Virginia Barton

24 June 2013: Dreaming of Brünnhilde

24 June 2013

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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.

img_mu-15BH 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.




  • Harold says on: June 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm


    I guess I fall somewhere between you and “BH”. I like Wagner a lot, but he can be rather loud and crashing, and he’s not at all hummable like Verdi. Still, for sheer spectacle, you can’t beat the Ring.

    And I’ve always wondered whether Tolkein confessed to lifting all his material from Wagner??

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: June 25, 2013 at 11:01 am


    A propos of nothing at all, especially not Wagner, I thought you’d like to know, Ginny, that when you put “Virginia Bart” into Google, the “Virginia Bartending School” comes just ahead of you.

    • ginny says on: June 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm


      I just don’t know Harold, and have to confess that I had a go at The Hobbit and abandoned it, and never got as far as the Lord of the Rings.

      I know an old lady who actually knew Tolkien so I’ll ask her next time I see her. I don’t think he’d have done that somehow tho’ he might have drawn on, or been inspired by the Icelandic sagas as indeed Wagner was. ginny

    • ginny says on: June 25, 2013 at 2:43 pm


      WELL WELL, Wellies! Love that! Don’t know a Baltic Sunset from a Goldfinger cocktail so should probably go there…

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