Conductor Adam Fischer: Wagner's music like "opium"

Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:13am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Trust a Hungarian Jewish conductor to look beyond Richard Wagner's notorious anti-semitism and infamous personal life to mount a Wagner festival on a tight budget that has become a magnet for Wagner lovers the world over.

"I don't know any other composer who had this intense effect that makes people crazy," conductor Adam Fischer, 62, told Reuters in an interview on the last day of the two-week-long "Wagner in Budapest" festival at the city's modern and acoustically crystalline Palace of Arts concert hall.

"This is like opium drugs for the Wagnerians -- and there are no 'Mozarteans' or 'Beethovenians' who are so dependent."

Next year will see a worldwide frenzy for the bicentenary of the birth of Hitler's favorite composer, with performances of his epic -- and, at 16 hours, epically long -- "Ring" cycle of four operas, and other musts from the Wagner back catalogue like "Parsifal", "Lohengrin" and "Die Meistersinger", everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Seattle, Washington, and at dozens of other venues across the globe.

After seven years of productions, planning and performances, Fischer has a well-oiled Wagner team running in Budapest, with an orchestra that has upped its game year after year, modern stagings, plus a stellar cast of Wagnerian singers, among them German tenor Christian Franz and Swedish soprano Irene Theorin, whose performances as Siegfried and Brunnhilde brought down the house in "Gotterdammerung", the fiery ending to the "Ring" where everything literally goes up in smoke.

The festival is well-positioned to cash in on the Wagner craze but the canny Fischer, who seems to have planned everything from the very start, next year will offer a new production of "Die Meistersinger" plus revivals of "Lohengrin" and "Parsifal" but will not put on Wagner's most famous opus because, as he put it, "everyone is doing the 'Ring'."

Although he conducted all of the operas, most of which started at 4 p.m. and sometimes did not end until 10:30 p.m., with intervals, and despite the city being gripped by a scorching heatwave, Fischer, with one more to go, professed not to be tired.

"If someone were to say I have to stand there and conduct 16 hours of music within four or five days I would say I would not be able, but if I conduct the 'Ring' I'm not tired at the end. I don't know why."   Continued...