A highlight of the Wagner Society's 14 - 17 May long weekend in Aldeburgh, devoted to discussion and analysis of productions of the Ring cycle in London since the 1960s, was the presentation to Antonio Pappano of the Reginald Goodall Award by Dame Gwyneth Jones, President of the Wagner Society.
Pappano was clearly moved by the tribute and by the enthusiasm of a packed Jubilee Hall, as he spoke of the legacy of Sir Reginald Goodall and the Wagner tradition that he had done so much to maintain.
Earlier in the afternoon, Michael Portillo chaired a panel discussion about Wagner production, particularly the Ring cycle, and drew fascinating thoughts from Sir John Tomlinson and from Keith Warner, director of the current ROH Ring which will be revived under Pappano in a couple of years. Asked about the challenges of the week-long Ring in performance, Pappano answered that the performances were the easy bit. The real fascination lay in the 6 - 8 week rehearsal period, with day after day being spent on huge sections of all four operas split into their rehearsable sections. Warner made much of the collaborative nature of his ROH Ring: the endless hours with Pappano, finding deep within the music and text the aspects of the work they sought to bring out.
Warner also explained how it was that Daniel Liebeskind, who was to have designed the current production, simply became overwhelmed by other projects and proved unable to devote personal attention to the Ring - and so Stefan Lazarides took over.
Quote of the day probably came from Pappano, talking about the qualities he sought to bring out in Wagner scores. He emphasised the energy that is to be found, the drama in the music itself and added: 'It's beautiful music, but two hours of beauty makes me sick'. Two hours of Wagner discussion in such company, with the bonus of a masterclass - sheer joy to see and hear James Rutherford being coached simultaneously by Pappano and by John Tomlinson in 'Wahn, Wahn, uberall Wahn!' and to hear Siegmund's narration and 'Walse! Walse!' take shape from Act One of Die Walkure with Andrew Rees - made none of us sick however: it was a joyous occasion.
An interview with Antonio Pappano on the new production of Lulu at Covent Garden and on his future projects is forthcoming on MusicalCriticism.com.
Photo: Antonio Pappano; Photo credits: Clive Barda.
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