Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why Keilberth?

It's a new Ring, from Bayreuth, with a great cast, in stereo. I get it. However, there are plenty of Bayreuth Rings (well, two that I can think of) and plenty of Golden Age casts out there. Why has Keilberth taken the opera world by storm, 51 years after the fact?

If I didn't have my theories, I wouldn't bother to post, would I?

People are sick of gimmicks. Wagnerians especially. Since, oh, 1966, the Wagner world has been one gimmick after another. In 1976, we had the Marxist Ring. In 1991, we had the sci-fi/1930s Ring. We have had a slew of weird Parsifals, Tristans, and Meistersingers. Wagnerites are ready for good, old-fashioned Wagner. Solid, stolid conducting - by someone who understands how to do it. Good singing - by people who can sing and act. Windgassen, for example, was no Melchior. However, he understood the role and presented a real Siegfried. Wieland's 1955 staging, classic Neu Bayreuth, is intelligent, modern-enough, and most assuredly linked to the music.

Don't get me wrong: I like many of the recordings I just trashed, but - more and more - I realize that they are about rhetoric and theory, as opposed to Wagner. Rhetoric and theory are great; however, Wagner left a great musical legacy, one that needs no frills or trills. Academic papers debating Marxism and Wagner are great, even desirable. However, in the opera house - Keilberth proves - ideology should be checked at the door. The great conductors, I am beginning to realize, understood that Wagner programmed the drama and message into the operas: in their music, in their libretti. The fact that people are taking to this new cycle, accounting for novelty and collectorism, shows that there is a demand out there for traditionally-Wagnerian performances. The fact that one has to go back to 1955 to find it shows the dearth of recordings of these stagings.

Keilberth's cycle, maligned and forgotten as it was or even is, is helping people realize that.

What is also needed is a good video cycle, preferably from Bayreuth, using a solid staging. Good pit work and excellent singers would blow the other recordings out of the water.


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