The Wagner Operas

"Should be bigger...?" (Unveiling the Wagner Memorial in Berlin by Anton von Werner, 1908)

(Ernest Newman)

This ‘earnest new man’ was a precise and authoritative Wagner enthusiast, but he stowed away gush and did not indulge in panegyric.  Newman certainly had the measure of Wagner the man (as his 12 cassette audiobook Wagner As Man and Artist shows).

Yet his love and appreciation of Wagner’s work shines in this single-volume complete Opera companion, the kind of work to thoroughly research beforehand if you want to accentuate the payoff of seeing a Wagner, or to skim afterwards to clarify any nuance or symbol left opaque by a particular production.  As Newman says in his introduction, whilst “…a work of art should be its own sufficient explanation…there are cases, some of them the most notable in literary history, in which that simple proposition obviously does not hold good.  The Aeneid is one of them; the Divina Commedia is another.”

Mr Roberts, sorry, Mr Newman

Mr Roberts, sorry, Mr Newman

Newman analyses the major operas* in detail, without getting mired in the detail.  For example, the musical ‘tags’, or leitmotifs, subject to whole libraries of esoteric palaver, are dealt with well without descending into the void of boredom.  All in all, a great and venerable work that enhances and augments appreciation of the Master’s productions.

[* The Operas (In English): The Flying Dutchman; Tannhäuser; Lohengrin; Tristan and Isolde; The Mastersingers of Nuremberg; The Ring of the Nibelung; and Parsifal.]



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