24 June 2013
There’s a lot of Wagner about this year and the hills are alive with the sound of Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde doing their stuff. From the stupendous production of the Ring Cycle at the Met, to the smaller but perfectly formed production at Longborough in the Cotswolds, everybody wants a bit of the action in this, the 200th anniversary of The Master’s birth. This year the Ring will be sung, on stage, at the Proms.
Like Marmite, you either love Wagner or loathe him. One of my early memories is of my two older sisters battling over the relative merits of Beethoven’s 6th and Wagner’s Lohengrin. They were on a staircase at the time, and progressed up it, exchanging swipes and insults, like Stew Granger and James Mason in The Prisoner of Zenda.
BH and I don’t actually indulge in fisticuffs, but we do argue. He maintains the composer asks far too much of his singers, whereas I opine that had I the voice (oh if only) of the late great Birgit Nilsson, I’d gladly ruin my vocal chords to sing the part of Brünnhilde. Dream on Ginny…
Wagner is gutsy opera, big in every way. You need big voices, which sometimes means big singers. You need a huge orchestra including the famous Wagner tuba; and a truly menacing horn, of great length, that groans in Götterdämmerung.
Let’s face it, this is 50/50 music and spectacle. Akin to very superior panto. (I hope no serious Wagnerians read this, that last remark is heinous.) The plots and characters may be ludicrous and unreal but it makes no difference, one is swept up and along by these gusts of glorious music.
I’m not sure why comparisons are odious. I won’t make any. Suffice it to say I love Beethoven and Mozart, and Bartok and the Beatles, and yes, I shall be listening to The Ring again at the Proms and much else besides.