Wagner, Who Wanted Merely Everything

wagner_richard_small.jpgBy JOSEPH HOROWITZ [NY Times, 16 April 2006]
THE relationship of music and drama, note and word, is a central quandary in opera. Which comes first? Richard Wagner, in his writings and stagings both, insisted on treating singing as a kind of heightened speech. He was not immune to beautiful tone, but it was not his main concern. For the first “Ring of the Nibelungs,” at his 1876 Bayreuth Festival, his last advice to his singers included the charge: “Distinctness! The big notes will take care of themselves; the little notes and the text are the chief things.”