Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Truth--What Can We Know?

Anyone who wears corrective lenses understands that the world is elusive and illusionary when viewed without lenses, with incorrect lenses, with tinted lenses, and with prescription lenses. As time intervenes between the viewer and events of the past, the lenses through which these events are viewed change, distort, and color them until we, as that viewer, must doubt that we know what is accurate?, what really happened?, what did it mean?, whom did it affect? 

To complicate matters, with each passing generation writers, critics, and historians add "coats of paint," which further cover the subject and hide its true nature from us. Sadly, when the events or subjects are polarizing (which seems to include any great person or event), then the various "authorities" not only paint the subject, but also use different colors--further obfuscating  the subject. We are told that the victors win the right to write history.  Thus we begin with a prejudiced view.  Add to that, the polarizing views put forth by revisionist historians and critics, we find ourselves in a conundrum that allows us to pick and choose what we want to believe.  How then can we ever know the "truth"? 

Historical figures often leave written works behind them that offer insight into who they really were.  This is a fine starting point, until we find first, differences between their early writings and their later writings.  Which one really reveals the person? or do they both do so.  Emerson said that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." He realized that as we grow, mature, and learn, our view will change.  What is true today may not be true tomorrow.  Second, we often find writings or descriptions from contemporaries, which belie or seem to contradict the writings, speeches, and diaries of the original.  How do we, at a much later date, hope to address these?

In recent months the "blogesphere" has been filled with attacks and defenses of Richard Wagner.  I know what I believe and what I want to believe, but I also understand how others have ammunition to defend another view.  The man was a walking contradiction. His life spanned the spectrum of life: from rebellious nuisance to financial fugitive to profligate to exalted hero. No wonder we have so many views of the man from which to choose.  Yet, even those who supposedly were his victims continued to praise him and hold him in awe: Otto Wiesendonck, Hans VonBulow, Hermann Levy.
On the other hand, we have those who attacked him after Wagner brought them into his circle--Nietzche is of course the prime example.

The situation would be so much simpler if it were simply a matter of faith.  Consider how easy the following example is:  A great figure left us no written works; we do have one speech, but it comes to us in a version recorded nearly 150 years after is was supposedly delivered--it is not in the speaker's hand.  The earliest history written about this figure was composed approximately 60 - 80 years after the figure's death by someone who did not know and probably had never seen or met the subject.  Other "authoritaive" histories of the figure were written from 100 to 200 years after his death; these by people who had never met, seen, or heard the subject of their writings.  The ideas of this figure were enshrined by his enemy, one who sought out his brother in order to arrest or eliminate him, threw him down the temple stairs and broke his legs.  Yet, the history of this great figure is as well-known and widely accepted by many in Western Civilization, because 400 years after his
death an Emperor decided what that history was and during the succeeding 1600 years a monolithic, authoritative body taught that history, enforced its precepts, and sought to punish those who might not have accepted it.

I am not seriously comparing Wagner to Jesus.  How could I? I have proof Wagner existed: I have his operas, I have his writings, I have photographs, I have the writings of contemporaries, I have legal documents--certainly more that I have for the other. To know the true Wagner should be easy.  Yet we have seen that it is not.  His contemporaries could not agree.  How can we?--especially, now, with the added distraction of who admired him in the Twentieth Century and the horror that accompanied those admirers. No great person can pick and choose who will be an admirer, but that does not change the layers of history that are applied to the original by the taint of the admirer, whether the accrued features are far or not. They just become another cloud that hide the original, another lens that disfigures our view of the past

As I said, I know my vision of Wagner.  This blog is named for that which I find most admirable in his work.  I can, in my own mind, explain away his features that others find very objectionable.  Am I right?  How can I ever know?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Every Realm: Victims to the Cause

The modern view of "Classical Music" is that the genre is conservative, staid, conforming.  The performers only project outlandishness if their itune's sales are down or they need a publicity boost.  For example, Nigel Kennedy subscribes to unpopular causes and projects an outward appearance that hardly conforms to the norm.  However, no one would ban his performances.  Daniel Barenboim continues to defend (legitimately so) Wagner as he seeks to perform a Wagner concert in Israel.  While his efforts have not been successful, Barenboim is a conductor and pianist of great stature, admiration, and skill--his talents are welcomed throughout the musical world. However "edgy" these performers might be, they are still provided forums and opportunities to perform.

Such has not always been the case.  Sadly, some of the greatest talents have had to endure the scorn, hatred, and malevolence of the political and musical world before their greatness could find ears to listen.

Pointing fingers at Nazi Germany is easy.  The great talents silenced or forced to emigrate are almost too numerous to list.  Those who endured and proved their talents despite censorship, prejudice, or just pure hatred are the artists we almost missed and now hold highest in our veneration.  Hans Knappertsbusch in the early part of his career was so beloved in Munich that he was appointed music director of the Bavarian State Opera for life.  When the Nazi's came to power, his musical life ended (for a time) as he was forced out of his lifetime position and sent into exile.  Ironically, after the war and the defeat of the Nazis, Knappertsbusch resurrected his career at of all places--Bayreuth--where he became one of the longest tenured conductors and became identified with the Festival's Parsifal productions.  Fortunately, most of the post-war performances were recorded and are available on the web for our enjoyment.

Consider also the career of Ludwig Suthaus.  After Melchior fled Europe, Suthaus became one of the great tenor's successors.  While he could never be Melchior (who could), his was a fine voice.  His career almost never took wings.  As an anti-Nazi, if there could be such a thing in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, Suthaus's career was moribund.  He lost nearly three years of performances as he was what would come to be called in America blacklisted.  Fortunately, after the war his voice was still strong, clear, and vibrant.  Ironically, he became the favorite heldentenor of Furtwangler, whose Nazi relationships are always open to question.  Suthaus appeared in Furtwangler's now immortal Tristan and Isolde in 1952 and in Furtwangler's recordings of the Ring.

Picking on Nazi Germany is easy.  Picking on the United States, the land of freedom, is something else.  However, the story in America is just as ugly and just as sad, because the artists censored here, were never vindicated or vindicated too late for their great talents to be heard.  For instance, the great talent of Paul Robeson never received the accolades it merited.  Forced into exile for political views, most Americans never got to hear the overwhelming talent of a great singer (remember, this was a time before stereophonic sound, and high fidelity was yet undreamed of). A great actor, singer, athlete was driven from American soil with the same hatred and prejudice found later in Nazi Germany.

To lose a voice of Robeson's stature is sad enough, but the humiliation and shame that we should feel for what was done to Marian Anderson is immeasurable.  No political ideologies were in question here, but the Nazi ideology of a Master Race echoes in much of American History.  Thanks to the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson did gain an audience in the US, but only after her voice had lost much of its sheen and emotive power.

The realm of "classical" music is not the only place ignorance and hatred hurts, cripples, and despoils great talent.  His death this month (February) drives home the pain and anguish the Blacklisting of Pete Seeger caused.  Seeger did not emigrate, but instead, took a stand and continued to perform before small audiences.  His music is not "fancy" nor elegant, but it is truthful.  The voice is not polished, but it is vibrant and speaks to those who will listen.  What better image to remember someone than the image of the "garden," a symbol of peace, of nature, of spirit.

No realm is free of intolerance.  Our prejudices deny us greatness and rob us of great treasures.  Maybe someday we can look beyond the appearance and find reality and talent.  In the meantime, those who are denied must sacrifice their fame and be true to their talent (which, as Milton tells us, is death to hide).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two Sides of the Coin

All of us have our prejudices, our favorites, our villains. However, I am always amazed that when I re-evaluate those to whom I grant the word genius, I discover that I do so, often, without maintaining any kind of diacritical consistency or polemical fidelity.  For instance, when I listen to Hans Hotter and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the words great, wonderful, and genius erupt with equal passion for each; yet, the two represent different sides of the bass baritone coin.  The same phenomenon occurs when I listen to the performances of various orchestras when led by Wilhelm Furtwangler and George Szell. They are nearly polar opposites, but I am not sure life would be what it is for me without both of them.

True, both of them thought at an early age that they would gain fame and prominence as composers, and both produced compositions of merit.  However, both found their true callings on the podium with baton in hand.  That, strangely enough, is where the similarities end.  Furtwangler was the classic German professional musician, gaining a following and plum positions during the early 1930s, and then having the dubious distinction of directing the Berlin Philharmonic in Hitler's Germany at a time when most other renown musicians were fleeing to the United Kingdom or the United States.  Oddly enough, Furtwangler bore the brunt of this association while Karajan seemingly escaped.

Szell, on the other hand, had a similar rapid rise a few years later than Furtwangler, and paid his dues by working his way up through various European Opera houses.  Szell, the Hungarian, fled central Europe as Hitler came to power, going first to London and then the US where he found a home with several orchestras and the Metropolitan Opera.  Given control of the Cleveland Orchestra shortly after World War II, Szell took a typical American Symphony Orchestra and transformed it into one of the 10 great Orchestras in the world.

The way the two men attained their renown on the podium could not be more diverse.  Furtwangler was the intuitive musician, taking tempos and the melodic line where he "felt" they should be.  He changes course midstream, taking the music and the listeners in new directions and providing new experiences as his well-trained ear and his sensitive emotions guided him.  Perhaps nothing shows these characteristics more clearly than the ground-breaking 1952 recording of Tristan und Isolde. The performance is so unique, so moving, and so satisfying that other performances seem brash and chaotic.  Many people praise the Carlos Kleiber version for its vitality and sonic splendor, but to my ear, it is not even a pale imitation of Furtwangler's.

This is the First Act of that performance. I pity those who are not deeply moved by it.

Above is a link to the opening of the Kleiber version. To my ear, there is no comparison--the second moves me not. Furtwangler's performance seems to breath with life and emotion, Klieber's seems bloated.

If Furtwangler conducted intuitively, Szell was all about the written notes and directions of the composer (yes, I know we have proof of his changing parts of the scores). Szell thought that the composer knew how he/she wanted the music to sound, so he strove for accuracy and fidelity to what was in and on the score. Nearly every time he gets it right, and the result is not a mechanical, unfeeling experience, but an emotional and overwhelming phenomenon that remains in one's soul for a very long time.  Here are two examples; one continues with Tristan and the other is from Tannhauser:

A recent Met rebroadcast of a Szell Tannhauser from the early 1950s includes the nearly 15 minutes of applause that the audience poured forth after the Overture.  Szell affected his listeners and me with the same magnitude of power as Furtwangler did, but with a very different approach.

A coin has only two sides, but sometimes there is something important on the edge of the coin that represents a middle ground.  In this case the middle ground is taken by the overlooked conductor (at least in the United States) Jascha Horenstein.  His Mahler recordings of the 1950s and early 1960 put those of almost every other conductor to shame.  In more recent time, only Kubelik was as effective.

To quote Alex Ross:

New York Times, 1994 on this recording: "The Vienna Symphony . . . plays its heart out under Horenstein's inspiring direction. The Mahler First has a furious energy unmatched by any recent rendition . . . . Horenstein's Mahler is free of exaggeration; he never bloats tempos . . . He is not afraid to let certain passages play out in an ordinary narrative mode . . . Mahler's music, already vehemently expressive at every turn, does not need to have its underlinings underlined."  The quotation clearly shows Horenstein in the middle ground. Maybe closer to Szell than Furtwangler, Horenstein mixes both approaches.

The effect of the performance results from thepower and skill of the conductor. Grace, beauty, and acuity emanate from special people, as we see, the three sides of the coin serve equally well. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Who Killed Classical Music?

Supercherie is not my intent.  The Boulezian recently retweeted with disturbing comments an editorial which seemed to blame the Viennese 12-tone composers for the demise.  I jokingly commented that in fact a regie performance of Lulu or Wozzeck, would be an opera that only Helen Keller could love.  Dr. Berry's wounded response gave me pause and some regret for my attempt at jocularity.  Music must fit the listener's ear, and while Berg and Webern went out of their way to create what sounds to me misshapen, they are only a minuscule cause of Classical Music's death. Those who "earnestly" love these composers have every right to do so and to level charges of "elitism" against the composers and the followers is the height of folly.

Perhaps the blame should go on Calixto Bieito--this is deadly--A real Helen Keller opera production.

The real culprit for killing Classical Music will go unsuspected by those whose cultural growth and development took place in a realm that valued greatness, quality, intelligence, in a place that thinks art is sufficiently important that it should receive government subsidies, in a place where intellectual leaders and thinkers have greatly influenced the development of society.  Europeans will never fully understand how and why American culture is the murderer.

One of my music professors many years ago took great pains to try to get his students to understand the difference between what he called the "instrumental line" and the "vocal line."  The instrument that most of us are most familiar with is our own voice. We sing--we sing simple melodies for our own amusement--it makes us feel good. We have done it as children, so the vocal line is deeply embedded in us. It is organic, melodic, and linear.  The "instrumental line" my old professor said, has no linear limitations.  The instrument can jump from tone to tone without the emotional bias for linearity that the voice (and its producer) has. In very oversimplified terms, the Viennese School were the first group of composers to adopt this instrumental line as the dominant feature of their music. Once the door was open, many composers walked right through.  Consider the American composer Charles Edward Ives. His Concord Sonata is a major work, and I am including it here for those who are unfamiliar with it and with Ives in general.  The composer's themes reflect the four great writers and families of Concord Massachusetts. Each movement reflects Ives impression of a different writer.  For most Americans, only the Alcott movement is listenable, although the Thoreau movement with the accompanying flute is intriguing.  The reason most listeners prefer the Alcott movement is because it is the one in which they can identify a vocal line--the other three movements are very much in the instrumental line.
While some of us adore Ives, like black olives, he is an acquired taste, and the acquisition requires stamina, and as Ives himself said, grown-up, manly ears.  Most Americans are unwilling to make the commitment because American culture does not encourage them to do so.

As we trace the history of "Classical Music" we discover that nearly every generation has had to go through the birth pains of the music of that period.  Bach languished for a hundred years after his own sons called his music dated and unstylish.  Thankfully Mendelssohn did not think so.  Beethoven turned Mozart and Haydn on their heads, but the force of his personality and the beauty of his music won the day.  Even within a single generation, musical controversies and disputes have created rivalries and camps.  Consider the theoretical battle between the "absolute" music of Brahms and the all-encomposing musical art of Wagner.  Wagner faced charges that his music was unplayable, but the lush chromaticism and the unique melodic patterns were overwhelming.  What we need to note here is that even though Wagner's sound was new, it was still in the vocal line.  The music was accessible to those who would listen, and many did, even if Mark Twain said it was better than it sounded.  People could sing it (yes, only a few could do so with any ability, but it is singable).  Those who are familiar with Willa Cather's short story "A Wagner Matinee" will understand my point.  Cather tells of a worn-out farm woman from the plains of Nebraska who visits her nephew in Boston.  The nephew takes her to a concert, a Wagner Matinee, where she hears music of such beauty and enchantment, music that one of the ranch hands had sung so that she is familiar with it, that she is moved to tears of joy and wishes (now that she has heard it as it was meant to be heard) that the performance would not end.  The vocal line speaks to her.  

Here is a link to the story.  

The murder of Classical Music occurred shortly after the publication of this story. American culture cared little for anything beyond providing entertainment.  Anything else was considered "elitist", something that a "classless society" did not want to tolerate or value.  This is now the society that gives trophies not for winning, but simply for participating. Needless to say, a society that seeks the lowest common denominator, the simplest, and the easiest is not going to bother about anything that takes real effort or intellectual rigor--something like following the "instrumental" line of a modern composition, let alone the complicated, thought out" vocal line" line of something that requires 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 90 minutes, or in Wagner's case, four hours.  Surely then, Schubert's lieds are perfect.  No sadly, they are in a foreign language--that takes work to understand.  Remember, the only Americans that are even bilingual are those who have recently immigrated or are here "illegally." 

The technology that was supposed to bring classical music to the masses, did do that.  People were able to hear and admire Caruso, Lehman, and others when they might have only known the names from newspaper reports. Phonograph and radio made the music of the various American symphonies reach the ears of those who would never have thought about attending a concert or for whom distance prevented attending (not many Nebraska farmers were able to travel to Boston or New York or Chicago).  But for better or worse, these inventions also gave "voice" to the rising stars of popular music--music that was immediately accessible, simple, and elemental.  Jazz became immensely popular, but by the 1960s had met the same fate as Classical Music as improvisers and composers moved from the vocal line to the instrumental line.  As great a performer as he may have been Charlie Parker took Jazz in a direction that most of its listeners were not prepared to go.  

America is a commercial society.  The economic factors contribute to the push toward the lowest common denominator.  The more appeal something will have, the more money its production will produce; therefore, the more of it that is produced.  Anyone who has had to entertain him or herself with American television programs will quickly recognize this truth.  Once upon a time, American television had dramatic presentations--now the majority of shows are about supposedly real people doing things from their everyday life--like bidding for abandoned storage lockers or striking a deal in a pawn shop.   

In addition, America has given the young free rein to set the cultural standards.  As the dumbing down of America continues, the standards get lower and lower, since those setting the standards have not had time to establish criteria of good, let alone excellence.  As a result, this is American culture.....

The commercial and then the opening minute prove may case. 

I think I have blood on my hands.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Little Things Mean a Lot: Wagner Characters

A concern that should be obvious was made manifest to me yesterday as I listened to the 1956 Bayreuth Parsifal.  The performance is wonderful, the conducting superb, the sonics dated but adequate--what I realized is the importance of the non-big, non-climactic moments in establishing character.  Wagner's characters are distinct and drawn to fill a purpose in the opera beyond providing vehicles for the action to play out.  Many times it is the first words we hear a character sing that establishes his or her character for us.  Other times it is that characters "routine" dialogue that does this. While all of us love the grand moments, these are, in fact, show pieces for singers with more importance to the plot than to actual characterization.

All of us wait impatiently for "Amfortas, die wunde," or "Nur eine Waffe taugt," yet the minor give and take of Act I where the brash boy is questioned by Gurnemanz does more for establishing character than either of the two showpieces.
Case in point, here is Vinay in one of those show pieces:

And here is George London in another (note the difficulty he has with the phrase after "mein vatter." Still a very fine performance, musically fitting--but to my ear, lacking the agony supposedly being expressed.
The problem with using London as an example is the multiple performances that are available; after all, he was the Amfortas at Bayreuth for most of early post-war years. Perhaps this is the reason that the elementary point I am trying to make has eluded me.

My years of Wagner cognizance date from the early 1940s until now, and all during that time the concern has been who will sing these roles.  In the 30's and 40's we had Melchior, Flagstad, Traubel, and Schorr who spoiled us with their virtuosity and voices.  When we reached the 1950s the most often voiced criticism was " he's no Melchior or he's no Schorr." Many of those singers who had voice, were tainted by Nazism, rightly or wrongly.  Ludwig Suthaus never gained the fame and following he deserved because he followed Melchior and performed in his early career in Nazi Germany.  Windgassen always had to overcome the accusation that his voice was too light, not like Melchior's. Certainly some, like Hans Hotter, escaped being tarred with this brush, but a talent so immense could not have been overlooked.  Marta Modl and Astrid Varnay were fine singers, but they could never escape Flagstad's shadow. It took the talent of Birgit Nilsson to break that shadowy barrier.

The difficulty in filling the roles perhaps caused us as listeners to be grateful when we found someone who could sing the parts, be wonderful in the big moments, and allow us to have performances.  As a result, the key moments, those moments in which character is established, those moments of introduction, were overlooked and so was a key part of Wagner's brilliance.

As I was listening yesterday to Vinay's Parsifal, I felt as though I was listening to a 40 year old man playing the part of an 18 or 19 year old boy in act I. The baritonal overtones of his voice, not noticed so much in the climactic moments, did little justice to establishing the character of the sufferer who ages 10 years between Acts I and III.

Here is Siegfried Jerusalem  and a surprisingly mellifluous Hans Sotin introducing the title character--the contrasting voices and the youthful Jerusalem clearly identify the innocence of Parsifal.

Here is the first Act of the 1956 performance.  Listen as Fischer-Dieskau is able to present the suffering of Amfortas (21 minutes and 15 seconds in) with an emotion and pathos beyond many of his contemporaries--we see Amfortas clearly long before "herraus die waffae"-- and then compare Vinay's appearance as Parsifal with that of Jerusalem above. Is this an 18 year old boy?

One last example, which I will not comment upon, but rather will leave it to the reader and listener to draw his or her own conclusion:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good Changes.

Of all of the on-going disputes in the music world, the one that seems most frivolous to me is the one that produces the venomous acrimony surrounding Baroque music and the use of Baroque instruments and performance styles.  As a traditionalist and one who believes in fidelity to the text and libretto produced by a composer, I insist on certain standards being maintained, standards that reflect the philosophy of the composer and the zeitgeist of his/her time.

That being said, I cannot comprehend those who would submit themselves to the torture of listening to instruments and playing styles whose time has past.  True, we cannot reproduce Amatis or Strads, but certainly the quality of other instruments is far superior to their Baroque counterparts.  I realize playing a valveless trumpet is a great technical triumph, but does the result produce a superior experience for the listener? Not to my ear.  The same goes for the reeds and other brass instruments.  The consideration that must be put forefront is that the notes do not change however and on whatever they are played. The written score determines the tempo, the key, the line.  These do not change depending upon the style or instrument.  The sound may be softened or enriched, but the melody, the harmony, the counterpoints are still there.

As a would-be violinist, I find the "pure" Baroque style of non-tremulo playing to "smack" of amateurism, something for which my old teacher would have scolded me. Too much time has passed and too many stylistic improvements have occurred, which have changed our aural perspective.  For those who demand to hear what Bach or Handel would have heard, more power to you, but please do not force that upon me.  Wendy Carlos must have sent you spinning, but she opened many new ears to music that many thought was dead, and she did so by presenting the same notes, the same tempi, the same harmonies, and --more importantly--the same timbres that the composers had in mind.

A poor analogy would be deciding whether I would want to travel from Paris to Berlin in a model T Ford or in a new Porsche. The Porsche can go at the same speed as the model T, the scenery will the same, the distance will not change, but the Porsche will be much more efficient and comfortable.

I know my readers do not have two hours to spend, but sample the beauty which Karl Richter gives to the Messiah.  Does anyone miss the hautbois or kammer horns?

Now listen to Wendy Carlos's skill and acumen. Is not the intent and majesty of old Bach still here?

Compare the Brandenburg Concerto above with the two below:

From Wendy Carlos to Karl Richter to Nicholas Harnoncourt, Bach is Bach. In this case, we need to be less concerned with the how, and more concerned with the what.

Now allow me to really drive the purists crazy:
Happy New Year Everyone.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Random Thoughts at Year's End

Despite the rally of the American Stock Market and better news on the employment rates in the US, I think most of us will say farewell to 2013 with few regrets.  This has not been a terribly kind year to many of us.

All of us looked forward with great anticipation to Wagner 200, and we certainly had innumerable opportunities, chances, and experiences to immerse ourselves in a range of performances, presentations, and recordings.  However, in retrospect, we see that the old adage holds true: The number of experiences is one thing; the quality of the experiences is quite another.

All of us awaited two particular events that would supposedly highlight this magical year.  One was an overwhelming success; the other was a disaster and travesty.

Speight Jenkins brought us an incredible Ring cycle in Seattle that sadly will probably be only a shadow in our memories, since in America--the land of the lowest common denominator--greatness is overlooked for the stupidity and antics of the current favorite pop culture star.  Miley Cyrus gets more attention for 5 minutes of twerking than Stuart Skelton or Alwyn Mellor receive for six weeks of excellence.  We will never know, but if the production had been done in New York, Washington, or Chicago rather than on the American Left Coast, would PBS or any other broadcaster have televised or recorded the performances.  Other than a few YouTube snippets and perhaps a private, pirated video, this incredible effort, this marvelous exploration of Wagner's ideas--visions--directions will be left to the memories of those who were fortunate enough to experience it. How sad it is for American culture, that not a single corporation (and Seattle is the home of several of the largest) could be found to underwrite and sponsor a recording.  Below is the advertising trailer for Walkure distributed by the Seattle Opera. The voices are the equal of what the Met provided us for the previous two years and the scene here is much more satisfying than the clunking machine of LePage.

The other event that had many of us holding our breath, turned out to be an utter fiasco. Per-Erik Skamstad is a friend on Twitter and I adore his page, which is rife with information, statistics, and opinions.  But try as I might, I cannot understand his almost blind devotion to the ridiculous performances now gracing the opera stages of Europe.  Hence, I was not surprised, only disappointed by his rapture with the 2013 Bayreuth Ring.  How can Rheingold have no Rhine and no gold?  I dread the coming Parsifal from Mr. Meese, if his mentor could do no better than this.  I think this video speaks volumes:

Hopefully, this production will never see the light of day again.

Another dear social media friend is conducting a poll for outstanding performances and performers for 2013.  My initial response was that perhaps in the current climate and state of Wagner performances, winners would be impossible to find, let alone nominate.  I have since rethought that and would certainly nominate the Seattle Ring for outstanding performances. Stuart Skelton deserves all of the accolades that can be bestowed as the best of the current heldentenors (yes, to my ear even better than Kaufmann).  After those suggestions, is best to remain silent.

Here is hoping everyone has a joyous holiday season and a much better year in 2014.