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If X-rated entertainment is music to your ears, then orchestral music may be just what you are looking for. Enthusiasts of television soaps would eat their hearts out if they knew what we classical fans have been enjoying for the last few hundred years. If I hint at the plot, you will understand why we’re still glued to our sets; the theatrical ones that are.
How does violent blood-letting with plenty of incest, deformities, necrophilia (look it up if you must) sound? Imagine, a brutish dwarf having his wicked way with a dead maiden and that is not half of it. Dirty bits aplenty, this is none of your Barbara Cartland bodice-ripping nonsense here; this is Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle: four operas in one.
Wotan is the Dirty Dennis of the plot for although he’s married to Fricka, the skirt-chasers eye settles on his wife’s sister. Erda the Earth Goddess, and her illegitimate daughters the Valkyries.
The hero of the cracking yarn, Siegfried, is the son of an incestuous union between Siegmund and Sieglinde but let us calm down, this is family reading after all.
You might be forgiven for wondering what kind of man writes opera so hot you have to wear sunglasses to watch it. Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) was by all accounts a bit of a lad. Born in Leipzig, he was one of nine children and he was fatherless at 5 months. His music teacher despaired of young Richard and predicted that he would ‘come to nothing.’
A born rebel, the precocious youth was expelled from the Thomasschule in Leipzig for drinking, gambling, duelling, and chasing skirt. He married the young actress Mina Planer who, although failing to understand his belief in himself, somehow kept the two of them from starving through terrible hardships.
A serial womaniser, Richard was finally dismissed from his post in Riga. With his passport confiscated and hounded by creditors, he and Mina were smuggled out of the country and the unfortunate pair ended up in Paris. Living in poverty, Wagner was imprisoned for debt but then came his first success; the opera Rienzi.
Interestingly, this opera inspired Adolf Hitler to follow much the same plot. One hastens to add that the Young Adolf was set to follow the example of the Tribune Rienzi and definitely not the profligate Richard Wagner.
Richard Wagner’s life was as drama-filled as much of his opera. A political extremist he was forced to flee to Switzerland when the revolution failed.
The up-and-coming composer was still chasing the ladies. One who was on the receiving end of his affection was Mathilde, the wife of his host, Otto Wesendonck. It was Mathilde who inspired his opera, Tristan und Isolde: Something to think about when its Liebestod finale sends you into raptures as Mathilde evidently sent Richard.
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Mathilde’s cuckolded husband finally showed Richard the door and both he and Mina made good their escape; whereupon Richard fell in love with Cosima, the daughter of the great composer Franz Liszt. The lady also happened to be the wife of the great composer and pianist Hans von Bulow who afterwards forgave them. Do you still think classical is boring?
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Categories: Music Notes