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Addendum

Posted by acdtest on October 5, 2003

Addendum

eblogger CTD of ionarts comments here on this article. In his comment CTD takes exception to my insertion of a “sic!” in quoting this question of his (in his interview with the Millennium Wagner Project’s Carol Berger):

Do you have instrumentalists contracted for Parsifal? Will the performance be accompanied [sic!] by an orchestra?

Says CTD:

What a. c. means by that interjection of sic and an exclamation point (one or the other would probably have sufficed to indicate incredulity at my faux pas) is this idea that the orchestra in Wagner is supposedly not an “accompaniment” but equal in importance to, if not more important than, the singers. Personally, I think this is just semantic quibbling. The piano has a lot to say in a Schumann song cycle, too (think of the end of Dichterliebe, for example), but the fact is that it is still “accompanying” a singer. There would be no opera without the singers on the stage: they are primary in importance. In his later works, Wagner has his orchestra, often quite extensive, weave a complicated web around the singers, but Verdi’s late operas are just as complicated orchestrally.

CTD’s thinking this matter is “just semantic quibbling” is in error. There’s nothing the least bit “quibbling” about it, nor is it a matter of semantics nor merely a “faux pas.” Calling the orchestra of Wagner’s music-dramas (i.e., those works post-Lohengrin) an “accompaniment” betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the essential nature of the music-drama, and of what it consists. The singers in the music-dramas are not by any stretch the thing of “primary…importance.” If any single element could be called such it would without question be the orchestra wherein resides the very core of the drama itself as I’ve repeatedly pointed out and explained in various opera postings on this weblog, and so shall not repeat the explanation again here. CTD’s saying that “Wagner has his orchestra…weave a complicated web around the singers” in the music-dramas is totally wrong, although one could with justice say that Verdi in his Wagner-influenced two last operas (Otello and Falstaff) does precisely that, even though, again by no stretch, nor by any measure, could the scores of those operas be characterized as “just as complicated orchestrally” as those of Wagner’s music-dramas. They’re nothing of the kind as simply a hearing will confirm. Finally, concerning CTD’s Schumann citation, it’s of course completely inapt, and therefore requires no further comment.

UPDATE (23 October at 7:47 AM Eastern): Weblogger CTD of ionarts comments.

Says CTD:

When someone uses these sorts of words (I or what I said is also “in error,” “totally wrong,” and “completely inapt”), there is obviously no access for any opposing opinion and therefore no cause for further dialogue. I guess that I have only to follow this line of thinking to conclude that it was actually the singers whom Wagner intended to have hidden below the stage in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, while the stage was reserved for “the orchestra wherein resides the very core of the drama itself.” I may never understand and appreciate Wagner in the way a. c. does, that is, with a lot of passion and reverence. I like Wagner’s operas and I find them interesting, but if I had to make a choice, I would much rather see and hear Verdi’s Otello or Falstaff (what a. c. somewhat pointedly calls Verdi’s “Wagner-influenced two last operas”) than any work by Wagner.

CTD is of course quite right in saying that in this matter “there is obviously no access for any opposing opinion” — unless, that is, one allows there’s access for the opposing opinion that the Earth is flat. And while one cannot gainsay CTD’s rather seeing and hearing either of Verdi’s last two operas than any work by Wagner, that matter of taste has no bearing whatsoever on the matter to hand, and is therefore non sequitur.

Lastly, CTD gets it wrong-way-round in the matter of my “passion and reverence” for Wagner’s music-dramas (but not, I hasten to point out, for his operas; those works pre-Rheingold). My passion and reverence for those colossal works of art do not inform my “understanding and appreciation.” Rather, my understanding and appreciation are the ground of my passion and reverence.

The distinction, I trust it will be immediately clear, is hardly a trivial one.

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