PARSIFAL

dulcinea
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PARSIFAL

Post by dulcinea » Thu Sep 08, 2005 5:50 pm

:shock: Most operas last two hours. Why are those of Wagner so much longer? PARSIFAL, for example, takes an entire evening to perform. The first act alone is as long as many complete operas I have heard!
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Post by Harvested Sorrow » Thu Sep 08, 2005 6:29 pm

All I'm going to say is this....you're NOT prepared for his ring cycle.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by Charles » Fri Sep 09, 2005 8:36 am

dulcinea wrote::shock: Most operas last two hours. Why are those of Wagner so much longer? PARSIFAL, for example, takes an entire evening to perform. The first act alone is as long as many complete operas I have heard!
If you're new to Wagner and interested in getting into the music, I recommend Lohengrin and Tannhauser. These are not his most 'mature' works, but they are shorter and more accessible, and contain some of the most glorious music ever written. If you like those, go on to Meistersinger and Tristan.

Meisteringer is long, but there is not a phrase of music in the whole thing that is not great.

The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length. Parsifal is much better but should be saved for last.
Last edited by Charles on Fri Sep 09, 2005 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MahlerSnob » Fri Sep 09, 2005 11:27 am

Dutchman is also a good introduction to Wagner. Wagner's operas are generally very slowly paced. The actual sequence of events happens slowly with lots of dialogue (and glorious music) in between. It takes some getting used to, but after you get used to the pacing and the way Wagner sets up storys the operas just fly by. I've watched the Ring several times, and it seems to get shorter every time I watch it.
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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 09, 2005 11:32 am

dulcinea wrote::shock: Most operas last two hours. Why are those of Wagner so much longer? PARSIFAL, for example, takes an entire evening to perform. The first act alone is as long as many complete operas I have heard!
I'm not inviting you to be my fellow scalped ticket fan at Bayreuth (30 miles from here), where the seats are hard and there is no air conditioning.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by MaestroDJS » Fri Sep 09, 2005 2:02 pm

dulcinea wrote::shock: Most operas last two hours. Why are those of Wagner so much longer? PARSIFAL, for example, takes an entire evening to perform. The first act alone is as long as many complete operas I have heard!
I think this well-reasoned and insightful analysis explains it well enough.

Lohengrin, by Mark Twain
Excerpt from A Tramp Abroad, Chapter IX, published in 1880

Another time, we went to Mannheim and attended a shivaree -- otherwise an opera -- the one called “Lohengrin.” The banging and slamming and booming and crashing were something beyond belief. The racking and pitiless pain of it remains stored up in my memory alongside the memory of the time that I had my teeth fixed. There were circumstances which made it necessary for me to stay through the four hours to the end, and I stayed; but the recollection of that long, dragging, relentless season of suffering is indestructible. To have to endure it in silence, and sitting still, made it all the harder. I was in a railed compartment with eight or ten strangers, of the two sexes, and this compelled repression; yet at times the pain was so exquisite that I could hardly keep the tears back. At those times, as the howlings and wailings and shrieking of the singers, and the ragings and roarings and explosions of the vast orchestra rose higher and higher, and wilder and wilder, and fiercer and fiercer, I could have cried if I had been alone. Those strangers would not have been surprised to see a man do such a thing who was being gradually skinned, but they would have marveled at it here, and made remarks about it no doubt, whereas there was nothing in the present case which was an advantage over being skinned. There was a wait of half an hour at the end of the first act, and I could not trust myself to do it, for I felt that I should desert to stay out. There was another wait of half an hour toward nine o’clock, but I had gone through so much by that time that I had no spirit left, and so had no desire but to be let alone.

I do not wish to suggest that the rest of the people there were like me, for, indeed, they were not. Whether it was that they naturally liked that noise, or whether it was that they had learned to like it by getting used to it, I did not at the time know; but they did like -- this was plain enough. While it was going on they sat and looked as rapt and grateful as cats do when one strokes their backs; and whenever the curtain fell they rose to their feet, in one solid mighty multitude, and the air was snowed thick with waving handkerchiefs, and hurricanes of applause swept the place. This was not comprehensible to me. Of course, there were many people there who were not under compulsion to stay; yet the tiers were as full at the close as they had been at the beginning. This showed that the people liked it.

It was a curious sort of a play. In the manner of costumes and scenery it was fine and showy enough; but there was not much action. That is to say, there was not much really done, it was only talked about; and always violently. It was what one might call a narrative play. Everybody had a narrative and a grievance, and none were reasonable about it, but all in an offensive and ungovernable state. There was little of that sort of customary thing where the tenor and the soprano stand down by the footlights, warbling, with blended voices, and keep holding out their arms toward each other and drawing them back and spreading both hands over first one breast and then the other with a shake and a pressure -- no, it was every rioter for himself and no blending. Each sang his indicative narrative in turn, accompanied by the whole orchestra of sixty instruments, and when this had continued for some time, and one was hoping they might come to an understanding and modify the noise, a great chorus composed entirely of maniacs would suddenly break forth, and then during two minutes, and sometimes three, I lived over again all that I suffered the time the orphan asylum burned down.

We only had one brief little season of heaven and heaven’s sweet ecstasy and peace during all this long and diligent and acrimonious reproduction of the other place. This was while a gorgeous procession of people marched around and around, in the third act, and sang the Wedding Chorus. To my untutored ear that was music -- almost divine music. While my seared soul was steeped in the healing balm of those gracious sounds, it seemed to me that I could almost resuffer the torments which had gone before, in order to be so healed again. There is where the deep ingenuity of the operatic idea is betrayed. It deals so largely in pain that its scattered delights are prodigiously augmented by the contrasts. A pretty air in an opera is prettier there than it could be anywhere else, I suppose, just as an honest man in politics shines more than he would elsewhere.

I have since found out that there is nothing the Germans like so much as an opera. They like it, not in a mild and moderate way, but with their whole hearts. This is a legitimate result of habit and education. Our nation will like the opera, too, by and by, no doubt. One in fifty of those who attend our operas likes it already, perhaps, but I think a good many of the other forty-nine go in order to learn to like it, and the rest in order to be able to talk knowingly about it. The latter usually hum the airs while they are being sung, so that their neighbors may perceive that they have been to operas before. The funerals of these do not occur often enough.

Dave

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Post by MaestroDJS » Fri Sep 09, 2005 2:06 pm

For further clarification:

Four Hours with Wagner, by Mark Twain
Excerpt from A Tramp Abroad, Chapter X, published in 1880

Three or four hours. That is a long time to sit in one place, whether one be conspicuous or not, yet some of Wagner’s operas bang along for six whole hours on a stretch! But the people sit there and enjoy it all, and wish it would last longer. A German lady in Munich told me that a person could not like Wagner’s music at first, but must go through the deliberate process of learning to like it -- then he would have his sure reward; for when he had learned to like it he would hunger for it and never be able to get enough of it. She said that six hours of Wagner was by no means too much. She said that this composer had made a complete revolution in music and was burying the old masters one by one. And she said that Wagner’s operas differed from all others in one notable respect, and that was that they were not merely spotted with music here and there, but were all music, from the first strain to the last. This surprised me. I said I had attended one of his insurrections, and found hardly any music in it except the Wedding Chorus. She said “Lohengrin” was noisier than Wagner’s other operas, but that if I would keep on going to see it I would find by and by that it was all music, and therefore would then enjoy it. I could have said, “But would you advise a person to deliberately practice having a toothache in the pit of his stomach for a couple of years in order that he might then come to enjoy it?” But I reserved that remark.

This lady was full of the praises of the head-tenor who had performed in a Wagner opera the night before, and went on to enlarge upon his old and prodigious fame, and how many honors had been lavished upon him by the princely houses of Germany. Here was another surprise. I had attended that very opera, in the person of my agent, and had made close and accurate observations. So I said:

“Why, madam, my experience warrants me in stating that that tenor’s voice is not a voice at all, but only a shriek -- the shriek of a hyena.”

“That is very true,” she said; “he cannot sing now; it is already many years that he has lost his voice, but in other times he sang, yes, divinely! So whenever he comes now, you shall see, yes, that the theater will not hold the people. Jawohl bei Gott! his voice is wunderschön in that past time.”

I said she was discovering to me a kindly trait in the Germans which was worth emulating. I said that over the water we were not quite so generous; that with us, when a singer had lost his voice and a jumper had lost his legs, these parties ceased to draw. I said I had been to the opera in Hanover, once, and in Mannheim once, and in Munich (through my authorized agent) once, and this large experience had nearly persuaded me that the Germans preferred singers who couldn’t sing. This was not such a very extravagant speech, either, for that burly Mannheim tenor’s praises had been the talk of all Heidelberg for a week before his performance took place -- yet his voice was like the distressing noise which a nail makes when you screech it across a window-pane. I said so to Heidelberg friends the next day, and they said, in the calmest and simplest way, that that was very true, but that in earlier times his voice had been wonderfully fine. And the tenor in Hannover was just another example of this sort. The English-speaking German gentleman who went with me to the opera there was brimming with enthusiasm over that tenor. He said:

Ach Gott! a great man! You shall see him. He is so celebrate in all Germany -- and he has a pension, yes, from the government. He not obliged to sing now, only twice every year; but if he not sing twice each year they take him his pension away.”

Very well, we went. When the renowned old tenor appeared, I got a nudge and an excited whisper:

“Now you see him!”

But the “celebrate” was an astonishing disappointment to me. If he had been behind a screen I should have supposed they were performing a surgical operation on him. I looked at my friend -- to my great surprise he seemed intoxicated with pleasure, his eyes were dancing with eager delight. When the curtain at last fell, he burst into the stormiest applause, and kept it up -- as did the whole house -- until the afflictive tenor had come three times before the curtain to make his bow. While the glowing enthusiast was swabbing the perspiration from his face, I said:

“I don’t mean the least harm, but really, now, do you think he can sing?”

“Him? No! Gott im Himmel, aber, how he has been able to sing twenty-five years ago?” [Then pensively.] “Ach, no, now he not sing any more, he only cry. When he think he sing, now, he not sing at all, no, he only make like a cat which is unwell.”

Dave

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Sep 09, 2005 3:40 pm

Charles wrote:I recommend Lohengrin and Tannhauser. These are not his most 'mature' works, but they are shorter and more accessible,
Only by 1 lp over every other opera but Rienzi and Rheingold. I like them too, esp. Lohengrin, but I think Dulcinea's tastes simply don't run to Wagner. He is after all an aquired taste.
If you like those, go on to Meistersinger
:roll: Mindnumbingly boring and 5 lps long.
The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length.
Uh-oh. DZalman is gonna come after ya . . . . Run, Charles, flee . . . .
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PARSIFAL

Post by dulcinea » Fri Sep 09, 2005 5:11 pm

:D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW. The only things I dread about them are those drab and dreary "modernist" stagings in which the costumes and sets are minimalized to the point of virtual disappearance.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 09, 2005 5:22 pm

dulcinea wrote::D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW. The only things I dread about them are those drab and dreary "modernist" stagings in which the costumes and sets are minimalized to the point of virtual disappearance.
You'd dearly love then the extremely narrow stage that is right in the audience's noses. How somebody who thought he was achieving something cosmic could have specified those dimensions is beyond me. See Parsifal at the Met.

I have always thought that the mature Wagner operas should be performed in a Gothic or quasi-Gothic cathedral with two organs and supporting instrumentation. First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, New York would do nicely. And I am not kidding.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Sep 09, 2005 5:44 pm

dulcinea wrote::D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

If I could see them in Bayreuth I'd develop a sudden interest in Wagner too.
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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by Harvested Sorrow » Fri Sep 09, 2005 6:01 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
dulcinea wrote::D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW. The only things I dread about them are those drab and dreary "modernist" stagings in which the costumes and sets are minimalized to the point of virtual disappearance.
You'd dearly love then the extremely narrow stage that is right in the audience's noses. How somebody who thought he was achieving something cosmic could have specified those dimensions is beyond me. See Parsifal at the Met.

I have always thought that the mature Wagner operas should be performed in a Gothic or quasi-Gothic cathedral with two organs and supporting instrumentation. First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, New York would do nicely. And I am not kidding.
For some reason the idea of seeing the Ring of the Nibelungen performed in a cathedral just doesn't click with me....I can't say the same about his other operas, though, due to a lack of knowledge about them.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 09, 2005 6:14 pm

Harvested Sorrow wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
dulcinea wrote::D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW. The only things I dread about them are those drab and dreary "modernist" stagings in which the costumes and sets are minimalized to the point of virtual disappearance.
You'd dearly love then the extremely narrow stage that is right in the audience's noses. How somebody who thought he was achieving something cosmic could have specified those dimensions is beyond me. See Parsifal at the Met.

I have always thought that the mature Wagner operas should be performed in a Gothic or quasi-Gothic cathedral with two organs and supporting instrumentation. First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, New York would do nicely. And I am not kidding.
For some reason the idea of seeing the Ring of the Nibelungen performed in a cathedral just doesn't click with me....I can't say the same about his other operas, though, due to a lack of knowledge about them.
You'd be amazed at how easily they could flood the sanctuary at the same time they burned the bishop's overlook. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

RGM
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Wagner's longeurs

Post by RGM » Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:00 pm

Music, by its nature, requires time to make even light artistic points.
Time requirements increase where there is complexity in the text. That is why most of the most accessible operas have simple texts: the listener can concentrate on the working out of the music. Occasionally operatic texts are oversimplifed (What ever possessed Amonasro to reveal both his presence and his identity to Rhadames in act 3 of Aida?!)

Wagner insisted on plots and characterizations of great complexity, requiring many words. Actually, his texts would not be very long if they were merely spoken dramas. It is the need to give musical expression to all of his lines that results in such great length. This length, together with the brilliance of its musical climaxes, has given Wagner's works a reputation for consisting of a few pages of genius separated by many pages of inferior music (that reputation here reinforced by Corlyss, except that she denies the pages of genius). I find that most of
Wagner is theatrically gripping in isolation: it is the overload of elements on our human attention-spans that is the problem. For whom, then, was Wagner writing? For humans, and Wagner was not unaware of the problem. After finishing Goetterdaemmerung, for example, he struggled for a time to find a way to break the Prologue/1st Act into two acts. He gave up the attempt, I speculate because he found that, while there were places within the act where he might insert an effective finale, they were always followed by scenes that would be ineffective as new beginnings.
And so we are left with a monster, from which it was once usual to cut the scene between Brynhilde and Waltraute, thereby reducing the length, but
losing the exposition of music developed and concluded in Brynhilde's great closing scene.

There are exceptions to the rule that Wagner is everywhere flawed by excessive length. I find the 3rd act of Goetterdaemmerung gripping and moving from start to finish, as I do the 3rd act of Tristan, which has been described as including a 40-minute death scene. For the rest, recordings allow the listener to learn separate scenes in isolation. I've said before here that I recommend listening to recordings of Wagner with librettos translated for singing. They are necessarily less accurate than prose translations, but they allow the listener to follow the same number of syllables in his/her language that the singers are singing. Don't read ahead; don't use instrumental interludes to read stage directions; stay with the scene as it unfolds. Also, ignore what you may have heard about Wagner's "Leitmotiven". Wagner did not use that term, and he seems only to have tolerated others' cataloging of them. In some cases a knowledge of them may elucidate the plot, but that should be a later stage of appreciation.

dzalman

Re: PARSIFAL

Post by dzalman » Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:25 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote:The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length.
Uh-oh. DZalman is gonna come after ya . . . . Run, Charles, flee . . . .
Nah. The remark is so ignorant and woodenheaded it requires no response on my part much less any action that requires fleeing from.

dzalman

Re: Wagner's longeurs

Post by dzalman » Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:29 pm

RGM wrote:After finishing Goetterdaemmerung, for example, he [Wagner] struggled for a time to find a way to break the Prologue/1st Act into two acts.
He did nothing of the sort.

As to the rest of that paragraph, it's mostly arrant nonsense.
Last edited by dzalman on Fri Sep 16, 2005 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by dzalman » Fri Sep 16, 2005 3:46 pm

dulcinea wrote::D Oh, I'm most eager to go to Bayreuth and watch every opera of RW. The only things I dread about them are those drab and dreary "modernist" stagings in which the costumes and sets are minimalized to the point of virtual disappearance.
The Eurotrash productions currently done at Bayreuth notwithstanding (and they're dreadful, and anything but "minimalized"), visually and acoustically, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus is the very best place to experience Wagner's operas, Parsifal most particularly. That is, if you can put up with the heat and hard seats for hours at a stretch. Wagner's and Semper's design of that auditorium -- and of its stagehouse especially -- was a stroke of genius, and the effect produced there cannot be had in any other opera house in the world.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by Peter Schenkman » Sat Sep 17, 2005 7:58 am

dulcinea wrote::shock: Most operas last two hours. Why are those of Wagner so much longer? PARSIFAL, for example, takes an entire evening to perform. The first act alone is as long as many complete operas I have heard!
Sorry but most opera’s last considerably longer then two hours. Take any opera by say, Verdi and start your stopwatch (ouch, a bad oxymoron). The first act of Rossini’s Barber of Seville times in at about the same length as the third act of Meistersinger (over one hour, forty-five minutes). As to the operas of Wagner, It is said that more has been written about Wagner then anyone else (?). There must be a reason.

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The 1st act

Post by RGM » Sat Sep 17, 2005 2:16 pm

My source was Cosima's diary. I haven't immediate access to a copy, so can't give the date of her entry stating that Wagner was searching for a way to break the 1st act into two acts. My memory may be errant in placing this effort after the entire opera was finished; but I protest that the charge that the rest of the paragraph is "arrant", whether nonsense or not, is unwarranted. The word "speculate", or a derivative thereof, appears in there somewhere.

dzalman

Re: The 1st act

Post by dzalman » Sat Sep 17, 2005 2:44 pm

RGM wrote:My source was Cosima's diary. I haven't immediate access to a copy, so can't give the date of her entry stating that Wagner was searching for a way to break the 1st act into two acts. My memory may be errant in placing this effort after the entire opera was finished; but I protest that the charge that the rest of the paragraph is "arrant", whether nonsense or not, is unwarranted. The word "speculate", or a derivative thereof, appears in there somewhere.
You stated that after Gotterdammerung was finished, Wagner was searching for a way to break the Prologue and first act into two acts. He never at any time did any such thing. The Prologue (i.e., Norns scene and the following colloquy between Siegfried and Brunnhilde) and first act were as they now are from the very beginning when the full text of the tetralogy was first made public (in a limited edition printed in 1853). And what I called mostly arrant nonsense was not merely your speculation about why Wagner wanted to do something like that but ultimately couldn't, but what was said in the rest of that paragraph.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by pizza » Sat Sep 17, 2005 11:45 pm

dzalman wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote:The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length.
Uh-oh. DZalman is gonna come after ya . . . . Run, Charles, flee . . . .
Nah. The remark is so ignorant and woodenheaded it requires no response on my part much less any action that requires fleeing from.
No less a musicologist than Deryck Cooke expressed the opinion that the actions of the Teutonic gods in Wagner's work may not be 'immediately intelligible in ordinary human terms' to a contemporary audience.

See: Cooke, Deryck. "I Saw the World End"; Oxford University Press 1979

It isn't exactly the same sentiment expressed in Charles' statement, but it partially explains one of the difficulties mere mortals may have in exposing themselves to the Ring Cycle for such inordinate lengths of time.

dzalman

Re: PARSIFAL

Post by dzalman » Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:07 am

pizza wrote:
dzalman wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote:The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length.
Uh-oh. DZalman is gonna come after ya . . . . Run, Charles, flee . . . .
Nah. The remark is so ignorant and woodenheaded it requires no response on my part much less any action that requires fleeing from.
No less a musicologist than Deryck Cooke expressed the opinion that the actions of the Teutonic gods in Wagner's work may not be 'immediately intelligible in ordinary human terms' to a contemporary audience.

See: Cooke, Deryck. "I Saw the World End"; Oxford University Press 1979

It isn't exactly the same sentiment expressed in Charles' statement, but it partially explains one of the difficulties mere mortals may have in exposing themselves to the Ring Cycle for such inordinate lengths of time.
Not even remotely akin to the sentiment expressed by Charles.

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Re: PARSIFAL

Post by pizza » Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:21 am

dzalman wrote:
pizza wrote:
dzalman wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote:The Ring is in my opinion an overintellectualized mess with relatively little great music for its fourteen hour length.
Uh-oh. DZalman is gonna come after ya . . . . Run, Charles, flee . . . .
Nah. The remark is so ignorant and woodenheaded it requires no response on my part much less any action that requires fleeing from.
No less a musicologist than Deryck Cooke expressed the opinion that the actions of the Teutonic gods in Wagner's work may not be 'immediately intelligible in ordinary human terms' to a contemporary audience.

See: Cooke, Deryck. "I Saw the World End"; Oxford University Press 1979

It isn't exactly the same sentiment expressed in Charles' statement, but it partially explains one of the difficulties mere mortals may have in exposing themselves to the Ring Cycle for such inordinate lengths of time.
Not even remotely akin to the sentiment expressed by Charles.
Looking beneath the surface, Cooke's idea may be the reason for Charles' view and the view of others as well. Most people attend an opera or a music drama in order to be entertained rather than intellectually challenged with many hours of "immediately [un]intelligible" libretto, which may also explain some of the reasons for their negative view of the music as well.

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The 1st act

Post by RGM » Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:08 pm

I see that the phrasing of my original assertion could lead one to think I meant that Wagner was only trying to separate the Prologue from the 1st act. I said it that way because I wanted to convey the idea that Wagner thought about breaking the 1st act, consisting of the Prologue and the 1st act proper, into two acts. Am I to understand that you're conceding this? Or have I still got to look for chapter and verse in the diary? ( I know where there is a copy accessible to me in this benighted city, but its location is most inconvenient.)

The "rest of the paragraph" which seems so to disturb you consists only of my speculation as to why Wagner ultimately, and perhaps quickly, gave up the notion of breaking the act in two. If you are, indeed, conceding that he thought about it, perhaps you can enlighten us as to why he didn't.

dzalman

Re: The 1st act

Post by dzalman » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:30 pm

RGM wrote:I see that the phrasing of my original assertion could lead one to think I meant that Wagner was only trying to separate the Prologue from the 1st act. I said it that way because I wanted to convey the idea that Wagner thought about breaking the 1st act, consisting of the Prologue and the 1st act proper, into two acts. Am I to understand that you're conceding this? Or have I still got to look for chapter and verse in the diary? ( I know where there is a copy accessible to me in this benighted city, but its location is most inconvenient.)

The "rest of the paragraph" which seems so to disturb you consists only of my speculation as to why Wagner ultimately, and perhaps quickly, gave up the notion of breaking the act in two. If you are, indeed, conceding that he thought about it, perhaps you can enlighten us as to why he didn't.
No, I'm not "conceding" anything of the sort. As I've said, Wagner *never* considered breaking the Prologue + the first act proper into two acts. The draft original (of the text) of the first act had no prologue (it began with the Gibichung thing). Wagner a year or so later then *added* the prologue, and so it all has since remained unquestioned as written (Wagner thereafter still viewed the Gibichung scene as the beginning of the first act, and so referred to it).

As to the rest of that paragraph, you wrote lots more than simply your speculation on the Prologue/first act thing. As I've also said, it's not only your speculation but that lots more that I labeled mostly arrant nonsense.

RGM
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The 1st act

Post by RGM » Tue Sep 20, 2005 3:47 pm

I guess we should both be careful how we phrase things. The "rest of the paragraph" in which I said that Wagner tried to divide the 1st act into two consisted only of my speculation as to why he didn't do it. So, how do you advise people to approach Wagner's works for the first time?

I don't see what bearing the history of the Prologue has on this, ah, discussion. I said that Wagner found the 1st problematically long, and tried to find a way to correct the problem. I apparently gave the impression that I meant he tried only to separate the Prologue from the 1st act, but that impression was wrong: I meant that he tried to find a place somewhere to insert a break. That being the meaning of what I said, the time of the creation of the Prologue doesn't matter.

Come to think of it, it wouldn't matter if I had meant what you thought!

dzalman

Re: The 1st act

Post by dzalman » Wed Sep 21, 2005 6:37 am

RGM wrote:I guess we should both be careful how we phrase things. The "rest of the paragraph" in which I said that Wagner tried to divide the 1st act into two consisted only of my speculation as to why he didn't do it.
Here's your complete paragraph:
Wagner insisted on plots and characterizations of great complexity, requiring many words. Actually, his texts would not be very long if they were merely spoken dramas. It is the need to give musical expression to all of his lines that results in such great length. This length, together with the brilliance of its musical climaxes, has given Wagner's works a reputation for consisting of a few pages of genius separated by many pages of inferior music (that reputation here reinforced by Corlyss, except that she denies the pages of genius). I find that most of
Wagner is theatrically gripping in isolation: it is the overload of elements on our human attention-spans that is the problem. For whom, then, was Wagner writing? For humans, and Wagner was not unaware of the problem. After finishing Goetterdaemmerung, for example, he struggled for a time to find a way to break the Prologue/1st Act into two acts. He gave up the attempt, I speculate because he found that, while there were places within the act where he might insert an effective finale, they were always followed by scenes that would be ineffective as new beginnings.
And so we are left with a monster, from which it was once usual to cut the scene between Brynhilde and Waltraute, thereby reducing the length, but
losing the exposition of music developed and concluded in Brynhilde's great closing scene.
As to your,
RGM wrote:I don't see what bearing the history of the Prologue has on this, ah, discussion. I said that Wagner found the 1st problematically long, and tried to find a way to correct the problem. I apparently gave the impression that I meant he tried only to separate the Prologue from the 1st act, but that impression was wrong: I meant that he tried to find a place somewhere to insert a break. That being the meaning of what I said, the time of the creation of the Prologue doesn't matter.

Come to think of it, it wouldn't matter if I had meant what you thought!
And as I've repeatedly said, Wagner *never* "tried to find a place somewhere to insert a break [in the first act]," much less after the work was finished.

And finally, as to your,
RGM wrote:So, how do you advise people to approach Wagner's works for the first time?
With the understanding that none of Wagner's mature works are merely entertainments of an evening as with any ordinary opera. They all require a certain amount of preparation on the listener's part, the least of which is to beforehand have read and understood the libretto as if it were a stage play.
Last edited by dzalman on Wed Sep 21, 2005 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

Library Bob
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Post by Library Bob » Wed Sep 21, 2005 7:19 am

It took me a long time to warm to them, but I've actually grown to like some of Wagner's operas, particularly Tannhauser and Lohengrin. I still feel, though, that the Italians, particularly Verdi and Puccini, express the same emotions Wagner does better and in about half the time.

Who was it who said that Wagner had some great moments, just some bad quarter hours?

Best "Ring" analysis? Anna Russell's, of course.

Charles
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Post by Charles » Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:11 am

My opinion of the Ring is not based on a need for entertainment. I don't look for entertainment in opera or in music in general, but for art. My negative opinion is based partly on the fact that there is not a major character in it that I care about. When I say overintellectualized, I mean that Wagner began by writing about Siegfried then lost his way over time and more or less transferred the central character to that of Wotan. But Wotan remains to me from first to last a cardboard, wholly uninteresting figure. So he has made mistakes and is losing his power and is doomed, so what? He simply doesn't resonate as far as I'm concerned and his long tiresome laments over his Catch-22 fate don't move my heart even a little bit. There is more life in Tristan's, or Parsifal's, or Tannhauser's, or Walther's, little finger than in all of Wotan's persona. Now you could get away with this for four or five hours, but fourteen?

I find some of the minor characters interesting: Siegmund and Sieglinde are moving, and even Mime is, in a perverse way. But the major characters are like cardboard cutouts intellectually and emotionally. On top of this, though Wagner may or may not have had a decisive influence on the Holocaust, a topic that will be forever debated, of one thing there can be no doubt: Siegfried is an eerily prophetic rendition of a Nazi.

The other part of my dislike is that a plethora of great music would make up for this lack of interesting characters, but there's not nearly enough. A good deal of the music, especially the old man's endless self-pity, is uninspired running up and down the scales such as would do a third rate Charlie Parker imitator proud. Leitmtotifs notwithstanding.

Now Mr. Dzalman has said to me before, some months ago in another thread, that a careful listening would uncover the underlying relationships in the music and allow me to see how it is all fused into a wonderfully meaningful whole. I've tried, and it doesn't work for me. Perhaps there is musical content there I can't perceive. I don't claim to be able to hear the content in everything. I carefully said, "in my opinion", in trying to steer a relative novice to some of what I consider the Master's better works. On the other hand, some of those third rate Charlie Parker imitators who run up and down the scales without a creative idea in their heads, also might accuse me of ignorance. Simply because they're enamored of the sound and the musical ambience of what they are playing, without really being aware of the lack of meaningful musical content.

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Post by Charles » Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:23 am

Library Bob wrote:It took me a long time to warm to them, but I've actually grown to like some of Wagner's operas, particularly Tannhauser and Lohengrin. I still feel, though, that the Italians, particularly Verdi and Puccini, express the same emotions Wagner does better and in about half the time.

Who was it who said that Wagner had some great moments, just some bad quarter hours?

Best "Ring" analysis? Anna Russell's, of course.
The emotions Wagner expresses, especially in Tristan and Lohengrin, seem to me to be pretty unique to his music. They are often couched in a widening of harmony and an advanced use of chromaticism that points the way toward modern music, and I don't hear much if any of this in Verdi or Puccini. Though the emotions he expresses are of course finally distinct from the musical means he uses to convey them, they are rooted in the harmony and seem pretty idiomatic of Wagner, at least to me.

It was Rossini who said that Wagner had some great moments but some awful half hours. Years earlier, Beethoven said that Rossini would have been a better composer if he had been spanked more.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:26 am

Charles wrote:My opinion of the Ring is not based on a need for entertainment. I don't look for entertainment in opera or in music in general, but for art. My negative opinion is based partly on the fact that there is not a major character in it that I care about. When I say overintellectualized, I mean that Wagner began by writing about Siegfried then lost his way over time and more or less transferred the central character to that of Wotan. But Wotan remains to me from first to last a cardboard, wholly uninteresting figure. So he has made mistakes and is losing his power and is doomed, so what? He simply doesn't resonate as far as I'm concerned and his long tiresome laments over his Catch-22 fate don't move my heart even a little bit. There is more life in Tristan's, or Parsifal's, or Tannhauser's, or Walther's, little finger than in all of Wotan's persona. Now you could get away with this for four or five hours, but fourteen?

I find some of the minor characters interesting: Siegmund and Sieglinde are moving, and even Mime is, in a perverse way. But the major characters are like cardboard cutouts intellectually and emotionally. On top of this, though Wagner may or may not have had a decisive influence on the Holocaust, a topic that will be forever debated, of one thing there can be no doubt: Siegfried is an eerily prophetic rendition of a Nazi.

The other part of my dislike is that a plethora of great music would make up for this lack of interesting characters, but there's not nearly enough. A good deal of the music, especially the old man's endless self-pity, is uninspired running up and down the scales such as would do a third rate Charlie Parker imitator proud. Leitmtotifs notwithstanding.
I hope you do realize that your above expressed opinions are very much in the minority -- in fact nonexistent -- among knowledgeable musicians and laypersons for over a century now. The major characters of the Ring, Wotan most particularly, are considered by them to be the most fully and profoundly realized in all of opera, and the Ring as music-drama (i.e., the text organically coupled with the music) the equal of anything written by Shakespeare or Aeschylus, the latter's Oresteia being something the Ring is often favorably compared to.

Something to think about.

Charles
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Post by Charles » Wed Sep 21, 2005 9:13 am

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:My opinion of the Ring is not based on a need for entertainment. I don't look for entertainment in opera or in music in general, but for art. My negative opinion is based partly on the fact that there is not a major character in it that I care about. When I say overintellectualized, I mean that Wagner began by writing about Siegfried then lost his way over time and more or less transferred the central character to that of Wotan. But Wotan remains to me from first to last a cardboard, wholly uninteresting figure. So he has made mistakes and is losing his power and is doomed, so what? He simply doesn't resonate as far as I'm concerned and his long tiresome laments over his Catch-22 fate don't move my heart even a little bit. There is more life in Tristan's, or Parsifal's, or Tannhauser's, or Walther's, little finger than in all of Wotan's persona. Now you could get away with this for four or five hours, but fourteen?

I find some of the minor characters interesting: Siegmund and Sieglinde are moving, and even Mime is, in a perverse way. But the major characters are like cardboard cutouts intellectually and emotionally. On top of this, though Wagner may or may not have had a decisive influence on the Holocaust, a topic that will be forever debated, of one thing there can be no doubt: Siegfried is an eerily prophetic rendition of a Nazi.

The other part of my dislike is that a plethora of great music would make up for this lack of interesting characters, but there's not nearly enough. A good deal of the music, especially the old man's endless self-pity, is uninspired running up and down the scales such as would do a third rate Charlie Parker imitator proud. Leitmtotifs notwithstanding.
I hope you do realize that your above expressed opinions are very much in the minority -- in fact nonexistent -- among knowledgeable musicians and laypersons for over a century now. The major characters of the Ring, Wotan most particularly, are considered by them to be the most fully and profoundly realized in all of opera, and the Ring as music-drama (i.e., the text organically coupled with the music) the equal of anything written by Shakespeare or Aeschylus, the latter's Oresteia being something the Ring is often favorably compared to.

Something to think about.
In the minority, yes. This is different from calling my opinion ignorant. As for nonexistent, I have two friends who've been listening to music all their lives, very knowledgable in the repertory, who don't know each other, who each share my opinion. As to the critical literature, I don't have time to look up and cite, but I do recall references in some of the books I've read on Wagner to the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the Ring, understandable even for a master when the work was stopped and started over a twenty-five year period, and when the writer's mind had gone from ideals of politically revolutionary socialism all the way to Buddhism. Even Shaw, who loved it, pointed to serious dramatic and philosophic shortcomings in Gotterdammerung as the climax of the work. From my point of view, there may be a little of the Emperor's New Clothes going on here in general. Only my point of view, of course.

As for Aeschylus, the dramatic greatness of the trilogy was instantly apparent to me many years ago on first reading it at the age of nineteen, and later rereadings have only deepened the experience. An experience that in my repeated trials is sorely lacking in The Ring.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Wed Sep 21, 2005 9:35 am

Charles wrote:In the minority, yes. This is different from calling my opinion ignorant.
One does not preclude the other.
Charles wrote:As to the critical literature, I don't have time to look up and cite, but I do recall references in some of the books I've read on Wagner to the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the Ring, understandable even for a master when the work was stopped and started over a twenty-five year period, and when the writer's mind had gone from ideals of politically revolutionary socialism all the way to Buddhism. Even Shaw, who loved it, pointed to serious dramatic and philosophic shortcomings in Gotterdammerung as the climax of the work. From my point of view, there may be a little of the Emperor's New Clothes going on here in general. Only my point of view, of course.

As for Aeschylus, the dramatic greatness of the trilogy was instantly apparent to me many years ago on first reading it at the age of nineteen, and later rereadings have only deepened the experience. An experience that in my repeated trials is sorely lacking in The Ring.
There are indeed a number of minor inconsistencies of detail throughout the Ring, but these are mere quibbles. And Gotterdammerung is indeed flawed as the climax of the work, but not for the self-serving political / philosophic reasons Shaw thought it flawed. My friend, the devoted Wagnerian A.C. Douglas, wrote a detailed piece on this very subject. It can be read at the following URL:

http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandf ... e_wit.html

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Post by lmpower » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:37 pm

I would recommend The Flying Dutchman as the best possible introduction to Wagner. It is of normal length and quite accessible to the average opera fan. Glynn Ross told me he didn't think anyone could pay perfect attention to Parsifal all the way through, and he went on to become director of the Seattle Opera. I consider Parsifal to be a sublime work and Wagner's mature masterpiece, but it would be rather daunting to most people.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:50 pm

lmpower wrote:I would recommend The Flying Dutchman as the best possible introduction to Wagner. It is of normal length and quite accessible to the average opera fan. Glynn Ross told me he didn't think anyone could pay perfect attention to Parsifal all the way through, and he went on to become director of the Seattle Opera. I consider Parsifal to be a sublime work and Wagner's mature masterpiece, but it would be rather daunting to most people.
Dutchman is not yet (is far from) "real" Wagner, and therefore not a good introduction to the Wagner that begins with Das Rheingold. My recommendation for those interested in their first experience of "real" Wagner is, after the proper minimum preparation I above noted, to listen to Die Walkure on the grounds that if they don't respond positively to that work, Wagner is probably not for them.
Last edited by dzalman on Fri Sep 23, 2005 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by lmpower » Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:34 am

I know Dutchman isn't Wagnerian. I just thought it would be a palatable segue for those who like Verdi and standard length operas (two hours). After discovering that Wagner could write a regular opera, people might be more willing to attempt his marathon works.

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:41 am

dzalman wrote:
lmpower wrote:I would recommend The Flying Dutchman as the best possible introduction to Wagner. It is of normal length and quite accessible to the average opera fan. Glynn Ross told me he didn't think anyone could pay perfect attention to Parsifal all the way through, and he went on to become director of the Seattle Opera. I consider Parsifal to be a sublime work and Wagner's mature masterpiece, but it would be rather daunting to most people.
Dutchman is not yet (is far from) "real" Wagner, and therefore not a good introduction to the "real" Wagner that begins with Das Rheingold. My recommendation for those interested in their first experience of Wagner is, after the proper minimum preparation I above noted, to listen to Die Walkure on the grounds that if they don't respond positively to that work, Wagner is probably not for them.
It is hard to disagree with your recommendation or your putative conclusion (about the listener, I mean), but I wonder if you want to leave people with the impression that Dutchman or Lohengrin for that matter are works lacking in great artistic value just because Wagner transcended them. It makes no more sense to call them not real Wagner than it makes sense not to call the opus 18 quartets of Beethoven, already masterpieces, not real Beethoven because they are not the late quartets.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:07 pm

jbuck919 wrote:It is hard to disagree with your recommendation or your putative conclusion (about the listener, I mean), but I wonder if you [dzalman] want to leave people with the impression that Dutchman or Lohengrin for that matter are works lacking in great artistic value just because Wagner transcended them. It makes no more sense to call them not real Wagner than it makes sense not to call the opus 18 quartets of Beethoven, already masterpieces, not real Beethoven because they are not the late quartets.
My point was that any response on the listener's part to Dutchman or even Lohengrin is not a useful indicator of what his response might be to the works from Rheingold forward so vastly different are those mature works in every structural, dramatic, and musical aspect from any of the earlier works in Wagner's output, which are, after all, merely Wagnerized ordinary opera.

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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:20 pm

dzalman wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:It is hard to disagree with your recommendation or your putative conclusion (about the listener, I mean), but I wonder if you [dzalman] want to leave people with the impression that Dutchman or Lohengrin for that matter are works lacking in great artistic value just because Wagner transcended them. It makes no more sense to call them not real Wagner than it makes sense not to call the opus 18 quartets of Beethoven, already masterpieces, not real Beethoven because they are not the late quartets.
My point was that any response on the listener's part to Dutchman or even Lohengrin is not a useful indicator of what his response might be to the works from Rheingold forward so vastly different are those mature works in every structural, dramatic, and musical aspect from any of the earlier works in Wagner's output, which are, after all, merely ordinary opera.
I drafted a semi-argumentative response, but your point is obvious and it would not honor me to attempt to rebut it. I would quibble with the term "ordinary opera," which implies that everything before the Ring was some kind of trash and would for opera buffs justify their loving Bellini as much as Mozart. "Conventional" might have been a better choice of words.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Charles
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Post by Charles » Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:20 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:In the minority, yes. This is different from calling my opinion ignorant.
One does not preclude the other.
Charles wrote:As to the critical literature, I don't have time to look up and cite, but I do recall references in some of the books I've read on Wagner to the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the Ring, understandable even for a master when the work was stopped and started over a twenty-five year period, and when the writer's mind had gone from ideals of politically revolutionary socialism all the way to Buddhism. Even Shaw, who loved it, pointed to serious dramatic and philosophic shortcomings in Gotterdammerung as the climax of the work. From my point of view, there may be a little of the Emperor's New Clothes going on here in general. Only my point of view, of course.

As for Aeschylus, the dramatic greatness of the trilogy was instantly apparent to me many years ago on first reading it at the age of nineteen, and later rereadings have only deepened the experience. An experience that in my repeated trials is sorely lacking in The Ring.
There are indeed a number of minor inconsistencies of detail throughout the Ring, but these are mere quibbles. And Gotterdammerung is indeed flawed as the climax of the work, but not for the self-serving political / philosophic reasons Shaw thought it flawed. My friend, the devoted Wagnerian A.C. Douglas, wrote a detailed piece on this very subject. It can be read at the following URL:

http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandf ... e_wit.html
You admit Gotterdammerung flawed as the climax of The Ring? The trilogy of Aeschylus and the four great tragedies of Shakespeare are not flawed in their climaxes, which after all is the focal point of a tragedy, toward which everything else builds. Enough said.

And you are citing A.C. Douglas! I long ago stopped reading the mediocre opinions of this small-minded, windy self-appointed art absolute-rule proclaimer. Reviled by many of the participants of every forum he posts on, including this one, because of his debating habits which belong more in a barroom or the alley outside it than in a forum, he exiles himself from one site after another and takes refuge in the aptly named 'Fury' of his website. In all the long history of Wagner criticism, if you cannot find anyone better than A.C. Douglas to make your points for you, you are indeed in critical poverty. And your own debating habits show the influence of your intellectually impoverished friend. Enough said, doubly.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Sat Sep 24, 2005 7:05 am

Charles wrote:You admit Gotterdammerung flawed as the climax of The Ring? The trilogy of Aeschylus and the four great tragedies of Shakespeare are not flawed in their climaxes, which after all is the focal point of a tragedy, toward which everything else builds. Enough said.
Don't be ridiculous. Your prejudices are blinding you to all that's not flawed in Götterdämmerung, and makes it the great work of art it is, both in itself, and as the climax of the Ring. And in any case, the idea that Götterdämmerung is flawed as the climax of the Ring is very much a minority opinion among the knowledgeable.
Charles wrote:And you are citing A.C. Douglas! I long ago stopped reading the mediocre opinions of this small-minded, windy self-appointed art absolute-rule proclaimer. Reviled by many of the participants of every forum he posts on, including this one, because of his debating habits which belong more in a barroom or the alley outside it than in a forum, he exiles himself from one site after another and takes refuge in the aptly named 'Fury' of his website. In all the long history of Wagner criticism, if you cannot find anyone better than A.C. Douglas to make your points for you, you are indeed in critical poverty. And your own debating habits show the influence of your intellectually impoverished friend. Enough said, doubly.
By the out-of-control vehemence of your response, I gather you've in the past had a direct confrontation with A.C. Douglas, and come out on the short end of the stick. Not surprising.

And I didn't provide the link to the Douglas piece "to make [my] points for [me]," but rather to expose you to his expert and detailed explanation of why and in what way Götterdämmerung is flawed. I gather you didn't bother to read the piece. Your loss.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 24, 2005 8:08 am

DZ, I repeat my offer. If you can figure out from a distance how to get the tickets, I will pay for my own and put you up here and even modify my summer plans which must include my elderly mother to do Bayreuth.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Sat Sep 24, 2005 9:14 am

jbuck919 wrote:DZ, I repeat my offer. If you can figure out from a distance how to get the tickets, I will pay for my own and put you up here and even modify my summer plans which must include my elderly mother to do Bayreuth.
I again thank you for the gracious offer, but until such time as Bayreuth returns to producing Wagner as Wagner intended instead of Wagner hijacked and vandalized by avant-garde lunatics, I wouldn't even consider attending any performance there. Maybe that will happen before I become too ancient to make the trip.

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 24, 2005 10:54 am

dzalman wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:DZ, I repeat my offer. If you can figure out from a distance how to get the tickets, I will pay for my own and put you up here and even modify my summer plans which must include my elderly mother to do Bayreuth.
I again thank you for the gracious offer, but until such time as Bayreuth returns to producing Wagner as Wagner intended instead of Wagner hijacked and vandalized by avant-garde lunatics, I wouldn't even consider attending any performance there. Maybe that will happen before I become too ancient to make the trip.
Keep posting, my friend, and not just when the local idiot persists in his claim that Mime is unbearable in Siegfried. I advance in my appreciation of the one whom I consider the most difficult of the great composers more because of a passionate but articulate advocate on a message board than I would without such.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Dalibor
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Post by Dalibor » Mon Sep 26, 2005 4:57 pm

Every oper of Wagner is flawed, as Rossini expressed long ago:

"Wagner had beautifull moments and awfull quarter-hours"

RGM
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Ah! Here it is ...

Post by RGM » Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:12 pm

From Cosima Wagner's diary:

"Friday, July 12, 1878... Discussing at lunch the performance in Leipzig and the division of Goetterdaem. into an introduction and three acts,
he decides after all to leave it as it is and just to make some cuts -- almost the whole of the Norns' scene and a large part of the scene between Waltraute and Bruennhilde. He does this because he knows that, when badly performed, they are bound to be incomprehensible, and he would rather not sacrifice the introduction to the "Journey to the Rhine", which he knows to be effective; he would have to do this if the introduction were to be separated from the first act..."

(The Leipzig performance refers to an upcoming production of The Ring by Angelo Neumann, whom Wagner licensed to take the cycle on tour.)

My recollection was incorrect that Wagner was looking for a place to locate an intermission in the first act other than between the Prologue and the first act. What he considered was precisely a separation of the Prologue, apparently before the "Rhine Journey". My original characterization of Wagner's endeavor as a struggle was also misplaced, as we don't know how long he thought about the problem. It seems to me that Cosima's "after all", if correctly translated, might indicate some earlier discussion of the matter, but I don't recall any previous reference by her (it's been 10-12 years since I read the diary from cover to cover), and my hasty perusal of the index a couple of days ago didn't uncover anything. So she could also have meant after all in the course of this conversation. Still, I think we can presume that the idea didn't just occur to Wagner at this lunch -- that he had been thinking about the problem.

And I think we also can presume that Wagner did recognize a problem: that his works are so lengthy that it is difficult to appreciate their details properly. While his acceptance (suggestion?) of cuts might be viewed as a temporary "fix" for a difficult audience, his going so far as to consider marring a great passage in order to provide an intermission surely suggests a struggle with a problem, if not with this particular solution. Further, cuts can be restored. Changes in the plan of the piece, and in the music, are more drastic, and tend to be permanent: more evidence that Wagner might have wondered about the possibility of some sort of permanent repair.

dzalman

Re: Ah! Here it is ...

Post by dzalman » Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:15 pm

RGM wrote:From Cosima Wagner's diary:

"Friday, July 12, 1878... Discussing at lunch the performance in Leipzig and the division of Goetterdaem. into an introduction and three acts, he decides after all to leave it as it is and just to make some cuts -- almost the whole of the Norns' scene and a large part of the scene between Waltraute and Bruennhilde. He does this because he knows that, when badly performed, they are bound to be incomprehensible, and he would rather not sacrifice the introduction to the "Journey to the Rhine", which he knows to be effective; he would have to do this if the introduction were to be separated from the first act..."

(The Leipzig performance refers to an upcoming production of The Ring by Angelo Neumann, whom Wagner licensed to take the cycle on tour.)

My recollection was incorrect that Wagner was looking for a place to locate an intermission in the first act other than between the Prologue and the first act. What he considered was precisely a separation of the Prologue, apparently before the "Rhine Journey". My original characterization of Wagner's endeavor as a struggle was also misplaced, as we don't know how long he thought about the problem. It seems to me that Cosima's "after all", if correctly translated, might indicate some earlier discussion of the matter, but I don't recall any previous reference by her (it's been 10-12 years since I read the diary from cover to cover), and my hasty perusal of the index a couple of days ago didn't uncover anything. So she could also have meant after all in the course of this conversation. Still, I think we can presume that the idea didn't just occur to Wagner at this lunch -- that he had been thinking about the problem.

And I think we also can presume that Wagner did recognize a problem: that his works are so lengthy that it is difficult to appreciate their details properly. While his acceptance (suggestion?) of cuts might be viewed as a temporary "fix" for a difficult audience, his going so far as to consider marring a great passage in order to provide an intermission surely suggests a struggle with a problem, if not with this particular solution. Further, cuts can be restored. Changes in the plan of the piece, and in the music, are more drastic, and tend to be permanent: more evidence that Wagner might have wondered about the possibility of some sort of permanent repair.
Thanks for that cite.

I know of this incident, and Wagner was simply musing about this particular production of Gotterdammerung, and what could be done to make it more effective for that particular audience (i.e., the Leipzigers). Your, "I think we also can presume that Wagner did recognize a problem: that his works are so lengthy that it is difficult to appreciate their details properly," is, however, quite incorrect. It's not the length of the work that troubled him, but the *complexity* of those scenes referred to, and for this particular audience, not as a general matter. As to "the possibility of some sort of permanent repair," no repair was (is) necessary. It was (is) perfect as is vis-a-vis the work itself. All that was contemplated here was how to make the work more easily comprehensible for this one particular audience.

jbuck919
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Re: Ah! Here it is ...

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Sep 29, 2005 1:02 am

dzalman wrote:I know of this incident, and Wagner was simply musing about this particular production of Gotterdammerung, and what could be done to make it more effective for that particular audience (i.e., the Leipzigers). Your, "I think we also can presume that Wagner did recognize a problem: that his works are so lengthy that it is difficult to appreciate their details properly," is, however, quite incorrect. It's not the length of the work that troubled him, but the *complexity* of those scenes referred to, and for this particular audience, not as a general matter. As to "the possibility of some sort of permanent repair," no repair was (is) necessary. It was (is) perfect as is vis-a-vis the work itself. All that was contemplated here was how to make the work more easily comprehensible for this one particular audience.
Though I strongly suspect that we would never have had the Reader's Digest version of the Ring, Wagner was more flexible than we assume considering his towering ego. We imagine that he tyrannically insisted on every note and nuance of everything he wrote, but in fact he realized that he was making new kinds of demands and sometimes let his singers off with modifications of what he had written.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

RGM
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The first act

Post by RGM » Thu Sep 29, 2005 3:32 pm

"I knew about this incident."

Sorry, but I think if you had known about this incident you would have explained it to me when I first mentioned the subject.

It is possible that your interpretation of the incident is true -- there is no way on the evidence I know about to be certain what was in Wagner's mind. I continue to think that he would never have considered a drastic rewriting of his music, to its detriment, for the sake of one performance for one audience -- that he was aware of a problem and wondered if there was anything to be done about it.

I think there is a problem, and that there is nothing to be done about it other than to advise people about methods of coping with the problem that have worked for me. I don't think newcomers to Wagner's works are helped by prescriptions that apply to appreciation of all opera, such as reading up on the story in advance. And homilies about not just looking for entertainment are simply insulting: I'd presume that a person who was ready to investigate Wagner would already know operas by, say, Verdi and Puccini, and would already know something about the difference between high art and light entertainment.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:02 pm

RGM wrote:"I knew about this incident."

Sorry, but I think if you had known about this incident you would have explained it to me when I first mentioned the subject.
What you asserted before posting that excerpt from Cosima's diary about what Wagner contemplated doing bore NO relation to that excerpt, and therefore it was impossible to make the connection. Your misremembering of what the diary entry stated was *totally* in error, as I've already declared several times.
RGM wrote:It is possible that your interpretation of the incident is true -- there is no way on the evidence I know about to be certain what was in Wagner's mind. I continue to think that he would never have considered a drastic rewriting of his music, to its detriment, for the sake of one performance for one audience -- that he was aware of a problem and wondered if there was anything to be done about it.
But according to the diary entry he *didn't* "conside[r] a drastic rewriting of his music." What he was considering was making some cuts for this production. That's not at all the same thing. And in any case, Wagner here was merely musing about changes for this particular production; thinking out loud, so to speak, something quite common with him. That's also not at all the same thing as seriously intending to carry it out (I'm more than fairly certain it wasn't for this production, and the opera presented as originally written, but my memory is somewhat fuzzy on that, and Neumann's book is far from hand).
RGM wrote:I think there is a problem, and that there is nothing to be done about it other than to advise people about methods of coping with the problem that have worked for me. I don't think newcomers to Wagner's works are helped by prescriptions that apply to appreciation of all opera, such as reading up on the story in advance. And homilies about not just looking for entertainment are simply insulting: I'd presume that a person who was ready to investigate Wagner would already know operas by, say, Verdi and Puccini, and would already know something about the difference between high art and light entertainment.
There's no problem whatsoever except in your mind. Period. Full stop. As for "reading up on the story in advance," that's NOT what I suggested doing. Anyone attending an opera by anyone other than the mature Wagner need only read that sort of synopsis act by act minutes before each act begins, and that's more than sufficient. Not so with the operas of the mature Wagner. For those, one must read and understand the *full libretto* in advance, line by line like a stage play, as I've already asserted. That, too, is not the same thing as what you're suggesting.

In short, everything you wrote in the paragraph at issue of your initial post was, as I initially asserted, either totally in error, or arrant nonsense.

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