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Return to Home Page ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Events Wagner Society Events: Current and Retrospective  

Forthcoming Events

Retrospective of the 2000-2001 Season

Retrospective of the 1999-2000 Season

Retrospective of the 1998-1999 Season



Forthcoming Events:



Jeffrey Swann


August 21
Das Rheingold
August 22
Die Walküre 
August 24
August 25
August 26
August 27
Die Meistersinger
August 28

Time: 10:30–Noon

Place: Festspielrestaurant, Festspielhügel, Bayreuth

Cost: DM 20. per lecture

Lectures include musical examples. A question-and-answer period concludes each session. Advance reading of the libretto is encouraged.

Jeffrey Swann, Ph.D., a world-renowned pianist, musicologist, and lecturer, will deliver this year’s Bayreuth English-language Lecture Series. He has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. He received his doctorate at The Julliard School with a dissertation on "Structural Elements of the Ring," and he has given lectures and lecture-concerts on Wagnerian themes in Milano, Torino, Cincinnati, and Canada, and other venues, including radio. Last summer (during Ring Cycle II), he presented a Liszt-Wagner program on Wagner’s own piano at Wahnfried. Dr. Swann lives in New York, and he regularly presents lecture-performances for the New York and other Wagner Societies and often participates in Wagner discussions and symposia.

The Society is grateful to the Festspielrestaurant and to the Gesellschaft der Freunde von Bayreuth for their cooperation with this lecture series, now in its seventeenth year.


The Wagner Society of New York

in conjunction with New York City Opera


Overview of NYC Opera’s Der fliegende Holländer

featuring the principals and creative team

of this exciting new production

Thursday, September 13, 2001, 7:30 pm

CAMI Hall (2nd floor)

165 West 57th Street, New York

Host:Cori Ellison, NYC Opera Dramaturg, with a great line-up of participants.
Excerpts from the opera performed by Susan B. Anthony (Senta), Mark Delavan (Dutchman), and Carl Tanner (Erik), accompanied by Susan Woodruff Versage, assistant conductor.
Commentary and panel discussion with George Manahan (NYCO Music Director and conductor), the above artists, and several of the creative team, including Robert Wierzel (lighting designer), led by Cori Ellison

Reservations are necessary as space is limited. Discounted fee for current WSNY members. Click here to download a reservation form. Confirmation will NOT be sent; reservation list will be checked at the door. If you cannot be accommodated, you will be notified and will receive a refund. 

Please note that our group ticket offer for the September 21 performance is sold out. If you have ordered tickets for this date from the Society, they will be mailed shortly.


Retrospective of the 2000-2001 Season

September: The New Bayreuth Ring: Slides of the new production and a panel discussion. Participants included Verena Kossodo, Richard Lynn, Smithgall, and Peter Phillips (moderator).

October: Jonathan Lewsey, British writer and lecturer. (Author of Who’sWho and What’s What in Wagner; forthcoming: Who’s Who and What’s What in Verdi and Wagner Perspectives.)  "Wagner's Quest for the Grail."

December: Seminar on Der Fliegende Holländer. 21st in the Society’s annual series. Speakers: Professors Simon Williams, Robert Bailey, Mark Anderson; Erick Neher, Joe Pearce.  Roundtable Discussion: Roland Wagenführer (Erik in the 2000 Metropolitan Opera Production of Der Fliegende Holländer).

January: Holiday Musicale, featuring Amanda Mace, soprano, in her New York recital debut; Thomas Bagwell, pianist.

February: Xavier Nicolás, President, Asociación Wagner de Barcelona. Discussion of the history of Wagner in Spain and survey of the career and opera sets (for the Gran Teatro del Liceo) of Mestres Cabanes, with slides.

March:  Speight Jenkins: The 2001 Seattle Ring. Talk with slides and tapes.

April: Reception and interview in honor of Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano VIOLETA URMANA. Host: Robert J. Sweeney. Translator: Verena Kossodo.

May: Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the Met Debut of Soprano Lucine Amara. Recital by Ms. Amara, followed by Interview and Reception. Pianist: Thomas Bagwell Host: Lew Grenville.

June: Prof. Alessandra Comini (Southern Methodist University): "The Visual Wagner: Environments, Icons, and Images." A slide-illustrated lecture.

Retrospective of the 1999-2000 Season

September: "Perspectives on the Amsterdam Ring."

October: Interview with Inge Borkh, soprano (Met, 1958-71) and Blanche Thebom, mezzo-soprano (Met, 1944-67). Host: Lew Grenville.

November:Tristan und Isolde Seminar. Speakers: Professors Arthur Groos, Carolyn Abbate, Henry Hall Peyton, III, Patricia Sloane; Joe Pearce.  Roundtable Discussion: Richard Paul Fink and René Pape (Kurwenal and King Marke, respectively, in the 1999 Metropolitan Opera Production of Tristan und Isolde).

November: Question and answer Session, followed by reception for Wolfgang and Gudrun Wagner.

December: Helen Traubel: A Centenary Celebration. Presenters: Geoffrey S. Riggs and Alfred Hubay; distinguished guests: Jerome Hines, Alex B. Williamson. Discussion with slides and musical examples.

January: Holiday Musicale, featuring Marjorie Elinor Dix, soprano, and Eugenie Grunewald, mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Thomas Bagwell. Works by Mozart, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner (Elsa/Ortrud scene from Lohengrin).

January: Jeannie Williams, author of recently-published biography of Jon Vickers: discussion of Mr. vickers, with recorded examples; booksigining. See catalogue for order information for Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life.

March: Prof. John L. DiGaetani on Carlo Gozzi’s La Donna Serpente and Suzanne M. Lodato, Ph.D. on Richard Wagner’s Die Feen. With recorded musical illustrations.

April/May: 2000 Met Ring—Related Events

Hospitality Suites. Four days during the 2nd and 3rd cycles, prior to performances.

April 24:  Das Rheingold Dinner.

April 26: Lecture by Jonathan Khuner, coach and prompter for Bayreuth and San Francisco Rings and for Met Die Walküre. "Unsung, Unseen, and Unheard."

April 28: Rhine Journey on the Hudson.  Four-hour dinner cruise around New York harbor.

May 1:  Das Rheingold Dinner.

May 6: Lecture-recital and luncheon: Jeffrey Swann, concert pianist and Wagner scholar. Title: "Telling It Like It Is: Exploring Narrations in the Ring."

May: Professor Henri-Louis de La Grange, author of prize-winning Mahler biography, on "Mahler: Disciple and Champion of Wagner" with slide illustrations. A co-presentation with the Mahler Society.

August: Bayreuth Festival lecture series; Prof. Simon Williams, lecturer.

Retrospective of the 1998-1999 Season

September: Joseph Horowitz: Report on the August 1998 Bayreuth Symposium "Wagner and the Jews," and a repeat of his Symposium talk "Wagner and the American Jew."

October: Christopher Rouse: Discussion with musical examples of his composition "Der Gerettete Alberich: Fantasy for Solo Percussion and Orchestra."

October: Eike Wilm Schulte (Herald in the Metropolitan Opera production of Lohengrin): Interview and performance, co-sponsored with German House.

December: John Grande, Chief Music Librarian, Metropolitan Opera: "The Met Library: Behind the Scenes."

January: NJ Symphony Orchestra: Ring Festival Concerts. Group attendance at January 8, 15, and 24 concerts.

January: Ring Seminar.  Speakers: Professors Jenny Jochens, Robert Bailey and Jeffrey Buller; Erich Neher and Geoffrey Riggs. Performers' Roundtable: Maestro Zdenek Macal and Clayton Brainerd.

February:  Joseph Smith, Lecturer, Pianist, Musicologist.  "Wagnerian? Weberian! Sources of Wagner’s Style in Weber’s Euryanthe."  Assisted by Judith Donham, soprano; Madeleine Kristoffersson, soprano; and Duncan Hartman, baritone.

March:  Prof. Boris Gasparov (Department of Slavic Languages, Columbia University).  "Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina:  A Musical Drama, Russian Style." Musical examples.

March: Theater party: Band in Berlin, the story of the comedian harmonists, performed by the Hudson Shad.

April:  7:30 pm. Prof. Lydia Goehr (Department of Philosophy, Columbia University).  "Wagner and the Quest for the Autonomous Musical Voice."

May: 7:30 pm. Wagner Birthday Musicale: Adrienne Dugger, soprano, Emile Fath, baritone.

Return to WSNY Home Page
  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ About us Wagner Society of New York  
Valkyries The Richard Wagner Society of New York, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization chartered in New York State for the purpose of furthering the appreciation and performance of the works of the great composer. Our members come from throughout the United States, Canada, and many other countries. The Society maintains a broad range of international contacts and is a member of the International Richard Wagner Association. 
Monthly Society programs include lectures, films, receptions, interviews, book signings, symposia, and more all designed to keep attendees au courant. Consider these firsts, all resulting from Society initiative and expertise:

The Society also sponsors three highly regarded series: presents young and exciting Wagnerian singers in recital. Additionally, the Society awards grants to selected promising singers each season, in order to assist them in the early stages of their careers and thereby promote the quality of future Wagner performances. celebrates the memory of past artists in the Wagner repertory with the goal of keeping the tradition fresh a confirmation for those who remember and a revelation for those who don't. examines a Wagner opera in depth by concentrating on current scholarship, performance practices, and interviews with singers and conductors, thus enhancing our members' knowledge of Wagner's works.

If you love music, opera, and Wagner, you owe it to yourself to become a member of the largest and most active Wagner society in the country. As a volunteer organization that welcomes members' participation, the Society offers you the opportunity to play an active role in making things happen, while at the same time meeting a diverse group of fellow Wagnerians.

The Richard Wagner Society of New York P.O. Box 230949, Ansonia Station New York, NY 10023-0949 Phone: (212) 749-4561; Fax: (212) 749-1542 E-mail: WagnerRing@aol.com
E-mail Links: Wagner Society or WSNY Webmeister

Join the Society

Return to WSNY Home Page ~~~~~~~~~~~ Merchandising catalog Catalogue: Last Updated February 2000  

WSNY Merchandise Catalogue


The Wagner Society of New York offers an extensive and frequently updated catalogue of materials of special interest to its members and friends. Most books are discounted for Society members, and some are unobtainable elsewhere. If a paperback edition of a title is available, that is the one listed here. These are the other items listed are also useful gifts for any "perfect Wagnerite." Please print the order form provided through the link at the end of this page. (Updated February 2000.)


Opera Translations


Audio Guides


Death of Siegfried


Abbate, Carolyn. Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century. List: $16.95. Members: $14.00.

Ardoin, John. The Furtwängler Record. List: $32.95. Members: $26.00.

Bartlett, Rosamund. Wagner and Russia. List: $69.95. Members: $55.00.

Beecham, Sir Thomas. A Mingled Chime [Autobiography]. $10.00.

Berger, William. Wagner without Fear. List; $15.00. Members: $13.00.

Cambridge Opera Handbook Series:

Warrack, John, ed. Die Meistersinger. List: $18.95. Members: $16.00.
Beckett, Lucy. Parsifal. List: $19.95. Members: $16.00.

Cooke, Deryck. I Saw the World End. List: $21.95. Members: $18.00.

Cord, William O. An Introduction to Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen: a Handbook. 2nd ed.  List: $19.95. Members: $16.00.

Dahlhaus, Carl. Richard Wagner’s Music Dramas. List: $20.95. Members: $17.00.

Davis, Peter G. The American Opera Singer. List: $19.95. Members: $15.00.

Deathridge, John, & Dahlhaus, Carl. The New Grove Wagner. List: $14.95. Members: $12.00.

DiGaetani, John. Penetrating Wagner’s Ring. List: $17.95. Members: $16.00.

Donington, Robert. Wagner's Ring and Its Symbols. List: $19.95. Members: $17.00.

Fricke, Richard. Wagner in Rehearsal, 1875-1876 [from his diaries]. Trans. G. Fricke.  List: $42.00. Members: $30.00.

Holman, J. K. Wagner’s Ring: A Listener’s Companion & Concordance. List: $34.95. Members: $30.00.

Horowitz, Joseph. Wagner Nights: An American History. List: $17.95. Members: $15.00.

King, Greg. The Mad King: The Life and Times of Ludwig II of Bavaria. List: $24.95. Members: $20.00.

Köhler, Joachim. Nietzsche and Wagner; A Lesson in Subjugation. Trans. R. Taylor. List: $25.00. Members: $20.00.

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe. Musica ficta: Figures of Wagner. Trans. F. McCarren.  List: $13.95. Members: $12.00.

new Lee, M. Owen. Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art. List: $12.95. Members: $10.00.

Lee, M. Owen. Wagner’s Ring: Turning the Sky Round. List: $10.00. Members: $8.00.

Levin, David J. Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen: The Dramaturgy of Disavowal. List: $29.95. Member: $25.00.

Lewsey, Jonathan. Who’s Who and What’s What in Wagner. List: $29.95. Members: $25.00.

new Ludwig, Christa. In My Own Voice: Memoirs. Trans. R. Domeraski. List: $30.00. Members: $25.00.

Magee, Bryan. Aspects of Wagner. List: $12.95. Members: $11.00.

Magee, Bryan. The Philosophy of Schopenhauer. With appendix: "Wagner and Schopenhauer."  List: $22.00. Members: $18.00.

Millington, Barry. Wagner. List: $16.95. Members: $14.00.

Newman, Ernest. The Wagner Operas. Paperback reprint. List: $19.95. Members: $16.00.

Poetic Edda. Trans. L. M. Hollander. List: $12.95. Members: $12.00.

Rackham, Arthur. Color Illustrations for Wagner's Ring. List: $11.95. Members: $10.00.

Said, Edward. Musical Elaborations. List: $14.95. Members: $12.00.

Shaw, George Bernard. The Perfect Wagnerite. List: $6.95. Members: $6.00.

Skelton, Geoffrey. Wagner in Thought and Practice. List: $14.95. Members: $12.00.

Solti, Sir Georg. Memoirs. List: $25.95. Members: $21.00.

Spotts, Frederic. Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival. List: $18.95. Members: $17.00.

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda. Trans. J. Young. List: $12.95. Members: $12.00.

Tanner, Michael. Wagner. List: $19.95. Members: $16.00.

Trémine, René. Wilhelm Furtwängler: Concert Listing, 1906–1954. Special offer: $20.00.

Trémine, René. Wilhelm Furtwängler: A Discography. Special offer: $20.00

Wagner, Cosima. Cosima Wagner’s Diaries, An Abridgement [1869-1882]. Ed. G. Skelton. List: $20.00. Members: $17.00.

Wagner, R. Prose Works. Reprint ed., 8 vol. Each vol. — List : $15.00. Members: $12.00.

Actors and Singers. Art and Politics. The Art-Work of the Future and Other Works. Jesus  of Nazareth and Other Writings. Judaism in Music and Other Essays. Opera and Drama.  Pilgrimage to Beethoven and Other Essays. Religion and Art.
Wagner, R. My Life. Reprint ed. of Mein Leben, trans. A. Gray. List: $18.95. Members: $15.00.

Wagner, R. Wagner on Conducting. Trans. E. Dannreuther. List: $5.95. Members: $5.00.

Wagner, Wolfgang. Acts: Autobiography of Wolfgang Wagner. List: $40.00. Members: $32.00.

Wapnewski, Peter, & Müller, Ulrich, eds. Wagner Handbook. Trans. J. Deathridge.  List: $45.00. Members: $36.00.

Weiner, Marc A. Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination. List: $20.00. Members: $18.00.

new Williams, Jeannie. Jon Vickers: A Hero’s Life. List: $29.95. Members: $24.00.

Williams, Simon. Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre. List: $16.95. Members: $14.00.

Opera Translations

Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung—A Companion. Trans. S. Spencer, with commentaries by Millington, Magee, Hollinrake, & Darcy. Temporarily out of print; to be published in paperback, Fall 2000.

The Ring of the Nibelung. Trans. A. Porter. Ger.-Eng. List: $11.95. Members: $10.00.

Ring Comics. DC Comics’ adaptation of the Ring into a "graphic novel," by R. Thomas and G. Kane.  1-volume edition. List: $24.95. Members: $21.00.

Das Liebesverbot. Trans. R. Arsenty. Ger.-Eng. libretto of 1st American performance. $3.00.

English National Opera Guides. German/English texts, with essays and photos. Each ENO Guide — List: $9.95. Members: $8.00. Note: Titles listed below are the only Wagner ENO Guides currently in print. No reprint date is available for the other operas.

Der Fliegende Holländer. Trans. A. Porter.

Each ENO Guide — List: $9.95. Members: $8.00. Note: Titles listed below are the only
Wagner ENO Guides currently in print. No reprint date is available for the other operas.
Lohengrin. Trans. A. Porter.  Der Fliegende Holländer. Trans. A. Porter. 
Parsifal. Trans. A. Porter Tannhäuser. Trans. R. Blumer. 
Tristan und Isolde. Trans. A. Porter.  Die Walküre. Trans. A. Porter.


DOVER REPRINT SCORES - Full orchestral scores from authoritative editions. High-quality paperback.
Der Fliegende Holländer. List: $22.95. Members: $21.00.

Götterdämmerung. List: $29.95. Members: $28.00.

Lohengrin. List: $19.95. Members: $18.00.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. List: $31.95. Members: $30.00.

Parsifal. List: $24.95. Members: $23.00.

Das Rheingold. List: $15.95. Members: $14.00.

Siegfried. List: $22.95. Members: $21.00.

Tannhäuser. List: $23.95. Members: $22.00.

Tristan und Isolde. List: $27.95. Members: $26.00.

Die Walküre. List: $26.95. Members: $25.00.

Overtures and Preludes. List: $16.95. Members: $15.00.

"The Ride of the Valkyries" and Other Highlights from the Ring. List: $15.95. Members: $14.00.

Wesendonk Lieder and Other Songs [complete songs]. List: $8.95. Members: $8.00.

Audio Guides

The Ring Disc: An Interactive Guide to Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Complete Solti recording, piano-vocal score, German and English libretto, analysis of leitmotifs, commentary, essays, production photos, search functions. (Pentium processor PC and Windows 95 or Windows NT.) List: $89.99. Members: $79.99.

Enjoying Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung with Speight Jenkins. Analysis, with excerpts from 1953 Bayreuth performance, cond. C. Krauss; listener’s guide (4 ½ hours) with Ger.-Eng. texts for musical excerpts. 4 cassettes: List: $34.95. Members: $30.00. Or 4 CDs: List: $44.95. Members: $40.00.

Götterdämmerung G. Kossodo: "The Changes from ‘Siegfrieds Tod’ to Götterdämmerung." (Seminar, 10/88, 45 min.) with G. Kossodo: "Heroism and The Ring." (Lecture, 4/90, 30 min.) $12.00.

Lohengrin G. Kossodo: "Sources of Lohengrin"; J. Pearce: "Lohengrin in Mahler’s Vienna" (rare recordings). (Seminar, 1/86, 90 min.) $12.00.

Die Meistersinger Prof. D. Harris: "Nineteenth-Century Nationalism and Its Bearing on Die Meistersinger." (Seminar, 1/93, 40 min.) $10.00.

Parsifal, Tape 1 — G. Kossodo: "Wagner and the Grail"; Prof. R. Bailey: "Music, Poetry, and Drama in Parsifal." (Seminar, 3/83, 90 min.) $12.00.

Das Rheingold G. Kossodo: "Wagner’s Rheingold and the Myths." (Seminar, 2/88, 60 min.) $10.00.

Rienzi R. Bailey: "Wagner, Paris, and French Grand Opera." (Seminar, 3/92, 60 min.) $10.00.

The RingJ. Buller: "Sleep in the Ring." (Seminar, 1/99, 30 min.) $10.00.

Tannhäuser G. Kossodo: "Comparison of Paris and Dresden Versions of Tannhäuser."  (Lecture, 2/84, 90 min.) $12.00.

Tristan und Isolde G. Kossodo: "Tristan and Schopenhauer." (Seminar, 4/84, 60 min.) $10.00.

Die Walküre G. Kossodo: "The Concept of 19th-century Heroism." (Seminar, 10/86, 60 min.) $10.00.

"Does Wagner’s Anti-Semitism Matter?" Professors P. L. Rose, H. Vaget, and P. Bloom, moderator. (Panel discussion, 2/93, 80 min.) $12.00.

"Wagner Sung by Tenors in Languages Other Than German." J. Pearce.  (Lecture and rare recordings, 5/84, 90 min., with notes.) $12.00.


201 Questions (and Answers) on Der Ring des Nibelungen, by William O. Cord. $6.00

Annals of the Wagner Society of New York: The First Fifteen Years, 1977-92. $3.00

Opera Crossword Puzzles, by Joel Rothman. $3.00

Super Quiz of Opera, by Joel Rothman. $3.00

WSNY Writing Folder: navy cover, gold imprint & logo (5" x 8") $4.00

Wagner Button: White with black silhouette and name (1¾") $1.00

Wagner Watch: quartz, white with black silhouette, gold case, black band, man’s or woman’s $35.00

T-SHIRTS. Full range of sizes are now on order; please check here again if what you need is not listed.

Forest green, white Wagner portrait, long sleeve (M/L/XL) $15.00

White, royal blue Wagner portrait, long sleeve (M) $15.00

Black, gold logo, long sleeve (L) $15.00

Black, white Wagner portrait, short sleeve (L/XL) $12.00

Red, navy Wagner portrait, short sleeve (L/XL) $12.00

Royal blue, white Wagner portrait, short sleeve (L) $12.00

All prices subject to change without notice.


You may E-mail the Society for questions regarding an item or an order:   WagnerRing@aol.com

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Return to WSNY Home Page ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Wagner notes Newsletter  
[The following article is reprinted from the Summer 2001 issue of Wagner Notes, the bimonthly publication of the Wagner Society of New York. © 2001. All rights reserved.]

Report: Walküre at St. Petersburg’s “White Nights”

The “Stars of the White Night Festival” in St. Petersburg, Russia—originally conceived in 1993—is well worth attending. Not only is the setting one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but, under Valery Gergiev’s leadership, the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater (still billed “Kirov” on tours) has grown into a superb, finely-honed ensemble. “White Nights” refers to the fact that the sun never sets during the month of June, and the city teems with activities beyond the Mariinsky. From June 1 until July 1 the city is aglow with opera, ballet and symphonic music ranging from 18th-century rarities to world premieres such as Tan Dun’s “Water Passion after St. Matthew.” Well-known philanthropist Alberto Vilar is now substantially aiding the festival, which bodes well for its future.
This year included the second installment in a new Ring Cycle, directed and designed by Gottfried Pilz, who did last year’s Rheingold. The Ring first came to Petersburg in 1889 with a German touring company, and the operas were done fairly frequently until 1914. This present incarnation is billed as the first complete performance of the Cycle in the Mariinsky sung by a mostly Russian cast in German.
The one non-Russian, Plácido Domingo (Siegmund), was trumpeted in posters throughout the city, and on the Saturday evening before Walküre’spremiere, he and Olga Borodina graced the city with an outdoor concert in Palace Square outside the Hermitage. Although well attended, the concert was something of a fiasco as Russians talked to each other and into their now ubiquitous cell phones, downed beers, and strained to hear due to the poor acoustics and miking. It was clearly attended by more of the curious than by the respectful audiences one found in the theaters.

The premiere of the production in the sumptuous and intimate Mariinsky occurred on June 19, 2001. Not having heard much about Rheingold, I had no idea what to expect. First off, the front roll-drop shot up to reveal an acted-out storm music sequence, with Sieglinde (looking every bit like a waitress) being pursued around a large square table by what would later be revealed to be Hunding’s kinsmen. This table—open in the center and surrounded by chairs—turned out to be a key visual motif in every act, perhaps echoing some of the projections on the scrims, and it reminded me of Malevich’s famous constructionist squares. For the moment, what ensued on stage seemed to be a game of musical chairs or a case of menacing jack-in-the-box gangsters popping out at Sieglinde. A large eye (Wotan?) was projected at the opening of the act on a rear scrim; there was no visible tree, and therefore never a sword visible in the tree. Siegmund (Domingo) entered to a jarring round of applause; he was clutching a wolf skin and wearing a storm coat from the 20th century. Domingo has truly mastered the world-weariness of this role; his acting and singing were effective from the very opening, and he paced himself very well. Sieglinde, sung by Mlada Khudolei, struck me as a bit shrill at first and lacking some subtlety, but she improved as the night wore on. None of the singers possessed that Russian timbre so often identifiable, and it was easy to forget this performance was in Russia except for the supertitle screen in Cyrillic, my proximity to the resplendent “Tsar’s box,” and the theater’s other ornate reminders of past imperial glory.

Hunding (Gennady Bezzubenkov) arrived with a large group of kinsmen all of whom were in fedoras and trenchcoats à la 1930s gangsters. They did not stay on stage during the tense dinner discussion. Domingo shook the rafters with his particularly spine-tingling “Wälse, Wälse!,” exceeded only by his cry for the Volsungs to flourish at the end of the act. Winterstürme was not such a magical moment visually, as the rather nondescript background turned to a sickly green and a pale moon wandered by. When the time came for the sword to be withdrawn, I think I was not alone in wondering if Siegmund would: (a) locate the “tree” in the table’s center and (b) get the sword out in time. Apparently there was a stump or section of something covered with bark barely visible at table’s center from which a flaming red sword was extracted in the nick of time.

Act II opened with more stunning proof of the Mariinsky orchestra’s musicianship. Recent recordings in a variety of venues have already demonstrated the versatility and finesse of this orchestra; heard live, everything was confirmed. Gergiev has created a first-class orchestra (also the highest paid in Russia, and presumably at a rate that will keep musicians from bolting for other shores) which plays with unbridled ferocity and luxurious pianissimos,responding to every batonless gesture of their conductor. Gergiev is by all accounts a tireless workaholic, rehearsing virtually the entire day and leading most of the festival performances. His photo (with trademark permanent four-day beard) flaps on banners and conducts from the sides of buses and trams throughout the city; he is someone even non-musical St. Petersburgers seem to know and revere.

When Wotan came on stage, still adjusting his red eye patch, he carried an almost fluorescent red spear that matched his son’s sword. While a bit on the barrel-chested side and somewhat short, Vladimir Vaneev made up for lack of an imposing physical presence with endearing acting and a voice that brought just the right amount of majesty and pathos; the monologue was spell-binding, the anguish was palpable. Earlier in the act a projection had appeared showing a white circle bisected by a red slash; when Wotan growled Das Ende the red line was broken, which struck me as a stage picture with the subtlety of a train wreck.

Although Olga Sergeeva as Brünnhilde yelped her “Hojotojo’s,” she was generally very pleasing within her middle range and most of the higher parts, exceeding vocally many of those I have heard in the West. Less appealing visually were the angel (or swan?) wings she carried on stage to flap about. Later, however, this motif was put to better use with projections of angel-like figures on front and rear scrims during the annunciation of death scene. This was one of the most moving parts of the production, both visually and vocally. Brünnhilde herself was not immediately discernible, although the fascinating two-foot-tall silver mask/helmet she was wearing tantalizingly emerged from the misty stage picture. It was not obvious at first what this mysterious silver headdress was attached to, and I found the image mesmerizing.

The battle that closes the act was actually quite confusing. Hunding, for whatever reason, was actually “waffenlos.” Brünnhilde and Wotan were nowhere to be seen, with no divine intervention on any level. It appeared to me that Siegmund stabbed himself with his self-shattering spear; others reported that Hunding rammed the splintered Nothung into his adversary. The gods came on the scene only after the killing had occurred, and rather than contemptuously hand-swatting Hunding to oblivion, Wotan murdered him with his spear.

Interestingly, Act III spawned 16 Valkyries, with two singers assigned to each part. It was snowing heavily during this act, accumulating on our favorite table, and the playful Valkyries were having snowball fights at times. They were all in white gowns, but also sporting blue blazers which reminded me of school dress at Miss Porter’s. Sergeeva rolled off her “herrstes Wunder!” rapturously. The decision to send her to the east involved the Valkyries consulting a yellowed map. Wotan’s imminent arrival was heralded by the double scrim projections of Wotan in the fedora and trenchcoat he had been wearing since the end of Act II, presumably his War Father garb.

Again, it was on the now infamous table, draped this time in a white tablecloth, that Wotan held, cradled, and fondly bid Lebwohl to Brünnhilde, following that tremendous swell from the orchestra, which was particularly shattering under Gergiev. The effect of magic fire was created by a red-orange curtain drawn across the back of the stage, hand-fluttered by intentionally visible cohorts of Loge, who also appeared, pulling the curtain across. Not having seen Rheingold, it was still obvious to me that this sunglass-wearing Elvis Costello look-alike was the wily god of fire. Smoke began to pour out from the footlight area, adding to what was actually a very appealing final tableau. All of the singers received hearty applause and cheers, with most of the substantial roar reserved for Gergiev. Pilz did not appear, as far as I could tell, but two females who may have been part of the production team received a little applause. Russians seem too polite to boo, if indeed anyone was so inclined.

As a Humanities teacher who regularly teaches the Ring, I found it somewhat instructive to be accompa­nied by one of my students who had never before seen a Ring opera on stage but who had read the libretto and literal plot summaries, such as the one in the translated Mariinsky program. “I thought Siegmund pulls the sword from a big ash tree growing in the house. Isn’t Brünnhilde supposed to try and protect Siegmund and then the sword shatters on Wotan’s spear? Why are the Valkyries having a snowball fight? I don’t remember that in the libretto....” Is this a simple case of the young boy seeing the emperor is naked? I decided then and there that I needed to spend more class time on recent Ring performance practices. As a veteran of many Rings, I felt this production was interesting, occasionally thought provoking, and perhaps the product of some budget considerations. Fairly good acting and purposeful character interactions, as well as some exciting singing, went a long way to compensate for some questionable staging. And then there was that fabulous orchestra.

The Russians I met were very pleased to have a Ring cycle unfolding for them; I heard no griping about the modern approach and, to my immense relief, found no bias toward a composer from a nation that brought so much woe to Russia, and to this city in particular. St. Petersburg is truly a beautiful city, filled with historical and artistic wonders, and I heartily recommend the White Nights Festival and its promise of a new Ring Cycle. 

Thomas J. Adolphson
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