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Subject: Re: The most influential opera to impact our own time is (long)
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Sat, 27 Jan 2018 13:21:21 -0500
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With apologies for length - a lot of thought went into this response knowing this is NOT 
"required reading."  

Mr. Camner wrote:

1.  “Sorry to say . . . Tristan und Isolde . . . for such a famous work, such a titanic and 
incomparably gorgeous masterwork, it is remarkably scarce in live performances these 
days.”

RESPONSE: The past season Tristan received 30 some odd productions – 14 of them brand, 
spanking new, most of them well received.  That is not “remarkably scarce.”

Wagner’s influence is felt not only in music but in popular culture (as Mr. Camner noted, 
then questioned):  not only In classical music, but also in popular music running the gamut 
from rock’n roll through the various types of metal, e.g., speed, grindcore, black, death, 
heavy, etc
 

2.  “How many subsequent works carried on or imitated Tristan und Isolde? 

RESPONSE:  Most of them.  Too many composers to list felt the influence of Wagner, 
whether they "imitated" Tristan (not the point) or not.  The influence of Strauss is 
undeniable, likewise Massenet, Pfitzner, Zemlinsky, and that influence was felt far beyond 
the opera-house, extending into purely symphonic works by guys named Mahler, Elgar, 
Bruckner, Vaughan Williams, . . .  

3.  Maybe that deadly box office poison bore Pelleas et Melisande? (Talk about a road to 
nowhere).”

RESPONSE:   “Pelleas” bad rap is a uniquely American phenomenon.  Outside of the U.S. it 
continues to be produced regularly, attracts audiences, and from June 2016 to July 2018 it 
will have seen 33 productions – 14 of them new and none of them in the United States 
(save a single concert performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Productions from 
Europe on streaming devices and BluRay/DVD sales as well as recordings – including the 
classic 1941 Desormiere EMI (still the best) continue to sell remarkably well, particularly for 
“poison.”  

4.  “We are a long way from the days when major writers like Bernard Shaw and Willa 
Cather passionately wrote about Wagner and operas like Tristan und Isolde.”

RESPONSE:  Indeed, Cather and Shaw wrote passionately, but that does not imply 
“frequently” and opera remains intriguing enough of a plot device that a number of good 
authors still find it fascinating enough to serve their stories.:  “The Venice Adriana” – “Death 
at La Fenice” – “Flying Dutch” – “La Divina,”  One of my favorite short stories of recent 
vintage (though not particularly “short”) is Mark Helprin’s brilliant “Il Colore Ritrovato” from 
“The Pacific and Other Stories.”  It is the tale of a hapless bookkeeper who, upon hearing 
the stunning voice of a half-witted laundress, becomes an impresario and turns her into the 
greatest living soprano of her time.  A delightfully slightly acerbic, wistful story beautifully 
relayed (as are the others in the collection). 

Additionally, Wagner continues to be one of the most written about composers with his 
Tristan, in particular, frequently taking a starring role.

5.  “What are the traditional operas that really matter to the general public today? I would 
suggest that even La Boheme is rapidly losing its once iron clad box office appeal.”

RESPONSE:  Where?   In professional productions alone (not to mention colleges, 
conservatories, amateur companies, etc.) La Boheme is scheduled to receive 212 
performances in 49 productions in 46 cities – just over the next three months.  Three 
months.  It’s not going anywhere, friends.  

Even the controversial “Boheme in Space” production at the Paris Opera, after its opening 
night “hiss ‘n boo” debacle, met with rapturous audiences and nearly every other 
performance of the rest of the run was sold out.  Many on this list – most of whom did not 
even see it – decried that Puccini was skewered or slaughtered. 

Wagner's influence is felt not only in music but in popular culture (as Mr. Camner noted,), 
not only classical music, but also in popular music running the gamut from regular ol’ rock’n 
roll through the various types of metal, e.g., speed, grindcore, black, death, thrash, 
metalcore, heavy, etc. I'd say that's a far reaching influence as one could ever hope to 
have.

p.

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