Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Richard Wagner – Der Fliegende Holländer


   The central figure in German romanticism was Richard Wagner who was connecting early romanticism with post romantic aesthetics. He started as a composer of operas continuing the style of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, but dissatisfied with the results, he criticized previous solutions frequently used for stage works. He created the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) as a fundamental connection of various elements subordinated to the parent structure. As a technique of establishing such connections he was using leitmotifs – motifs characteristic to dramatis personae, situations, ideas or things. Rich chromatics and advanced harmony, symphonic orchestrations and organic unity of dramatic and musical narrative are his great achievements fulfilled after 1851 in his music dramas, Parsifal and Der Ring des Nibelungen tetralogy.
   After earlier works, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, he composed Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg). When Richard Wagner was already famous as opera reformer and composer of music dramas, he did not mind the parallel work on regular operatic works, so was also successful composer of more traditional stage music like Tristan und Isolde which is considered as first atonal music. He renounced his very early works and the first opera which he regarded as a new beginnning was Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) composed in years 1840-1843. Inspired by stormy sea travel from Riga to London and by story by Heinrich Heine, Der Fliegende Holländer became a major step in the history of German romantic opera.

Richard Wagner – Der Fliegende Holländer (1965)

   As a perfectly romantic performance of Der Fliegende Holländer one can consider 1965 recording conducted by Hans Löwlein. It was reissued in Resonance series by Deutsche Grammophon in 1979 as the opera cross-section. The brightest star of this performance was Evelyn Lear singing convincingly dramatic role of Senta. Her ballad Jo ho hoe! Traft ihr das Schiff is astonishingly fresh even half a century after the recording. Dutchman in rendition of Thomas Steward and Eric sung by James King made the main group of soloists. Other soloists were Kim Borg as Daland, Johannes Elteste as Steuermann and Christa Emde as Mary. Powerful sound of Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin (in choir of sailors from 3. act) and Bamberger Symphoniker are playing with great sound and culture. This dramatic legend on wandering sailor whose only redemption can be love, a version of sea wandering exile, like wandering Jew in mediaeval Christian mythology, here presented in clear sound and dramatic interpretation, gives Richard Wagner key position in history of romantic state of mind.

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