Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm Bayreuth Bound!

After being on the waiting list for about nine years, which of course felt more like nine centuries (there's an Italian bel canto line if I've ever heard one), I have been selected to buy tickets for the Bayreuth Festival this summer. I'll be at Bayreuth from August 6 -12, and will be attending performances of Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal.

A mixture of emotions is going through my head. The realization that I am going to the shrine, to the holy musical place revered by some, hated by others: a place that often elicits emotions as grand as the very works that are presented there. I'm going to the Mecca of Wagnerism, in a town in northern Bavaria that has been coming alive for a month, year after year, since 1876 with the music of just one man. Certainly the most cultured town in Upper Franconia, certainly the most cultured company town along the Roter Main.

I'm looking forward to this first visit, and what intrigues me the most is experiencing that Bayreuth sound and that Bayreuth acoustic everyone talks and writes about.

A few years after Richard Wagner's death Mark Twain visited Bayreuth. This is how he described his first time: the moment when the music first starts inside the famous auditorium:

"Finally, out of darkness and distance and mystery soft rich notes rose upon the stillness, and from his grave the dead magician began to weave his spells about his disciples and steep their souls in his enchantments. There was something strangely impressive in the fancy which kept intruding itself that the composer was conscious in his grave of what was going on here, and that these divine souls were the clothing of thoughts which were at this moment passing through his brain, and not recognized and familiar ones which had issued from it at some former time."

I can't wait!


Elias Stamatis, Greece said...

Vincent you are a lucky man, I am still in the waiting list, though from what I read (falling ticket demand - interview with Katharina Wagner), waiting may be shorter.

I have been to the "temple" four years ago, but I could not get in due to rehearsals. I spent hours walking around instead and spent another morning in Wahnfried.

I wish you all the best and i hope you will not be too disappointed by the staging (especially in Tannhauser and Lohengrin)


Adrian Thorne said...

I too have been lucky enough to be allocated tickets, for the late August Tristan and Parsifal.

I look forward to reading your thoughts before I begin my trip. I'm sure you'll find it as wonderful as you're hoping.

This will be my third visit and it's always special, even when I sat through the Schlingensief Parsifal!

The atmosphere and sound is wonderful.

Marta Varela said...

Dear Vincent:
Greetings from Vienna.

I had to erase many e-mails to maimtain the ability to receive them, so I lost yours. I write to tell you that after Bayreuth, your next stop is Vienna. Monday night I was at the Musikverein, where I heard a perfect St. John Passion, with james Gilchrist as the Evangelist, Andreas Scholl as Jesus, and the Niederlandischer Kammerchor under Christoph Pregardien. All we said about oratorio in NYC was proved wrong: here someone like Scholl will sing a small role like Jesus --which was a treat because while I had him on CD, I had never heard him live, and was not sure how he compared with David Daniels, for instance. The answer: the voice is small, but extraordinarily beautiful. His ideal is James Bowman, and that was a very good one when he was studying in Basel with Rene Jacobs.

I just came back from the Musikverein again, after hearing a great performance of a Haydn Symphony, and Carmina Burana with --get this-- the Vienna Boys' Choir and the Singerein and the Wiener Symphoniker under the baton of Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos --why don't we have names like that? (Because we're not Hapsburgs.)

The absolute "top" of the week though was Tannhauser,at the Staatsoper with Pter Seiffert under the baton of Bertrand de Billy. My blog posting for yesterday covers what I thought of the performance. In a word, spectacular.

I have to say that the sound in the Musikverein and the Staatsoper is so warm. The technical skills of the musicians are fabullous in every category. Interestingly, I think that because of that great skill, conductors take the music a little fster --which made for a Tannhauser that was riveting, where even with Seiffert at the Met, I have spent part of the performance in the arms of Morpheus.

Another thing I like about the experience here is that the houses are so beautiful, but even more, that those who attend are well-mannerered. I mistakenly sat in someone's seat before tonight's performance --no problem. Sometimes when that happens in New York, I the ticketholder behaves as though an innocent mistake is a crime.

In a word, I could spend a few weeks here, going to music concerts.

I hope you write even briefly, so I have your e-mail address again. You are going to love Bayreuth I am sure, but there are new mountains to climb --Vienna!



Jim N said...

Twain also said about Wagner's music:
"It's better than it sounds." All I've ever heard are radio, LP, and CD recordings. The orchestra sound is so perfect and super-human, especially the string sound in general and the violas in particular.

Plácido Zacarias said...

Have fun and tell us everything about it when you come back. Greetings from Portugal.