This is FRESH AIR. At 44, the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann may be the most popular tenor of his generation and one of the most versatile. Music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews two of his recordings this year, dedicated to both Verdi and Wagner, celebrating the bicentennials of their birth.
Summer reading can be a blast, but it doesn't have to be the latest thriller from the NY Times, or a cheap romance novel. I was delighted to see so many new novels just typing in "Classical music" in Amazon.com and sorting by publication date - they start next April (2014) with lots of titles to preorder!
I recently came across a steal. A friend on a social network posted that a recording was $6. That may seem normal for an mp3 release, or mildly cheap if you purchase an iTunes release for $9.99. But this particular recording was live from Bayreuth - the complete Ring der Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. Yes, all four operas.
The whole world has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth this year (his birthday is May 22). Summer festivals have been playing his music, and several cycles of the Ring are programmed for companies this fall and winter.
Wagner's incredible and improbable success is one of the fairytale's of high art. The late Jacques Barzun referred to his position in later life as: "That of a Lord of all the arts."
Randy Anderson has rightly commented on his association with the highest circles of the intellect and art: De Gobineau, Nietzsche, Semper, Meyerbeer, Berlioz and later Liszt, as Wagner would wed Cosima, the pianist's daughter.
How much do you know about Richard Wagner? Probably two unfavorable facts: He wrote very long, grandiose operas and was Hitler's favorite composer. As true as they are, those simple examples barely hint at the complexity of this endlessly creative and confounding artist.
The Norse god Wotan - like his counterparts in the south, Zeus and Jupiter - got around as they say. He wasn't named "all-father" for nothing. The second opera of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is about three of his offspring.
First, the legitimate daughter Brünnhilde, who is a Valkyrie -a collector of the heroic dead slain in battle - and after whom this opera is named. Then there are the twins Siegmund and Sieglende, their mother is Erda - mother earth.
After a decades-long struggle, the patience and slavish commitment of numberless friends, an inspiration that can truly be called superhuman, and a streak of luck that beggars the imagination, Richard Wagner finally finished his epic "Ring."
Despite the luminaries in attendance over the years - from Hugo Wolf and a who’s who of European royalty, to Tchaikovsky, Bernard Shaw and others - it could never pay its way.
Music by Richard Wagner and Michael Daugherty on tap this weekend
Throughout 2013, musicians will be playing Richard Wagner in honor of his 200th birthday this May. The San Antonio Symphony will offer wonderful selections of Wagner's grand opus, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."
"Highlights would not be enough, because we are going through the journey of the ring!" said Conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing.