Monday, March 18, 2019

Jack Harvey writes


Bird Wagner's
vast moaty throat
sings bastions of eagles
up through the
smoky aether.
Either he's mad
or me:

Before the honest sound
crashes into
heroic bric-a-brac;
pukka Mercury
crowds above
the storm of notes,
landscapes of cymbals
and violins;
the escarpments of Moses
smoke like chimneys,
dwarfing the vast vault
filled with the
music's life.
Across the misty deep,
pea-green meadows dissolve
in emerald raindrops
as the chariots
troop without end.

Fiercely we watch,
dressed up
to beat the band,
but the doors of
the dream close,
soft as sleep.

The bulk of bird
Wagner shifts
enormous feathers,
and colossal chords
anticipate flight.

Fear it more than
your death.
Austrian soprano Anna Bahr-Mildenburg as Brünnhilde (Brunhilde) in Richard Wagner's Walküre. 1898.
Anna Bahr-Mildenburg as Brünnhilde (Brunhilde) in Richard Wagner's "Walküre," 1898

1 comment:

  1. The counts of Dießen-Andechs obtained territories in northern Dalmatia on the Adriatic seacoast, where they became margraves of Istria and ultimately dukes of Merania from 1180 to 1248. They probably founded Baierrute ("Baier" referred to immigrants from the Bavarian region, and "rute" may have meant Rodung or "clearing") in the mid-12th century. When the house of Andechs died out in 1260 the town passed to the Hohenzollern burgraves of Nürnberg. In 1398 Bayreuth was separated as the Fürstentum Bayreuth (Principality of Bayreuth), although it was known as Fürstentum Kulmbach until 1604 because the princely residence was at the castle of Plassenburg above Kulmbach. Hohenzollern rule ended in 1806 after France defeated Preussen, but in 1810 France sold it to Königreich Bayern (the kingdom of Bavaria). After Ludwig II expelled Richard Wagner from München due to the composer's extravagant and scandalous behaviour, in 1865 (though the king continued to support him and his works), Wagner visited Bayreuth in 1870, hoping to stage his works in the Markgräfliches Opernhaus there but found its orchestra pit to be too small. He wanted to stage his productions some place where he still owned the performance rights, since he had sold them to relieve his debts. So he persuaded Ludwig to loan him 100,000 thalers to build the Festspielhaus there, and Ludwig also paid for Wagner to have a home there, the Wahnfried (Wahn = delusion, madness + Friede = peace, freedom). The Festspielhaus cornerstone was laid in 1872 and the festival hall was officially opened in 1876 with the complete performance of the 4-piece "Der Ring des Nibelungen" cycle, which he had been working on since 1848; the Wagners moved into the unfinished Wahnfried in 1874. The "Ring" included Wagner's version of the valkyrie Brunhild. Though the 1st festival fared poorly in financial terms, Ludwig and others continued to subsidize it due to its artistic merits, and many leading conductors and singers have continued to perform there for free. After Richard's death in 1883 his widow Cosima (the illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt) continued to stage the festival until her retirement in 1906, followed by the Wagners' illegitimate son Siegfried. Cosima was anxious to keep control in the family, but Siegfried, a homosexual, resisted marriage until he was 46, when his family pressured him to marry 18-year-old Winifred Klindworth, who had been adopted by one of Richard's musician friends when she was 10. Cosima and Siegfried both died in 1930, and Winifred took over the festival. A close friend of Adolf Hitler, she persuaded him to allow Jewish performers even after they were banned elsewhere, and he allowed her to modernize some non-musical aspects of the operas. After World War II a war court banned Winifred from administering the Bayreuther Festspiele and its assets, but eventually these passed to her 2 sons, Wieland (who died in 1966) and Wolfgang (who retired in 2008). The Bavarian culture minister designated Wolfgang's daughters, 1/2 sisters Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner, to take over.


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