Events, Film, Music, opera

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Richard Wagner

Today is the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner, for many the greatest composer who ever lived. Germany has been celebrating. A monument is to be erected in Leipzig, his birthplace, and there will be concerts at Bayreuth.

Wagner

Wagner once said, “I hold the Jewish race to be the born enemy of pure humanity and everything noble in it.” No surprise, then, that Adolf Hitler became a great fan. Wagner’s great-granddaughter at least wants to lay the ghosts to rest and has announced that she will make private letters available to historians so they can look into the rumours that Wagner’s  daughter-in-law – Winifred, an English woman – had a relationship with the Führer. Whether he was a beast or not, his music is remarkable. Here is one of my favourites, the overture to Tristan und Isolde, conducted of course by my friend Antonio Pappano:

Bayreuth
Bayreuth

Wagner had the opera house at Bayreuth built solely for the performance of his own work and today the tradition continues under the management of his heirs. It is said that the building was largely funded by the extravagant Ludwig II of Bavaria, famous for perhaps his greatest folly, the castle of Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein

I have never understood people who say they hate Wagner’s music, or can’t abide any of it. Personally, I will admit that I don’t like it all. I know, for example, that true fans will think me a philistine for saying that, for the most part, Das Rheingold is a drudge to sit through. It has its moments, as the famous quote says, but I am always amazed that the singers can remember their parts as they have no melody at all to work with. I’ll come back to The Ring after treating you to the Tannhaüser overture (can you spot the Doe, a deer bit?)

Well, we can’t have Wagner’s birthday without perhaps his best known tune! Used in films like Apocalypse Now and more recently Valkyrie, it is almost always heard on the radio without the voices. And it’s the voices that make it. Have a good one!

Horror, News, opera

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (Born 10 October 1813)

It’s not news that I’m a music fan and especially an opera fan, and this year marks 200 years since the birth of one of the greatest composers, Giuseppe Verdi. It provides me with the perfect excuse to slip in a few highlights and snippets of information. So in between posts on horror,  I will keep posting Verdi trivia between now and the anniversary of his death on 27 January.

Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi

Actually, Verdi may have been born on 9th October but the generally accepted date is 10th. His mother was a spinner, his father an innkeeper. His first opera, Oberto, was performed in 1939 and met with limited success, but in 1842 Nabucco premièred on March 9th in Milan at La Scala and his genius was revealed.

La Scala Circa. 1842
La Scala Circa. 1842

Nabucco was unleashed on a population groaning under Austrian rule and was a call to national unification (risorgimento).

Nabucco

Nabucco is an abbreviation of King Nebuchadnezzar of Assyria but the opera is largely fictional. However, of interest to us is the fact that in Jewish history {Biblical Book of Daniel (Chapter IV, verses 31-37)} old Nebuchadnezzar was a lycanthropist and believed that he changed into a wolf. When he recovered from the ‘illness’ he gave thanks to the Hebrew god, Jehova.

Lon Chaney Jr's Famous Wolfman
Lon Chaney Jr’s Famous Wolfman
Jehova (allegedly)
Jehova (allegedly)

Which all leads very nicely into my chosen excerpt from Nabucco…

Now here’s a man who knows all there is to know about Verdi. My friend Sir Antonio Pappano: