Tuesday, May 18, 2010

All-Wagner Concert on Friday, May 21

Please join us for "Exquisite Love Duets and Solos by Richard Wagner," on Friday, May 21, 2010, at Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 8 p.m.

Our soloists are Heldentenor Alan Schneider, Sopranos Joanna Porackova and Andrea Matthews, Mezzo-Soprano Rachel Selan, Pianist Jeffrey Brody.

Program: Rienzi's Prayer, Elsa's Dream, Bridal Chamber Scene (Lohengrin), "Mein lieber Schwan" and "In fernem Land" (Lohengrin), "Ewig war ich" (Siegfried), Love Duet from Tristan und Isolde.

Tickets: $20, members $15, students $10.

For tickets, go to www.bostonwagnersociety.org

We had our first rehearsal yesterday. It was absolutely fabulous!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boston Lyric Opera's "Ariadne auf Naxos"

Last night I saw a wonderful production of Ariadne auf Naxos by the Boston Lyric Opera. The singers were superb, and the sets intriguing. It was very interesting to note the parallels with Wagner's music. For instance, the nymphs' music recalls that of the Rhinemaidens, and they even sing of waves. There is also talk of a magic potion and the conflation of love and death, as in Tristan und Isolde.

Further, the Composer's music and ideas bear a strong resemblance to those of Wagner. The librettist, Hofmannstahl, probably intended this idealistic and grave character to be a parody of Wagner. Interestingly, though, I think this is only a half-hearted parody, as the music of Ariadne and Bacchus is so beautiful and entrancing, utterly Wagnerian.

Strauss and Hofmannstahl have one foot in burlesque, and the other firmly planted in the romantic world. It is as if the two artists couldn't make up their minds about what opera should be, serious or merely entertaining. The compromise they worked out, surprisingly, is very effective, and the two plots run along in parallel very nicely.

This opera offers something for everyone, slapstick comedy as well as serious mythological themes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"The Unknown Wagner"

We are looking forward to our lecture and audio presentation by M. J. Albacete.

Titled "The Unkown Wagner," the lecture will include very rare recordings of Wagner's mostly orchestral music, with some songs.

Date: Saturday, March 20, 2010
Time: 2 p.m.
Place: Boston Public Library, Copley Square, Orientation Room (enter on Dartmouth Street)
Free to All

M. J. Albacete is the Executive Director of the Canton Museum of Art (Ohio) and the co-founder of the Wagner Society of Ohio, as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Art Departments of Kent State University Stark Campus (where he teaches the History of Architecture). He is also a long-standing member of the Ohio Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau.

His passion for art and architecture stand in equal measure to his love of music, which began in his high school days. His musical credentials include writing record reviews for Fanfare magazine for about five years, reviewing concert performances of the Canton Symphony Orchestra or the local newspaper for five years; he was a preconcert lecturer for both the Akron and Cleveland Orchestras and has been an annual regular with the Canton Symphony. His weekly radio program Classical Curios was presented for a year on WKSU-FM, and he has given numerous lectures throughout the community on aspects of classical music, opera, and ballet. He has taught courses on the history of opera and music appreciation.

Albacete’s interest in the music of Richard Wagner goes back to those early days as well, when he considered this composer’s operatic music—especially the Ring—the ultimate challenge. He “came of age” listening to Solti’s history-making Ring Cycle. Since then he has made his way through all of the Wagner operatic oeuvre many times over. At the Wagner Society of Ohio’s three past symposia, his curiosity was piqued by the fact that no one ad-dressed the “other” music of Wagner. Was there much “other” music, and if so, shouldn’t it deserve our attention too? Thus began his search for recordings of “Der unbekannte Wagner” (The Unknown Wagner). As his collection grew, he received an invitation to present samplings of his discoveries at a meeting of the Wagner Society of Ohio.

The search for CDs was conducted largely via e-mail to all of the usual sources, but a few elusive items required contacts in England, Italy, Germany, Australia, and South Africa. And he is grateful to quite a few friends here and abroad for their efforts in helping him find certain curios. Each selection is introduced with informative narration, arranged chronologically for the most part to reveal the gradual evolution of the composer’s talents. And while every selection will come as a pleasant surprise, some will have the audience wondering why these are not heard more often in the concert hall. The program surveys much of his piano music from the monumental sonatas to the miniature album leaves dedicated to some of Wagner’s “special” friends; we will hear a few cuts from his only complete symphony, plus various excerpts from other orchestral works early and late; there are the choral works written for patriotic, political, and even religious occasions, and songs all along the course of his career, culminat-ing with an emotional final selection. Just in case some listener in the audience wants to hear something NOT included in the program, Albacete plans to bring along the CD collection with him, and, time permitting, he will play one or two additional items or one of his newly discovered gems.

For more information: www.bostonwagnersociety.org; info@bostonwagnersociety.org; 617-323-6088

Monday, January 18, 2010

"The Reluctant Wagnerian"

Yesterday I attended a talk by Ed Tapper, a music teacher and owner of the used-CD shop Orpheus, called "Fom the Synagogue to the Stage." It was sponsored by the New England Opera Club.

Tapper played numerous selections, and to my surprise, one of them included Helen Traubel. But instead of singing Wagner, she sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Apparently, Traubel sang Wagner only reluctantly, and this is the kind of music she preferred to sing! I suppose Rudolf Bing did her a favor by firing her from the Met after she sang at a night club.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lecture titled "Tristan and Ecstasy: Perspectives on Isolde's Transfiguration"

Last Saturday's talk by Professor Hans Rudolf Vaget was fabulous. But that's not really surprising. Prof. Vaget is one of the best Wagnerian minds alive today. The lecture was fascinating, and the speaker erudite. He played two rare musical examples: "Träume," a Wesendonk song sung by Kirsten Flagstad, and "Das Liebestod" (Tristan und Isolde), sung by Jessye Norman.

Even for a seasoned Wagnerian like me, there was so much to learn and savor. Prof. Vaget went over the libretto of "Das Liebestod," a wonderful exercise, which enhanced my appreciation of this incredible piece of music.

We also learned that Wagner considered "Träume" even closer to his heart than Tristan und Isolde.

Friday, January 8, 2010

May 21, 2010, concert

I have started preparing for our May 21 concert at the Longy School of Music. It promises to be exceptionally wonderful, with many beautiful excerpts. Titled "Exquisite Love Duets and Solos by Richard Wagner," the concert will include love duets from Tristan und Isolde and Lohengrin. In addition, we will most likely have Rienzi's Prayer, Elsa's Dream, the two Lohengrin arias, and Bruennhilde. Our tenor is the wonderful Alan Schneider, our two sopranos are Joanna Porackova and Andrea Matthews, both excellent singers. The pianist is Jeffrey Brody, who has much experience in this repertoire.

All details will be posted on our Web site in the upcoming weeks.