Kent Nagano: back in the NTR Saturday Matinee
After years of absence, Kent Nagano returns to the Matinee. And immediately with two operas: Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner, and, at the end of this season, The Snow Queen by Hans Abrahamsen. It shows the broad qualities of the conductor. He is a champion of the new music, and at the same time he calls Beethoven his favourite composer, just as Wagner did.
Nagano and the 'authentic' Wagner
Kent Nagano was born on 22 November 1951, in California, on the name day of St Cecilia. He first wanted to become a diplomat, but - fortunately for us - chose music. He is General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Staatsoper Hamburg and the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, and Honorary Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin. Previously, he was chief conductor at the Bayerische Staatsoper, where he commissioned, for example, Jörg Widmann's mega-opera Babylon, which the Matinee brought to the Netherlands in 2017.
On 20 November 2021, Kent Nagano will conduct Wagner 's Das Rheingold. The performance is part of a long-term project around the complete opera cycle Der Ring de Nibelungen that the conductor and the early music ensemble Concerto Köln have initiated. Can the opera be heard again as the composer envisaged it? How did the orchestra sound? How did Wagner conduct himself?
While Wagner was working on Der Ring des Nibelungen, numerous inventors were busy making musical instruments. Especially the brass instruments, but also the woodwinds and strings were remodelled. Wagner even had new instruments built in order to achieve his intended effects. Many of those instruments from the mid-nineteenth century have now been reconstructed, and the musicians of Concerto Köln learned to play them again. Nagano, now in his seventies, felt like a child again when he immersed himself in this: suddenly he saw how 'unusual' - to our present ears - a Wagner orchestra can sound.
In cooperation with scientists, the conductor and ensemble also studied the articulation and pronunciation of German. Wagner, the composer from Leipzig, always insisted: "Sing good German": "Wer g nicht van ch unterschieden vermag, ist ein undeutscher Barbar". But, what was good German in Wagner's performance? Saxon, Prussian, the pronunciation of Hanover? Is there a standard German? To what extent does the language of theatre, teachers' German, radio German or singing German differ from the German at the Stammtisch? How does one keep the language - Wagner considered himself a poet too - intelligible on the opera stage? Can you say something about the way of singing in Wagner's time? The British music critic George Bernard Shaw was not very enthusiastic when he heard Parsifal ten years after Wagner's death in the Bavarian Wagner-Walhalla Bayreuth: "The bass bellowed, the tenor balked, the baritone sang off-key, and the soprano - if she let herself be tempted to sing at all - yawned. Was this Wagner, as Wagner had imagined? Probably not: intelligibility and understanding of the text were central to him, and in his writings he stated his ideal: Italian legato singing.
"Das Rheingold now has a very different sound to what we are used to," Kent Nagano said of the project. "I am sure that after this we will never play and sing Wagner as before." Be there when he tries to make Wagner sound like 'authentic' Wagner on 20 November 2021!
NTR Saturday Matinee 20 November 2021
Kent Nagano conductor
Derek Welton bass-baritone (Wotan)
Johannes Kammler baritone (Donner)
Julian Prégardien tenor (Loge)
Stefanie Irányi mezzo-soprano (Fricka)
Sarah Wegener soprano (Freia)
Gerhild Romberger mezzo-soprano (Erda)
Dimitry Ivashchenko bass (Fafner)
Carina Schmieger Soprano (Woglinde)
Ida Aldrian mezzo-soprano (Wellgunde)
Eva Vogel mezzo-soprano (Flosshilde)
Wagner - Das Rheingold