Closing the Ring

If I felt a sense of accomplishment, I can only imagine how Wagner felt when he completed the work in 1874. He wrote the words and the score. It took him 26 years. For much of that time he endured poverty and neglect, illness and ridicule—with little help and little prospect that his masterpiece would ever be performed in its entirety. Continue reading Closing the Ring

Donald Trump, You’re No Harry Truman!

President Trump’s tweet bashing Nordstrom’s for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s line of products has been compared to the vitriolic 1950 letter that President Harry Truman sent to the music critic who panned his daughter Margaret’s singing. The comparison fails on at least two grounds.

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Verdi Uncensored

verdi Giuseppe Verdi, whose two-hundredth birth anniversary we celebrate this Thursday, is famous as a composer of immortal operas.  Also for the bitter battles he waged with censors to get his operas performed. As often happens when an artist squares off against the censors, the artist has the last word. Continue reading Verdi Uncensored

“Tristan” in Houston

Tristan und Isolde 1865 In June of 1857, Richard Wagner reluctantly suspended work on Der Ring der Nibelungen, his projected cycle of four operas based on Norse mythology. As usual, he was having money problems. The Ring would have to wait. Meanwhile, he would compose a potboiler—a simple love story with a small cast, modest scenery and costume requirements, easy to stage. In short, wrote Wagner, “a thoroughly practicable work” that “will speedily yield good revenues, and help keep me afloat for awhile.”

Poor Wagner. Did he really think that he was capable of composing opera on a small scale? The “thoroughly practicable work” he envisioned soon morphed into Tristan and Isolde, a four-and-a-half-hour-long epic music drama that made such unheard-of demands on both the singers and the orchestra that it was widely dismissed as unperformable. Continue reading “Tristan” in Houston