My Life with Wagner: Fairies, Rings, and Redemption: Exploring Opera's Most Enigmatic Composer

My Life with Wagner: Fairies, Rings, and Redemption: Exploring Opera's Most Enigmatic Composer


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One of today's most outstanding conductors, Christian Thielemann, composes a brilliant account of the great—and controversial—Richard Wagner.

Over a distinguished career conducting some of the world's finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has earned a reputation as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner.

My Life with Wagner chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the great composer, whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood. Thielemann retraces his journey around the world with Wagner—from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg, and Chicago—and combines his analysis with revealing insights drawn from his many years of experience as a Wagner conductor.

Thielemann discusses each of Wagner's operas in turn, and his appraisal is illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores, and the inside perspective of a world-class practitioner. And yet for all the adulation Wagner's art inspires, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today Wagner is venerated and reviled in equal measure.My Life with Wagner is a richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681771250
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Christian Thielemann has been the conductor of the Deutsche Oper, the Munich Philharmonic, and isthe current artistic director of the Salzburg Easter Festival. He is a regular guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, as well as the Metropolitan Opera and has received an honorary appointment to the Royal Academy of Music in London. He won the Richard Wagner Award in 2015 and lives in Germany, where he is currently the conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden.

Anthea Bell is the recipient of the Schlegel Tieck
Prize for translation from German, the Independent
Foreign Fiction Prize, and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize in 2002 for the translation of W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz,
and the 2003 Austrian State Prize for Literary Translation. She lives in Cambridge, England.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

I 'You haven't been playing the organ, have you? My Way to Wagner 1

II Wagner's Cosmos 21

1 Wagalaweia and Hojotoho! A First Approach to Wagner's Music Drama 25

The Wagnerian orchestra 26

Words and music 29

The subjects 34

2 'If you weren't all such tedious fellows': Wagner and his Conductors 36

Wagner on the conductor's podium 36

The Wagner School 39

The Bayreuth Rogues' Gallery 41

3 Cobwebs, Solemnity, Sausage Salad: Bayreuth and its Green Hill 55

The theatre 55

The pit 59

The acoustics 61

My only school of conducting 65

The Wagners 69

The myth 77

4 A Very German Subject: The Ideological Aspect 80

Is C major still C major? 80

Excursus: Wagner and Mendelssohn 82

Emotion and politics 88

5 'If we want Wagner, then Wagner is what we want', or: What Makes a Good Performance? 95

The architectonic element 95

Mastering the conducting of opera on the grand scale 98

Excursus: The Kapellmeister 102

Reading Wagner 105

Directing Wagner's operas 107

Singing Wagner 115

Interpretation 120

6 Money or Love: Wagner for Beginners 128

Don't be afraid! 128

The message 130

The characters 133

III Wagner's Music Dramas 139

1 Die Feen (The Fairies): A First Look Inside Wagner's Botanizing Drum 145

2 A Sin of Wagner's Youth and a Hymn to Carnival: Das Liebesverbot oder Die Novize von Palermo (The Ban on hove, or The Novice of Palermo) 147

3 Defeating Grand Opera with its Own Weapons: Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the hast of the Tribunes) 150

4 Plain, Meagre, Gloomy?: Der fliegende Höllander, oder der Finch des Willens (The Flying Dutchman, or the Curse of the Will) 157

5 Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg (Tannhäuser and the Singers' Contest on the Wartburg): The Art of Moderation and Wagner's Failure to Achieve It 166

6 A Floodlight on the World Beyond, Love without Regret: Lohengrin 176

7 Tristan und Isolde: The Chord of Life 187

8 A Plea for Tolerance: Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg) 201

9 Money, Power or Love? Painting the World in Sunset Colours: Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) 213

10 An Anti-Tristan Composed in Violet Ink: Parsifal 238

Conclusion 250

Acknowledgements 252

Appendix 253

Bibliography 253

Photo credits 254

Index 255

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