In the (excellent) issue of The New Yorker Magazine dated January 18, 2021, music critic Alex Ross reports on an experiential encounter with Wagner that was provided by artist David Hockney. Ross got his hands on an auto route that Hockney had laid out, accompanied by segments from Wagner’s works that Hockney had selected, sequenced, timed and “curated.” The route began at the...
Opera Social and Opera Deviant
Axel Englund, Professor of Literature at Stockholm University, suggests that the core of our fascination with opera is its deviance. In his book Deviant Opera: Sex, Power & Perversion on Stage (Univ. Cal. Press 2020), Englund posits that this form of theatre is distinguishable by its deviance from expected norms: Its characters are overblown, its costumes and setting are extravagant, its...
Wagner: A Case History
In London last June, walking back from Quaker Meeting at Friends House on Euston Road, a lovely Sunday afternoon was made even lovelier by the discovery of Judd Books, on Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury. There, amid the used and dusty books, I found Wagner: A Case History, by Martin van Amerongen. I not only did not have this 1983 volume in my library; I did not even know of its existence, and at...
The V & A Offers Exhibit and Book on “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics”
Contrary to the enthusiastic reception at the time, I left the 2017 installation at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum titled “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics” somewhat intrigued but hardly bowled over. The artifacts and visual slides that the exhibit included seemed familiar by and large; the mandatory headphones piped in recordings of performances and rehearsals […]
Wagner the Irascible Old Bigot
As a boundless admirer of Wagner’s art and of much of his artistic thought, I vacillate between horror and laughter when I encounter fragments of his writing on social and philosophical matters. A recent reading of Leon Stein’s The Racial Thinking of Richard Wagner (1950) prompted the latter response. Outside of the world of music […]