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Subject: Re: RIP Jon Vickers, 7/11/2017
From: Christopher Weimer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Christopher Weimer <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 12 Jul 2017 13:41:57 -0400

text/plain (71 lines)

This is what Vickers said in a 1993 interview in Opera News (available in
the online archives), however it might illuminate the question:

Vickers is alluding to his near-experience with Wagner's antihero, one of a
handful of scandals over the course of his controversial career. In 1977
Covent Garden and the Met planned new productions of the opera with Vickers,
his first time in the role. "I studied Tannhäuser for thirteen months, and I
was working in my home here in Bermuda at the piano. I'd come home from
Dallas and had the whole role memorized except for the Rome narrative, so I
decided to go to work on that. I came out in the kitchen and said, 'I just
hate it!' My wife said, 'Well then, you're a fool. People are offering so
many things you want to do. Why do you have to take this on -- just because
it's another thing to add?' So I canceled, and then of course everybody said
I lost my nerve and couldn't sing the role. The bottom line is that I
wouldn't sing Tannhäuser, because it attacks the very basis of my Christian
faith. The arrogance of Tannhäuser, the self-pitying arrogance of the guy,
the superiority of his believing that everybody else walked with shoes and
he walked in the ice and snow with his bare feet -- oh, my gosh, I just
puked trying to learn it. I simply couldn't swallow that crap!

"I can't stand Wagnerian philosophy," he continues. "A lot of people ask,
'Why did you sing these roles?' And I say, 'Do you think I could stand here
and criticize Wagner if I couldn't sing him? Do you think I could criticize
the philosophy of Wagner if I couldn't sing his music?'" Asked just what he
finds offensive in the Wagnerian psyche, Vickers readily responds. "Oh, it's
his concept that if you demonstrated you are a superior person, then you're
not tied to conventional morality, so you can establish your own morality.
At the end was Hitler's death camps and the degradation to which man can
sink. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wagner and Freud all led to Hitler."

Vickers admits that in playing both Parsifal (which he has called
"blasphemous") and Tristan he had to make do with a "certain amount of
rationalization. I don't think Tristan is a nice person, and I don't think
Isolde is, either. I ignored what he was doing to his own reputation, what
Isolde was doing to herself and what the two of them as human beings were
doing to themselves. Wagner's answer, of course, is that their love was so
great that it was beyond all human morality, and this would be rewarded in
the afterlife, although his picture of the afterlife as painted by Tristan
is nothing but blackness. I have no time for suicide. What a coward! You
can't face the shame, and so you not only kill yourself, you ask her to
follow you. It's ludicrous!"

On Wed, 12 Jul 2017 13:18:26 -0400, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>

>Vickers remains one of the most intense, moving, distinctive artists I've
>experienced in 40+ years of opera going. "Incomparable" comes to mind if I
>try to think of his equal today.  Given some of the roles he did sing,
>Herod, Nero, the incestuous Siegmund  I do wonder why his spiritual
>sensibilities were so dainty when it came to Tannhauser - who unlike some
>of the others was at least "redeemed" in the end.  It might be that his
>technical doubts  of getting through it  (age?  the fear of taking on a new
>role later in his career?) gave birth to the religious conviction that
>caused him to cancel?  I'm not at all religious, but have to admit it does
>come in handy for these sorts of things...

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