Understood through love

May 26, 2013

For those who don't know (and shame on you if you didn't) we have just seen the bicentenary of Wagner's birth.  Now I do my best to manage travel around the World to match my two great aesthetic passions namely Welsh Rugby and Wagnerian Opera.  I saw the full Ring Cycle this year in Berlin and will be there for the Seattle performance later this year.  Before that we had San Francisco, London & New York.   San Francisco by the way was the best of those although Belin comes close.  To attend any of the mature operas is to engage in one of the truly transcendent experiences available to humans.  You are wrapped up, enfolded and transformed in a way that has little or no parallel.

Wagner of course is problematic in terms of politics and I plan a more reflective posting on that and other aspects in the next week or so.   I had promised people that I would post on the Berlin Ring but the diabetes discovery that week rather disrupted my normal cycle of posting and reflection.  I also realised that post my visit to Auschwitz in the middle of that cycle I needed to think and reflect more before doing so; it was a very Germanic production.  So I have some more work to do there but I will build on his famous statement in a letter In 1948 the Revolution happens: all the mists of dawn fall away from me.

Today however I was at the WNO's excellent production of Lohengrin which is one of the transitionary operas along with Tannhäuser and the Dutchman.  You can sense the masterworks to come, and this of all his opera's presents the chorus to best effect.  Given that the great strength of the the WNO is its chorus – now professional but in the early days amateur – this was good news.  Also the Millenium Centre on Cardiff Docks is to my mind one of the great modern opera houses in terms of both comfort (necessary for Wagner above all others given the length) and also acoustics.  Emma Bell as Elsa was outstanding and so were the rest of the cast other than a missed note or rather phrase in her final minute by Susan Bickley as Ortrund.  The whole opera hinges around the discourse between these two, one representing an abstract concept of Christian purity the other the older Gods of Europe.  I personally think Wagner never resolved this one, but more on that in future posts.  Above all this is the opera through which Wagner first explored the transforming potential of love, something that for me reached its sublime fulfilment in Tristan und Isolde.  If it was Hitler's favourite opera (and it so reported) then he really didn't understand it.

I came out of the performance (an early start at 1500) to the evening sunlight in Cardiff Docks which is a form of home for me, it is the place my family comes from although then policemen entered only in threes which is rather different from the current middle class chic of the dining places.  Its also the city with one of the best modern rugby stadiums so what more could you want?

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