In his memoirs Richard Strauss had the foresight to put down what he called his “10 Golden Rules for Young Conductors.” It’s a fairly comprehensive list in spite of being so short with pithy comments like, “Never look encouragingly at the brass.” Number three has always been the one that’s fascinated me most: “Conduct Salome and Elektra as if they were by Mendelssohn: Fairy music.” Seriously, how often has that happened? The average performance of Strauss’ Elektra reaches a decibel level akin to the landing deck of a fully functional aircraft carrier. I’ve even heard rumors that the John Culshaw produced ‘sonic-stage’ spectacular Decca recording with Georg Solti conducting and Birgit Nilsson’s all-out assault on the title role can be heard from space. Read more »
The complete recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by Christian Thielemann at the Bayreuth Festival is now on sale for only $5.99.
And, no, I am not making this up.
Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos started life as a favor to the great theatrical producer Max Reinhardt who had saved the world premiere of Der Rosenkavalier in Dresden in 1911. Reinhardt was now being given his choice of a musical/theatre piece to revive for the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. His choice would be Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme with Hugo Von Hofmannsthal providing the new adaptation of the text and Strauss contributing incidental music in the manner of Lully and a final divertissement on the classical Ariadne.
Our musical history books show us that this exciting new hybrid entertainment eventually happened at the Stuttgart Court Theatre ballooning into a nearly five hour performance that left the audience, who were there mostly for their Strauss, in a state of benumbed frustration. Even with judicious cutting in a number of other venues, including London under Sir Thomas Beecham, this version never found success. Read more »
Zachary Woolfe (not pictured) makes his way to Bayreuth to try to unravel the Evgeny Nikitin mystery.
On Saturday I attended the premiere performance of a new production of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany. It was Renée Fleming’s debut in the title role…