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A PS to my post #24: Actually, I think that Die Meistersinger comes from an old story as well, though not as old as the Ring Cycle. And of course, the basic stories of Parcival, Lohengrin, and Tristan are old legends; also of The Flying Dutchman.

Ellen

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Robert, I'm Jewish, and I'm extremely sensitive to -- and intolerant of -- anti-Semitism. Unlike your friend, I do not forgive Wagner for his anti-Semitism. But if I learned that Wagner ate children for breakfast, that would not and could not change what I hear in his music; it would merely give me an even greater psychological mystery to ponder. I don't know how people split themselves into such incredibly contradictory pieces, as he did, but it's apparent that they do it. It would be nonsensical to say that because he was a corrupt man, his music cannot be great, which is what many people appear to believe. The fact is, his music is great and he was corrupt, We are stuck with both facts and had better accept and try to understand this very widespread psychological phenomenon.

Your friend said something very important when he stated that before God he could not disown his own experience and love for Wagner. We do terrible violence to ourselves when we attempt to disown our experience. Many years ago, early in my friendship with Ayn Rand, I tried to do just that when she gave me arguments I could not refute, disputing my judgment of and deep love for the writing of Thomas Wolfe. I tried to alter and deny my experience, to stifle it -- an experience that came from something very deep and central to who I was - - but without success. I merely succeeded in twisting myself into knots and denying an aspect of myself that was directly tied to my creativity. Never again!

Barbara

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Barbara; Thank you! Wagner is too great for us not to appreciate his magnificent music. I wish he hadn't been anti-Semitic but the music is so great. Barbara; I have heard a report that Ayn Rand once said that she did not want to meet someone who could not respond to Puccini. Do you know anything about this?

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The fact is, his music is great and he was corrupt, We are stuck with both facts and had better accept and try to understand this very widespread psychological phenomenon.
Very true. On a related note: I love Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow and so did Hitler.
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Rod; Wasn't the Passion Play at Oberammergau made much more anti-Semitic during the 3rd Reich. I think I have heard the movie of Jud Seuss made during the Third Reich was also much more anti- Semitic than the novel.

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That may be, but I don't think anything was done to Lehár's Die lustige Witwe. Hitler simply liked the music apparently, and even presented the composer with an honor.

What if it turns out that Phil Spector was indeed the killer of Lana Clarkson? I love many of his records, especially this one!

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As far as I'm aware his prejudices didn't spill over into his dramatisations. And the wide range (and breadth) of the operatic subjects seemed more historical. mythical and symbolic than contemporary.

The Paris era was an extraordinary triumph of youth starting out on a life of destiny....but the support of Meyerbeer, who was hugely popular in Paris at the time, was both generous and ironic - he being Jewish.

Judith - if you want a way into Wagner's operatic language on a manageable scale then can I recommend Act 1 of Die Walkure. Although not in any way stand-alone, it lends itself to concert performance and has a continuity which is quite satisfying.

Opera (and music in general) underwent such huge changes from 1870 onwards...from Siegfried to Tosca to Lulu, with each being about 30 years apart.

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Rod; Wasn't the Passion Play at Obgeomon(sic.) made much more anti-Semitic during the 3rd Reich. I think I have heard the movie of Jud Seuss made during the Third Reich was also much more anti- Semitic than the novel.

Chris: Oberamergau.

As a German Expressionist scholar, yes both works were milked for their anti-Semitism and then supercharged. Hitler also wanted Fritz Lang to be his Regisseur in chief, but Lang balked and fled Germany. That's how Leni Riefenstahl got that job.

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There are many artists I detest for their many lapses of character. Yet, for many such manic folk, whose personal lives are a moral mess and otherwise a shambles, all their focus, character and integrity nonetheless find their way into the artist's work, which often is his/her way of forging order out of chaos.

I'm often astonished when I see interviews of actors who have played great people. Their portrayals are amazing. They're clearly pulling upon something within themselves to do the portrayal, or at least understand enough about the characteristics they're playing to be able to do it convincingly. And in the interviews, their IQ points drop by about 30, and their characters are vapid and inane and totally unlikable. And you learn that they spend their lives partying and doing drugs and sleeping with idiots, etc. I just don't get it. How could they taste greatness and then wallow in mud? How could they dine on fine cuisine and then elect to wander around like street people eating the pickings out of the dumpsters behind fast food restaurants?

Judith

When it comes to the performances of actors, they have an amazing ability to do one thing brilliantly, above all else: Fake it.

This is no coincidence. The world's greatest actors are criminals in the line of work known as the "confidence racket." They do not succeed because we put our confidence in them, but because they put their confidence in *us.* Is this not the same emotion we as viewers experience when we relate to an actor, because something rings true with our own values and experiences? We feel whole because of our emotional investment in them, as though it is a debt to be repaid.

Edited by Robert Jones
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Robert, I'm Jewish, and I'm extremely sensitive to -- and intolerant of -- anti-Semitism. Unlike your friend, I do not forgive Wagner for his anti-Semitism. But if I learned that Wagner ate children for breakfast, that would not and could not change what I hear in his music; it would merely give me an even greater psychological mystery to ponder. I don't know how people split themselves into such incredibly contradictory pieces, as he did, but it's apparent that they do it. It would be nonsensical to say that because he was a corrupt man, his music cannot be great, which is what many people appear to believe. The fact is, his music is great and he was corrupt, We are stuck with both facts and had better accept and try to understand this very widespread psychological phenomenon.

Your friend said something very important when he stated that before God he could not disown his own experience and love for Wagner. We do terrible violence to ourselves when we attempt to disown our experience. Many years ago, early in my friendship with Ayn Rand, I tried to do just that when she gave me arguments I could not refute, disputing my judgment of and deep love for the writing of Thomas Wolfe. I tried to alter and deny my experience, to stifle it -- an experience that came from something very deep and central to who I was - - but without success. I merely succeeded in twisting myself into knots and denying an aspect of myself that was directly tied to my creativity. Never again!

Barbara

Barbara: That's the way I feel about Riefenstahl (Olympia, not Triumph des Willens): Yes, she was a genius photographer, and yes, she was corrupt. I have had a similar experience, vis. your love of Thomas Wolfe, and one of these days I'll take on any and all comers: That photography IS an art form, and it's greatest practitioner is Walker Evans. I came to this conclusion when I was still an Objectivist, and have not backed away from it, nor will.

BTW, Rand WAS right about Puccini. I could listen to "La Boheme" til the cows come home.

Edited by Robert Jones
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Rod; Wasn't the Passion Play at Obgeomon(sic.) made much more anti-Semitic during the 3rd Reich. I think I have heard the movie of Jud Seuss made during the Third Reich was also much more anti- Semitic than the novel.

Chris: Oberamergau.

Oberammergau. And: Jud Suess (or Süss or Süß)

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Robert: "BTW, Rand WAS right about Puccini. "

Definitely. Except that I don't think she ever said it. And if she had, it would be another instance of judging someone according to that person's artistic tastes (which, of course, we always do, but should keep to ourselves!).

"I could listen to "La Boheme" til the cows come home." But then I hope you'd rush to the nearest opera house house to see "Tosca" -- which is a hair's-breadth greater.

Barbara

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Barbara; I have to confess I have never heard either opera all the way through. I love what I have heard. I hope you are well. You have a lot of friends and fans. Your friend and fan Chris

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Robert: "BTW, Rand WAS right about Puccini. "

Definitely. Except that I don't think she ever said it. And if she had, it would be another instance of judging someone according to that person's artistic tastes (which, of course, we always do, but should keep to ourselves!).

I never heard any report, via Allan Blumenthal or others, of her saying that. However, Allan said something like it -- with a twinkle; he didn't mean the remark seriously as a dismissing of anyone who wasn't a Puccini fan; he was just indicating that he had trouble imagining anyone's not liking Puccini.

And to Dragonfly, who wrote:

Puccini? Thanks, but no thanks.

Including Tosca? I tend to have troubles remembering that Puccini wrote Tosca, since it doesn't seem to me characteristic in style. That final scene -- it's started to play in my mind: her approach, the forboding beat of the music, her scream, "Mario, Mario, morte!" Unnnn. Gets to me big time.

I'm not in general a Pucciniphile, however, though I like Puccini; but to the extent I'm especially keen on any opera composer (I'm not a big opera fan), it would be Verdi (I love his Requiem). I also like Tales of Hoffmann, especially the filmed version. That is a romantic visual/aural feast. And Hansel and Gretel with Anna Moffo and Helen Donau (sp?).

Ellen

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Judith - if you want a way into Wagner's operatic language on a manageable scale then can I recommend Act 1 of Die Walkure. Although not in any way stand-alone, it lends itself to concert performance and has a continuity which is quite satisfying.

Opera (and music in general) underwent such huge changes from 1870 onwards...from Siegfried to Tosca to Lulu, with each being about 30 years apart.

Thank you! I've developed a taste for opera in general, but my tastes run more toward Puccini and the like. Wagner is very different!

Judith

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Judith: "I've developed a taste for opera in general, but my tastes run more toward Puccini and the like. Wagner is very different!"

Because Wagner's operas are difficult and sometimes have rather dry spells, I recommend that you begin by listening to recordings of some of the most well-known arias from his operas (with or without the voices). That was how I discovered him. I heard a recording of the Liebestod when I was about fifteen -- without the voices -- and it remains my favorite to this day. I'll never forget what a thrilling experience it was to hear that music and to grasp for the first time the incredible power of great music. And then. a few years later, I went to the old Met and saw"Tristan und Isolde" in its entirety, with Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior -- and I floated six feet off the ground for days after.

Chris, thank you so much for your good wishes. Yes, I am quite well now.

Barbara

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When it comes to the performances of actors, they have an amazing ability to do one thing brilliantly, above all else: Fake it.

This is no coincidence. The world's greatest actors are criminals in the line of work known as the "confidence racket." They do not succeed because we put our confidence in them, but because they put their confidence in *us.* Is this not the same emotion we as viewers experience when we relate to an actor, because something rings true with our own values and experiences? We feel whole because of our emotional investment in them, as though it is a debt to be repaid.

THAT is a very scary thought. I've always felt a very high degree of confidence in my ability to read people, but I've heard that honest people are the easiest ones to deceive -- scientists, etc.

Judith

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Robert: "BTW, Rand WAS right about Puccini. "

Definitely. Except that I don't think she ever said it. And if she had, it would be another instance of judging someone according to that person's artistic tastes (which, of course, we always do, but should keep to ourselves!).

"I could listen to "La Boheme" til the cows come home." But then I hope you'd rush to the nearest opera house house to see "Tosca" -- which is a hair's-breadth greater.

Barbara

Barbara:

Oh, I didn't mean she was right, *literally,* in the sense of judging people based upon their artistic preferences. I didn't mean to endorse the personal hyperbole, just her assessment that Puccini was great (whether she made it or not). And, I do love Tosca, as well as Madama Butterfly.

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Barbara; I am glad you're doing better. I agree about starting with just portions from Wagner. I discovered a recording by the late Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra called Fire Music. I would recommend looking at lists of recordings conducted by Arthur Fiedler, John Williams and Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and lists of the recordings of Erich Kunzel for orchestral recordings of Wagner.

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Judith -

My recommend of Die Walkure Act 1 was from an operatic vocal aspect. There are a number of purely orchestral avenues you can go down, which other posters have already mentioned. And lets not forget that delicious piece the Sigfried Idyll which must go down as one of the greatest musical gifts of love of all time.

My first recorded Wagnerian experience was Dawn and Siegfieds Journey down the Rhine from Gotterdammerung. Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. Took my breath away!

Barbara - Flagstad was an absolute legend

Ellen -

on New Years Eve last I watched a workshop with Jonathan Miller doing Mimi's Death scene from La Boheme. There was no set, no costumes, no orchestra just pianist and the soloists working in a studio - plus JM worked through some of the acting in the scene as well as the vocal deliveries. It should have been just an interesting insight into musicmakers at work - instead it was highly emotional and spontaneously I, as well as everyone on the TV programme, broke into tears at the end. Puccini......extra extraordinary.

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The thing about Hitler that must be considered is how he crafted his cult. There were many, many different types of powerful art that were ported into, molded into his movement. If it was a powerful symbol, powerful music, powerful art, and there was a possible toehold, it got used. They even re-did their own astrology into Nazi terms. It was propagandizing. Roman symbols, all kinds of powerful symbology, it got used, and Wagner was no exception. It was a brilliantly-crafted contextual framework, and it worked oh-so-well. I believe he even used Kant. There were all kinds of things. Look at the propaganda films, the epics.

So I don't fault Wagner for Hitler having used his music, of course. Whether Wagner himself was a bastard or not is a different issue, but even so, it's not always that easy to tell with composers-- they'll do a lot, say a lot, to get a commission. The patronage system had a lot to do with that.

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(I had noticed Barbara's absence and am glad she is well.)

I should say here that Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture was a major influence on my own piece Anthem. This will be obvious to anyone who buys my score who is also familiar with Wagner's score, when they look at the actual "anthem" theme.

Edited by ashleyparkerangel
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I discovered Wagner some 35 years ago, about the time I discovered Rand. I've seen all of his operas on stage except Tristan, most several time. I'll be seeing Die Walküre for the forth or fifth time at the Kennedy Center in a month.

Wagner as a person was a real pain and his ideas about much -- including Jews -- were lunacy. (Interestingly, Wagner chose as conductor for his last opera, Parsifal, Hermann Levi, a Jew.)

But in music one can separate the aesthetic experience from the artist's personal issues and even from the explicit philosophy expressed in the plots of operas. Certainly the Christian sacrifice stuff in Parsifal is crazy. But the Transformation music from Act I is some of the most beautiful you'll ever hear. The Flower-maiden scene from Act II is lovely as well; if Parsifal we're such a fool -- considered a Christian virtue -- he would have given into their temptations!

Sometimes Wagner's philosophy is interesting. For example, in the Ring cycle the god Wotan is undone by his own deceit. In Act III of Die Walküre, the most human of Wagner's Ring operas, his daughter Brünnhilde has disobeyed him because, as she explains, she knew his true heart and obeyed it, not his explicit orders that were coerced from him by his wife. He punishes her by putting her to sleep on a rock surrounded by a magic fire. But as a concession to his love for her, she can be awakened only by the bravest man -- we know this will be Siegfried -- who is "freer than I, the god." He is a prisoner of his past deceits.

Also remember that at the end of Götterdämmerung the gods are destroyed and all that is left in the world is human love.

Starting with some of the orchestra music from Wagner is a good way to get into him. The preludes/overtures to Der fliegende Holländer , Tannhäuser and Lohengrin and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tristan are excellent. And the final aria of Tristan is certainly one of the best in all opera.

By the way, it was in the prelude to Tristan that Wagner used truly revolutionary music techniques. Also the music builds up tension but never really resolves. Women hearing it for the first time were supposed to have fainted.

By the way, for Judith or others interested in getting into the opera part of Wagner, Act I of Die Walküre is a great place to start. But for one of the most moving and emotional scenes in all of opera and indeed all of music, listen to the end of the opera, when Wotan says farewell to his most beloved daughter, Brünnhilde. Or better still, watch the broadcast version by James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera from 2001.

Barbara's observation about not disowning your love of particular artists is right on the mark, as her story about the conflicting evaluation of Tom Wolfe by her and Rand. (Barbara, I hope you enjoy Marsha Enright's piece in The New Individualist on Wolfe!)

Art is such a personal thing that we each must approach it as individuals. This isn't to say that there isn't bad art or bad standards; it is to say that given the function of art, what gives the maximum aesthetic experience for one might not for another.

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