Wed 9 May, 2007 01:49 am
Was Wagner a demon? A hero? Both? Neither? The world at last has a definitive history of the German composer's work on stage. Its author tells Stephen Moss why it took 40 years to write.
In today's Guardian: Desperately seeking Wagner
To do battle with Wagner, you must have a taste for the epic. This, after all, is a composer who spent more than a quarter of a century composing the Ring, a mighty four-nighter that deals with no less a subject than the very creation of humankind. But music and theatre critic Patrick Carnegy has managed to out-Wagner Wagner - spending 40 years writing a book about a century of Wagnerian productions, and not just the Ring, but the rest of the oeuvre, too.
Last night, Carnegy was rewarded when his book, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre, won the Royal Philharmonic Society prize for "creative communication" (an award sponsored by the Guardian). (It's not a phrase he likes; best classical music book of the year will do.) "I'm just amazed and relieved to have brought it to fruition," he says. "When Wagner went to meet the Kaiser at Bayreuth railway station for the premiere of the Ring in 1876, all the Kaiser could think of to say was, 'So, you've actually managed to get it done.' I'm pleased to have got it done."
Carnegy, 66, is worryingly sane for a Wagnerian: no obvious tics except for the occasional deep sigh; not unduly besotted with the great man (he recognises the flaws as well as the genius); lives a life of sunny domestic bliss with his partner, the soprano Jill Gomez, in a thatched cottage in Cambridgeshire. He has had a varied career (assistant editor of the Times Literary Supplement in the 1970s, music books editor at Faber in the 1980s and dramaturg at the Royal Opera House from 1988 to 1992), but above all, he has survived 40 years' immersion in the dangerous waters of Wagnerism. Shame the same can't be said for all the crazies who flock to productions of the Ring. Why are Wagnerians so obsessive?
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wow, you have some very interesting posts man. Wow!
Do you mean Robert Wagner?
Sorry Walter, couldnt resist.Tho if you are looking for him he seemes to have popped up on a UK programme called Hustle.
popped up from the DEAD?
I meant Robert Wagner not the musician Wagner.
First time I ran across Wagner, except for a bit in my Music Appreciation 1A, was in a movie. First of all, I was one of those really helped by music appreciation classes, as my family didn't listen to music, and I had only tuned into the beginnings of rock and roll and the continuation of the 40's.
The movie was Song without End, a melodrama of probably no defense, but I loved it. It was about Franz Lizst and this and that, and Wagner was a character in it, along with his music. A mix of good and miserable acting. Jorge Bolet was the pianist...