Explore the thrilling world of opera and its component parts in our series of podcasts, produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.
Thinking with Opera 07: Paul Mason and Frank Finlay on Parsifal
46:16“What is the tension between this ugly ideology, the beauty of the music, and the agony of the man producing it?”The final podcast of our trilogy focusing on Wagner's epic last opera is a wide-ranging, unflinching discussion between the journalist, writer and filmmaker Paul Mason and Professor Frank Finlay of the University of Leeds.Paul traces the composer’s changing philosophical viewpoints, from his early identification with the Young Hegelians and Ludwig Feuerbach, to the later influence of Arthur Schopenhauer and Buddhism on the themes of suffering and enlightenment through compassion in Parsifal, as well as the more baneful influence of the racial theorist Arthur de Gobineau.Wagner’s antisemitism is discussed in the context of his works and the problems it presents for their audiences. Another tension – between the composer’s anti-modernist, proto-fascist sympathies, and the radicalism in his music – is identified.Parsifal is put in the context of Wagner’s oeuvre as a whole, in particular the Ring cycle and Die Meistersinger, illuminated throughout by Paul and Frank’s deep but complex engagement with the works.Excerpts of the cast, Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North in rehearsals for the 2022 concert staging of Parsifal are heard throughout.Thinking with Opera is produced by the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.
Thinking with Opera 06: Parsifal with Alex Ross and Dr. Áine Sheil
50:26In the second of three episodes focusing on Wagner's epic final opera, New Yorker critic and author of Wagnerism and The Rest is Noise Alex Ross and Dr. Áine Sheil of the University of York discuss gender, sexuality and ritual in Parsifal, and in Richard Wagner’s work as a whole.The multi-faceted character of Kundry – ‘Wandering Jew’, mother, seductress – is unpicked, and ambiguous readings of the brotherhood of the Grail Knights are offered.Parsifal’s enduring mystery and power is seen through the disparate audiences for its early performances – from American debutantes sent to Bayreuth for their self-improvement, to gay men and women attracted by an atmosphere of acceptance unknown in the wider society of the time.Finally, there are close readings of the music itself: an echo from Wagner's 1868 opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the ‘androgyny’ of his scoring for orchestra, his experiments with instrumentation and tonality, and the astonishing ‘music of collapse’ in the Grail Procession in Act III. Excerpts from Parsifal recorded at the dress rehearsal for Opera North's 2022 concert staging are featured throughout.Introduced and chaired by Professor Frank Finlay of the University of Leeds.Thinking with Opera is produced by the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.
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Thinking with Opera 04: Simon Armitage and Gavin Bryars on Words and Music
1:10:07Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and composer Gavin Bryars in expansive conversation about their respective art forms, and what happens when they are brought together.Chaired by Dr Kimberly Campanello, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds, it’s a wide-ranging and warm conversation, illuminated by good humour and the two artists’ evident delight in discovering each other’s work in more detail.They discuss the pleasures and perils of crossing between the two disciplines, with reference to specific works by themselves and others. Excerpts from their recordings are woven throughout, including tracks by Armitage’s post rock/ambient outfit LYR, and Bryars’ extraordinary, influential 1971 work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.
Thinking with Opera 03: Thomas Adès and Operas of Confinement
50:02How do music, plot, staging, action, dance and performance combine to produce meaning for an opera audience?Taking a close look at Thomas Adès's The Tempest, Professor Edward Venn of the University of Leeds and choreographer and director Aletta Collins – who choreographed the opera's premiere in 2004 – explore the conversation between different elements in opera.They also consider the notions of confinement and restricted movement in all three of Adès's operas: The Tempest, Powder Her Face (1995), and The Exterminating Angel (2016), which take on a new significance in the COVID-era.Musical excerptsOverture from The Tempest: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Thomas Adès, from the 2009 EMI release The Tempest‘Five Fathoms Deep’ from The Tempest: Cyndia Sieden with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Thomas Adès, from the 2009 EMI release The TempestOverture A Midsummer Night's Dream, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, from the 1985 Deutsche Grammophon release Mendelssohn: 5 Symphonies / 7 Overtures'When I Am Laid In Earth' from rehearsals for Opera North’s 2013 production of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas. Pamela Helen Stephen with the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Wyn Davies‘Dov'è Minnie?’ from rehearsals for Opera North’s 2014 production of Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. Bonaventura Bottone as Nick, Robert Hayward as Jack Rance and the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North conducted by Richard Farnes
Thinking with Opera 02: Carnivalesque
1:03:01From Monteverdi to Monty Python, cross-dressing, gross-out humour and a preoccupation with the grotesque seems to offer a release from the constrictions of moral codes and social conventions. A familiar face on the Opera North stage, tenor Daniel Norman takes a trip into transgression in the company of Alan O'Leary, Professor of Film and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Drawing on the theories of philosopher and critic Mikhail Bakhtin, they discuss “the licence to misbehave” in opera, film and performance; the liberating effect of the Carnivalesque in the arts; and its unforeseen consequences. Warning: this podcast features frank discussion of bodily functions! Produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds
Thinking with Opera 01: Performing Violence
1:01:07“In cinema you are a spectator; in opera you are present. I’m fascinated by the notion that we witness in opera: we have to endure.” Ranging from Ancient Greece to The Godfather, and focusing on the operas of Puccini and Verdi, the renowned art historian Professor Griselda Pollock discusses how violence is represented in painting, sculpture, film and literature, how it is performed in opera, and its implications. The first podcast in a series exploring the world of opera and its component parts, produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds. Excerpts from Opera North’s 2018 production of Madama Butterfly featuring Anne Sophie Duprels as Cio-Cio-San, Ann Taylor as Suzuki, Merūnas Vitulskis as Pinkerton and the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Martin Pickard. Excerpt from Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Rahbari, Naxos Records.