Live with no tricks, just like it was when the fab four were on stage, straight from the West End, “Let it Be” is coming to Leipzig. It’s been 50 years since the release of their first album, “Please Please Me” and I know every word to every song. I’ll bet you do too.
Here’s what the Huffington Post is saying.
And Time Out:
It’s hard to believe Richard Wagner is celebrating his 200th birthday this year. His music feels much more contemporary than that. I think that’s partly because it has been used so often in popular culture like film. There’s no need for him to draw enough breath to blow out 200 candles and make a wish; his major ones have come true.
“The day before yesterday I finished my opera. It was right at noon and as I was writing „The End“, the church bells rang out. That pleased me no end,”
wrote the 20 year-old in an 1833 letter to his sister. At the time he was part-time chorus director in Würzburg. He had spent the last ten months writing the more than 600 pages that were to be his first opera, „Die Feen“ (the Fairies). He wanted Leipzig to be the first to perform it, but in the city where he had been born and had studied, he was an unknown. His sister Rosalie, however, was a very popular Leipzig actress and through her there were further talks about putting it on, but they ended over battles about the costumes. Wagner stood his ground. He wanted Knights from the middle ages, not turbans and kaftans!
In the end the opera was never performed while he was alive. The first performance was in Munich in 1888. Even today is not performed as often as his other works. That’s one reason it is so exciting we have the chance to see it at Oper Leipzig.
In cooperation with the Bayreuther Festspielen, BF Medien GmBH, this magical experience has been in the making for the last two years. In fact five members of the cast, the Feenkönig / Groma: Igor Durlovski (Bass), Arindal: Arnold Bezeuyen (Tenor), Morald: Detlef Roth (Baritone), Gunther: Guy Mannheim (Tenor) and Harald: Roland Schubert (Bass) are with us in that respect. For die-hard Wagner fans this festival is Graceland. It takes place once a year in the theater Wagner conceived and realised. At last he would have a proper place for his „gesamt kunstwerk“. At a time when Opera was a place to see and be seen for the elite, he had a vision to cleanse it of its pretension and make it accessible for all people. This modern form of music drama would use myth because of its timeless universal quality and encompass verse, dance, drama, chorus, music and spectacle, as found in what he considered to be the greatest art form of all; the Greek Tragedy. The theater was built according the time’s most modern innovations for the stage, but perhaps most relevant to us was what we now refer to as the orchestra pit. Wagner didn’t want the audience’s visual experience to be distracted by the musicians or the lights they needed to read the sheet music. Another of Wagner’s revolutions was to turn his back to the audience and to use direct eye contact to conduct his musicians. Today we can’t imagine it any other way.
The set and costumes are the creation of Andre Barbe and Renaud Doucet. They could have done anything, but they wanted to respect Wagner’s ideas, after all it is his birthday! So, there are no turbans and kaftans! Instead we are folded in and out of the middle ages, Wagner’s time and ours. It’s a bit like origami where sometimes we can see only what we are creating and other times we see the folds that make up that creation. I love the use of butterflies to connect the fairy world with ours. No matter how many times I’ve seen a butterfly, I still react with awe at their grace and beauty. I went to the 18.00 performance on a Sunday and came out at 22.00. The time flew by! I’m sure a big part of that was the spectacle of the set and the costumes. Me thinks Wagner would be very pleased.
I don’t want to give too much away. There’s a synopsis in English in the program for you to read when you get there, especially if it’s your first time. Truly you will be too caught up in everything to follow the German….even if you are a native speaker. I’ll just say there are no weak performances. My favorite exchange was between Milcho Borovinov as Gernot and Jennifer Porto as Drolla in the second act. Even though they are belting out some crazy notes, there is no mistaking what’s happening. Our home girl has done us proud. Christiane Libor gives a powerful performance in the lead as Ada and we will see her again as Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Master Singers) and Senta in the concert version of Der fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman).
And that leads to what I found an interesting topic while researching Wagner. I thought I was new to him, but once I heard his music, it was very familiar. Once I started finding out more I was intrigued with his place in history, both real and appropriated. I guess it’s not really a new question, but does the quality of an artist’s work differ with his political opinion? It seems as long as everyone agrees with the viewpoint, the question isn’t even a question. As artists, how much responsibility do we have for how our work is used? How much of that depends on our original intention? Does that then change depending on history? Tough questions.
I am glad I live in a time where via tv or internet I can invite Stephen Fry into my home, despite him being gay, Jewish and bi-polar. He remains on my top five list of people I’d like to invite to dinner. To watch him as he talks about the Tristan Chord is physically moving. It’s no wonder Mario Schröder has chosen to use the prelude to Tristan and Isolde in his upcoming Ein Liebestraum (A Dream Love). No matter what Wagner’s political persuasion was, it was clear that he was a man with deep emotions and the ability to express them musically. This opera stands out as being different from Wagner’s other works. He wrote it about his feelings for Mathilde Wesendonck. There is much speculation about their relationship. What is known is she and her husband were patrons who so believed in Wagner’s genius that they gave him a house on their estate to work in. Mathilde was a poet and her work inspired him to set it to music.
In the end Wagner destroyed his marriage and Mathilde stayed with her husband who basically sent Wagner away, promising to finance his ongoing project The Ring. Mario isn’t looking at the story. He’s only responding to the music it spawned: somehow simultaneously hopeful, morose, intense and erotic.
This is only a portion of the exploration of the theme. Mario and Silvana Schröder’s choreography will be part of a mixture of video, singing and music. Composers include Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Mangus Linberg. Love is one of our basic human emotions, one that can do many things to us. I look forward to seeing how this plays out using all our senses. At the recent Blue Monday, we got a glimpse of what was to come. I found Silvana’s pairing of the delicate Fang Yi Liu and the muscular Oliver Priess a daring combination. The work in progress we were able to watch had Fang in control which created an unexpected dynamic. I can’t wait to see the whole thing!
Wagner next week:
Sometimes this job brings me joy. Last week I got a pre-release copy of Annuluk’s new album “Ushna” due out 12 April. Basically I’ve pretty much had it on repeat since then. It’s world music, but it’s more than that. It’s an expression of a roots based musical journey through India, West Africa, Spain and American jazz mixed with European electronic samples and distorted dub beats…..all that with the heartful powerful mature voice of Miša. I can’t say enough about the diverse quality of her voice. I don’t want to pigeon-hole the music, but Björk and Portishead came to mind as I listened to some of it. I have to say my favorite song is Mamangoni with its funky fretwork, groovy percussion, flute and that voice……but then, I am a huge fan of Afro Beat!
Here’s where you get lucky….next week is a record release party!
Wed 27 Feb Release Party @ NaTO 9.00
Christian Walter: keyboards, saxophone, flute, guitar
Ralf Leonhardt: bass
Karl Blütchen: percussion
Emil Petrov: guitar
Roberto Fratta: percussion, Ngoni lute, sampler
Sascha Eichhorn: tabla, percussion
Anne Löper: Live Sand Performance
5 March Noch Besser Leben
28 June University Summer Festival (Jena)