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Illuminating Wagner's shadowiest characters

At the November meeting, members were fortunate to receive a kiss from the Wagnerian soprano Astrid Varnay. Margaret Baker-Genovesi revealed the life of Astrid Varnay to the large group of members who attended. She was a remarkable singer, born 25 April — in the same year as her great contemporary and another Wagnerian superstar, Birgit Nilsson. Astrid Varnay came to immediate and sensational fame when, at short notice on 6 December , she replaced Lotte Lehmann in the role of Sieglinde at the Metropolitan Opera — she was just 23 years of age.

Astrid Varnay was born into an artistic family. Both her parents were Hungarian and professional singers, but she was born in Sweden where her parents were living during part of World War I. She received vocal lessons from her mother and then in New York from Hermann Weigert whom she later married. Margaret Baker-Genovesi presented several excerpts from recordings of Astrid Varnay. Astrid Varnay died in Munich, where she had lived for many years, on 4 th September Boston, Northeastern University Press, Northeastern University Press, translated from Swedish, Discussion followed on the nuanced power and beautiful singing of Astrid Varnay.

Thank you, Margaret! It was a wonderful presentation and revealed a great Wagnerian singer to our members.

Wagner’s Moments versus Motives

Thank you too to Stephanie Hinrichs for her technical preparation and support in this splendid collaboration. A wonderful afternoon and presentation by Professor Stephen Emmerson. Nearly forty members attended — was everyone longing for a kiss from Kundry? Four particular interpretations were discussed by Stephen:.

Waltraud Meier a real seductress, showing ravishingly beautiful looks and dramatic multi-layered singing. Parsifal receiving the kiss experiences the suffering of both Kundry and Amfortas. He, the noble fool, experiences compassion and this is life-changing for him. Second: A Nikolaus Lehnhoff direction. This moved beyond realism and towards symbolism.


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A lip-sync acting, radical and controversial film. Stephen Emmerson was very enthusiastic about this production and many members agreed with him and were quite excited with the concept. Syderberg regarded Kundry as the centre of the opera — mother, seductress and penitent. It was an intense piece of performance. Kundry is not to the forefront in this production. It is the effect of the kiss on Parsifal that is made paramount — it opens up the wound of Amfortas in Parsifal, literally — and that brings compassion to the noble fool.

Just terrific singing by Kaufmann; he overshadows Dalayman. Colin Mackerras, who as well as being an eminent sinologist is also a passionate lover of Wagner, presented — lovingly indeed — the singer who in his opinion was the greatest ever bass-baritone of the Wagnerian repertoire: the Hungarian later U.

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Thank you, Colin, for presenting a singer who was perhaps eclipsed by the fame of later singers, but whom we heard in wonderful moments thanks to your research and enthusiasm. Graham began with an early work, dating from , Das Liebesmahl der Apostel , with an a cappella male chorus from Dresden, followed by the entry of the orchestra, which vividly depicted the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. The work presented some, for me, unexpected harmonic modulations. This drew our attention to the placing of the chorus in relation to the solo singers, and the instructions clearly given to the chorus members as to how to react and participate in the on-going drama.

For me the highlight was the Act I, Scene 2, of Parsifal , with a magnificent and despairing Falk Struckmann as Amfortas, and a bemused Parsifal, motionless, trying in vain to understand what was happening. It was a splendid afternoon, with much new information to reflect upon. Magic Fire Screening of the film on the life of Richard Wagner. This film, directed by William Dieterle, dates from , and is based on the life and works of Richard Wagner.

Wagner was played convincingly by Alan Badel, perhaps too handsome, and certainly much taller; Carlos Thompson had all the charisma we expect of Liszt. The production had evidently aimed at excellence in this respect, since my investigation revealed that among the singers were Hans Hopf, Otto Edelmann, Leonie Rysanek, and — for me very moving — my very last singing teacher, Annelies Kupper, all famous stars of post-war Bayreuth.

And it was interesting to see Erich Wolfgang Korngold who was responsible for the musical accuracy briefly in the role of the conductor Hans Richter. I have no doubt that this film in its day will have contributed to reaching an audience that otherwise would never have heard, or perhaps even heard of, Wagner, thus rendering a great service to the dissemination of his works. And still in our day, with our further knowledge of subsequent events, it proved to be a really entertaining afternoon, and we are all very glad that Peter Bassett offered it for our enjoyment.

The Conductor was Christian Thielemann ; we saw why he is considered the foremost Wagnerian conductor today. The prelude was taken at a deliberate tempo — rather slow. The volume of the orchestra never competed with the singers. He created the sense that the voices literally rode above the instrumental music, clear and free. The singers did not have to force their voices, allowing them to sing softly when required.


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  6. Lohengrin was sung by Piotr Beczala, making a role debut. We heard his bright, firm tones and he sang with warmth and confidence. This was a really good muscular and lilting performance. Elsa was sung by Anna Netrebko, also making a role debut. Her lush, coloured voice was at home in the Wagner universe. She played a mature Elsa, with a trajectory from helplessness to devout conviction and then to despair. It was a wonderful acting interpretation, something that is the essence of Netrebko.

    She sang with openness and unleashed waves of beautiful sounds and lingered — luxuriously — over her notes. This was a different style from some other Wagnerian sopranos in their Elsa roles that one may have seen, where a more virginal, clear sound is heard. They had already charmed the world with their onstage chemistry igniting Puccini and Tchaikovsky — seen by many members no doubt at Metropolitan Opera simulcasts.

    Telramund was sung by Tomasz Konieczny. Believe it or not, this was also a role debut. Full praise again to Christian Thielemann for bringing these debut dynamics to such success. Konieczny let loose with robust and exciting singing. Ortrud was sung by Evelyn Herlitzius who was outstanding and perhaps the highlight of the recorded performance. She has striking stage presence; everything she did on stage was full of tension and drama and her singing was the perfect foil for both Konieczny and Netrebko. He has a forceful, beautiful voice; he is a young Australian baritone who is making a big name for himself in German opera houses.

    Members experienced an unforgettable musical performance. And thanks also to Jennette for the excellent printed program that was distributed at this event. It was good to see that so many of our members were present, and we thank Professor Scott Harrison for the hospitality of the boardroom of the Conservatorium. Peter showed some great pictorial and musical illustrations of these influences. Gwyneth Jones performed both Venus in this role quite lasciviously and Elisabeth here as the redeeming angel.

    Her voice and acting was just wonderful to watch. Bernd Weikl was Wolfram von Eschenbach, a beautiful baritone voice. Afternoon tea followed and much thanks again to members who brought the sandwiches and other items for us to enjoy.

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    Our Study Day on Wagner in Italy reflected the fact that although Richard Wagner is usually regarded as the archetypal champion of German music, he had a life-long love affair with Italy and its musical traditions. He even considered migrating there. Die Meistersinger, Act 3 screening 24 February Our President Peter Bassett initially welcomed new members, and then reminded us of all of the various aspects of the Society, with its website showing events, reviews, links to fellow societies, etc.

    Peter also illustrated the concept of the Mastersong which, in fact, Hans Sachs explains in detail to the somewhat bemused Stolzing , and alerted us to the idea that the whole opera is conceived along the lines of the Mastersong, with the first two acts of equal length followed by the third act whose length is equal to the other two combined. This was new to me and I found it extremely interesting. The DVD viewing began from the third act entrance of Walther von Stolzing a splendid and convincing Siegfried Jerusalem in the workshop of the Meister cobbler-poet Hans Sachs an exemplary Bernd Weikl , and took us through, with no interval, to the end of the opera — a long but memorable performance.

    The attention of our large audience was captured from the first minute. Amusingly, a goblin-like figure in modern dress appeared for a split-second on stage at the end, and proved to be Wolfgang Wagner. The viewing lasted to about the time we had available for the use of the theatre, so the usual post-performance discussions were curtailed, but over afternoon tea thanks to the Nibelungs Susan Treloar, Carol Bassett and Peter Jansen we discussed our various impressions.

    If I may express my own preference, I found that Bernd Weikl was a peer among all the other magnificent interpreters of Hans Sachs, with not a flaw in his portrayal of this immense role. July 17, - Published on Amazon. The best parts of this book are the contributions by the "nobodies.


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    The contributor who discovered the Hallelujah's at the end of the Pilgrim Chorus and couldn't rest until he'd played them himself on his church's organ at full volume, no doubt --that and similar stories are the gems. But fellowship, perhaps. Read the author's foreword! December 23, - Published on Amazon. I eagerly picked up this book hoping to find a select number of richly personal experiences of discovering Wagner's music.

    Wagner Moments: A Celebration of Favorite Wagner Experiences.

    Life-changing anecdotes full of inspiration and insight. Instead we have a huge number of 'contributors' which, in the vast majority of cases, provide scant, superficial descriptions of their own Wagner moments which, in truth, don't amount to very much at all. There are even some based on second-hand accounts of some other famous names who, in a page autobiography, mention Wagner once.

    As far as Holman is concerned, that's good enough for two pages in this book. I feel like going on a rant but this book is frankly dispiriting. There's a fella down my road who has a Wagner LP and I'm amazed he's not in this book - everyone else seems to be!

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