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Updated: 2017-10-12T05:18:32.226+01:00


Dear Mr Berry, thanks for this insightful and wit...


Dear Mr Berry,
thanks for this insightful and witty review!
personally, i would have been harsher with Haenchen, whose flat and uninspired conducting was, as far as i'm concerned, utterly forgettable -- except for his determination to make it a speedy affair. I am not (yet) well acquainted with your blog, but i am guessing that if its title is at all programmatic, you must have a lot more to say about tempo in Parsifal, bearing in mind that Haenchen is, afterall, a "disciple" of Boulez, who to my knowledge is still the unchallenged (unchallengeable?) holder of the world record for speediest Parsifal. But i am sure you dwell on this elsewhere, and will the search the web for further details (also regarding your contempt for Stephen Fry, who i find quite endearing (but i'm not English..)!)
i would have given special mention to the oboe solo of the Karfreitagzauber, which i thought was full of humanity and radiated with the warmth of the Marigaux sound! A special moment, which goes by all too quickly

Parsifal remains very enigmatic to me, and my reception of it is always complacently immanent -- in ways that would probably get chided by Flaubert, condemned by Nietzsche and scrutinised by Freud (but i flatter myself). But allow me an open, naive and obscenely vague question: How should the 21st century True Wagnerian react to Parsifal (and Tristan)? Now i'm no Wagnerian-bible thumping adept, but if you come up with a sagacious answer, i would be very happy to appropriate it as my own and elevate it as prescriptive stance.

Obviously i'm with you in denouncing Laufenberg's underlying imperialistic premises.. But to what extent can we commend him for basically staging some kind of grand narrative of progress towards the reconciliation of the monotheistic religions, some kind of humanisation of instituted religions? So that we are left with organic sociability (the spirit of religion, rather than the letter?) instead of the ritualistic extremism and the alienating sense of shame disseminated and enforced by religious dogma..? Now i'm not pretending that Laufenberg features that as such, i guess i'm just asking: How do you understand the "Erlösung dem Erlöser"?? Apologies, i know you have written extensively on the matter, and i will look into it.

a further question relates to what i think is the most badass sentence ever, "Zum Raum wird hier die Zeit", which i'm guessing is much more than merely "badass" and does carry some heuristic value (a confession which, in light of your article, would make me less advanced than a "schoolboy", let alone a schoolgirl for that matter!) But when you write of the "misunderstanding of Kant and Schopenhauer", i have some vague intuition of what you mean, but not really though...

ultimately, what i mean is that i'm very happy to have stumbled upon your blog, and your in-depth research on Wagner and the Young Hegelians (right..?). Also, i was delighted to sense some eliptical quip at K.L.Vogt which i like to indulge in (without devoting a messianic cult to JK!)


ps: friends who play in Bayreuth's heiliger Abgrund have told me a few anecdotes on what goes on down there, which might prove enlightening as to Haenchen's "artistic" "choices", if ever you're interested!

Thank you! Corrected.


Thank you! Corrected.

This sounds like a truly fascinating concert - I w...


This sounds like a truly fascinating concert - I wish I'd been in Berlin for this. I saw Altinoglu conduct The Golden Cockerel in Brussels last December - this was my first encounter with him, and he led the orchestra in a very lively account of Rimsky-Korsakov's score. It sounds as though he has a penchant for instrumental variations on operatic scores, since a bonus of the Brussels performance was a violin-and-piano variation on the Tsaritsaʼs Hymn to the Sun, offered as an interlude during the scene change between Acts 2 and 3. First violinist Saténik Khourdoian, who played with particular beauty, was sensitively accompanied on the piano by Altinoglu himself.

By the way, you seem accidentally to have mispelled his name (Antinoglu) at one point in this review...

I accept that Andreas Rosar is not Brunnhilde. I b...


I accept that Andreas Rosar is not Brunnhilde. I brought it up because had you seen a trans person act for Brunnhilde, you might say that you'd seen a trans Brunnhilde, but why would you say that having seen Andreas Rosar play her?
I don't contest your point about Hartmut Zelinsky et al, and I certainly don't question your knowledge of Wagner! Indeed I've never read those books. I just think the phrasing is questionable.

Thank you for your comment. It seems to me that yo...


Thank you for your comment. It seems to me that you confuse artist and character. (Not that it matters much: it was a throwaway remark concerning an impression.) The character is Brünnhilde, not Andreas Rosar, nor indeed Catherine Foster - although one might play with that too, of course. In any case, you quite rightly, concerning the assistant director, say 'presumably'; why should we presume that?

I am very happy to stand by and to defend what I said in the Meistersinger review. If I know something about anything, and I hope I do, then it would probably be about Richard Wagner.

As good as this review is, I must note - Andreas R...


As good as this review is, I must note - Andreas Rosar is presumably a cis man. The fact that he was there as the visual representation of Catherine Foster's voice introduces an ambiguity, but he's a cis man in a dress, which is different to a trans woman no matter what Eddie Redmayne would have us believe. The comparison should be avoided.
On the topic of dubious comparisons, regarding your Meistersinger review - comparing Jewish people to Joseph Goebbels is very cool, you should keep doing that. You may find Goebbels to be an effective byword for intellectual dishonesty, but no matter your intention, the comparison is inevitably emotionally fraught, and Godwin's Law, as much as our Trump-May era has decreased its relevance, still stands in this case.

Can't we enjoy some dumb flings from time to t...


Can't we enjoy some dumb flings from time to time? I agree that the "discourse" of the Kosky production is poor and false, but it's a well made and entertaining show, suggesting in a naive and ignorant way that we could look into the psyche of the man (that is, Wagner) to understand its antisemitic comments and tendancies ; that it got out of hand, even from Wagner's point of view ; and that in the end we wonder whether we can consider the art independently of it. It's hardly thought provoking, or even provocative. But it is pleasantly and finely arranged, choreographed, staged.

I didn't read the fake orchestra in the end as being quite about "love the music, hate the man", but rather a way to distantiate us from the "Verachtet Ihr die Meister nicht", suggesting it is mostly stuff in Wagner's head we may not pay attention to except as a dream of his. I for one could never figure out the dramatic role of that ending (and many Wagner ending, for what it's worth -- they're often more like 15' baites positionned at the end of the ending, maybe so people stay?).

The contrast was striking with Katharina's Tristan: this was not an easy or fun show to watch, and it was challenging in its radicality and attention to... words that are actually in the libretto (wish Isolde would have sung them intelligibly though). But to me it was profound and profoundly moving and changed the way I look at (and listen to) Tristan.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I love it.


I love it.

The last Aida I saw (Daniel Slater's productio...


The last Aida I saw (Daniel Slater's production, at Holland Park in 2015) also cast Aida as a cleaning lady (I had thought this quite original at the time, not having read about the 1981 Neufenfels staging). The prelude, indeed, was superbly handled in terms of stagecraft: a posh party in formal dress, hosted in the Egyptology section of a museum, with Aida being ordered by an imperious Amneris to wipe up some spilt champagne. Once the rest of the Egyptians emerged, dressed as contractors, the idea slightly ran out of steam - mainly because a surfeit of gold-plated luxury goods and a costume change by the Egyptians into gaudy belly dancing gear left things stranded in a region of Orientalist cliche.

P.S. I've now corrected it in the text.


P.S. I've now corrected it in the text.

Thank you, David, both for your kind words and for...


Thank you, David, both for your kind words and for the correction of my 'deliberate mistake'. I clearly need a holiday...

Excellent writing as ever from your blog! Thank yo...


Excellent writing as ever from your blog! Thank you - Just a minor correction - you mean Antonio Negri's 'Constitution of Time' not Vittorio Negri (the Baroque specialist)?

I really want to see this. I hope there is a DVD....


I really want to see this. I hope there is a DVD. I guess the one thing I'm surprised about is Fabiano. I think he's a really good singer but his views on productions seem to be AMOPish so I'm surprised he was willing/able to do what Tcherniakov needed. Maybe he is maturing and leaving his provincial US roots behind?

I can't agree with you on the staging. I thoug...


I can't agree with you on the staging. I thought that it presented a remarkably coherent and interesting reading. It's hard to explain, as I found in earlier, longer, more incoherent drafts of this comment, but from how I read it, Castelluci replaced the original Wartburgian Christian chastity/evil Venusbergian lust duality with his own dualism of Wartburg's objectifying aestheticization (of sex but also of people generally) vs the true, sometimes gross nature of reality (sexual and otherwise) represented in excess by Venusberg but most truly by Elisabeth. I can explain more if you want, but for example, the end showed Elisabeth saving Tannhauser from his aestheticized hell by showing him and the audience that all humans (including the great Klaus Florian Vogt and Anja Harteros) were doomed to become boring, ugly dust.

Hrusa is a totally outstanding conductor, so no su...


Hrusa is a totally outstanding conductor, so no surprise. He's made me think again about Brahms Four, both with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia. And now that Jiri's gone, alas, he will take up the cudgel with equal precision and colour, and perhaps even more passion when needed, in Martinu.

If you search it out on spotify, you can find a Jo...


If you search it out on spotify, you can find a Jochum Monteverdi Vespers. Magnificent in its way of course.

Thank you for posting with such exquisite YouTube ...


Thank you for posting with such exquisite YouTube clips.

I'm uncertain as to its origin, authenticity a...


I'm uncertain as to its origin, authenticity and legality - plus the sound is slightly variable. But, in the absence of anything else - it exists and is beautiful. There is an MP3 version available from the same site.

Congrats, Mark, and looking forward to many more!


Congrats, Mark, and looking forward to many more!

Thanks, Mark. I especially appreciate the report o...


Thanks, Mark. I especially appreciate the report on Nánási, who will conduct Elektra here in the fall.

I look forward to seeing this in May. Khovanshchin...


I look forward to seeing this in May. Khovanshchina is indeed all too rare, but the UK has actually been doing better with it in recent years than it has with Boris - the ROH performance of the latter with Terfel is the only one we've had in my time, and of course that only of 1869. When is this country going to see the second and better version again? On the other hand, Welsh National Opera will be reviving their Khovanshchina (Pountney) in the autumn, alongside Onegin and From the House of the Dead as a trilogy of operas that have Russian settings, which means Birmingham alone will have seen two staged performances in the last four years. The April, 2014 Birmingham Opera site-specific production, under the title of Khovanskygate, was one of my great nights at the opera, as piercingly relevant a staging as I've ever seen of anything; it made the work's comments on Russian autocracy sound like they could have been written last week, which indeed, they probably could have been.

I must be one of the very few Western Europeans who has actually seen Zaporozhets za Dunayem / Cossacks in Exile, in Lviv (Ukraine's most patriotic city) on the day after Ukrainian independence day, back in August, 2013 when the country was still just about hanging together. It's tuneful and anodyne and I don't imagine I shall ever really feel the need to see it again, even if the opportunity should arise.

(this is a corrected version of my previous commen...


(this is a corrected version of my previous comment, which I deleted because of a typing error)

As a performing musician who engages deeply with music, I deplore the superficial and inaccurate journalism that nowadays constitutes most of what is served up for us as supposedly informed musical criticism. Can these musical commentators even read music? If so, do they ever bother to look at a score to educate themselves? The first stage of evaluating a performance is to consult the score to ascertain whether the composer's intentions have been respected, but if a journalist is musically illiterate he/she will be unable to establish what those intentions were.

Take this article by Mr. Clements, for example:

You'll notice that within the comments section there is some discussion concerning whether Sviatoslav Richter observed or omitted a repeat in the fourth movement during a live performance of the Schubert D894 sonata. A well-meaning contributor (who has obviously never seen the score) assumes that as two different Richter performances of the sonata recorded on consecutive evenings (and issued on separate CDs) have timings of 13'20" and 7'28" it follows that Richter observed the repeat on one evening, but not on the other. But it should be obvious to anyone that there is something seriously wrong with the longer performance, in which the movement rambles interminably, going round in exasperating circles. Mr. Clements, however, didn't notice anything wrong when commenting favourably about the recording in his article.

The answer is that there is NO repeat indicated in the fourth movement of that sonata, so pianists have no option as to whether to observe this non-existent repeat or not. The movement consists of a continuous stretch of music lasting 411 bars, and the cause of the Melodiya recording taking so long is an editing fault which repeated 320 bars by accident, producing a sprawling movement of 731 bars. Melodiya has now corrected the fault for the reissue of the recording within the 50CD Richter 100th anniversary set.

But what is the reaction of Mr. Clements to the contributor who assumes he has solved the riddle of why one performance is longer than the longer? He writes: "Thanks so much for all your research!" Research? What about consulting the score first, Mr. Clements? And what sort of a critic is it who can sit through 13'20" of music that is obviously so repetitive as to be structural nonsense yet not even notice the problem, let alone check up on it, before writing an article?

Alternatively, did Mr. Clements perhaps write about the recording without listening to it first?


This comment has been removed by the author.

Very well put, Mark. I feel so combative right now...


Very well put, Mark. I feel so combative right now. At the time of the Referendum, I could have reasoned talks with would-be Brexiters, trying to correct illusions about the 'unelected bureaucrats in Brussels' and Turks overrunning western Europe, reinforce the rights the EU reinforces in Britain etc. Now I have no patience in the light of the European Union being our only bulwark against Trump and Putin. Since Trump said he was 'Mr Brexit', I call them all 'Trumpites' and deluded and/or stupid. Incandescent at a European Commission gallery event to find two Brexiters there moaning about an MP's speech hotfoot from the Commons on Wednesday, yet consuming the wine - yes, they were very drunk, one was offensive - and leeching off the hospitality.