Archive for the Wagner Category

Liebestod, and the doomed Tristan and Isolde-in gratitude

Posted in 19th Century, August Spiess, burges, Jessye Norman, Jon William Waterhouse, Opera, Recquiscat in Pace, Tristan and Isolde, Wagner, William Burges on September 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This past Saturday evening we had dinner with our dear talented  friends, the  designer Jonathan Fong and his partner the playwright Greg Phillips.

As is so often the case with these fine gentleman they came bearing gifts, in this case a novel  The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway. The novel is centered upon Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde; my thoughtful friends knowing of our love for opera, Wagner in particular, thought it would make a fine gift.

It is indeed, thank you fellows.

Always in search for a topic to explore, I found myself revisiting this opera, the Liebestod of course in particular.

John William Waterhouse

Tristan and Isolde with the Potion

1916

private collection

Having in my youth read the Loomis edition of Medieval Romances I was as hooked as dear Ludwig II on the legend of our doomed lovers. It was not until my young adulthood that I finally heard the Liebestod. Like those before me I too fell under its spell.

The dog-eared volume that started my romance.

Edmund Blair Leighton

Tristan and Isolde

1902

Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde

1901

A very curious window, by an unknown artist, the doomed lovers portrayed by Lillie Langtry and the future Edward VII, 1890.

Of course one cannot think of the Tristan-Isolde myth without thinking of Ludwig II and his dream castle Neuschwanstein. Often disparaged as a pastiche chock-a-block with second rate decorative paintings and overblown mock Medieval decor;  from my perspective, it is amazing.

Just as my heart sings at the rich allegory so dear to William Burges, Ludwig’s medievalism speaks to my soul. The decorative panels by the overworked and under-rated artist August Spiess of particular interest. 

August Spiess

Tristan and Isolde

1881

Neuschwanstein

source

Typical of the thorough attention to detail is this incredible Tristan and Isolde stove found in Ludwig’s bedroom.

Ceramic Stove with Carvings

Bedroom -Neuschwanstein

 source

I frankly cannot resist popping in this image of the well known Burges “fire-castle” found at Cardiff Castle.

William Burges

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Wales

renovated 1868

It was with great difficulty that Wagner’s poem finally found its way to the stage.

Ludwig II through his devotion, purse and mad infatuation for  his “Holy One” was finally able to swoon in solitary royal splendor to the Liebestod on July 10th 1865.

Although I  of course do not have a recording from that premier, in which Malvina Schnorr was Isolde; I offer the divine Deborah Voigt.

The following performance is quite moving and poetic-stunning.

Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 7th December 1825

d. 8th February 1904

Following opening night a limp Ludwig gushed to his beloved Richard:

“Unique One! Holy One!

How glorious!- Perfect. So full of rapture!… To drown…to sink down- unconscious- supreme joy.

Divine work!”

(I could not have expressed my sentiments more eloquently, though perhaps I would have added a few more exclamation points.)

The tenor,who personified Tristan to Wagner and to Ludwig, tragically died after only four performance of the roles he and his wife Malvina created.

Ludwig Scnorr von Carolsfeld was only 29 when he died. 

His final words:

” Farewell, Siegried! Console my Richard!”

Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 2nd July 1836

d. 21st July 1865

Recquiscat in Pace

I of course adore Voigt,

I adore Jane Eaglen,

but my heart will always remain true to Jessye, she is my Isolde.

Thank you Ludwig

M. Jacob

Ludwig II

1865

And of course thank you oh Unique One, oh Holy One

Richard Wagner ca. 1868

Until next time,

 take care,

Babylon Baroque

Ring Cycle Seating week 14

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, 19th cent., Achim Freyer, Arthur Rackham, Eastlake, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Gothic Revival, Placido Domingo, The Ring Cycle, Wagner with tags on June 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In the throes of my Teutonic frenzy, Ring Cycle in high gear,I thought this weeks chair should be one suitable for the Maestro Wagner.Chair

ca. 1850 , Coburg

Ferdinand Rothbart, designer, Thom. Hoffmeister and Thom. Behrens , makers

Oak and pine, with original plush upholstery, wool tassels, and brass nail

V&A

NOW this is my kind of chair, although it does indeed appear to be a throne, it is was intended to impress upon the world German craftsmanship and taste. Initially shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, this chair, part of a set including a sideboard, were well received. Raves included praise for work “in the German-Gothic style of the middle ages”. So well  received ,that her Majesty used the set to furnish the Evening Drawing Room at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.

Multiple Drawing Rooms, Morning, Noon, Evening, different castles, ain’t monarchy just grand!

To make this chair more lust worthy, the tassels were initially bright pink, now faded to this sober tasteful coloring,a bit mud like.

I am fully entrenched in Master Wagner’s masterpiece, his Der Ring Des Nibelungen, last evening being Die Walkure. As I mentioned before I have my reservation concerning Achim Freyer’s production. From my nose bleed seats I feel as if I were the one viewing from Valhalla.

The production from this distance makes much more sense, Fricka’s ridiculously attenuated arms are less comical ; although her appearance onstage elicited loud guffaws from rubes in the audience, my sympathies to the fine soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk.

Fricka in background, Wotan foreground.

I hesitate to identify who is performing, but this is the costume scheme for the characters.

The first act of Die Walkure has a most tender and intimate quality to it. Never has incest been so romantic, so lovely, so enviable. Siegmund and Sieglinde have truly found their other half. This production seems to great to great lengths to distance itself from that intimacy, the Black and White Cookie costumes aside.

I am well aware of my conservative, at times pedantic taste. I  value Mr. Freyer’s vision, at times I am swept up in it. But so often I am left with the feeling that it is best as a conceptual rendering, the actual, very expensive, production often feels distracting.

With that said ,back to dear Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), Rackham captured the intimacy of this young attractive couple perfectly in sepia line drawings.

A smokin’ hot Stranger Man receives refreshment from a nubile Sieglinde.

Grumpy hubby Hunding not pleased with above mentioned smokin’ hot Stranger Man sharing a meal with them.

Wise and lovely Sieglinde pulls a sleep aid for grumpy husband from a very attractive Eastlake cupboard.

Sieglende explains to Stranger Man/ Siegmund the tale of the Sword, Notung,while hubby snoozes.

She tells how Wotan (pictured) disguised as a wedding guest to celebrate her arranged marriage to Hunding, plunges said Sword (Freudian subtlety) into The Tree. A sword Siegmund must remove to protect himself against Hunding.No man thus far has been able to do so.

This image “Sigmund’s Schwert” 1889 by Johannes Gehrts

Post pulling out the ever so subtle “Sword”,the smokin’ hot Siegmund declares his  incestuous  passion for Sieglinde .

The music climaxes,  passions explode (Siegfried next act)and they run off together.

The less smokin’ hot Placido Domingo as Siegmunde aids the exhausted Sieglinde, Anja Kampe, ’08-’09 production.

Battle between Hunding and Siegmund. Sieglinde once again feels faint.

Outcome, go see the Ring.

Image unknown to me.

Wotan’s faithful/faithless beloved daughter Brunnhilde, yet another aspect of this complicated tale of love, family, and passion.

I will close with the Maestro himself, thank you Richard.

Wagner at Luzern, 1868

I do like this  chair as well.

Have a great weekend.

Das Rheingold, a Wagnerite’s ambivalence

Posted in Arthur Rackham, The Ring Cycle, Wagner on June 8, 2010 by babylonbaroque

The Beloved kindly purchased tickets for the complete Ring cycle. I have the luxury of seeing Wagner’s dream opera in it’s entirety within the next few days.  Das Rheingold is this evening.   We were able to catch last season’s production of Das Rheingold and Die Walkure.   The Beloved was much more enchanted, I felt the need to shut my eyes.

Achim Freyer’s production, lauded in LA circles as revolutionary, was to my admittedly conservative taste, clownish. My tastes run towards productions the sainted Ludwig II would have enjoyed, mythic, romantic, fanciful.

Arthur Rackham’s wonderful illustrations express this taste beautifully.

Alberich and the Rhine Maidens

Achim Freyer’s vision of Alberich

As the LA production is winding down my resistance to Freyer’s production  has lost steam. As aggravated as I was by the cartoonish images plastered upon city buses; I knew my chance to see the city’s first production of the Ring Cycle was slipping through my fingers. You can’t bitch about a production, without having seen it in it’s entirety. Freyer has a vision, he has an admirable Brechtian pedigree, I need to see the Cycle in it’s entirety; something I have never done. Wagner himself felt it best to witness his creation four evenings in a row, this is my opportunity.

I have my issues with LA, it’s mad desire to be “unconventional”, “creative”, often just vulgar, but I look forward to this evening’s and the following evenings’ performances.

I must admit, I find this image very striking, I know I would enjoy Mr.Freyer’s sketches, his ideas are wonderful, mythic in their own right. The production, is often lackluster.With that in mind, I will once again take in the music, and this production. I will keep an open mind, difficult for an old curmudgeon.

I can always shut my eyes.

The Wagnerites by the Master, Beardsley

Just in case this production is too horrid, we can always attend the Met’s new production, Das Rheingold opens Sept. 27th.