an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Dresden sticks two fingers at Richard Wagner in his birthday week

On 22 May 2013, the great composer’s 200th birthday, the Semper opera house in Dresden, where he was music director for seven formative years (1842-49), will be performing…. Swan Lake, followed by Cenerentola. Neat touch – don’t you think? – to be doing ballet, which Wagner hated, followed by Italian opera.

Even neater, Dresden has chosen that selfsame week to put on an opera that Wagner deplored, both for its tremendous success and for its subject matter. On May 12 and again on May 20, the Semper Oper will perform La Juive by Jacques Fromental Halévy, the first grand opera with a Jewish heroine.

la juive

In fact, the anti-semitic Wagner drew a clear blue line between Halévy’s epic and other ‘present-day Jewish operas’ Cosima’s diaries, 24, May 1875). He was also quite fond of the composer. ‘I liked him very much,’ he told Cosima (17 January 1880). ‘He had a yearning, sensual character, but lazy’. There are suspicions that ine of the Meistersingers themes is lifted from La Juive.

Be that as it may, it is both quaint at witty for Dresden to revive La Juive in the Wagner’s bicenenntial month. Whose idea was it? The music director’s, I guess. That’s Christian Thielemann, whom many Germans regard as the greatest living Wagnerian. He must have a sense of humour. I’m really tempted now to see that production of La Juive.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Well, Barenboim opened the Teatro La Scala 2013 Verdi celebration season with… Lohengrin.
    And he is the first musical director there who has never performed a Verdi (let alone italian) opera as season opener.
    So I guess there is some justice after all.

  2. Lord Montague says:

    Could be also the humour of Dresden Opera director Eytan Pessen? Thielemann was only a stripe at the horizon when Pessen was in charge of planning the season 2012/13. Or if this season was earlier still planned with Fabio Luisi at the helm, maybe he sneaked in Verdi on Wagner’s BD?

  3. The more interesting question might be why Eytan Pessen, the Operndirektor, quit yesterday…

  4. Sorry, Norman, you are aboslutely wrong about Wagner and Halevy’s ‘La Juive’ . He loved it…..e.g. ‘The intelligent use of brass instruments by Halevy in ‘La Juive’ is of true historical importance’….etc. etc. And he nicked some ideas form the staging for ‘Mastersingers’. Anyweay it’s a better opera than ‘Rienzi’, Wagner’s debut at Dresden…..

    • Exactly as I have written.

      • I am a little confused by what you wrote above. You say that “Dresden has chosen that selfsame week to put on an opera that Wagner deplored, both for its tremendous success and for its subject matter” but then you also say that Wagner liked both the opera and the composer himself.

  5. Clearly, Dresden is continuing its attacks on the “good Wagner”, the one that joined and help lead the rebellion of 1848. They could at least perform Rienzi!

    • Galen Johnson says:

      On the other hand, Thielemann conducts Wagner 200th birthday concerts with the Staatskapelle on May 18 and 21, the latter with Jonas Kaufmann.

  6. For those that cannot sift through the German-language articles on the website of the Semperoper, here is a short, if late, feedback. The Semperoper is a repertoire house that regularily performs numerous Wagner operas each season, so celebrating the composer’s birthday on his birthdate with a Wagner opera does not necessarily make immediate artistic sense. Certainly the Staatskapelle, with two birthday concerts fill that duty admirably anyway. As for the opera department, we chose to give the opera-going public a chance to experience and re-examine Wagner’s Dresden era, the 1840′s period in which he was active in the city, living a street away from his beloved theatre and orchestra. Thus we will be perfoming a new production of The Flying Dutchman and combining that with Halevy’s La Juive and Spontini’s La Vestale – two operas that occupied Wagner’s thoughts while in Dresden, operas important to his artistic development. All three will be perfomed in repertoire as well as back to back in a mini-series: June 30th, July 1 & 2, and July 6, 7, & 8. If that is considered sticking two fingers at Richard Wagner, I’ll take the compliment.
    Best wishes,
    Eytan Pessen
    Operndirektor, Semperoper Dresden

  7. Rienzi was good fun in the Nicholas Hytner produttion at ENO, but it’s not in the ‘La Juive’ class – although von Bulow I think said that ‘Rienzi’ was Meyerbeer’s greatest opera…….

an ArtsJournal blog