Wagner Year 2013 the Highlights

Richard Wagner’s “Mastersingers of Nuremberg” will be revived in 2013 at the Nuremberg State Theatre.
Richard Wagner’s “Mastersingers of Nuremberg” will be revived in 2013 at the Nuremberg State Theatre. | Photo (detail): © Ludwig Olah

Leipzig, Dresden, Munich and Bayreuth: it was mainly in these four German cities that Richard Wagner lived and worked. But on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth on 22 May 2013, it is not only there that the composer, conductor, poet, music critic and opera director and his “total work of art” will be celebrated in style.

The rarely performed early Rienzi, the last of Richard Wagner’s (1813 –1883) first three operas, which will probably never be performed at the Bayreuth Festival, will open the Wagner Year in Berlin (5.1.2013) and Hamburg (13.1.2013). Later Munich (4.5.2013) and Frankfurt (17.5.2013) will follow suit with concertante performances, as will other cities such as Leipzig (with the premiere of a stage performance of Rienzi on July 7th at the Bayreuth Oberfrankenhalle). Here in Wagner’s birthplace the exhibition Richard Wagner – Between Leipzig and Bayreuth (13.3.–26.5.2013) will trace his life up to its climax and endpoint in Bayreuth. In the exhibition Musical Instruments for Richard Wagner – Sounds from the Mystic Abyss (17.5.2013–31.1.2014), the GRASSI Musical Instruments Museum will present instruments created to realise Wagner’s musical conceptions such as the Wagner tuba, bass trumpet and alto oboe or English horn. Beginning in May, a new Ring will be forged in Leipzig; then in autumn there will be premieres of the musical Das Ding mit dem Ring (i.e., The Ring Thing) (26.10.2013) and The Ban on Love (Das Liebesverbot) (28.9.2013). The last, a musical comedy in two acts based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, is also on the spring programme at Meiningen, the small theatre and cultural centre in southern Thuringia. In addition, the local theatre will present a new production of Tristan. In the banqueting hall of the Wartburg Castle in nearby Eisenach, the inspiration for The Ban on Love, there will be a concertante performance of Tannhäuser.

Wagner in Dresden

Christian Thielemann will conduct two anniversary concerts in Dresden; Christian Thielemann will conduct two anniversary concerts in Dresden; | © Photo: Matthias Creutziger In Dresden Wagner was the court conductor of the King of Saxony, but took part in the popular uprising in May 1849 and had to flee to Switzerland. Here Wagner enjoyed varying degrees of success with the premieres of Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer) and Tannhäuser. And the Saxon capital is also the domain of probably the most renowned Wagner conductor of the present day: Christian Thielemann. He will conduct two birthday concerts on the 18th and 21st of May: The Feast of Pentecost (Das Liebesmahl der Apostel) performed by men’s chorus and orchestra at the site of its premiere in the Frauenkirche along with other choral works of Wagner, and overtures and scenes from Wagner’s operas that were premiered in Dresden, with the charismatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann. An exhibition in the municipal museum (27.4.– 25.8.2013) will throw light on the subject of Richard Wagner in Dresden. Myth and History.

Wagner in Munich

Munich was the site of the premieres of Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, The Rhine Gold, The Valkyrie and, posthumously, Wagner’s first opera The Fairies (Die Feen). For here, in 1864, Wagner met his future Maecenas, the eighteen year-old King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The Bavarian capital will open the anniversary year with a concertante performance of The Ban on Love (20.1.2013). In the Gartensaal of the Prinzregententheater, which opened its doors in 1901 as a rival to Bayreuth, a symposium (25–27.04.2013) will be dedicated to the subject of Richard Wagner in Munich. Richard Wagner – The Munich Period (1864-1865) is the title of a corresponding exhibition at the Bavarian State Library (15.3.–28.5.2013); it focuses on documents and performance material pertaining to the premiere of Tristan. In the German Theatre Museum an exhibition on The Ring of the Nibelungen illuminates the various histories of the Munich premieres of Wagner’s tetralogy, from those of the first two parts to the present day. An opulent show presents the most important singers and conductors and the various productions with their directors, costumes and sets (22.5.–20.10.2013).

Wagner in Nuremberg

An exhibition in Nuremberg, the historical birthplace of Hans Sachs and scene of The Mastersingers, WagnerSINGER – MASTER sachs (17.1.–17.4.2013), will shed light on the interplay of historical model and opera; the original score of the Mastersingers will be on display at the German National Museum (21.2.–02.6.2013). In contrast to the Munich celebrations, which include all the major music dramas but not a new production of the Mastersingers, the city where that opera is set has an already proven production of Wagner’s great mature comedy and also one of Tristan.

Wagner in Bayreuth

Richard Wagner in 1868 Richard Wagner in 1868 | Photo: Bayreuth is the Wagner city par excellence: every year it is the venue of the Richard Wagner Festival, which takes place in the Festival Hall built according to the designs of the composer himself and which is the goal of Wagner pilgrims from all over the world. Since Wahnfried, Wagner’s former villa is now being fully restored, Bayreuth has been able to mount only an exhibition taken over from Lübeck on Thomas Mann and Wagner entitled Liebe ohne Glauben (i.e., Love without Faith) in the new City Hall (14.7.2013–28.8.2013). In co-production with Leipzig, however, Wagner’s early operatic works – The Fairies, The Ban on Love and Rienzi – can be seen at the Oberfrankenhalle. Even Leubald, the sprawling dramatic debut of the fifteen year-old Wagner, will be performed in the factory courtyard of the long-standing piano manufacturer Steingraeber. In the Wagner anniversary concert in the Festival Hall on May 22nd, Christian Thielemann will conduct various pieces, including the first act of The Valkyrie. The Ring accompanying programme comprises The “Ring” in One Evening, The “Ring” for Two Pianos, The Ring as a three-dimensional live radio play and Fritz Lang’s silent film The Nibelungen with live music. Wagner’s work beyond his music dramas will also be reflected in numerous concerts and lectures spread over the entire year.