriental area. The provincial head of the municipality, however, found itself - even if they pass the buck now want to push the festival - therefore alerted and was several months ago on a security concept - with the known consequences. Parsifal Klaus Florian Vogt, who tends to forget his house card, which demanded even out by through the outdoor terrain he grazed in Warrior costume with gun until it was stopped by the security staff.

Music boss that's in Bayreuth case especially: make possible. Colleagues prepare the best terrain. Advise, but do not meddle. But even with Janowski, who has already submitted a grandiose, still valid Dresdner LPs "ring", as Christian Thielemann even assisted as pimply teenager with Herbert von Karajan at the piano, had to now be instructed by him. And that is not natural.

Now the sole Festival director Katharina Wagner has a problem of course. The uncontrollable Christian Thielemann. On the one hand a good thing for the hill, on the other hand now probably a curse, although it was thought that here, on it expensive terrain because he would pull himself together. A fallacy. Apparently he has not really processed his non-election debacle with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Now of course everyone wants to know how this will continue ... especially who should now direct the "Parsifal". And Nelson's Katharina Wagner has to be extremely considerate now. Finally, he should conduct in 2020 the new "Ring" in Bayreuth. At least he has signed the contract.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:40 pm

The substitute conductor is Hartmut Haenchen.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:59 pm

John F wrote:The substitute conductor is Hartmut Haenchen.
From Wikipedia:
From 1973 to 1976, Haenchen was conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic and a regular guest with the Dresden State Opera. Between 1976 and 1979, he served as music director of the Mecklenburgische Staatskapelle and Staatstheater in Schwerin. Subsequently, he began to make regular appearances at Berlin's Komische Oper. In 1980 he took over as artistic director of the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra in Berlin.
In 1986, Haenchen became music director of the De Nederlandse Opera (DNO) in Amsterdam and chief conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (NPO) and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. During his tenure in Amsterdam, DNO became renowned for its high-quality ensemble productions and innovative stagings. Haenchen was particularly associated with the German repertoire: Richard Strauss, Mozart, and Wagner, but he also conducted opera of Verdi, Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, and Gluck. After the 1999 Ring cycle, Haenchen left his post but has continued as a guest conductor. With the NPO, the newly formed Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra quickly rose in stature, under his leadership, not only in its opera performances but also in symphonic concerts, recordings, and foreign tours. Haenchen resigned his position in September 2002 to protest budget cuts.
Haenchen has made guest appearances in virtually all the European countries and toured Japan, the United States and Canada. He has conducted opera in Amsterdam, Bologna, Geneva, Jerusalem, London, Munich, New York, Stuttgart, Warsaw, Vienna and Wiesbaden, Berlin, Dresden, Milan, Paris, Madrid. Two new productions, which he directed at the Royal Opera House in London, were singled out for the Laurence Olivier Award.
He is scheduled to conduct Parsifal at Bayreuth in the summer of 2016.
Judging by how the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra sounds under Jaap van Zweden, I'd say that Haenchen is a fine orchestra builder. Born in 1943, he attended rehearsals at Bayreuth as a young man. This must be a dream come true for him.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Sat Jul 16, 2016 2:02 am

Nowadays it seems that any opera company can produce the Ring cycle and have a recording or video published of it. Haenchen conducted the Netherlands Opera's Ring and it's out on DVD. So even though most of his recordings have been of 18th century music, he's done some Wagner too.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Sat Jul 16, 2016 12:23 pm

John F wrote:Nowadays it seems that any opera company can produce the Ring cycle and have a recording or video published of it. Haenchen conducted the Netherlands Opera's Ring and it's out on DVD. So even though most of his recordings have been of 18th century music, he's done some Wagner too.
Yes, I was gifted that Ring cycle and musically it's quite good, IMHO. Amazon is now asking $300 for the DVD set. :mrgreen:

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:42 am

Review: A Sublime and Provocative ‘Parsifal’ at Bayreuth
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
JULY 26, 2016

BAYREUTH, Germany — A large security force, with police officers and checkpoints, was present on Monday for the opening of this summer’s Bayreuth Festival, featuring the premiere of a new production of Wagner’s “Parsifal.” This was understandable, given the tensions here in southern Germany after a spate of violent attacks — four in just the last week, at least two of which were perpetrated by individuals claiming ties to radical Islamic groups.

Bayreuth administrators had special cause to be worried. Early news reports suggested that the production, by the German director Uwe Eric Laufenberg, was disrespectful of Muslims. It was rumored that in a scene in Act II, the Flower Maidens under the spell of the demonic sorcerer Klingsor are presented as temptresses in Islamic dress covering skimpy undergarments.

As for the threats the festival is grappling with, the night before “Parsifal” opened, a Syrian refugee who had been denied asylum in Germany was turned away from a music festival in Ansbach, some 70 miles from Bayreuth, and set off a suicide bomb, killing himself and injuring many. This “Parsifal” production, which focuses on what unites us across religious lines, could hardly be more relevant.

This staging is indeed rich with Muslim imagery. But Mr. Laufenberg’s sensitive, visually arresting production offers a searching exploration of Wagner’s complex, often baffling final opera. With an excellent cast, headed by the clarion tenor Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role, and the conductor Hartmut Haenchen drawing radiant sound and striking transparency from the festival orchestra, this was a sublime and provocative “Parsifal.”

In an interview in the program book, Mr. Laufenberg explains that he sees the opera as not exactly religious, but as “pan-religious,” or “post-religious,” a work that goes “beyond religion” and that at the same time “explores the origin of religion.” His production certainly underlines the explicitly Christian elements of an opera that is about a band of knights devoted to the protection of the holy grail, who experience a spiritual crisis as their leader, Amfortas, suffers a mysterious wound. In a daring performance by the American bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, this Amfortas is a handsome man in his 30s who appears during the ritual ceremony of Act I as a stand-in for Christ on the cross, wearing a loincloth and a crown of thorns, dripping blood from the wound on his side that will not heal.

To convey the continuous crisis this community of knights is enduring, Mr. Laufenberg chose to set the story not in the libretto’s Gothic Spain, but in a place where Christianity feels under threat. The knights seem to occupy a battle-torn, crumbling church in the Middle East, in roughly modern times. Soldiers in fatigues with assault weapons keep watch over the knights. The church space is dominated by a huge basin, like a baptismal font, where two of Amfortas’s men take him for a healing bath.

It’s clear that these knights practice charity in their town. At the start of the performance, we see people in need sleeping alongside the knights on cots, even a family with a baby carriage. Mr. Laufenberg’s stage imagery blurs religious distinctions in affecting ways. Wagner’s mysterious Kundry, who serves the knights, is an ageless woman who has suffered for centuries, yearning for redemption. She is also a classic femme fatale. All those qualities come through in the performance of the soprano Elena Pankratova, who brings an alluring blend of cool, gleaming sound and piercing expressivity.

Mr. Laufenberg aptly commented in his interview that no character in Wagner says and knows so much, yet reveals so little of himself, as Gurnemanz, a veteran knight, respected by all. This production boasts the German bass Georg Zeppenfeld, whose voice carries natural heft and authority without a trace of huffiness or posturing. Trim and purposeful, wearing glasses and a simple cap, he exudes patience and understanding, even when exasperated by Parsifal’s denseness.

With his long, fair hair and physical restlessness, Mr. Vogt makes a baffled Parsifal, the young, rootless man who seems to chance upon the community. Is he the prophesied innocent who can redeem the knights by his experience of compassion? Or is he, as Gurnemanz at first concludes, just a fool? Mr. Vogt’s impressive voice is focused and penetrating, yet meltingly tender in soft, high-lying phrases.

For Act II, which takes place in Klingsor’s castle, the set transforms into a vaguely Islamic temple. The twisted Klingsor (the strong bass-baritone Gerd Grochowski), who once tried to be one of the knights, now hates them. But his ambivalence is suggested by the room full of crucifixes that he secretly maintains. His Flower Maidens do appear at first in black robes covering all but their faces. When Parsifal comes into their midst, and they remove those garments, they’re wearing cheesy-looking outfits, like storybook exotic Arabian dancers. Mr. Laufenberg may be inviting us to see the scene as a little ridiculous. Some devotees of Wagner’s score feel that the maidens’ waltzing music of seduction is, by intention, sickly sweet, an interpretation that comes through here.

In Act III, Parsifal, who has spent years wandering and lost, returns to the sanctuary of the knights, where his spiritual transformation is completed through the metaphoric act of baptism. Amfortas, now grown old and wrinkled, is asked to perform the grail ritual for his father, who has died. In this staging, the shaken ruler is turned to not just by his band of Christian knights, but also by Jews wearing prayer shawls and Muslims carrying prayer books.

Mr. Laufenberg skirts cliché with this idea. The scene could have come across like some banal moment of Wagnerian kumbaya. Yet, the choral writing here is a babble of desperate, clamoring voices, a quality enhanced by this powerful concept. The message, it seems, is that everyone is confounded by spiritual issues and that we’re all in this together. At the end, the knights, and all the people in the community, wander off into a misty distance as the houselights brighten, signaling that the audience, too, is part of this redemptive act.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/27/arts/ ... agner.html
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:38 am

John, oops, I didn't read this until after I started a new thread-didn't want to interfere with the emphasis on Andris Nelson-wonder if I should delete my thread start up? Regards, Len

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Wed Jul 27, 2016 9:48 am

It's up to you.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:37 pm

John F wrote:It's up to you.
I'd like your imput on what seems best-I'd especially like your thoughts on the Parsifal-- you can put it in either thread! Regards, Len :lol:

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:08 am

My feeling is that a message should be posted only once. If you still can delete your duplicate posting - that is, if nobody has replied to it yet - that's what I suggest.

I have no opinion on the performance. I haven't heard it, nor any of the singers or the conductor in this kind of music, and nothing in Tommasini's extensive description of the production inspires me to comment on it either, pro or con.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:16 am

John F wrote:My feeling is that a message should be posted only once. If you still can delete your duplicate posting - that is, if nobody has replied to it yet - that's what I suggest.

I have no opinion on the performance. I haven't heard it, nor any of the singers or the conductor in this kind of music, and nothing in Tommasini's extensive description of the production inspires me to comment on it either, pro or con.
Okay made the deletion-my thought on the production's description was to remind me a little about the Klinghoffer controversy and also Charlie Hebdo--this definitely doesn't mean I would ban it or demonstrate against it--especially not having seen it--would love to know if Gelb thought about this new production. Sure hope there's no violence of any sort.


"Early news reports suggested that the production, by the German director Uwe Eric Laufenberg, was disrespectful of Muslims. It was rumored that in a scene in Act II, the Flower Maidens under the spell of the demonic sorcerer Klingsor are presented as temptresses in Islamic dress covering skimpy undergarments." Regards, Len

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:14 am

Wagner doesn't specify where Klingsor and his magic castle and garden are. Gurnemanz says only that they're "over the mountain" in "heathen territory." But the medieval stories of Percival, the quest for the holy grail, the Knights of the Round Table, and King Arthur are linked to the crusades against the Saracens in the holy land, i.e. Muslims, who were known as heathens. So a connection between Klingsor and Islam is not only logical, it may even be implicit.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:51 am

John F wrote:Wagner doesn't specify where Klingsor and his magic castle and garden are. Gurnemanz says only that they're "over the mountain" in "heathen territory." But the medieval stories of Percival, the quest for the holy grail, the Knights of the Round Table, and King Arthur are linked to the crusades against the Saracens in the holy land, i.e. Muslims, who were known as heathens. So a connection between Klingsor and Islam is not only logical, it may even be implicit.
Thanks, very interesting-hope no terrorist activity develops as a result of the production! Regards, Len

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:04 pm

John F wrote:Nowadays it seems that any opera company can produce the Ring cycle and have a recording or video published of it. Haenchen conducted the Netherlands Opera's Ring and it's out on DVD. So even though most of his recordings have been of 18th century music, he's done some Wagner too.
You say that as though it's a bad thing. You always have the option of not buying or watching. People don't start out as heavyweights, and sometimes they become that through reaching a wider audience by recordings or videos. I know you know that, so I am faintly surprised by this remark.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:52 pm

Let's put it this way. I grew up when making a new recording was a special event. None of the Ring operas was recorded before the 1950s, and a complete Ring with a sensational cast and the Vienna Philharmonic, made with great care, wasn't completed until the 1960s. Nowadays it seems that complete Ring cycles are ground out one after the other, like mass production, with nobody special in the cast or in the pit. This confuses the issue for ordinary people, not like us, who want to get just one recording of the Ring but it should be absolutely top-flight, as the work deserves. For me this definitely is not a good thing.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:10 pm

John F wrote:Let's put it this way. I grew up when making a new recording was a special event. None of the Ring operas was recorded before the 1950s, and a complete Ring with a sensational cast and the Vienna Philharmonic, made with great care, wasn't completed until the 1960s. Nowadays it seems that complete Ring cycles are ground out one after the other, like mass production, with nobody special in the cast or in the pit. This confuses the issue for ordinary people, not like us, who want to get just one recording of the Ring but it should be absolutely top-flight, as the work deserves. For me this definitely is not a good thing.
Fair enough, I grew up in the same era. My first Ring, like many people's, was the Solti. My second was a set such as you refer to, by the South Australian Opera with Asher Fisch. Not, on paper, top drawer, though it had singers like John Wegner, Stuart Skelton and Lisa Gasteen. It was a good Ring for me, and good to hear a different approach. Since then I have acquired Rings by Thielemann, Karajan, Levine, Keilberth, Knappertsbush,Bohm and Janowski. So the Fisch isn't so important. But I wouldn't demean it in any way.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:20 am

I don't want to be rude, so I won't question the quality or the raison d'etre of recordings like the South Australian State Opera's complete Ring on the Melba label. What has concerned me is that such projects could saturate the limited market for the Ring and crowd out the making of new recordings of the very highest standard, great recordings for the ages, like Decca's with Solti.

But now that bricks-and-mortar record stores are a thing of the past, and most recordings are ordered online sight unseen, such marginal efforts on marginal labels (there, I said it, sorry) are less intrusive into a market which really can't sustain dozens of recordings of the Ring. And since the major labels have largely withdrawn from making new recordings of operas, it's unlikely that they are discouraged from big projects like the Decca and DG Ring cycles because of an overcrowded market; even if that weren't so, Sony Classical (for example) wouldn't undertake a Ring recording nowadays anyway.

So what the heck, let there be hundreds or thousands of Ring recordings made in China or Honduras or Tanzania or anywhere, with singers and conductors of purely local reputation or none at all. (I'm speaking generally and not referring to Lisa Gasteen or Asher Fisch, who of course have performed at the Met without, I have to say, greatly distinguishing themselves.) I give up. What does it matter?
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:35 pm

Fact is, gentlemen, that DVDs are very much replacing CDs for opera recordings, which I see as a good thing. If you want to just listen to the music because you don't agree with the staging, fine. Also, DVDs are longer, so that a complete opera can be put on one disc. That's a bonus, but an important one, I think.

Progress moves on......... :D

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Sat Jul 30, 2016 3:18 pm

You're right about DVDs of operas, but it's essentially about economics. The record companies have essentially abandoned studio recordings, which are inherently expensive, but it's cheap and easy to publish an existing telecast.

The problem with that is, opera house casts always include some leading singers and/or conductors who are less than top flight, even in production premieres - stopgaps rather than stars. This is so even of telecasts from the Met, Covent Garden, and La Scala. Not only does the DVD's publisher have no control over casting, it's take it or leave it for them, they almost always have to make do with the audio pickup recorded by the broadcaster. And, as you observe, we are stuck with whatever cockamamie concept the production foists on the opera, unless we blindfold ourselves and convert the DVD to an audio recording.

This is progress? Only in time; artistically it's regress.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:48 am

maestrob wrote:Fact is, gentlemen, that DVDs are very much replacing CDs for opera recordings, which I see as a good thing. If you want to just listen to the music because you don't agree with the staging, fine. Also, DVDs are longer, so that a complete opera can be put on one disc. That's a bonus, but an important one, I think.

Progress moves on......... :D
I have quite a few operas on blueray and DVD b ut I seldom watch because the sound quality of my CD system is vastly better. Many people hook their TV through the sound system, but I have two in different rooms and the TV in a third.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:10 am

John F wrote:I don't want to be rude, so I won't question the quality or the raison d'etre of recordings like the South Australian State Opera's complete Ring on the Melba label. What has concerned me is that such projects could saturate the limited market for the Ring and crowd out the making of new recordings of the very highest standard, great recordings for the ages, like Decca's with Solti.

But now that bricks-and-mortar record stores are a thing of the past, and most recordings are ordered online sight unseen, such marginal efforts on marginal labels (there, I said it, sorry) are less intrusive into a market which really can't sustain dozens of recordings of the Ring. And since the major labels have largely withdrawn from making new recordings of operas, it's unlikely that they are discouraged from big projects like the Decca and DG Ring cycles because of an overcrowded market; even if that weren't so, Sony Classical (for example) wouldn't undertake a Ring recording nowadays anyway.

So what the heck, let there be hundreds or thousands of Ring recordings made in China or Honduras or Tanzania or anywhere, with singers and conductors of purely local reputation or none at all. (I'm speaking generally and not referring to Lisa Gasteen or Asher Fisch, who of course have performed at the Met without, I have to say, greatly distinguishing themselves.) I give up. What does it matter?
It was quite a recording event within Australia, and a notable political and musical coup for Maria van Damme, the redoubtable figure behind Melba Recordings. I enjoyed it, and thought it worth while; it is still probably the best-recorded Ring I have. I would be astounded if the presence of this cycle on SACD had the slightest influence on any choice made by Universal or Sony, though I don't really know much about what drives decisions these days. It is probably, as always, the balance between budget, prestige, commercial expectations and other factors, in which budget considerations are ever more important. Have you heard any of the SA Ring, John? What did you think?

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:27 am

I haven't heard any of it, but in a way, that's my point. Life has only so many years, days, hours, and only so many of them can be devoted to classical music performances and recordings. I can well believe that the South Australian Opera Ring recording is a source of pride in Australia, and I don't begrudge you that. But I really do not have one minute to spare on it.

If that recording were only distributed in Australia, then of course it wouldn't have any impact on the major international classical music audio and video labels. But it's for sale worldwide through amazon.com, along with dozens of other Ring recordings and DVDs. You think that saturation of the market with Ring recordings, many at very cheap prices, has not the slightest influence on the major companies' decisions on artists and repertoire? Come on now.

You say that the SAO Ring is "probably the best-recorded Ring I have." I suppose that refers to the sound quality, not the quality of the performance itself; you didn't say "best recorded Ring." :) You listed recordings by Solti, Karajan, and others in your collection. If I had those recordings, which I do, and if I wanted to add yet another that would provide a "different approach," I would go for one of the two Furtwängler live recordings, for all their imperfections in the orchestral playing and recorded sound. Not Asher Fisch!
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Sun Jul 31, 2016 11:59 am

barney wrote:
John F wrote:Let's put it this way. I grew up when making a new recording was a special event. None of the Ring operas was recorded before the 1950s, and a complete Ring with a sensational cast and the Vienna Philharmonic, made with great care, wasn't completed until the 1960s. Nowadays it seems that complete Ring cycles are ground out one after the other, like mass production, with nobody special in the cast or in the pit. This confuses the issue for ordinary people, not like us, who want to get just one recording of the Ring but it should be absolutely top-flight, as the work deserves. For me this definitely is not a good thing.
Fair enough, I grew up in the same era. My first Ring, like many people's, was the Solti. My second was a set such as you refer to, by the South Australian Opera with Asher Fisch. Not, on paper, top drawer, though it had singers like John Wegner, Stuart Skelton and Lisa Gasteen. It was a good Ring for me, and good to hear a different approach. Since then I have acquired Rings by Thielemann, Karajan, Levine, Keilberth, Knappertsbush,Bohm and Janowski. So the Fisch isn't so important. But I wouldn't demean it in any way.
For the record (pun intended!) the Ring I go to most often is the Keilberth stereo 1955 version with Hotter in outstanding voice on Testament. Everyone in the cast is in top form in all four operas, and the live feel of Bayreuth gives an added frisson with or without headphones. I think the Solti, however great, is flawed by Hotter's wobble. I love the Levine DVD, but his Siegfried (Sigfried Jerusalem) had indeed lost his voice by the time the taping was done, so that one's spoilt for me as well, even if it does have the best conducting of the three, and James Morris's Wotan is outstanding and fully equal to Hotter in 1955.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Sun Jul 31, 2016 6:07 pm

Yes, I was referring to sound quality.
Brian, I have the 1953 Keilberth. Have you heard that, and is there much difference in interpretation or any other factor such that I should invest again?

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:07 am

barney wrote:Yes, I was referring to sound quality.
Brian, I have the 1953 Keilberth. Have you heard that, and is there much difference in interpretation or any other factor such that I should invest again?
Yes, there is a difference, which may or may not be important to you, but the 1955 version is in experimental STEREO, which, especially with headphones, improves the sound experience tremendously. In 1954, new full-frequency microphones and associated equipment were invented and used for the first time by RCA and then Mercury records. This was the equipment used to record the live 1955 Ring by London records, but the recording was not released at the time, because they were improving studio technology even further during the late 1950's, so London held off and started a new studio Ring project with Solti in 1959. Sadly, by then, Hotter's voice had deteriorated, but they went ahead anyway and we can be thankful they did. The live 1955 stereo tapes were carefully preserved, however, and Testament finally released them on CD several years ago.

It's worth every penny, IMHO.

FWIW, the interpretation is musically similar for both sets.

Enjoy!

Image

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:31 am

James Morris studied the role of Wotan with Hans Hotter before singing it at the Met, and he learned well, even adopting some of Hotter's interpretive nuances. That said, he inevitably lacked Hotter's deep insight into the meaning and significance of what he was singing - inevitably because Hotter was singing in his own language - and Hotter's Lieder-singer ability to bring phrases and single words into sharp emotional focus.

One breathtaking moment in the 1955 Keilberth "Die Walküre" performance and others is in Wotan's Act 2 scene with Brünnhilde, when in rage and despair he renounces his work: "Nur eines will ich noch: das Ende." Then, after a long silence - Hotter's pause, not Keilberth's or indeed Wagner's - he repeats "Das ende" in a changed tone of voice, as though Wotan is only now coming to realize the significance of what he's just said, the end not just of the treaties and power plays in which he's entangled himself but the end of himself, the end of the world. This is at 38:59



And Hotter does it even more tellingly in the Solti recording ten years later.



No question, his voice is somewhat unsteady - he was 56 and had been singing Wotan for nearly three decades - but even then, there was no Wotan to rival him, nor has there been since, not even James Morris despite his more immediately attractive voice and admirable qualities.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:46 pm

maestrob wrote:
barney wrote:Yes, I was referring to sound quality.
Brian, I have the 1953 Keilberth. Have you heard that, and is there much difference in interpretation or any other factor such that I should invest again?
Yes, there is a difference, which may or may not be important to you, but the 1955 version is in experimental STEREO, which, especially with headphones, improves the sound experience tremendously. In 1954, new full-frequency microphones and associated equipment were invented and used for the first time by RCA and then Mercury records. This was the equipment used to record the live 1955 Ring by London records, but the recording was not released at the time, because they were improving studio technology even further during the late 1950's, so London held off and started a new studio Ring project with Solti in 1959. Sadly, by then, Hotter's voice had deteriorated, but they went ahead anyway and we can be thankful they did. The live 1955 stereo tapes were carefully preserved, however, and Testament finally released them on CD several years ago.

It's worth every penny, IMHO.

FWIW, the interpretation is musically similar for both sets.

Enjoy!

Image
Sigh. Thank you, but you've just hit my wallet. Testament isn't cheap. Still, I will appreciate the sound quality.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:06 am

I suggest, instead of buying another Ring recording that is almost the same as one you already have, you buy a Ring that offers a truly different - and, I say, great - alternative. That would be one of the Furtwängler recordings. Here's the end of the La Scala Ring of 1950. It's not in stereo, but does that really matter?



"Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott!"
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by maestrob » Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:39 pm

JohnF:

For me, sound quality is extremely important, especially when listening through headphones, which I do often these days, as I live in a studio apartment and mustn't turn up the volume on my speakers too much (no complaints from neighbors so far). I can even watch/listen to DVDs on my computer now, but not yet blu-ray. I know, I'm behind the times.......

The 1955 stereo Keilberth Ring is a special experience: it sounds like you're in the front row of Bayreuth, and the sound is fully modern, if a bit constricted by the acoustics of the smaller hall. I wouldn't part with it for any reason, and I am eternally grateful to Testament for having released it.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:36 pm

Thanks, John. I'll listen when I can, probably tomorrow. Just about to go out for the day.
Amazon started with the 1955 Testament Keilberth at $145, which is getting close to $200 Australian dollars. I simply can't justify that when I already have a dozen Rings, not all of which I will probably listen to again (at least not all through). I'll just keep an eye out for a bargain. I might investigate Furtwangler, though.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:22 pm

maestrob: You already have that recording so it's not an issue. I was speaking more to Barney, who doesn't and may be considering getting another complete Ring. He's not indifferent to recorded sound quality, as his comment on the South Australian Opera version show, but I'm suggesting that there are more important considerations, such as the quality of the performance itself.

The La Scala/Furtwängler Ring is a radio aircheck and as such can't compete with in-house recordings by major record companies. But in the best of many published versions, its sound is listenable and you can hear what's going on, especially if you already know the operas - as you and Barney obviously do. This is a unique recording from which one can learn much about creative music-making and indeed about the Ring itself. Here's a review of the latest transfer of the La Scala Ring, on the Gebhardt label, a great improvement over the transfer that's been uploaded to YouTube:

http://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-4234/

I've read that the Archipel release is sonically as good or better, but I haven't heard it.

John Ardoin prefers the Italian Radio Ring of 1953, which is uncut, somewhat better recorded, and more consistently cast with singers some of whom were appearing in these roles at Bayreuth. The RAI orchestra's playing is more insecure than La Scala's, and Flagstad not only sings better but I'd say is more convincing than Martha Mödl. Furtwängler's pacing is somewhat more expansive than in the live performances in Milan, which sometimes have more urgency. But it's a toss-up, and price and availability of the best Milan transfers can decide the choice.

Barney: In the 1953 Keilberth performance, Windgassen has a memory lapse during "Siegfried." Have you noticed it? He had just taken up the role, I believe he'd only sung it in one other opera house as a try-out for Wieland Wagner and Bayreuth. Yet the interpretation we know so well, from the Decca Ring and countless live recordings, was already almost all there.
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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by barney » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:12 am

No, I have to confess I haven't listened to Siegfried yet. Living down under, we do things back to front, and I tend to listen first to Gotterdammerung, because it is my favourite, followed by Walkure. It's just a matter of finding time, as we all know and lament.
Sound quality does indeed matter to me, but you are right that interpretation/performance matters even more. Most of my listening for pleasure is to recordings that are decades old, though stereo ones and later mono generally sound fine anyway.

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Re: Andris Nelsons cancels Bayreuth

Post by John F » Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:48 am

When you do get around to listening to the 1053 "Siegfried," you may notice that at one point, Windgassen sings the wrong words. I won't say now where and what it is but leave the fun of discovery up to you.

The reason I know is that this Ring cycle was published in America back in the 1950s but illegally. It was on Allegro Royale records, and the performers were mis-identified as no-name soloists and the Dresden State Opera conducted by Fritz Schreiber. Why? Because with the Iron Curtain, East German recordings were unknown in the U.S., and little was known about East German musical life; also, they weren't in the international copyright zone.

But one day, Regina Resnik was in a New York store called the Record Hunter. This was a famous place back then, they did mail order business in the U.S. and abroad. At one time my company's office was right across the street from their Fifth Avenue store. Anyway, they were playing some of the "Dresden" "Die Walküre" and as Sieglinde sang, Regina Resnik exclaimed "That's me!" And it was; she sang the role at Bayreuth in 1953. Out of this came a lawsuit against Allegro and they were required to take the recording off the market, which they did.

But the unsold copies were not recycled. After 20 years in a warehouse somewhere, they reappeared in the Record Hunter. Somebody told me about it, and on a trip to New York bought a copy for next to nothing. At that time, the Decca/London Ring had not progressed beyond "Das Rheingold." The college radio station where I worked wanted to broadcast the Ring, but we didn't have a "Siegfried." so we used the Bayreuth Allegro "Siegfried," correctly identifying who was in it. This is the recording from which I learned the opera, and when I finally heard it in another performance (also with Windgassen, in Stuttgart), I was mildly startled when the Siegfried sang the right words in the right place.

Talk about recording quality, these records were the worst-sounding I've heard short of the Mapleson cylinders. The LPs were mastered at the wrong speed, probably to get more onto each side, so the music was a semitone sharp; our turntables allowed us to adjust the speed and correct the pitch. On the evidence of our ears, the recording must have been made with a home tape recorder whose crystal microphone was set up right in front of the speaker of a low quality AM table radio. We suspect it was done by Edward J. Smith, the notorious pirate of "Golden Age of Opera," who provided Allegro with much of its classical material, but that's just a guess. Attenuated frequency response, a lot of distortion, even some room noise, though not a barking dog as in the infamous Ormandy recording of "Sheherezade."

Every half hour the recordist had to change to a new reel of tape, so there was a gaping hole in the music of a minute or so. Where we could, we patched in a better recording of the music without the gaps; for Act 3's final scene we used the RCA Victor LP with Set Svanholm, Eileen Farrell, and the Rochester Philharmonic conducted by its music director Erich Leinsdorf. We were very pleased with ourselves, but when the Solti "Siegfried" finally appeared, that was it for the Allegro Ring.

Later I found out that in 1953, the Bayreuth Festival gave two performances of the Ring cycle and both were broadcast. In Keilberth's, the Brünnilde was Martha Mödl; the other was conducted by Clemens Krauss, his one Bayreuth summer before his untimely death in Mexico, with Astrid Varnay. So in addition to botching the recording, the anonymous pirate recorded the wrong Ring. :roll: Eventually, during the CD era when it seemed anything and everything was being published, both appeared on CD, the Keilberth of course with much better sound than on Allegro.
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