29th November 2014, Anthony Burgess Centre, Manchester
Over the last five years, Derek Blyth has presented study days on Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and the whole Ring Cycle. He has the gift of being able to engage comparative newcomers in these immensely complex works and yet satisfy the wishes of experienced Wagnerians for yet more in-depth study of one of their passions in life – the music of Richard Wagner.
Derek wrote: Tannhäuser is unique in Wagner’s oeuvre as it has several versions, none of which can be described as definitive. Although he completed it to his initial satisfaction for the Dresden premiere in 1845, revisions followed soon after for publication which didn’t happen until 1860. In 1861, he revised it again for the Paris opera (where there was a notorious riot) and again in 1875 for Vienna. Cosima wrote in her diary, just three months before Wagner’s death, that “he still owes the world a Tannhäuser“.
On 29th November we explored the development of Wagner’s ideas through the various versions, including harmonic and orchestral language (but nothing too technical) and, supported by the usual printed material and musical examples, we should go into the opera house next time, armed for any version!
In three fascinating sessions Derek did all this and more. Beginning by “not liking this opera very much” I ended by appreciating the way in which the different versions reflect Wagner’s development as a composer, and feeling that the music has much to offer. It may not be the Ring, but it is still Wagner. JR
Image source: The Victrola book of the opera (1917) via Wikimedia Commons