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Thread: Recommend some Wagner to a new opera listener

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    Senior Member Gilberto's Avatar
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    Default Recommend some Wagner to a new opera listener

    A few weeks ago while driving to work, a piece of music came on the radio and within two minutes I pulled into a parking lot just so I could sit and absorb it all. As soon as I came home I looked up the radio's playlist so find out what it was: Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin. That weekend I went to the library and read the book Tristan Chord: Wagner & Philosophy. Frankly, I've always avoided his music because.....well, everything is so long. But I'm hooked now and listening to collections of preludes, overtures and such.

    As a new listener to opera, I'm looking for advice on how to approach the work of Wagner. The extent of my experience with opera has been watching a few DVDs over the last year; Aida, Carmen, Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana.

    Would it be desirable to start at the beginning and proceed chronologically? That is how I tend to approach something new; it helps me gauge the evolution of the whole. Or would it be better to just jump right into the "popular" ones and catch the rest later?

    Any recommendations of recordings or DVDs will be appreciated.
    My secret is, I always use fresh tomatoes, never canned. And to give it that extra zip, I mix a little Spam with the ground beef!

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    If you are going to start at the beginning, I suggest avoiding the first three (Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi) where he hadn't really found his feet. Not to mention that Rienzi is 5 hours long and rather repetitive.

    You could jump in with Der fliegende Holländer, but honestly, if Lohengrin grabbed you, just go there. It's an earlier work so would fit in with your usual approach, and the most Italianate of his operas so not too much of a step from your previous listening. That prelude is something else, isn't it!

    Best starter DVD, great singing and the story hasn't been mucked around with.

    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Sep-30-2013 at 01:23.
    Natalie

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Oh and if you would like some aria collections as a sampler, I love these:



    Natalie

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    Senior Member Gilberto's Avatar
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    thank you for the suggestions
    My secret is, I always use fresh tomatoes, never canned. And to give it that extra zip, I mix a little Spam with the ground beef!

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    Senior Member Notung's Avatar
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    Here's a nice sampler (in any order)

    1. The Ride of the Valkyries
    2. Siegfried's Funeral March
    3. Brunnhilde's Immolation
    4. Tristan und Isolde Prelude
    5. Tristan und Isolde Liebestod
    6. Parsifal Prelude

    These should give you a taste of his overall style. Be sure to get a translation of the lyrics for the "liebstod" and "immolation"; lyrics are an integral part of enjoying Wagner's music, considering that he wrote his own, unlike other composers.

    Enjoy!
    "Blessed be your suffering"-Wagner, Parsifal

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    Senior Member spradlig's Avatar
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    I've never listened to any of his
    operas in their entirety, but I
    recommend the overtures to Die Meistersinger
    von Nurnberg
    and Rienzi, as well
    as Siegfried's Rhine Journey, which
    I'm pretty sure is from
    Gottedemmerung (sorry for
    the missing umlaut and misspelling)

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    Wagner was one of the composers that seduced me into being an opera fan; like you I was entranced by the full, rich orchestral sounds.

    I think you are doing well, listening to preludes and overtures. There also some orchestral transcriptions (such as Wagner Without Words under George Szell) if you want more along those lines.

    As for full operas I actually started with Die fliegende Hollander but I wasn't fully hooked until I went further. I agree with mamascarlatti that Lohengrin is a good choice in this instance though I would also not argue against anything Tannhäuser or later, especially if you are able to see it in person for that wholly immersive experience.

    All that being said even though Wagner is my favorite opera composer I still have not seen or even heard Die Feen or Das Liebesverbot and while I should rectify that seeing the growth from Rienzi (some great music) to Hollander (leitmotifs and depth) to Tannhäuser (glorious) I am not in a hurry.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    I also started with collections of his overtures and preludes.
    The first complete opera I bought was the Kempe, EMI Lohengrin
    and there was no looking back.
    Been a Wagnerite ever since.
    Last edited by Itullian; Sep-30-2013 at 03:38.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    The first complete opera I bought was the Kempe, EMI Lohengrin
    and there was no looking back.
    Been a Wagnerite ever since.
    I meant to include a CD recommendation for Lohengrin and that would have been the one!

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    Senior Member Oreb's Avatar
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    I think the ideal starting point is the recent RCA re-issue of Toscanini conducting Wagner:

    http://www.amazon.com/Toscanini-Cond...scanini+wagner

    These are high among the most beautiful versions of these pieces you will ever here. And a great price for 5 CDs.

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    Senior Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Try Furtwangler Conducts Wagner I & II. The last one just came out in March from EMI You can download this entire album for $9.99 US from iTunes. The greatest Wagner conductor (imo) represented here in several overtures and other instrumental passages.


    Furtwangler.jpg
    Last edited by Revenant; Sep-30-2013 at 06:25.
    "No preluding! Piano pianissimo -- then all will be well." (Posted in the orchestra pit on August 13, 1876)

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Whatever you do, put off listening to Tristan und Isolde for as long as you can resist. You can still listen to other opera after Tristan but you will never be able to come with a good reason as to why.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    I would stay with Lohengrin and Tannhauser - which I found easier to grasp - for a while and then move on to the Ring. That's how my Wagner journey started. Get the librettos so you know what is happening as you listen.

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    Senior Member MAuer's Avatar
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    And, of course, there is always YouTube, where you can sample all sorts of excepts from Wagner's operas and compare different singers' treatment of the same selections.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    And, of course, there is always YouTube, where you can sample all sorts of excepts from Wagner's operas
    ...like the glorious overture from Das Liebesverbot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX97jIORqbk, which I'm glad to see getting more airtime nowadays.

    Anyhow, back to the question. Lohengrin is probably the best for newbies, although my 13 year-old nephew was totally enthralled by Die Meistersinger. Act One is a bit long, perhaps, but it's a perfect scene-setter for what follows... and what follows is a blend of pathos and high spirits rarely equalled on the stage.

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