Wagner Week: Becoming a Pop Culture Staple

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Melancholia, a 2011 apocalyptic drama by Lars von Trier, features Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde' Melancholia, a 2011 apocalyptic drama by Lars von Trier, features Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde'

Max Steiner, whose music humanized King Kong and made people weep in "Gone with the Wind," was once complimented as the man who invented modern underscoring for films.

In response, the composer said, "Don't be ridiculous. The idea originated with Richard Wagner. Listen to the incidental scoring behind the recitatives in his operas. If Wagner had lived in this century, he would have been the No. 1 film composer."

The latter point is debatable but with his system of leitmotifs, Wagner came up with the idea of associating a character with a musical theme, a staple of Hollywood. And Wagner's influence on film goes further. As we hear today in our Saturday Morning Cartoon and tonight on Movies on the Radio, Wagner's music itself has figured in plenty of films from the silent era to the present.

Other highlights today include the Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhauser (9 am); the "Sailors' Chorus" from the Flying Dutchman (11 am); Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music from Gotterdammerung (3 pm); and the "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin (7 pm). Plus: Clement Doucet’s Isoldina, a 1920’s jazz arrangement of music from the Isolde’s Liebestod (played by pianist Alexander Tharaud).

Below enjoy 10 notable Wagner scenes in movies:


'The Great Dictator' (1940)

'Father of the Bride' (1991)

From the Ring Cycle:

'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

'Excalibur' (1981)

Nicole Kidman attending Die Walküre in 'Birth' (Prelude Act 1)

Tristan und Isolde

Alfred Hitchcock: 'Murder!' (1930)

'Melancholia' by Lars von Trier (2011)

'Love in the Afternoon' (with Billy Wilder)

'Un Chien Andalou' (Louis Bunel) (1929) (*Contains some adult imagery)



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Comments [5]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The troubles that tear asunder the prospect of REAL "echt" WAGNERIAN PERFORMANCES are primarily based on the total lack of singers with squillo, ping, ringing "juicy', not dry secco , delivery, WAGNERIAN BARKING rather than legato full-throated singing, strained, forced and flat singing, unsupported, undersized and underpowered singing, WITHOUT impressive carrying power and with throaty or nasal ugly voice production. Today's news deals with deficits and declining support for the arts. Tandem to this predicament for the talented is the perception that the current situation will continue for a long time to come. Speaking specifically how this precludes the motivation for young operatic singers who must early on choosing their life's work, many have turned to Broadway or the business world. Nowadays Broadway musicals are out for show-stopping sensationalism with laser distractions, monster sets, acrobatic feats and space age technical projections and featuring dancing over singing. So, for the real thing opera singer, Broadway musicals, outside of Phantom of the Opera and an occasional Les Miserables there is little prospect of a sustainable career . The Wagner oeuvre has suffered the most. Husky physiques, witness the iconic John McCormack, do not offer similar size singing voices in power or stamina. Heroic voices like Melchior, Tamagno, Ruffo and the mature Caruso are nowhere on today's world class stages. Instead we suffer to hear miniscule, non-charismatic, non-distinctively memor able singing voices essaying roles far beyond their underpowered, thin not orotund, singing potentialities. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer [SHAKESPEARE and THE POLITICAL SHAKESPEARE] and director of The Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where all the Wagner and all the Shakespeare roles are taught as well as vocal technque for singing and declamation. www.WagnerOpera.com

Aug. 26 2013 06:14 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

KUDOS to you Dr. Britta A. Moser for your pervasive comments on Hollywood's misappropriation of Wagner's music. All composers of opera realize the importance of having singers that can represent rheir music properly.
Here a few suggestions of truly representative GREAT, LEGENDARY singers. RICHARD WAGNER's innovations go beyond the use of his introductionj into the opera orchestra of brass, for instance, the Wagner tuba, and woodwind instruments invented for the their immediate use in his galactic projects. Wagner's chromatisim in TRISTAN to enhance the sensual, his use of swiftly changing meters, tempi, and extended or shortened phrase lengths to comport with the ever changing landscape and his mentally conceived synonymous sketching of leit motives, short leading melodies to indicate emotions, persons, things or concepts was extensively utilized throughout his oeuvre. Toscaninni's DIE MEISTERSINGER performance at the Slazburg Festival of 1937 on the Andante CD label, George Szell's Met Opera TANNHAUSER of December 19, 1942 with Melchior, Traubel and Kipnis on THE RADIO YEARS CD label, Artur Bodansky's Met Opera TRISTAN of January 2, 1937 with Melchior, Flagstad and Huehn on THE FORTIES CD label, Fritz Busch's Met Opera LOHENGRIN of January 25th, 1947 with Melchior and Melchior and Traubel on the Walhall CD label, Melchior's final Met Opera broadcast LOHENGRIN, conducted by Fritz Stiedry with Traubel and Varnay on January 7th, 1950 on the Danacord CD label and Etich Leinsdorf Met Opera TRISTAN of 1941 with Melchior, Flagstad and Kipnis on the Melodram CD label are some of the best commercially obtainable examples of Wagnerian singing at its best. Melchior's complete performance in studio recordings of Siegmund and Siegfried are on the DANACORD CD label anfd his Gotterdammerung Siegfried recorded at a Met Opera performance is available on a Walhall label CD set. For a living, performing currently, heldentenor may I be so bold as to offer my singing, recorded live, of Otello, Tristan, Siegfried, Gotterdammerung Siegfried, Walther von stolzing, Siegmund and Parsifal downloadable from my website www.WagnerOpera.com, going to the Recorded Selections venue.

Jul. 27 2013 10:13 AM
Dr. Britta A. Möser from Frankfurt am Main, Germany

As a German I wonder why trivial subject matter like Lars von Trier: "Melancholia" is enhanced in an absurd manner by the score of "Tristan und Isolde". The dichotomy is unpleasant. "The ride of the Walkyries" as a score for a devastating, brutal attack by helicopters feels insulting to educated Germans. It seems like Americans are victims to propaganda instruments of the "Third Reich" by adopting and copying them in their culture. I cannot see the ironic twist in that...

Jul. 27 2013 02:45 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

FRANZ LISZT who had been a friend of Wagner for many years and had transcribed many of Wagner's choicest selections maintaining their essence and allowing for virtuoso display with elan, also prepared LOHENGRIN's world premiere when Wagner was for political reasons unable to participate. COSIMA, Liszt's daughter became Wagner's second wife and was intimately involved in all matters that touched on Wagner's aspirations and enterprises. Just as BACH's music is performed by all sorts of instrumental ensembles , even the MOOG, so Wagner's music may be thoroughly enjoyed in piano arrangements, but their original versions with singers are the definitive versions. The incandescent beauty and intoxicating spirituality are so transformational in Wagner's oeuvre that any religious belief may be accommodated and synthesized to replicate the sense of selfless empathy for the welfare of others that the sacrificed UNICO represents to us all. That may explain why so many famous JEWISH singers GEORGE LONDON, RICHARD TAUBER, HERMANN JADLOWKER, MELANIE KURT, FRIEDRICH SCHORR, ALEXANDER KIPNIS, EMANUEL LIST, JONAS KAUFMANN, OTTILIE METZGER, LILLI LEHMANN, HERMANN WEIL, DESZO ERNSTER, HERTA GLAZ, MARGARETE MATZENAUER, SOPHIE BRASLAU, WALTER OLITZKY, GERHARD PECHNER, ESTELLE LIEBLING, MONA PAULEE, GUNTHER TREPTOW, PAULA LENCHNER, ALMA GLUCK, ADOLF ROBINSON, IRENE JESSNER, MAX BLOCH, ERNESTINE SCHUMANN-HEINK, HERMANN SCHRAMM, SIEGFRIED JERUSALEM, PAUL KALISCH, ETC], conductors LEONARD BERNSTEIN, JAMES LEVINE, BRUNO WALTER, ALFRED HERTZ, DANIEL BARENBOIM, GEORG SOLTI, WALTER AND LEOPOLD DAMROSCH, ARTUR RODZINSKY, RICHARD FRANK GOLDMAN AND HIS FATHER THE FOUNDER OF THE GOLDMAN BAND THAT PERFORMED BRASS INSTRUMENT VERSIONS OF THE WAGNER "REP," FRITZ REINER, SERGE KOUSSEVITZKY, FABIEN SEVITSKY, ERICH LEINSDORF, and HERMANN LEVI, the conductor whom Wagner himself appointed to premiere PARSIFAL at Bayreuth, Levi's father being a rabbi, and Levi reportedly denied Wagner's request for him to turn Christian, still Wagner decided LEVI was the best one to cinduct his work, ETC. and stage directors HERBERT GRAF AND LEOPOLD SACHSE dedicated the fullest portion of their careers to performing Wagner's music dramas.

Jul. 27 2013 01:58 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

As MaX Steiner quipped WAGNER would today be our leading incidental music composer for films if he were an active composer today. Incidental music today in films creates and maintains the desired emotion and ambience.
The composer for my cousin MIichael Blankfort's THE JUGGLER with Kirk Douglas was George AntheiL I was rehearsing with Antheil the tenor lead role of Mosca for its world premiere in New York when he told me that his principle income was from scoring music for films. Although I am an opera composer, my sole attention for subject matter is Shakespeare;'s oeuvre. which I find is resplendent with subject matter. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor with 4 main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall solo concerts, 2 of which were ALL-WAGNER. Live excerpts from them are on my website www.WagnerOpera.com

Jul. 27 2013 01:23 AM

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