In a piece for Canada's The Gazette that covers several items, The Gazette's classical music critic, Arthur Kaptainis, writes:
New from the normally reliable Amadeus Press is Wagner Moments, a compilation of testimonials by various celebrities, great and small, about Wagner and his operas. The book is too packed with middlebrow bilge to merit a recommendation (you would never know from her listless observations that Margaret Atwood is a famous author).
One revealing contrast, on opposite pages, is between a lyrical excerpt from the autobiography of C.S. Lewis and some off-the-cuff commentary from Michael Levine: "I have always found the whole subject of Wagner daunting and slightly irritating. All that high art scares me. It still does. I mean, how could anyone say that the Ring cycle is The Greatest Work of Art? ... Oh, please ... The works are long and bombastic and Wagner himself was, well, way too cocky if not extremely offensive ...."
Levine then half-heartedly concludes that "Wagner was attempting to paint a picture of the human soul." What makes all this noteworthy is not the content but the fact that the speaker was entrusted with the design of Canadian Opera Company Ring productions that opened the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto last September. They were ugly, cheap and incoherent.[*]
The No. 1 qualification of the modern opera director or designer? Disdain for opera.
Someone who meets those needs handsomely is Katharina Wagner, the composer's 29-year-old great-granddaughter. She made her directorial debut at Bayreuth last summer with a staging of Die Meistersinger that included topless dancers and a caricature of Wagner in his underpants.
Katharina is organizing a putsch to take over the festival from her 88-year-old father Wolfgang, who likes her and is willing to leave. Her accomplice is Christian Thielemann, music director of the Munich Philharmonic and thus something of a natural rival of Bavarian State Opera music director Kent Nagano. Indeed, these conductors formerly competed for funds in Berlin. All the same, Thielemann has mentioned Nagano as one of the guests he would like to bring to Bayreuth — assuming he gets the job.
Which he might not. Katharina's cousin Nike and half-sister Eva, both 62, are also bucking for the Bayreuth throne.
"I don't want to be uncharming," Katharina said, drawing attention to the fact that Bayreuth schedules are drawn up years in advance. "But it's a fact on the grounds of age (they) would not have the possibility to develop their own profile. As soon as they were given free rein to make their own mark, they would be way beyond pensionable age."
I think the Wagners should start blogging.
So should Arthur Kaptainis.
We love it!
* See this post for a sample.