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March 2013
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Wagner at 200: “Rienzi”

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Hear it tonight at 8:00 PM on The Tuesday Night Opera.

“No subsequent experience has given me feelings even remotely similar to those I had on this day of the first performance of Rienzi. The only too well-founded anxiety as to their success has so dominated my feelings at all subsequent first performances of my works that I could never really enjoy them or take much notice of the way the audience was behaving.[...] The initial success of Rienzi was no doubt assured beforehand. But the uproarious way in which the public declared its partiality for me was extraordinary … The public had been forcibly predisposed to accept it, because everyone connected with the theater had been spreading such favorable reports … that the entire population was looking forward to what was heralded as a miracle … In trying to recall my condition that evening, I can remember it only as possessing all the features of a dream.”

–Richard Wagner

The Overture to Rienzi has become a fairly popular piece, but what about the rest of it? For many Wagnerites, Rienzi is the earliest work by Wagner that bubbles to the surface of recollection, though far fewer have actually heard it. Rienzi has plenty in it that points to the kind of composer he would become. It has the grandiose g-force that sets the heart racing, not to mention originally lasting over six hours. But don’t forget, chronologically, this is already the third opera (Die Feen was the first, followed by Das Liebesverbot). Hear Rienzi tonight at 8:00 PM on the Tuesday night opera hosted by WFMT’s Program Director Peter van de Graaff. Tonight’s broadcast lasts 3 1/2 hours and is part of a year-long celebration of Wagner at 200.

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