Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Nicholas Isherwood, Rebecca Broberg, Regina Mauel, Andreas Mitschke, Achim Hoffmann
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Correction, Reflection, Recommendation
Lawrence Goldin | Dorr, Michigan, USA | 08/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 - 13 February 1883) died when his only son Siegfried Helferich Richard Wagner (6 June 1869 - 4 August 1930) was going on fourteen years of age, not six, as a previous reviewer erroneously reported. There is no doubt that Siegfried was a veritable bundle of psychological contradictions, growing up as he did and living his entire life in the shadow of his father (a creative, penetrating thinker on a wide variety of subjects, sturdy poet, unequalled composer of musical-dramatic works and -- let it be granted: a bit mad in the bargain) and beneath the stern arm and visage of his mother, Cosima (25 December 1837 - 1 April 1930) the long-lived daughter of Franz Liszt (22 October 1811 - 31 July 1886) magisterial keeper of the flame at Bayreuth until Siegfried's ascendancy to control over the Festspielhaus, and herself another veritable festival of Freudian delights, whom Siegfried survived by only four months. It is by no means likely that Cosima ever accepted her son's homosexuality.
Still, similarities in the subject material of Der Kobold (The Goblin) and the far lovelier (and more dramatic, and shorter!) Schwartzschwannenreich (Realm of the Black Swan) may arise more from the nature of the adult-oriented fairy tales to which Siegfried Wagner was attracted than of any particular psychological disturbances from which he may have suffered. Horns, spears, swords, self-sacrificing women, and the whole redemption-through-love-and-compassion business figure prominently in Richard Wagner's works but are not, in and of themselves, manifestations of profound mental problems on the part of that composer. Rather, they suggest a certain universality of symbols inherent in the stories and ideas that he sought to dramatize.
Similarly, it can be reasoned that the plots of Siegfried's stage works tend toward not being immediately or easily graspable arises from the nature of modern opera (read: musical drama) as contrasted with the rather more linear plotting generally associated with the modern novel, cinema and -- gasp! -- television drama. The curious plotting of Der Kobold is not so much the major issue here as the fact that the staging of this particular production is rather mysterious, perhaps clumsy. No one to my knowledge has ever presented a case that opera is the font of rational, easily comprehensible plotting. Has anyone out there ever sat through a performance of Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande or Richard Strauß' Die Frau ohne Schatten or any one of countless other superb masterpieces the plots of which can cross one's eyes by virtue of their complexity and implausibility?
Should one seek basic, self-evident storylines there are always the simple (though not simple-minded) stories of Aïda, La Bohème, Cavalleria Rusticana, Hänsel und Gretel, the latter composed by Siegfried Wagner's harmony teacher, Engelbert Humperdinck (1 September 1854 - 27 September 1921) and -- happily -- many others. I submit that Richard Wagner's stage works have survived to the present, are cornerstones of musical theater, and have otherwise contributed to the likelihood that he is the most controversial figure in the history of western art, not because of the inherent rationality of their plotlines but rather because of the composer's absolute mastery over poetry, drama, music, and his eloquent, Greek chorus of an orchestra. One might easily test the validity of this proposition by attempting to imagine Richard Wagner's mature works presented as straight stage plays -- without his endlessly astonishing, astounding music.
Siegfried Wagner's post-Romantic, absolutely tonal, Art Nouveauesque music is, I argue, more central to the effectiveness of his works than his often-confusing plotting. Richard was a consummate man of the theater and a frequently splendid thinker--the troubling darkness of his persistent mendicancy, love of luxury, and vile, unspeakable anti-Semitism notwithstanding. Siegfried, on the other hand, was not possessed of such enormous capacity for controversy, profound thought, and transcendent drama. Yet he owned a marvelous and well-trained musical gift of which many more highly regarded composers of the post-Romantic and modern eras might be deeply jealous.
Listen, therefore, most attentively to Siegfried Wagner's music. Much of it is really quite lovely, effective, and attractive. It is produced by far more economical resources--that is, far smaller orchestral forces, and singers possessed of rather more modest vocal gifts than those generally called for by Richard Wagner--largely because Siegfried's music intends a different and substantively smaller-scale dramatic effect than that of his father and his musical-dramatic gifts were -- patently -- not of such an extraordinary stature as that of his father, this arising inevitably from Richard's superior and extraordinary intelligence.
In the event you are primarily interested in the music of Der Kobold rather than the stage presentation, Naxos has previously released an audio-only, CD performance of this production (recorded with identical forces just days before the present performance) on Marco Polo 8.225329-31 and available at a more modest cost than the DVD also through Amazon. That a very substantial quantity of Siegfried Wagner's charming and accessible music is now available on CD should be a source of delight and mental refreshment to all serious lovers of serious music.
The son not so like the father
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 05/03/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Siegfried Wagner had enough material here for two or more operas. And that is the major problem. How can you possibly stretch a fairly tale into a 3 hour plus opera?
He can spin a melody. But his inflluence is more Humperdinck (his teacher) than Wagner. And when he gets to a dramatic crisis you can hear papa bleeding from the score. One scene has the distinct color of the Todesverkundigun from Walkure. This is a servicable work. But it would have been better at half the time.
Where papa used length to give his characters monologues, Siegfried uses it to spin more plo and that the opera doesn't need. The story is hard to follow especially with the modernized production. The story tells of a goblin, but he seems a small part of the picture.
The singers and the orchestra are quite good. They do the work more than justise. I am glad I got one of my secret wishes to hear what Sieggy could do. And he is good, but out of the competition against many other neglected operas.
If you are a Wagner maniac. Giulty. You will have to sample this. But I won't be returning to Der Kobold again."
Son of Richard Wagner
BENJAMIN YAFET | Oro Valley, AZ, USA | 07/06/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"To be the son of Richard Wagner is no simple matter. Undaunted by his heritage, Siegfried Wagner managed to compose more operas than his father, most of them rarely performed and almost totally forgotten. Der Kobold (The Goblins) is the first opera of Siegfried Wagner available in DVD, although other titles are available in CD format.
The subject matter, murder of new born babies, is extremely difficult to swallow. After watching the opera, I wandered what redemptive value - if any- it offered. Add to this the totally unremarkable music performed by a second rate opera company, and you can understand why Siegfried Wagner operas are doomed to be forgotten as soon as they are performed.
Siegfried Wagner seems to be obsessed by the dark topic of baby murderers.
He has another opera, Schwarzschwanenreich (The Kingdom of the Black Swan), that is also centered on the same topic. I wonder if a psychiatric study of Siegfried Wagner would be warranted. The main interest of such a study would be to shed more light on his father, who died when Siegfried was only six years old.