Richard Wagner's idea for "Gesamtkunstwerk" (literally "total artwork") demonstrates the scale on which the German composer operated: with 18-hour operatic cycles, orchestras that were more powerful than any ever assembled, and librettos examining the tragedy and heroism of existence, his legacy is utterly titanic. Born in 1813, Wagner was introduced to the theater by his stepfather and, after brief musical training, began composing operas. Dissonant chromaticism and expansive orchestral technique resulted in mid-career triumphs including 1845's Tannhauser and 1848's Lohengrin. After finding a benefactor in King Ludwig II, Wagner wrote his masterwork, Der Ring des Nibelungen (known commonly as "The Ring Cycle"). A set of operas based loosely on Norse mythology, the Ring birthed the stereotypical marriage of Viking helmets and stout sopranos, included the "Flight of the Valkyries," and was appropriated by Nazi ideologues for its heroic depiction of the German nation. After finishing Parsifal, Wagner died of a heart attack on February 13, 1883. While striving for Gesamtkunstwerk, Wagner made profound achievements in his creative expression.
Richard Wagner Concert Films
Bayreuth Festival - Wagner: Die Walküre
Runtime: 3 hr 59 minConducted by Daniel Barenboim and directed by Harry Kupfer, Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' has never been better realised on film than in this legendary production from the Bayreuth Festival, recorded in 1992. An allegory on the struggle for ultimate power, the 'Ring' consists of four epic dramas. The second of these is 'Die Walküre', which focuses on Wotan, the ruler of the gods, whose ill-fated attempts to recover the ring drive much of the plot; his mortal son Siegmund and daughter Sieglinde; and his Valkyrie daughter Brünnhilde, who supports Siegmund, with tragic consequences. Cast includes Poul Elming (Siegmund), Nadine Secunde (Sieglinde), John Tomlinson (Wotan) and Anne Evans (Brünnhilde) with the Orchester der Bayreuther.
Runtime: 3 hr 35 minLohengrin is a Romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The opera has inspired other works of art. King Ludwig II of Bavaria named his fairy-tale castle "New Swan Castle", or "Neuschwanstein", after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig's patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to compose, build a theatre for, and stage his epic cycle The Ring of the Nibelung.
The most popular and recognizable part of the opera is the Bridal Chorus, better known as "Here Comes the Bride", often played as a processional at weddings in the West.
The Ring of the Nibelung - Götterdämmerung - Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires
Runtime: 1 hr 23 minTo honor Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday, Latin America’s famous opera house in Buenos Aires hosts a one-of-a-kind project: Performing Wagner’s powerful music drama “The Ring of the Nibelung” on stage in a single day. Stage Director Valentina Carrasco, who has worked with the award-winning Catalonian theatre group “La Fura dels Baus” for the past ten years, transposes the “Colón Ring” into the 1970s – the period of Argentina’s military dictatorship. Symbols of that age are seen on the costumes, while the characters also make references to the period in their behavior and gestures.
Runtime: 4 hr 7 minParsifal is an opera in three acts by German composer Richard Wagner. It was Wagner's last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Wagner described Parsifal not as an opera, but as "Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel" ("A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage").
Tristan and Isolde
Runtime: 4 hr 9 minWagner's supporters say that he took music to new heights of expression here; his detractors say it's the death-knell for melody and structure. It's four hours of aching yearning that does not rest until the last few minutes of the opera.
Richard Wagner Top Tracks
Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music - Ravel - Bolero
Runtime: 25 minThe “Bolero”, originally composed as a ballet, is Maurice Ravel's most successful work at all. The world famous melody of the “Bolero” has been featured in popular music, motion pictures and even video games. Pianist and writer Paul Roberts vividly explains the music and its structure and also lets the audience know why Ravel was a stringent critic of his own work.
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor - The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Runtime: 1 hr 22 minAfter the two famous Mahler festivals in 1920 and 1995, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, presents a special two-season Mahler series, which includes Mahler’s ten large-scale symphonies, performed in chronological order by the world’s greatest orchestra under the direction of great conductors – all brought to life in the wonderful acoustics of the Main Hall of the Concertgebouw.
Un Ballo in Maschera Act I
Runtime: 52 minThe outstanding production of Verdi’s Masked Ball at the Salzburg Festivals 1989 and 1990 was Herbert von Karajan’s legacy to the Festival. Supported by a cast of superlative actor-singers in opulent scenery, Sir George Solti agreed to conduct the opera at short notice after Karajan’s unexpected death in 1989. The production had been expected to be a highlight in Karajan’s series of Verdi operas at Salzburg. Karajan’s celebrated ability to unite a cultivated sound with dramatic effects was known to create extraordinary and highly acclaimed opera events. For Un ballo in maschera Karajan planned something unusual: He would not set the opera in colonial Massachusetts, as the censors had forced Verdi to do when he was composing the work, but in Stockholm in the 1790s at the court of King Gustav III of Sweden, as Verdi had originally conceived his work. Together with the film director John Schlesinger and his stage team, Karajan developed a concept that promised theatrical splendour equal to the musical excellence that the conductor and the handpicked cast of singers would surely provide in collaboration with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. But this was not to be: stage rehearsals had already begun for the opening performance of the 1989 festival when Karajan died on 16 July. Therefore it was extraordinarily lucky that a conductor of Sir Georg Solti’s standing, was prepared to undertake the task just a week before the premiere, and with the whole world watching. He and the staging by Hollywood film director John Schlesinger was acclaimed by audience and press alike.
St. Matthew's Passion
Johann Sebastian Bach
Runtime: 1 hr 33 minJohann Sebastian Bach composed the St. John Passion in Cöthen during the winter of 1722/23. The text is drawn from chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel according to St. John, and includes some excerpts from St. Mathew and additional text from a Passion poem by the Hamburg town councillor Barthold Heinrich Brockes. The composer led the first performance at the Good Friday services on 7 April 1724 at St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, where he had since become municipal music director and cantor of the Thomasschule. This Passion is heard less often today than the St. Matthew Passion, perhaps because the St. John Passion is in some ways more raw and evokes the anguish of the Passion more painfully than the St. Matthew work. A musician’s musician, an occasional firebrand and a constant paradox – Nikolaus Harnoncourt (born in 1929) is one of the most profound and intriguing conductors of our time. Considered one of the world’s leading specialists of Baroque music, he has long since turned his attention to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and even to Jacques Offenbach and Johann Strauss. He spent many years as a cellist with the Wiener Symphoniker before founding the "Concentus Musicus Wien" with his wife Alice in 1953. It soon became one of the world’s most respected ensembles specializing in the performance of early music on original instruments. In the 1970s, Harnoncourt joined forces with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle to stage a series of Monteverdi operas at the Zurich Opera House. This universally acclaimed cycle contributed to a renaissance of Monteverdi’s music and set standards for early Baroque performance practice. He later began to turn his attention more and more to the music of Mozart, whom he considers "the most romantic of all composers". Harnoncourt did not make his official debut at the Salzburg Festival until 1992. He has been conducting there regularly since then and is a sought-after guest conductor of such reputable ensembles as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.