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Seminar: The Music of Wagner's Ring and the Life Cycle of an Audience

April 25, 2015 - 4:30 am


The Wagner Society is pleased to welcome Professor Heath Lees.  University professor, broadcaster, writer, and musicologist, Heath Lees is much sought-after for his lecturing skills, especially on anything to do with Wagner.

Twenty years ago Professor Lees and his wife founded the Wagner Society of New Zealand and from there, Heath has now built an international reputation as a dynamic communicator on the subject of music in general and Wagner in particular. In the last two years, Heath has presented his multi-media talks in France, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. His most recent book is Mallarmé and Wagner: Music and Poetic Language. Professor Lees has also released a 4 DVD set of lectures on Wagner’s Ring.

The Music of The Ring and the Life-Cycle of an Audience
Thanks largely to the impact of the Chéreau Bayreuth Ring in 1978, audiences have come to accept Wagner’s Ring not so much as a single, unified tale in four parts, but more as a stage-by-stage progression through four generational ‘bands’ of the 19th century:  
  •  Das Rheingold — the early decades of the century,
  •  Die Walküre — from the 1830s, 
  •  Siegfried as a reflection of the 1860s, and 
  •  Götterdämmerung reaching up to the threshold of the 20th century.  
In this presentation, Heath Lees takes the same kind of growth-progression, but applies it to the experience of the audience.  To start with, he says, Wagner’s musical language is utterly simple and striking, just like the baby language of Weia Weia Wagalaweia that opens Das Rheingold, and signifies human growth after birth.  In Die Walküre the audience shares the adolescent passion of Sieglinde and Siegmund, and through the tragic story of Wotan, begins to experience on a deeper level the more complex musico-dramatic language (‘endless melody’) that Wagner is using. Siegfried casts the audience into the role of reluctant parents, while Götterdämmerung treats them as grandparents, older, sadder and wiser, ready to hand over the running of the world to a younger generation in the hope that something better might be made of it.
Using piano illustrations and filmed excerpts, Heath selects his way through the scores of all four operas, illustrating how Wagner’s music moves from being utterly simple (135 bars of just one chord at the start), to a continuous process of ever-increasing complexity and multi-layered effects.  
By the time audiences arrive at the end of Götterdämmerung they have lived through and gathered up what amounts to a lifetime of musical events —  a lifetime that allows them to look back over their complete musical panorama, and fortifies them for the task of handing over to the next generation, before passing on. 

We will enjoy these 4 talks “symposium style” with a box lunch break midway, box lunch is included in your reservation fee. Registration fee is $55 for members of the Wagner Society of Northern California. Non-member registration fee is $65.




April 25, 2015
4:30 am

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