Imagination creates reality. (Richard Wagner).
Week 30 invites us into the complex and majestic universe of composer Richard Wagner whose music dramas encompass an extraordinary range of human and divine emotions and interactions. Wagner believed in the totality of a work of art and created both music and libretti for his operas, also specifying stage directions. The nightly stream starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Met’s homepage and can be accessed for 22 hours. Please click on the title of each opera below for more information and the link to the full synopsis. To discover even more about the operas featured this week, check out the weekly guide along with articles, interviews, videos, podcasts, and educational resources.
Monday, October 5
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde – Starring Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova, Stuart Skelton, Evgeny Nikitin, and René Pape, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. From October 8, 2016.
A supreme landmark of the operatic repertoire. The opera’s complex love story is based on Gottfried von Strassburg’s twelfth-century romance Tristan – available in English on Poetry in Translation. The iconic “Liebestod” (love death) finale has been used in films and television to symbolize doomed love, while the prelude, for instance, underlines the suffering and the impending destruction of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
Tuesday, October 6
Wagner’s Tannhäuser – Starring Eva-Maria Westbroek, Michelle DeYoung, Johan Botha, Peter Mattei, and Günther Groissböck, conducted by James Levine. From October 31, 2015.
The story is based on the legend of Tannhäuser, a thirteenth-century German poet and “Minnesinger” (lyric and song writer and performer), and on the tale of a song contest at Wartburg, among other sources. Christianity and Greek-Roman mythology clash in the battle for Tannhäuser’s soul between Venus, the goddess of love, and the hero’s quest for penance, motivated by his love for the pure Elisabeth. The opera’s magnificent overture is frequently performed in concerts.
Wednesday, October 7
Wagner’s Das Rheingold – Starring Christa Ludwig, Siegfried Jerusalem, James Morris, and Ekkehard Wlaschiha, conducted by James Levine. From April 23, 1990.
Gods, Giants, Nibelungs, Rhinemaidens, and a ring of power. The journey begins. This is the first of the four operas—or music dramas as Wagner called them—that form Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) also known as the Ring Cycle. Considered the prelude to the Cycle, it provides the background to the drama that will unfold over the next three evenings. Some have speculated on the Ring Cycle’s influence on The Lord of the Rings, but author J.R. Tolkien famously dismissed any association, declaring “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased.”
Thursday, October 8
Wagner’s Die Walküre – Starring Hildegard Behrens, Jessye Norman, Christa Ludwig, Gary Lakes, James Morris, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James Levine. From April 8, 1989.
The story of the Ring Cycle’s second music drama is based on Norse mythology and Teutonic literature. Here we are introduced to one of the bravest and most noble characters in opera, Brünhilde, a Valkyrie (female figure in Norse mythology who chooses those who live and those who die in battles). “The Ride of the Valkyries” is one of the best-known pieces in all classical music, often performed on its own as a concert piece. Its themes have even made their way into the world of cartoons such as What’s Opera, Doc.
Friday, October 9
Wagner’s Siegfried – Starring Hildegard Behrens, Siegfried Jerusalem, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine; From April 26, 1990.
As the plot thickens, the Cycle’s third opera centers on Siegfried, the hero who knows no fear. That is, not until he falls in love with Brünhilde, who, returning his love, renounces the realm of the gods for him.
Saturday, October 10
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung – Starring Hildegard Behrens, Christa Ludwig, Siegfried Jerusalem, and Matti Salminen, conducted by James Levine. From May 5, 1990.
The conclusion of the epic, known in English as The Twilight of the Gods, brings the end of the old order. Almost everyone and everything ends up in flames, including (spoiler alert!) Siegfried, Brünhilde, the Gods and their realm, Valhalla, itself. At over five hours, it is the longest of the four operas.
Sunday, October 11
Wagner’s Parsifal – Starring Katarina Dalayman, Jonas Kaufmann, Peter Mattei, Evgeny Nikitin, and René Pape, conducted by Daniele Gatti. From March 2, 2013.
Wagner’s last completed opera is based on the 13th-century epic poem, Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)—the story of the Arthurian knight, Percival, on the quest for the Holy Grail.
Top Bigstock photo: The Richard Wagner Monument, German: Richard-Wagner-Denkmal, Memorial Sculpture Located In Tiergarten In Berlin, Germany.