Wolfgang Wagner dies at 90

CLASSICAL MUSIC | 22.03.2010

Bayreuth impresario Wolfgang Wagner dies at 90

The long-time director of the famous Bayreuth Festival has died. Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of composer Richard Wagner, passed away on March 21, 2010 in his house in Bayreuth in southern Germany at the age of 90.

Wolfgang Wagner passed away on March 21, 2010 in his house in Bayreuth in southern Germany at the age of ninety. He directed the Bayreuth Festival, the legendary opera event in southern Germany, for 57 years before stepping down in 2008.

Wagner was a stroke of luck for the post-World War II development of the legendary Bayreuth Festival, according to Austrian conductor and long-time participant in the festival, Peter Schneider.

“I once observed how he looked into the pots in the cafeteria kitchen to make sure everything was running smoothly,” said Schneider.

It was Wolfgang Wagner, the last living grandson of composer Richard Wagner, who transformed the Bayreuth Festival from a private legacy into a successful cultural institution.

Restoring the Wagner name

But it wasn’t an easy path to success. After World War II, Wolfgang Wagner toured Germany on his motorcycle in an effort to recruit sponsors for the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival, which exclusively features operas by Richard Wagner.

“There was a lot of resentment, since my mother had been a friend of Adolf Hitler’s,” Wolfgang Wagner once said. “Without foreign sponsors, we wouldn’t have managed it.”

On July 30, 1951, six years after the end of the war, the festival reopened with a premiere of the opera “Parsifal.”

Wagner co-directed the festival with his elder brother Wieland, until his death in 1966, when Wolfgang took over sole leadership.

As a conductor, Wolfgang Wagner roused mixed opinions. He was said to be musically conservative and stood for a long time in his brother’s shadow. Still, his extensive practical experience earned him respect: He brought some of the world’s most renowned singers, directors, and conductors to Bayreuth.

But his so-called “workshop” approach to the festival didn’t go over well with everyone. Wagner’s concept was that opera productions were never finished, but would be honed to perfection year after year, sometimes with extensive changes. In other houses, productions are simply repeated wholesale over several seasons.

Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson, who frequently performed in Bayreuth, felt that Wagner’s workshop model threatened to compromise quality. “People are now talking about the Bayreuth Workshop,” she said shortly before she died in 2005. “Any beginner can sing at Bayreuth!”

In addition to his artistic direction, Wagner was closely involved in founding the Richard Wagner Foundation, which actively preserves the composer’s estate and the Festspielhaus theater. Wolfgang Wagner was also responsible for the restoration of Richard Wagner’s villa, the Wahnfriend House, which is now a museum.

Katharina Wagner, 31 is an accomplished stage director, shown here with Wolfgang Wagner

Changing of the guard

Family quarrels have plagued the Wagner clan since 1999, when the process for determining a successor to Wolfgang began. The impresario’s second wife Gudrun was considered a likely candidate for the position, but when she died suddenly in November 2007, the door was opened for Wagner’s two daughters Eva and Katharina to take the helm.

On September 1, 2008, the Bayreuth Festival foundation board approved the joint leadership of the two half-sisters. That marked the beginning of a new era in Bayreuth. They have begun by setting a more youthful tone in the artistic programming and placing greater emphasis on publicity and communication. But exactly where the young Wagners will take the festival is yet to be seen.

Wolfgang Wagner’s health had declined since 2007 and since then he largely withdrew from the media and from his remaining involvement in the direction of the festival. He celebrated his 90th birthday last summer quietly, surrounded by his family. For the first time since 1951, he was no longer in the limelight.

Author: Dieter David-Scholz (kjb)
Editor: Ben Knight

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Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Renata Tebaldi Exhibition “Profonda ed Infinita” to show in New York City

To see past locations of the Renata Tebaldi Exhibition, click here:

The following is a detailed description of the exhibition:

The exhibition was begun in December, 2005 , and reveals the many-sided nature of the great star, the life of a woman who it is impossible not to love, a year after she passed away.

It is an acknowledgement justly made to our most extraordinary opera singer, who, with her angelic voice and her rigorous knowledge as a musician inebriated theatre goers of every country, a witness to Italian Art and Culture. The exhibition is a traveling exhibition, and it is an event for music lovers, and in general for the entire public. The exhibition was co-produced in collaboration with the Regio Theatre of Parma, and was inaugurated on the 19th of December, 2005. It then went to the Scala Theatre, to the Statsoper of Vienna, to the Massimo of Palermo, to the Liceu of Barcellona and to the Losanna Opera, to the Sheremetyev Palace of St. Petersburg, to the Stanislavnskij Theatre – Nemirovic-Dancenko of Mosca, to the San Carlo Theatre of Napoli and to the Operà of Lyon In 2010 it will go on to Trieste, Beijing, Madrid, Bilbao etc.

During the exhibition it will be possible to listen to musical pieces by the singer, see unpublished videos, television interviews from the archives of the different theatres. Besides the stage costumes of Nicola Benois for the Scala, of Beni Montresor for the Metropolitan of New York and of Giorgio De Chirico for the Scala, concert costumes, jewels worn on stage, personal objects, hundreds of photographs, awards Miss Tebaldi received (including that of “Cavaliere di Gran Croce”, of “Commendatore” and of “Grand’Ufficiale of the Italian Republic” , “Grande plaque de vermeil de la Ville de Paris” 1986, “Cravate de Commandeur des Artrs et Lettres” 1987, “Legion d’honneur” 1996) will be exhibited together with documents and the written or verbal acknowledgements she received from famous personalities such as, to mention only a few examples, Maestro Arturo Toscanini, J.F.Kennedy, and the proclamation conferred on the 11th of December, 1995 by Rudolph Giuliani, Major of New York on “Tebaldi Day”. The exhibition is under the high patronage of the President of the Italian Republic.

The exhibition comes to NYC in September.  Go and pay your homage to one of the greatest voices of all time.

Brava Tebaldi, sempre nei nostri cuori

One of my very favourites, “Laggiu nel Soledad” from Puccini’s “Fanciulla Del West.”

Nixon in China opens to great reviews at Vancouver Opera and heads to Toronto next season.

As of late, there has been a resurgence of interest in John Adam’s 1987 opera, “Nixon in China,” to a libretto by Alice Goodman.  The opera details the visit of United States President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972, where he met with China’s Chairman Mao Zedong and other Chinese officials.

The work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Houston Grand Opera and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987 in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris.
The opera focuses on the personalities and personal histories of the six key players, Nixon and his wife Pat, Jiang Qing (spelled “Chiang Ch’ing” in the libretto) and Chairman Mao (“Mao Tse-tung”), and the two close advisors to the two parties, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai (“Chou En-lai”). It is composed of three acts. The first details the anticipation and arrival of the Nixon cortege and the first meeting and evening in China. The second act shifts focus to Pat Nixon, as she makes tours of rural China, including an encounter at a pig farm. The second scene includes a performance of a Communist propaganda play, in which first Pat Nixon, then her husband and then Jiang Qing, intercede in the performance. The last act chronicles the last night in China, in which the characters dance a foxtrot, their thoughts wandering to their own pasts.

Composer, John Adams

Musically, the opera perhaps owes more influence to minimalism than any Asian styles. (John Adams adapted the foxtrot theme from the last act into a concert piece entitled “The Chairman Dances”, published before the opera in 1985. In the intervening period, Adams switched publishers, hence the Foxtrot for Orchestra being published by G. Schirmer and the opera by Boosey & Hawkes.) The libretto, by contrast, was written completely in rhymed, metered couplets, reminiscent of poetic and theatrical styles native to China.

Here are some recent reviews for the Canadian premiere of “Nixon and China”:

“Nixon in Vancouver: a triumphant visit” by Elissa Poole (Globe and Mail)

Review in the Vancouver Straight by Janet SmithFrom the Vancouver Sun

Nixon in China coming to Toronto for 2010/11 season

Several years ago, John Adam’s work, “On the Transmigration of Souls,” touched me deeply following the 2001 September 11 attacks.  The work deserves a mention, due to its juxtaposed palate and the type of sound that is unmistakably recognized with Adams. Adams began writing the piece in late January 2002 for a requested tribute for September 11. The music was premiered by the New York Philharmonic on 19 September 2002 at Avery Fisher Hall. It is approximately 25 minutes long. In an interview Adams explained: “I want to avoid words like ‘requiem’ or ‘memorial’ when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn’t share. If pressed, I’d probably call the piece a ‘memory space.’ It’s a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions. The link to a particular historical event – in this case to 9/11 – is there if you want to contemplate it. But I hope that the piece will summon human experience that goes beyond this particular event.”

The title itself carries a certain heaviness of thought and meaning. According to Adams, “Transmigration means ‘the movement from one place to another’ or ‘the transition from one state of being to another.’ But in this case I meant it to imply the movement of the soul from one state to another. And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience.” Adams received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music for the piece. Its premiere recording (with Lorin Maazel conducting the New York Philharmonic, New York Choral Artists, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus), received the 2005 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Its sheet music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Opera Kitchener to present Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”



Friday March 26th 2010 ~ 8pm

The most performed OPERA of all TIME

Opera’s most epic and exotic tale of passion and betrayal comes to THE LIVING ARTS CENTRE. A young woman must decide between living without dignity or dying with honour in the opera most performed throughout the world.

This fully staged performance will be sung in Italian, with English Surtitles, accompanied by orchestra, soloists and chorus conducted by Maestro Sabatino Vacca.

Puccini’s soaring melodies and iconic orchestration bring to life the tale of a young geisha girl, Cio-Cio San, also know as Madama Butterfly, who at the opening of the opera has been arranged to marry a U.S. Navel Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton. However, the carefree young officer tells his friend, the American Counsel Sharpless, that although he likes Butterfly and will proceed with the ceremony, he won’t think much of it when he returns to America. With the arrival of all her guests and relatives, Butterfly reveals to Pinkerton that she has renounced her faith to be with him. As Pinkerton then realizes what Butterfly has given up for him, the gravity of this action climaxes: suddenly Butterfly’s Uncle, a high priest, arrives and curses the girl for forsaking the ancient religion of her ancestors. All the wedding guests leave, denouncing Cio-Cio San, and leave her to be comforted solely in the arms of her new husband. Can the two lovers overcome the ancient curse as cultures collide ?

As famous as the actual tale itself is the magnificent and memorable music that pours forth from the score; familiar arias such as the heart wrenching “Un bel Di” and “Addio, fiorito asil”, the duet of the young lovers “Vieni la sera”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Humming Chorus” all depict overwhelming emotions via of the power of the human voice soaring above an orchestra. Premiering an all-Canadian cast, this period production features the vocal talents of Suzanne Kilgore as the heroine Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly), Romulo Delgado as Pinkerton, Louisa Cowie as Suzuki and Mark Gardner as Sharpless.

MEDIA RELEASEDon’t miss this performance of the world’s most beloved opera: “Madama Butterfly” by G.Puccini will be for only one performance only ~ Friday March 26th 2010 at 8pm. Call the Living Arts Centre Box Office at 905.306.6000 or 1.888.805.8888 and book your tickets today!

OPERA KITCHENER is owned and operated by husband and wife team Emilio and Jennifer Fina. Their mandate is to present traditional, fully-staged professional operatic productions on a yearly basis, to provide the experience only opera can bestow to the public with affordable ticket prices and to employ the talents of resident musicians and artists of the community.

OPERA KITCHENER’s “MADAMA BUTTERFLY” – an opera by G.Puccini – Friday March 26th 2010 at 8pm The Living Arts Centre 4141 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga ON L5B 4B8

Fully staged with sets, costumes, orchestra, chorus and soloists Sung in German with English Surtitles

For Tickets call the Living Arts Centre Box Office at 905.306.6000 or 1.888.805.8888

Visit us at http://www.operakitchener.com for more information on this performance or our 2009/2010 season.

What’s on MET Opera Radio this week.

Don’t miss my fav’s this week:  Tatiana Troyanos as Sesto in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” and Aprile Millo in Verdi’s “Aida”

Tuesday – 3/9/2010

12:00 AM – 6:00 AM

Britten: Peter Grimes
3/24/1973-Ehrling; Vickers, Amara, Gramm, Kraft, Chookasian

Grand Diva, Aprile Millo, to be honoured by the Enrico Caruso Museum

Congratulations to Ms. Millo, who is this year’s guest of honour.

For more see:  Enrico Caruso Museum

March’s Singer of the Month: Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957)

b Recanati, 20 March 1890; d Rome, 30 Nov 1957). One of the most beautiful voices there ever was belonged to Italian tenor, Beniamino Gigli. In Rome, after lessons from Agnese Bonucci, he won a scholarship to the Liceo Musicale; his teachers were Cotogni and Rosati. In 1914 he won an international competition at Parma, and on 14 October that year made a successful début in La Gioconda at Rovigo. In 1915 his Faust in Boito’s Mefistofele was highly appreciated at Bologna under Serafin and at Naples under Mascagni. Spain was the scene of his first successes abroad, in 1917. The climax of his early career was his appearance in the memorial performance of Mefistofele at La Scala on 19 November 1918. On 26 November 1920 he made a brilliant début (again in Mefistofele) at the Metropolitan Opera, where he remained as principal tenor for 12 consecutive seasons, singing no fewer than 28 of his total of 60 roles.

In the lyrical and romantic repertory, Gigli was regarded as the legitimate heir of Caruso (Martinelli excelled in the more dramatic and heroic parts). The operas in which he was most often heard were La bohème, La Gioconda, L’Africaine, Andrea Chénier and Mefistofele. His Covent Garden début was in Andrea Chénier on 27 May 1930, with subsequent appearances in 1931, 1938 and 1946. In 1932 he left the Metropolitan, declining to accept a substantial reduction of the salary paid him before the Depression. Thereafter he pursued his career more actively in Italy, elsewhere in Europe, and in South America, returning to the Metropolitan, for five performances only, in 1939. A favourite of Mussolini, Gigli was at first under a cloud after the dictator’s fall, but returned to sing in Tosca at the Rome Opera in March 1945, and in November 1946 reappeared at Covent Garden with the S Carlo company in La bohème, with his daughter, Rina Gigli, as Mimì. He continued to appear in opera at Naples and at Rome as late as 1953, and in concerts almost until his death.

Smoothness, sweetness and fluency were the outstanding marks of Gigli’s singing. His style was essentially popular, both in its virtues and its limitations: natural, vital and spontaneous on the one hand, but always liable to faults of taste – to a sentimental style of portamento, for instance, or the breaking of the line by sobs, or ostentatious bids for stage applause ‘like a picturesque beggar appealing for alms’ (Ernest Newman). He missed refinement in Mozart, and was unequal to the technical demands of ‘Il mio tesoro’; in Verdi he was more at home, although notably happier when, as in the second scene of Un ballo in maschera or the last act of Rigoletto, his grandees had adopted popular disguise; best of all in Puccini and the melodramatic lyricism of Andrea Chénier and La Gioconda. His mellifluous cantilena in such pieces as Nadir’s romance in Les pêcheurs de perles was consummately beautiful. Gigli was something less than a great artist; but as a singer pure and simple he was among the greatest.

His many recordings offer a complete portrait of his long career; outstandingly successful are the arias from Mefistofele, Martha, L’elisir d’amore, La Gioconda and Faust, duets with De Luca from La forza del destino and Les pêcheurs de perles, and the complete recordings of Andrea Chénier and La Bohème. Gigli was also a seductively charming interpreter of Neapolitan and popular songs, and delighted 1930s cinema audiences with his portrayals of ingenuous and lovestruck tenors.

From the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

In Remembrance of Philip Langridge

Philip Gordon Langridge CBE (16 December 1939 – 5 March 2010) was an English tenor, considered to be among the foremost exponents of English opera and oratorio. Langridge was born in Hawkhurst, Kent, educated at Maidstone Grammar School and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He started his career as an orchestral violinist, which exposed him to a greater variety of music than professional singers ordinarily experience. Langridge was admired for his fine technique coupled with keen dramatic instincts. His repertoire was broad, ranging from the operas of Claudio Monteverdi and Mozart to more modern works by Ravel, Stravinsky, Janáček and Schoenberg. At the end of his life, he was adding some Wagner roles, including Loge from Das Rheingold. Langridge was also a fine concert singer and regularly performed the sacred music of Bach and Handel. He also won great acclaim for his assumption of the title role in Elgar’s oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius. For all his versatility, he was at his most distinguished performing the works of Benjamin Britten. Much of Britten’s vocal music was written specifically for his artistic and life partner, tenor Sir Peter Pears. Many regarded Langridge as Pears’ true successor because they shared similar vocal qualities and brought uncommon immediacy to the music they performed. He recorded many of his famous roles, including Peter Grimes and the Prologue / Quint in The Turn of the Screw, as well as all the orchestral song cycles for tenor voice.
Langridge’s association with Harrison Birtwistle began in 1986 when he created the role of Orpheus in his opera The Mask of Orpheus. He also sang The Lawyer in the world premiere recording of Punch and Judy (1989) and created the roles of Kong in The Second Mrs Kong (Glyndebourne, 1994) and Hiereus in The Minotaur (Royal Opera House, 2008). Birtwistle composed Vanitas (based on a poem by David Harsent) especially for Langridge’s 70th birthday concert at London’s Wigmore Hall in November 2009. Langridge was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to music in 1994. He was married to Irish mezzo-soprano Ann Murray until his death from bowel cancer. Langridge is survived by their son Jonathan Philip (born 1986, Greenwich, London), and his three adult children from his previous marriage: Anita, Jennifer, and opera director Stephen.

Philip Langridge in 2007

From the New York Times (Allan Kozinn)

From Nov. 2009. A recital at Wigmore Hall

From “The Guardian”

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reviews on Verdi’s “Attila” at the Metropolitan Opera

Recent Reviews

Seen and Heard: International Opera Review (Bernard Jacobson)

Opera Review: Verdi’s “Attila” makes belated debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News)

Anne Midgette Reviews Verdi’s “Attila” from the MET (Washington Post)

Verdi’s “Attila” (David Laviska, Musical Criticism.com)

A scene from the Met’s 2010 production of Verdi’s “Attila”

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 4:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reviews and articles on Shostakovich’s “The Nose” at the Metropolitan Opera

Gordon Gietz is “The Nose”

Some recent press about Shostakovich’s “The Nose” as it blows its way into the Metropolitan Opera

Reality takes it on the chin in “The Nose” at the Metropolitan Opera (Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News)

Picture this: A Nose on the Loose (Anthony Tommasini, NY Times)

Useful info on the Nose’s March 13th broadcast (from OPERA NEWS)

Laurel E. Fay’s well written article “Black Comedy Tonight” from OPERA NEWS

Gordon Gietz on his Metropolitan Opera Debut as a lifesize Nose (Rebecca Milzoff)

Met premieres Shostakovich’s absurdist  “The Nose” (Mike Silverman, Associated Press)