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Richmond Symphony performs the first act of Wagner's "Die Walk�re"

Lord of "The Ring"

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If you love the sound of Wagner in the evening — or even if you're not sure you do — you won't want to miss The Richmond Symphony's May 5 and May 7 concerts featuring the first act of Wagner's "Die Walk�re."

Richard Wagner is one of the most controversial composers in the history of Western music. Few composers have elicited as much passion both in support of and in opposition to their work. Wagner has been frequently denounced by the likes of Nietzsche, and equally admired by music lovers around the world. There are even Wagner societies in most major cities. There is no question that Wagner's music continues to be admired as genius-inspired; the only argument is whether or not it sounds good — an argument that continues to divide both scholars and audiences.

"Dense" is a word often used to describe Wagner's work. "Grand" a word to describe his scale. "Long" — well, you know. Wagner's operas were an attempt to create a new art form. A total unification of the arts, where music reigned supreme, a concept he called Gesamftkunstwerk or "total work of art."

Wagner's largest, best-known and perhaps greatest example of this unification is his massive opera cycle "The Ring of the Niebelungen," a four-opera series of which "Die Walk�re" is one. Centered around a folk myth about the war between Wotan, the chief of the gods, and Alberich, the head of the dwarf race, the four independent operas have forever changed music and Western thought.

The first act of "Die Walk�re" deals with all of the issues of an entire opera encapsulated in one act — a dark and stormy night, a mysterious stranger, a sword that no one can free, reunited twins and, finally, incest — the music of Wagner, all in one easy-to-swallow and bearable act.

The Richmond Symphony's upcoming performance is the perfect opportunity to make up your mind about this always controversial and infamous composer.



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