University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Wagner: Gotterdämmerung, Prologue and Act One; The Wagner Project

11/11/2018 1:00 pm
11/11/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The amount of daylight is fading fast as we head towards the darkest time of the year, the Winter solstice. Now is indeed the autumnal twilight time. There's no better time than now to listen to the tragic fourth and last opera of Richard Wagner's "Ring Cycle" tetralogy, called in his native German Der Ring des Nibelungen. In German this last opera of "The Ring" is known as Gotterdämmerung (1876). In English language we call it "The Twilight of the Gods."

Wagner's music dramas were conceived on a monumental scale. Wagner designed his own commensurately large opera house specifically for the performance of these works. After much delay and at great expense, the Festspielhaus was finally built in the Franconian town of Bayreuth. It was there for the opening festival season in 1876 that "Twilight of the Gods" was first staged as part of the complete Ring Cycle. Annual festivals followed at Bayreuth. The Ring Cycle is at the very heart of the Bayreuth Festival repertory. Recording the entire Ring Cycle is indeed a monumental project. There have been some wonderful and historic recorded Ring Cycles undertaken by some of the eminent Wagnerian conductors of the twentieth century. I think immediately of Furtwängler's Cycle in the 1950s and Solti's in the 1960s. (I broadcast the Furtwängler "Twilight" on mono LPs on Sunday, June 21, 1992.)

This Sunday I offer you a Gotterdämmerung of our time. It was recorded live in performance at the 2008 Bayreuth Festival. Christian Thielemann undertook the Ring and received accolades for his recorded interpretation. There's a problem with broadcasting Thielemann's "Twilight." Most of Wagner's operas are so long they won't fit into my three and a half hour timeslot. I am forced to split up my presentation over two Sundays. This Sunday you will hear the lengthy Prologue and Act One, which comes on the first two of the four Opus Arte compact discs released in 2009.

There will be time remaining for me to air tracks from The Wagner Project, a two-CD compilation of extensive recorded highlights from the canon of Wagner operas. The Wagner Project was issued in 2017 through the French Harmonia Mundi label. All the various tracks were recorded in Stockholm in 2016 with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Wagner Project is dominated by the compelling voice of German baritone, Matthias Goerne.