Wagner rides summer wave of popularity

Thu Jun 2, 2011 10:27am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Once upon a time it seemed one of the few places to hear a Wagner opera during the summer was at the temple he purpose-built for his mammoth masterpieces in Bayreuth, northern Bavaria -- if you could get a ticket.

Not any more, as productions from Budapest to San Francisco demonstrate that Richard Wagner's stretch-limousine operas -- "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg," a sellout in a new production at Glyndebourne this summer, clocks in at seven hours with intermissions -- are no longer just for long winter nights.

"Serious operas are suited wonderfully to the sort of overall experience here at Glyndebourne, especially spending a day immersed in music and a beautiful garden," said general director David Pickard, relieved and thrilled that the biggest staging ever at the festival in southern England was a success.

It's possible to spend much of this summer immersed in the lush, romantic world of the 19th-century composer who pushed the boundaries of music and opera, and left a legacy of arrogance and anti-Semitism that make his works controversial to this day.

Here's a non-encyclopedic roundup of some of what's on offer:

BUDAPEST -- Having presented Wagner's famous "Ring" cycle of three hefty operas about gods and dwarves and stolen gold, plus a three-hour hors d'oeuvre, "Das Rheingold," in summer rotation for the past six years, the Palace of Arts (MUPA) turns to what the venue's management is describing as the composer's more human works -- "Parsifal," "Lohengrin" and "Tristan und Isolde."

"All these pieces are talking about human values," said Csaba Kael, general manager of the modern concert hall and arts complex beside the River Danube.

Those would be the human values of a knight in shining armor who shows up in a swan boat and a youth who takes charge of a dejected band of knights guarding the Holy Grail, but human values nonetheless.   Continued...