8686395

I was whiling away a Saturday morning listening to Wagner's first finished opera, Die Feen — in preparation for my next book, Wagnerism, I'm going through the operas one by one — when a loud D-minor chord in Act II stopped me short. Namely, this:

Arindal, a king in love with the fairy Ada, has been put to a test: he must not curse his beloved, no matter what horrors she appears to have committed. When Ada seems to hurl their children into a flaming abyss, he fails. "Verruchtes Weib, sei denn verflucht!" he cries. "Wicked woman, you are cursed!" To symbolize this unfortunate turn of events, the harmony lurches from F-sharp major to D minor, an alarming sequence because the two chords have no notes in common. At the age of twenty, Wagner is already beginning to discover his characteristic harmonic wizardry. I thought of the Tarnhelm motif, among other eerie combinations of chords. But I also thought of this:

"Du bist verflucht!": Jochanaan's curse in Strauss's Salome. The lurch this time is from F major (or F dominant seventh) to C-sharp minor — different chords, same major-third plunge. Moreover, the voicing of the curse is remarkably similar:

Verflucht
What are the chances that Strauss not only knew but remembered in detail this long-neglected early opera of Wagner? As it happens, pretty good; when Die Feen had its belated world premiere, in Munich, in 1888, the young Richard Strauss conducted the rehearsals. "Wagner's lion's paw is already quite strong," he remarked.

Recordings: 1) Linda Esther Gray and John Alexander, with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Orfeo 062 833; 2) José van Dam, with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, EMI 67159. The parts for the 1888 premiere can be viewed here.

7 years ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
24 May 2011
23 May 2011
21 May 2011
21 May 2011
19 May 2011
18 May 2011
17 May 2011
17 May 2011
15 May 2011
14 May 2011
InstantEncore