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A Festival for Wagner

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Götterdämmerung, Tuesday at 7:00 PM

On the the Tuesday Night Opera, our celebration of the Wagner 200th continues with Götterdämmerung, a conception so epic inside the composer’s own head (namely The Death of Siegfried), he was driven to construct three prequels, and a custom-designed opera house to stage them all.

The composition of Götterdämmerung began in 1848, after the completion of Lohengrin. Working backwards (evidently the cyclical pull of the ring was already at work on the composer himself), Wagner kept feeling the tug to expand the backstory, first with the tale of young Siegfried, then the story of his parents and future bride, and finally back to Das Rheingold, which he began composing in 1851. Wagner had wanted to withhold all of them until the four were completed, but was pressured by his anxious financial backers to show what he’d done. Hence the first two in the cycle were premiered years before the later operas and the facility at Bayreuth were completed. The Ring Cycle opened the Bayreuth Festival in August of 1876, with the final two, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung being seen for the first time.

Bayreuth Festival, 1882

Bayreuth Festival, 1882

The subsequent history of the Bayreuth Festival and its relationship to Wagner’s descendants could fill another four operas; a story for another time.

The Tuesday Night Opera features a production of Götterdämmerung from the 1951 Bayreuth Festival with Hans Knappertsbusch conducting.

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