Me and Wagner

So, a few days ago I wrote an excited Tweet that went as follows:

Oh my god, I’ve just realised something. I LOVE WAGNER. #importantlifemoment”

Judging by the fact that this had 7 retweets and 5 favourites, I’m guessing that other people were a bit excited by it as well. It probably seems a bit weird, having the confidence to start a blog exclusively about opera without really appreciating one of the greatest ever opera composers. But the thing is, I knew this moment was going to come soon.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I had the same reaction as most people do when they encounter Wagner – “Ugh. This thing makes no sense.” Maybe part of this common dislike is the fact that you are always told “Now, you probably won’t like this, but it’s actually very good.” It’s true, I know that now, but it doesn’t really help when you’re trying to form your own opinion on something.

But recently I’ve begun to understand Wagner a lot more. This has happened very slowly, only just fast enough for me to notice it happening. Gradually, change has happened. Last year, when the Ring Cycle from the Met was broadcast on the radio, I was listening to it as a kind of background music. It happened to be on the radio, so I turned on the radio and carried on doing stuff. But then occasionally there would be a phrase or chord that would make me just stop what I was doing and listen. And so, I’ve gradually come around to love this music.

I now feel that I ‘understand’ Walküre, in a rather limited meaning of the word ‘understand’. I have, in a way, learned to love the Ring Cycle in particular. The thought of listening to Parsifal, even with Der Jonas in the title role, still provokes that ‘Ugh.’ But the Ring Cycle, I feel, now makes more sense to me. I like love it and I can understand opinions a lot more. And also, I feel almost closer to it than, say, Puccini, because I’ve made this journey of listening, watching and understanding. With Puccini, I love the music and the drama and more often than not it makes me cry. But I don’t feel quite so drawn into it as some pieces of Wagner, simply because there’s been no change. It’s been wonderful music that I love, right from the start. Wagner has changed, for me and with me and that makes it, in some ways, more special.

I think it was this video that was the turning point.

I was one of the few people, it seems, who really enjoyed the Met’s new Ring production. One particular part of it that I loved were the projections. It must have taken a lot of work and it looks magnificent. With this clip, I think the part that makes it wonderful is the orchestration. I’m not overly fond of the tenor here or the role he’s singing. But the part in the orchestra is perfect, although the singing is necessary. It wouldn’t be right or good without the singing.

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One thought on “Me and Wagner

  1. It’s funny, Wagner was probably the first opera composer that I got into when I was around sixteen I guess. Almost forty years later I still love Wagner and I’m still pretty ambivalent about Puccini.

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