Richard Wagner and Wagner operas

Richard Wagner

"People sometimes complain that Wagner operas are too long, that they get stiff and sore about 10.30 because they have rushed in to hear one of his works straight from work and are not properly prepared for listening to his music. The audience, as much as the artists, must be prepared for a performance."
(Benjamin Britten to Alan Blyth, Gramophone)

The Bayreuth Festival 2017 Reviews

Mark Berry: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Kosky/Jordan)

Sam Goodyear: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Kosky/Jordan)

Mark Berry: Parsifal (Laufenberg/Haenchen)

Mark Berry: Das Rheingold (Castorf/Janowski)

Mark Berry: Die Walküre (Castorf/Janowski)

Mark Berry: Siegfried (Castorf/Janowski)

Mark Berry: Götterdämmerung (Castorf/Janowski)


Bayreuth Festival 2017: Wagner’s Work and National Socialism (two-day symposium)

BREAKING NEWS: Waltraud Meier will return to the Bayreuth Festival in 2018 to sing Ortrud!

Waltraud Meier as Isolde, Bayreuth Festival


"Bayreuth’s special and much praised acoustic is actually only fully functional in Parsifal. It is certainly also one of the reasons why Wagner uses a style that is far closer to chamber music for this work. In the earlier pieces, composed for other stages, but also in the Ring, which elaborates far denser structures than Parsifal, and especially in Die Meistersinger too, one is aware that the Bayreuth acoustic is by no means ideal since it blurs the contrapuntal element of these works."
Hartmut Haenchen

"I was bowled over. It was the year after Wieland Wagner had died; to be able to see his productions was a total knock-out. These bare stagings, where everything was done with lighting. The light changed with the music, and the shadows and patterns seemed as archetypal as the music itself. Nobody had done that on the stage before. I thought it was extraordinary and wonderful."
(Patrick Carnegy to The Guardian)


Siegfried Wagner

Sam Goodyear interviews Kevin Clarke about Siegfried Wagner's homosexuality and its influences on Wagner performance history and the Bayreuth Festival


The Wiesbaden Ring: Sam Goodyear reviews Laufenberg's Ring production at Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, an enjoyable four evenings in the theatre, if not quite the revelatory experience one hopes for from a Ring cycle.


The Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Frank Castorf: Ring, Bayreuth 2016

Das Rheingold (Castorf / Janowski), Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Die Walküre (Castorf / Janowski), Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Siegfried (Castorf / Janowski), Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Götterdämmerung (Castorf / Janowski), Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Tristan und Isolde (K. Wagner / Thielemann), Bayreuth Festival, 2016

Parsifal (Laufenberg / Haenchen), Bayreuth Festival, 2016



The thing I love about Wagner's work is the subliminal, the erotic, the visionary factor - and that's how I stage things as well. I try to acquire an awareness of the archetypes, images and symbols and bring them to the surface; the music was composed to be interpreted that way. Wagner has nothing to do with realism or naturalism, but his work rather expresses the mental landscape of a man, treats sections of his personality that may be in conflict with one another - and people who may seem real but are in actual fact products of his dreams, which he can use or not as he pleases. It has to do with the strata of a personality.
David Alden in conversation with Peter Jonas


Stefan Herheim Interviews

Stefan Herheim

Stefan Herheim on Parsifal, Bayreuth and Daniele Gatti


Wagnerians recommend

Richard Wagner recommendations

The best Richard Wagner CDs and DVDs


Katharina's Tristan an Artistic Triumph

E.E. Guldbrandsen on the new Tristan



One-dimensional and unmoving Dutchman

E.E. Guldbrandsen reviews the Dutchman


Castorf's Rheingold at Bayreuth 2014

Castorf's Rheingold at Bayreuth

Mark Berry reviews Das Rheingold (2014)


Peter Konwitschny on Regietheater
Peter Konwitschny

"I am no representative of the Regietheater"


Neuenfels' Lohengrin at Bayreuth 2014

A classic staging


Daniel Barenboim: Complete Wagner Operas

Daniel Barenboim's Wagner on 34 CD's


Castorf's Siegfried at Bayreuth 2014

Mark Berry: Castorf hits a new low


Castorf's Götterdämmerung, 2014

A directorial failure – and, it seems, in many ways a wilful one.



Frank Castorf: Ring at Bayreuth 2013

There Will Be Blood: Frank Castorf has entered the Ring


Detlef Roth on Amfortas and Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production at Bayreuth

Detlef Roth

Interview with Detlef Roth in Bayreuth


Lioba Braun on Bayreuth

Lioba Braun

Lioba Braun interview: Brangäne, Bayreuth and Isolde


My Bayreuth Experience

Bayreuth Festival

Visitors tell about their Bayreuth Festival experience


Johanna Meier in Bayreuth

Johanna Meier

"I never sang Liebestod from the orchestra pit"


Iréne Theorin in Bayreuth

irene theorin

"Isolde is incredibly intense, and that really suits me"


Anne Evans in Bayreuth

Anne Evans interview

Anne Evans talks about Brünnhilde and Bayreuth


New triumph for Bychkov

Tannhäuser, Covent Garden

Tannhäuser at ROH - a musical triumph


Mark Berry at Bayreuth 2012

Stefan Herheim: Parsifal, Bayreuth 2012

Stefan Herheim: Parsifal
Neuenfels: Lohengrin
Gloger's new Dutchman


Wagner makes Wagner

Klaus Florian Vogt

Katharina's 2010 Meistersinger gets interesting, but too late


Herheim's Parsifal 2008

Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production

Music theatre between dream and reality


Baumgarten's Tannhäuser 2011


Mark Berry sees no evidence of Baumgarten having engaged with the score at all


William Kinderman: Wagner's Parsifal

William Kinderman:

Germán A. Bravo-Casas appraises the new book on Wagner's Parsifal




Said about Richard Wagner

"People who say that Wagner knew exactly how he wanted his works produced - so what right have you to stage the Ring on Mars or down a salt mine - are wrong," he says. "Wagner was precise [in his stage directions] because the theatrical world into which he launched his works was a total mess, and the quality was very poor. The reason he took such trouble was defensive: it wasn't so much that he knew what he wanted, but he jolly well knew what he didn't want."
Patrick Carnegy to The Guardian

“Conducting Tristan was another epiphany. I became a hopeless Wagner nut and it opened up a completely new world to me. There is this unique thing about Wagner, and that’s time management. The way he can create and alter time through a couple of hours. Not only create it, but also sustain it and keep it alive with very simple means. And in mature Wagner, the whole idea of constant recycling of material, and very little material. I mean, ‘Parsifal’ has nothing: a couple of chords. And he spins all that out of them.”
Esa-Pekka Salonen to Newcity Music

Always we seem to come back to Wagner though. Of course, Wagner is a magnificent composer: the music is incredible. Whatever other music I do, coming back to Wagner is like coming home.
John Tomlinson in conversation with Mark Berry

Wagner audiences are special, I think. It’s their music – but in a positive way; it’s a passion.
René Pape on Wagner audiences

The thing I love about Wagner's work is the subliminal, the erotic, the visionary factor - and that's how I stage things as well. I try to acquire an awareness of the archetypes, images and symbols and bring them to the surface; the music was composed to be interpreted that way. Wagner has nothing to do with realism or naturalism, but his work rather expresses the mental landscape of a man, treats sections of his personality that may be in conflict with one another - and people who may seem real but are in actual fact products of his dreams, which he can use or not as he pleases. It has to do with the strata of a personality.
David Alden in conversation with Peter Jonas

I am used to seeing you respect people only if and as long as they can be of use to you. A person no longer exists for you when their usefulness is over. You know nothing of gratitude for the past: All that is merely an infernal obligation! It has always been so – towards Brockhaus, the King, Lüttichau, Pusinelli, Tichatschek, and everyone else who has helped you in one way or another. Whilst I greatly love and esteem your talent, it is just the opposite with regard to your character. Since your last letter the first sign of life you give Johanna is - lend me a thousand thalers! A mere trifle!
Johanna's father Albert 1853 (Derek Watson: Richard Wagner - A Biography, p 131)

Such demoniac personalities cannot be judged by ordinary standards. They are egoists of the first water, and must be so, or they could never fulfil their mission.
Heinrich Porges (Derek Watson: Richard Wagner - A Biography, p 131)

I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time, without people hearing what one says.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray










Stefan Herheim: Parsifal - Selected Reviews and Comments

  • Abendzeitung
  • Agence-France Presse
  • Associated Press (2009): More impressive is the thread Herheim weaves — a century of German history replete with back-projected footage of the two world wars, smoking ruins left by the fall of the Third Reich, on-stage depictions of war wounded, fleeing Jews and — toward the end — Germany as a phoenix rising from the ashes. The links are clear but effective. Sin begets misery in the knight-priest kingdom, and pulls the country into the vortex of destruction that ends only with the redemption wrought by Parsifal. Old and new are joined, and the result is an opera that is true to its roots but relates as well on the contemporary level.
  • Bayreischer Rundfunk (audio)
  • Berliner Zeitung
  • Bloomberg: The richness and psychological depth of Herheim's images and the seamless musicality with which he and his team have knitted them together add up to an evening of breathtaking impact.
  • Boulezian blog: Daniele Gatti’s reading of the score rarely drew attention to itself but contributed to the unfolding dramas in exemplary fashion. […] The richness of the Bayreuth orchestra was ever apparent, but never more so than when it finally had our full attention, during the unstaged Prelude to Act III. That evocation of hard-won passing of time can rarely have seemed more apt than in the circumstances of this production. The gradual unfolding of the score’s phrases and paragraphs was faultless. Each act was possessed both of its own character and of an array of variegation and cross-reference. And the bells sounded better than I can recall hearing them anywhere (except of course on the most venerable of old Bayreuth recordings).
  • Graham Bruce (The Wagner Society in Queensland): Herheim conceived PARSIFAL as a child's dream, with all of the Freudian implications that suggests. Now if that description suggests that this was yet another production which rode rough-shod over the text and music, I must assure my readers that conceptually, visually and musically, this was an outstanding success; indeed it's been some time since goose-bumps arose on my skin as they did during this performance.
  • Corriere della Sera
  • Crescendo
  • Le Figaro: Un Parsifal politiquement correct
  • Financial Times: The performance works on so many levels that you emerge challenged and stimulated: Bayreuth at its best.
  • Frankfurter Allgemeine
  • The Guardian: Herheim's production continually poses the direct question of whether Wagner's own Bayreuth legacy - like the decaying world of the Grail knights in Parsifal - can ever be morally cleansed. In pursuit of an answer, Herheim takes us on a formidably ambitious journey through a dazzlingly inventive theatrical deconstruction of Parsifal, of German history, of Wagner and, above all, of the way they are woven together in Bayreuth itself.
  • International Herald Tribune: The staging is grandiose, visually sensual, and scenically enthralling. The audience's attention rarely waned during the seven-hour performance, despite the slow, deliberate pace of the score as conducted by Italian Daniele Gatti. […] Herheim makes use of every modern stage technique available to him, deploying an endless succession of technological fireworks and visual provocations.
  • Kurier
  • Merkur-Online
  • Mostly Opera: […] myriads of ideas, sufficient for several new Parsifal productions on an over-stuffed stage, downstaging both singers and music and ultimately creating confusion as opposed to enlightenment.
  • New York Times: In the end, it is moving. Directors get away with half-baked ingenuities because opera plots already require suspended judgment — and because of the music. Under Daniele Gatti’s baton, the score unwinds in grave and luxurious fashion. The Bayreuth chorus is peerless, as always. Christopher Ventris, as an ardent Parsifal; Detlef Roth, the touching Amfortas; and Kwangchul Youn, a brooding Gurnemanz, make for unexpected stars. Mihoko Fujimura, notwithstanding the straining in her upper reaches, is the desperate, heartbreaking Kundry. If someone at Bayreuth could sift through Mr. Herheim’s bounty of ideas, this might yet become a great production.
  • Der Spiegel
  • The Stage (Penelope Turing: Herheim is tempted by adding some ‘ideas’, but emerges triumphant because this is simply a great musical performance.)
  • Der Standard
  • Süddeutsche Zeitung
  • Tagesspiegel
  • Telegraph (Rupert Christiansen, 2009): I caught the first revival of the Norwegian director Stefan Herheim's production of Parsifal. Its first two acts are among the most beautiful and complex things that I have ever seen on a stage, and I can scarcely describe their import. [...] What further distinguishes Herheim's direction is its exquisitely sensitive musicality. The endlessly shifting and meticulously choreographed imagery flows in and out of the river of Wagner's score, as it progresses from the Bismarck era to Adenauer's reconstruction, through two world wars and the Weimar Republic, showing idealism turning to militarism and religious belief to political fanaticism.
  • The Wagner Journal (Barry Millington): This is one of the finest stagings of the work ever seen at Bayreuth, or anywhere else. While undeniably complex, the dramaturgy is strong, clear and focused. The stagecraft, moreover, is superb. (Review available in the printed edition.)
  • Die Welt
  • Westdutsche Allgemeine Zeitung: Herheims Parsifal ist vielschichtig, aber dabei nicht beliebig. Er hält eine kluge Balance zwischen Dokumentation und Traumkosmos. Und der Norweger ist ein Regisseur von großer Musikalität: Gesten und Blicke, Gänge und Verwandlungen korrespondieren punktgenau mit Wagners Musik.
  • "I have noticed a tendency to the (historically) excessive since 2008 in the production on the Green Hill by Stefan Herheim, Schlingensief’s successor as director of Parsifal: as if these directors knew what wealth Wagner had left in his last opera but did not feel able to control it and make it fertile. I think we should not be too complicated, nor always think of history before and after Wagner and show it on stage. As Lars von Trier said: if we want Wagner, then Wagner is what we want." Christian Thielemann. As quoted in Christian Thielemann: My Life with Wagner (p. 249). Orion. Kindle Edition.


Scandinavian reviews



R.I.P. Kurt Moll (1938-2017)

One of the truly great Wagner voices, Kurt Moll, is dead.

> Obituary (Bayerische Staatsoper)