Tristan und Isolde

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC, Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |

Beware matchmakers.  Beware writing opera when in lust with Mathilde Wesendonck.  Beware love-of-death; it leads to the death of love, or death-porn.  Wagner must have seen himself as Tristan to Mathilde’s Iseult, Lancelot to her Guinevere, when he shelved the Ring and forged perhaps the most beautiful opera of all. T & I poses a number of problems.  Its staging should be spare yet lush.  It requires a measure of taste and discretion, for Wagner wrote this work while well-unzipped (he expected the work to be censored unless it was played as parody) and the material can stray dangerously near…

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Der Ring Des Nibelungen

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, MUSIC, Opera, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER |

(Melbourne, 2013) As Barry Millington observed, it’s “the story of a man who buys a house and can’t keep up the payments.”  But it is so much more of course. The greatest music-drama yet concocted was staged by Opera Australia in late 2013, as well as could be done outside of one’s own head (save for Adelaide 2004). At the cycle’s end, you had the same feeling as when leaving the Sistine Chapel – that of awe and exhaustion. It was directed by Neil Armfield, conducted by Pietari Inkinen.  Kudos all round.

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Memoirs of Hector Berlioz

Like Wagner, Berlioz was a pain in the neck, a necessary pain, the kind reminding one both of life and mortality.  There is still no agreement as to how good he was and a lot of his work has Wagnerian length without the same depth. But check out his Faust, Trojans and Symphonie fantastique. This autobiography, painstakingly translated by David Cairns, (who has also produced a massive biography) shows the composer kicking like a mule to get ahead, to get his way, to get some recognition, in a France that has always been indifferent to him.  A great work even for…

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