Monday, August 10, 2009

Wagner Festival approved.

Except for Mike Antonovitch's nay vote, LA superviors gave a thumbs up to the 2010 production of Wagner's The Ring and other performances of Wagner's music. It's rather amusing to hear Anty, one of LA's most conservative politicians, whining about a few anti-semitic hints in Wagner (eastsiders know all about Asstonsilvitch's rightist, sheriff-loving, pro-development politics). Wagner actually had a number of jewish friends and associates. Even his most virulent essays were hardly Mein Kampf. The protests of The Ring exemplify typical bad LA politics--an opportunity for any ambitious bureaucrat to obtain some PR and cred. by making some obvious PC rant on the local media outlets.

We here at Contingencies do not pretend to be great opera buffs or Wagner buffs. After an hour or so of The Ring one starts to understand Mark Twain's comments regarding Wagner's music (--it's "better than it sounds",etc.). Wagner music does sound rather schmaltzy at times (like all that Disneyesque stuff with Tannhauser, etc). At certain points in Wagner's music-stream, however, something like beauty jumps out. The Parzifal theme, for instance, resonates--no Disney schmaltz there, but the Knight in the dark forest, headed for Chapel Perilous. Intense, really (but you've got to have the ears--or soul--to hear it) . The naive PC person thinks "that's Hitler's favorite composer," and doesn't really care what it sounds like. Yet Hitler also liked Beethoven (and others). So is Ludwig Van also in the banned composer list, merely because that crazy, murderous peasant aka Der Fuhrer approved of his melodies? Nein.

Last week, Antonovich had proposed a motion urging L.A. Opera to broaden the scope of the festival as a way of achieving "balance, historical perspective and a true sampling of operatic and musical talent." In the motion, he criticized festival organizers for celebrating the work of "a racist whose anti-Semitic writings were the inspiration for Hitler and the Holocaust."

Today's board meeting brought out a number of individuals who objected to what they see as a festival that will glorify Wagner and his anti-Semitic politics. "People make festivals for people they admire," said Peter Gimpel, a lawyer and classical scholar. "I'm horrified by the Orwellian tactics of L.A. Opera. What they are doing borders on historic revisionism, which is worse than anti-Semitism."

Carie Delmar, who runs a website that has protested the festival, said that the "festival is an affront to everything this city stands for."

Those who came to speak in favor of the festival emphasized the symposiums that will be held to discuss Wagner's racism. "It's because of his anti-Semitism that a festival like this should delve into the very issues that are important," said Seth Brisk, a director of the American Jewish Committee.

In the end, supervisors Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Don Knabe voted in favor of the substitute motion, while Antonovich was the lone vote against Yaroslavsky's measure. (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was not present during the meeting.)

Following the vote, Stephen Rountree, the chief operating officer of L.A. Opera, said that he "couldn't be more pleased" with Yaroslavsky's motion. "We will continue to pursue partners for the festival and continue our efforts to achieve a level of introspection about Wagner's life," he said.

A spokesman for Antonovich said that "we were hoping L.A. Opera would be open to create a more balanced event. But we're pleased we were able to raise the issues in the minds of the people."



Unknown said...

Splendid! LA next year and SF the year after. Life is good.

J said...

The clip on LAOpera site looks promising: open fire Pits. Gnomes. Wotan as pagan deity.


And only Two grand or so for front row tickets!

Not too PC there. Maybe catch the highlights on dvd, or youtube

J said...

Placido now is Jefe of EL Lay Opera! Wow. Really, I'd rather hear PD in Verdi's Macbeth. Verdi may not have been Mozart, but musically was certainly as capable as Herr RW. At least the narrative's a bit more complex, mature and interesting than The Ring of the Niebelung saga (which we should recall is really an ancient fairy-tale fleshed out. That great hack Tolkien sort of develops Wagnerian themes).

Macbeth's close to historical realism, really (he existed, as did Lady Macbeth, the battle went down, and Duncan, and the rest existed). And not lacking a certain psychological authenticity.

Besides, RW's interesting bits--the chromaticism, modulations--came mostly from his vati-in-law, Liszt. Id doubt RW could have competently mangled a Bach prelude---maybe knew a few trumpet riffs. Nietzsche said something like that--he considered Wagner sort of great artist, but the music theatrical and bombastic. Nietzsche was a decent amateur pianist and composer, even if Liszt laughed at him, with RW chiming it.

Unknown said...

The truly amazing thing about Wagner is how he anticipated McKinnon's Planet and Sky to follow over a century later. A man ahead of his time. Mythical beings with human characteristics, world-scale tragedy and redemption. It's all there man.

J said...

The Ring saga is still site specific--Rhineland, man--though with some sword and sorcery. Not quite George Lucas in some distant, galactic neverneverland.

Even Wagner read a bit of Aristotle, for that matter (though has no problem tossing it aside when necessary).

Macbeth on the other hand has very compressed action within a few days, and no mythological BS. Pride, sex, violence, etc.

So in terms of the cosmic compare and contrast, I'd say Verdi a bit superior, at least psychologically, to Wagnerian saga.

Though I would grant the Gotterdammerung has a certain entropic quality (I have some of RW's greatest hits on CD, and Siegfried's death scene quite cool)---not humanist, but like ....the sun exploding or something, or your favorite asteroid on collision course with earth.

Even then Wagner still does his George Lucas schtick, I think. A ham---sort of like yr crony B-ron, cubed (though RW could read/write scores, and various languages--he did some philological work for the Ring with runes, ancient gothic, scandanavian tongues etc,--- philosophy, maybe a bit of science )

Unknown said...

Best MacBeth ever wasn't even MacBeth. Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. Just saw it- awesome.

J said...

I'd like to see that. Ran, based on King Lear, was quite cool.

My fave is Orson Welles' Macbeth, tho' Polanski's is pretty spooky (not for kiddies). Orson keeps it real: heads on pikes, etc. OW's Othello actually pretty cool (as is Verdi's).

There's an opera based on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher I would like to take in.

J said...

must say, Joel, tho' I find your enthusiasm for Wagner rather out of character. Wagner was a hardcore German nationalist and militarist, pals with the extreme rightists of his time (including Bismarck), and an anti-semite, and also a conservative christian for that matter. He hated liberals and pacifists. His music expresses that militarism, and anti-democratic nature (including The Ring, which is all about german nationalism--if not teutonic supremacy)

I don't think he was quite a Nazi (though Nietzsche seemed to think so), but not at all PC. The sentimental, liberal whines (really, phony predictable sentimental whines--aka lies. wow Fox news, evil. Got it. NO shit, dreck) of your palsie B-ron would have made him wince, if not reach for his Luger.

Nietzsche detested the English liberals and reformers as well.

Unknown said...

To me, Wagner was about power and beauty. Obviously, the power trip appeals to the nefarious scumbags of the world. Doesn't mean I have to ally myself with their agenda because I share a source of inspiration. Beauty is eternal and not owned by anyone. I'm not a Wagnerite because I love his music. I'm simply an appreciator of great art.

J said...

the power trip appeals to the nefarious scumbags of the world

That's the tradition of grand opera, for the most part.

I take a cost/benefit approach to classical muzak (or any cultural product). Good/pleasing elements attach to Wagner's music (beautiful, intense, sublime, heroic) but they are contrasted with bad/unpleasant element (long-winded, pompous, sentimental, hackneyed, simplistic, etc). Not sure which side ultimately wins (actually Parzifal sounds quite intense--preferable to The Ring). Wagner's got a "bad german protestant" aspect too that reminds me of german gluttons and hags--you'd have to be there. Ooom pah pah, beer, bratwurst. The nazis picked up on that.

A few Bach preludes and fugues played correctly have more "beauty" according to my criteria--sort of "good lutheran" though also sort of boring/tasteless at times). Or Bill Evans on piano...

I don't always side with Deutschland in the great Deutschland vs the rest of the world kultur-krieg.

Pascal said...

How does the atheist or Darwinist justify ANY normative assessment?? "Scumbagness" is just another tactic, from a Darwinian perspective. The alpha baboon got where he is by scumbagness (as did say a mafia don).

Most 'Merican atheists are just lapsed sunday schoolers: they may diss christianity--tho' usually too spineless to criticize jews or muslims--but they keep the shallow moralism.

Hermann Melville understood the unsavory consequences of his religious doubts, and a world--or universe--lacking G*d. As did Darwin himself (or Fred Nietzsche).

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