Wednesday 31 December 2008

Christian Thielemann

Christian Thielemann


Christian Thielemann, German conductor. Born 1959 in Berlin.
This post will focus on Christian Thielemann´s work in opera.

Education: After studying viola and piano in Berlin, in 1978 Christian Thielemann started as korrepetiteur and conductor at smaller German opera houses as well as working as an assistant to colleagues such as Herbert von Karajan (from 1981 in Berlin and Salzburg) and Daniel Barenboim (Bayreuth in the 1990´s).

1985-8 Thielemann was guest conductor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein before becoming Musical Director of the Nürnberg Opera 1988-92, at which point the Nürnberg Opera chose not to renew his contract due him allegedly spending too little time in Nürnberg. Whether true or not, Thielemann´s international career did take off during these years with several important debuts such as his American debut 1991-2 with Elektra in San Francisco and a much-praised Metropolitan Opera debut with Rosenkavalier in 1993, returning several times to the Met, most notably with a much-celebrated Die Frau ohne Schatten in 2001.

1997-2004 Christian Thielemann served as Musical Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, which he left after a much-publicized controversy over funding to become Music Director of the Munich Philharmonics in 2004, a post he held until 2011, where he stepped down over equally much-publicized disputes regarding funding and choice of soloists. From 2012 he will become chief conductor of the Sächsisches Staatskapelle Dresden.

The major events in Christian Thielemann´s operatic career until now have probably been his triumphant 2000 Bayreuth debut with Meistersinger as well as the 2006 Bayreuth Ring and his universally acclaimed performances of Tristan (2004), Parsifal (2006,8) and Meistersinger (2008) at the Vienna State Opera.

In recent years Thielemann has collaborated extensively with Renée Fleming, resulting in several recordings such as Rosenkavalier (DVD from Baden-Baden 2009) and an album of Strauss songs (2008).

Christian Thielemann is an exclusive recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon and currently performs with all major orchestras, most frequently with the Vienna Philharmonics resulting in a DVD-released complete series of Beethoven Symphonies (2010-11).

Thielemann has polarized audiences as few other conductors, but he is without doubt among the most talented conductors today, and many considered him the worlds foremost Wagner conductor together with Daniel Barenboim.

Christian Thielemann has a reputation as an outspoken cultural conservative, based on his opposition to advanced Regietheater as well as his dislike for political correctness, keen historical interest as well as committing himself to a very narrow repertoire of German romantic composers.

Christian Thielemann on certain aspects of Regietheater:

"It is very interesting that in the word regietheater there is no mention of music. Obviously it is not necessary. There is too much happening on stage and it is so interesting that you forget there was an aria, or you say, 'Oh my God, she is singing!"

In many modern stagings you are not sure what piece you see. Often you could play Sommergäste, Wozzeck, Anna Bolena or Labiche´s Sparschwein in the same staging.
However, some aspects of Regietheater, he finds essential:

"This move [hiring Schlingensief and Lars von Trier to stage Parsifal and The Ring in Bayreuth] proves that Wolfgang Wagner is cunning. He has understood that provocative iconoclasts like Peter Konwitschny and Hans Neuenfels come a point at which their work is repetitive. Now it is time for someone to pursue new ideas, to place Wagner in new contexts. And perhaps it is even good that Schlingensief and von Trier do not come from the opera world. I am sure that both will proceed very conscientiously and with great reverence."

Thielemann on society in general and his image as a "conservative":

"The luxury of freedom is a major problem" .." we have to remember values and boundaries. We find ourselves in a spiral, leading to nowhere. In television or in Regietheater everything is now possible. What is then to follow? Everything not prohibited by law has been done. But why?
What does it mean to be conservative? Conservative means to conserve. And that I am happy to these fast-paced times, many people need to belong. To have a home. Me as well. That doesn´t mean that you are reactionary.
We live in very politically correct times. How counterproductive is that for the art? It is counterproductive, if you are afraid of daring and subsequently marginalization.
I am as non-ideological as possible. Ideologies do not interest me.

Privately, he "collects books on Prussian architecture and art. Also etchings and engravings. And I would also like to have the time to see the Prussian palaces and parks". Thielemann is very historically conscious especially regarding German history with an particulary interest in Friedrich the Great, whose portrait hangs in his office: "His toughness, sense of duty, but also his sensitivity fascinates me"."These are the exact qualities a conductor needs".
In 2000, Christian Thielemann was involved in a rather unpleasant controversy surrounding the Berlin opera houses, in which he was rumoured to have characterized the potential departure of Daniel Barenboim as "the end of the Jewish mess in Berlin" (exact words: Jetzt hat die Juderei in Berlin ein Ende ).
The combination of Christian Thielemann´s unease expressing himself in interviews with his above-mentioned private and musical interests, led to rumours of nationalism and antisemitism. However, Christian Thielemann has vehemently denied these accusations, as well as accusations of nationalism, even taking the accusators to court.
Says Barenboim: "I believe Christian Thielemann as long as there is no concrete evidence against him. We are not rivals. I care much about him". Christian Thielemann has never publicly been quoted for anything remotely nationalistic.

All of the above points towards the same conclusion: That Christian Thielemann may be a cultural conservative, but nothing further, though perhaps not even extensively conservative, all things considered.

Christian Thielemann - on conducting:
I admire colleagues such as Welser-Möst, who may run an orchestra in the US as well as the Vienna State Opera simultaneously. I couldn´t do that.

I conduct 70 evenings a year. That is enough. I also have a private life and other interests. I don´t want to only make music.
I am very much a rehearsal conductor!

The life of an artist is a dogs life.
No, conducting has nothing to do with power. It is a tremendous responsibility, in which it may be hard find flexibility. And, of course, it is tremendous fun. But it is not about power.

I don´t want to surprise at all. I would like people to accept me as I am.
[Furtwängler´s] Beethoven Nine in 1942 with the Berlin Philharmonic cannot be bettered. Either you have to give up conducting or you have to acknowledge that someone has done it in a near-perfect way.[biggest wish for the future]: Good nerves. The further you get, the bigger the pressure of the expectations. You have to be able to handle that.

[Heinz Tietjen] was a man who didn't worry too much about his appearance. Poker-faced, austere, almost pallid. At the same time, he was an incomparable rogue. That fascinates me..I would like to be just a bit like that. So that I wouldn't get so upset.

[on attending Christoph Schlingensief´s Wagner-rally in the Ruhr-district]: No, Christoph send me an SMS asking if I´d come, but unfortunately I didn´t have time. As far as I know, the first prize was a ticket for the Bayreuth Festival - and there I already have a rather good seat.


When you hear a Wagner opera for the first time at the age of 13-14 and are blown away, it marks you for life. When I wanted to conduct such operas, when I was 20, the Intendants said: "But, Mr. Thielemann, that is for the older colleagues". Eventually, I was allowed to take over the Tristan in the Berghaus-staging in Hamburg and from this moment I was repeatedly offered Wagner. I have to admit, that my fascination with Wagner has not diminished. There is something narcotic in this music. And then, as I am virtually the only in my generation who conducts so much Wagner, I was affixed with a Wagner-label, which has remained. I can live with that.

During the 1990´s, Christian Thielemann worked as an assistant to Daniel Barenboim in Bayreuth (Tristan and Isolde), making a triumphant debut at the Bayreuth Festival in 2000 with Meistersinger. Since then, Christian Thielemann has appeared every year in Bayreuth, conducting Meistersinger 2000-2, Parsifal 2001, Tannhäuser 2002-5 and a much praised Nibelungen Ring (2006-11). Christian Thielemann had looked forward to the collaboration with Lars von Trier on the 2006 Bayreuth Ring visiting Trier several times in Copenhagen: "His concept evolved around the ultimate reduction. That appealed very much to me". In the end von Trier cancelled, and Tankred Dorst directed.
In 2012 he will conduct the new production of the Flying Dutchman 
As part of his prepatations, Christian Thielemann meticulously researches the background of the works he conducts. From the Director of the Richard Wagner National Archive in Bayreuth:
Christian Thielemann was here very often because he is somebody who deals very seriously with the musicological world. He sometimes looks into the handwritten scores to compare the printed score he uses for conducting, to check that it is correct. For example, when he conducted Tannhäuser, I suggested to him that he could include a special English horn solo which has never been performed before, because Wagner eliminated it from the score before the printing. Thielemann was fascinated by this solo, and he used it.
Christian Thielemann on the various editions of Wagner´s scores:

The complete edition of Richard Wagner's works has a decisive disadvantage: you have to turn way too many pages. I've ordered some old Schott scores, three from the 1930s, from before the war, and one from the postwar period. Those are real editions! Have you seen the new one? Greyish notes on yellowish hectographed paper with a chemical smell! Appalling! The annoying thing is that all of the Festspielhaus scores were stolen in 1945. I'd give a lot to be able to work with Heinz Tietjens' notations.

On conducting in Bayreuth:

It's such a tremendous honour to conduct the "Ring" at Bayreuth. What can possibly follow that: The Ring in Bayreuth!
Thielemann is a close collaborator of Katharina Wagner, with whom he made a successful bid for Bayreuth Festival leadership, effective from 2008. The role of Thielemann in Bayreuth is uncertain as of now, though he may in effect serve as music director of the Bayreuth Featival:"That I shall have a more important function than that of mere guest conductor is certain. What this function shal contain, we shall see" . For future Bayreuth seasons he plans to conduct the new Flying Dutchmann in 2012 and a new production of Tristan and Isolde in 2015. He will not, by his own admission, conduct the 2013 Bayreuth Ring celebrating the bicentennial of Richard Wagner´s birth. The current Bayreuth Nibelungen Ring is to be released on CD in 2009.
Apart from Bayreuth, Christian Thielemann has only conducted opera in Vienna (the aforementioned Tristan and Parsifal as well as Meistersinger, all triumphantly received) in recent seasons. Both the Tristan and especially the 2006 Parsifal performances were released on CD (see below), and are among the finest in history.

On Parsifal:
What really happens in the first Act (of Parsifal)? Nothing - an it takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. The action: A dead swan is carried across the state and we see some old men suffer. On TV this would have been covered in 10 seconds. But in opera we are forced to go through a physical-spiritual process of concentration.
On Tristan:Wagner can become toxic. You really have to give yourself up the music. But what happens afterwards? That's why I've decided to decline all "Tristans" for the time being. I can't endure the piece any more, it just wears me out. I have to avoid things that bore right into me. That's why I'm having so much fun with the "Ring:" It bores in, but not only that.
Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, Vienna Philharmonics 2003:

Christian Thielemann concentrates on a very narrow range of romantic-late romantic German composers, in particular Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner, Pfitzner, Bruckner, Brahms and Beethoven, composers of which several are associated with Nazism.
"When I first conducted Palestrina in Nürnberg, someone said, 'This is a nationalistic piece of shit.' This score, this beautiful, beautiful piece. What has C sharp minor to do with fascism? Nothing. Does Meistersinger have anything to do with politics? Can a tonality be political?"

"If you had a Russian conductor and he conducted Russian works, you wouldn't say a word. Why do people say a word when a German conductor conducts German works ?"

"I am rooted in German culture, why should I fight against that ?"
"If people say that because you have a certain choice of repertoire, it has to be connected with your political view, it s is a sick thing. I choose the scores because I like them, and I conduct Hans Werner Henze in the same way as I do Pfitzner and Beethoven. I have done many contemporary pieces. I am not interested in what composers have eaten or what their political beliefs were. Music doesn't get better because one person was better than another person."
"Life is much too serious to be nihilistic. That is why I'm more at home with Richard Strauss than with Mahler. As I've said, I like these brilliantly playful figures who never get lost in the House of Agamemnon, but instead find their way back, as far as I'm concerned, to the lederhosen idyll of Garmisch-Partenkirchen."
Christian Thielemann sees himself as continuing the Austro-German conducting tradition of the likes of Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Böhm and Herbert von Karajan: "For me this is the highest of all possible honors" ."This sound, which set the standards of the past, the width and power has always appealed to me".Today we're familiar only with the rudiments of the tradition, or else with ill-intentioned defamations of it. Who has the confidence nowadays to use pathos, who even knows what pathos is? When the orchestra really lets it all out it very quickly sounds just loud or empty.
"I was raised in this ambience. I heard these wonderful concerts; people gave Furtwängler recordings to me and I felt at home with them, just as every Italian growing up with Italian opera feels at home with it. But you have to build the tradition anew, not just carry it on."

With the Munich Philharmonics, Christian Thielemann primarily conducts the aforementioned composers, with a current emphasis on Richard Strauss and Pfitzner.
On the podium, Christian Thielemann conducts in a very individual way (see clips below), which tends to draw attention to himself, whether intentional or not.
In my opinion, the often-quoted comparison between Furtwängler, Karajan and Thielemann is inacurrate as Christian Thielemann creates a distinctly different sound-world: Thielemann is far more glittery and with ample space than the heavy string-rubato of Furtwängler or the dense sound-world of Karajan. Occasionally I may personally feel that Thielemann aims to create superficial beauty at the expense of emotional depth. But what beauty...
No doubt, Christian Thielemann is a conductor of the Austro-German tradition. And one of the best in the world.
Final of Bruckner´s 7th symphony, Munich Philharmonics:


From 2012 he will assume his position as Chief Conductor of the Staatskapelle in Dresden.


Arabella, Metropolitan Opera 1995 (DVD)
Parsifal, Vienna State Opera 2006 (CD) Astonishing performance from Thielemann in this live-recording from the Vienna State Opera. The beauty is ethereal and for many, this is the finest recorded Parsifal in history.
Tristan and Isolde, Vienna State Opera 2004 (CD)
Vienna State Opera Gala concert (2006 - on DVD)
Meistersinger, Vienna State Opera 2008 (DVD)
Nibelungen Ring, Bayreuth 2009 (CD)
Rosenkavalier, Baden-Baden 2009 (DVD)
Elektra, Baden-Baden 2010 (DVD)
Walküre, Bayreuth 2010 (DVD)


Richard Strauss - Four last songs and opera excerpts with Renée Fleming (2008 on CD)
Mozart Requiem, Munich Philharmonics 2006
Brahms 1st Symphony and Egmont Ouverture, Munich Philharmonics 2007
Strauss: Alpensymphonie, Rosenkavalier-Suite, Vienna Philharmonics 2001
Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Die Frau ohne Schatten-Fantasie, Vienna Philharmonics 2003Richard Wagner: Ouvertures and excerpts, Philadelphia Orchestra 1998
Strauss: Lieder (with Diana Damrau) 2010 on CD


Nibelungen Ring - Bayreuth 2007 (Rheingold, Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung)
Parsifal - Vienna State Opera 2008
Beethoven and Richard Strauss concert with Renée Fleming, Munich 2008
Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Salzburg 2011


All posts on mostly opera related to Christian Thielemann
An extensive biography on Thielemann may be found via DG here.
Wikipedia biography on Christian Thielemann

Hamburg: Revival of the infamous Konwitschny Meistersinger in which the music suddenly stops in the middle of Hans Sachs monologue

Meistersinger. Hamburgische Staatsoper, December 20th 2008. Production: Peter Konwitschny. Cast: Alan Titus (Hans Sachs), Edith Haller (Eva), John Treleaven (Walther), Georg Zeppenfeld (Pogner), Jochen Schmeckenbrecher (Beckmesser), Jürgen Sacher (David), Katja Pieweck (Magdalena). Conductor: Michael Schønwandt. Further information here.

With this 2002 production of Meistersinger, Peter Konwitschny has in fact succeeded in creating a maximum of controversy with a minimum of means. As it is during the first 255 minutes of this 260 minutes opera, nothing really happens: A wooden platform is placed center-stage. The characters wear period costume. A screen projects various images of Nürnberg behind the platform. None of the characters are particularly characterized, perhaps attributable to the revival status of the production. The various interactions seemed rather uninspired.

Then, with 5 minutes to go comes Konwitschny´s coup-de theatre: In the middle of Hans Sachs´ infamous "deutsches volk" monologue, the Meistersinger suddenly start to interrupt, talking loudly between themselves. The music stops. One of the masters asks Hans Sachs if "he really knows what he is singing" and then a discussion between the various characters on the essence of being German begin. Asked whether he just couldn´t remove the phrase, Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt finally answered "in Denmark we also removed the phrase immediately after the second world war". After about 5 minutes of discussion, the music started again.

Are you really allowed to do that? Stop a performance of Meistersinger to discuss the text in front of the audience? Why not, I suppose. However, only non-Germans may wonder, whether the topic of discussion is even relevant, more than 50 years after the conclusion of the Second World War. It is highly relevant and highly controversial, even today. Now, whether there is anything inherently nationalistic in Hans Sachs monologue from the hand of Richard Wagner, I sincerely doubt. But that seems to be besides the point.

Of the singers, Edith Haller, whose Gutrune was one of the few highlights of last years Bayreuth Ring, looks like a jugendlich-dramatisch soprano star of the future. Her Eva was simply superb, especially her upper register truly shines. The other highlight was Jochen Schmeckenbrecher, for once a Beckmesser singing all the notes: No yelling or sprechgesang. Furthermore he was rather funny. Not to forget the fine Pogner from Georg Zeppenfeld.

As I am extensively familiar with usual-suspects-Wagnerians John Treleaven and Alan Titus, I can´t say they disappointed as Walther and Sachs, respectively. Which I probably would have said did I not know them. Furthermore the coordination between Michael Schønwandt and Alan Titus was appallingly poor, something I am inclined to blame Alan Titus as he repeatedly set his own tempi, which were markedly different from everyone elses.

Major applause to Michael Schønwandt, well-deserved as he is a fine conductor, with whom I am extensively familiar with as he is Chief Conductor at the Royal Danish Opera. However, I suspect the performance to have been underrehearsed as the essential flow somehow was lacking.

One of the most talked-about Wagnerian productions of the past decade. Based on a 5-minutes discussion inserted in the middle of a monologue. Rather well-done of Konwitschny. Not to forget, the topic of discussion is highly relevant.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Alan Titus: 2
Jochen Schmeckenbrecher: 4
John Treleaven: 2
Edith Haller: 5
Georg Zeppenfeld: 4
Katja Pieweck: 4
Jürgen Sacher: 4

Peter Konwitschny´s production: 3

Michael Schønwandt: 4

Overall impression: 3-4

Photo from the website of the Hamburg State Opera

Tuesday 30 December 2008

DVD: Miah Persson shines in traditional Glyndebourne Cosí fan tutte

Cosí fan tutte. Glyndebourne 2006. Production: Nicolas Hytner. Cast: Miah Persson (Fiordiligi), Anke Vondung (Dorabella), Toni Lehtipuu (Ferrando), Luca Pisaroni (Guglielmo), Ainhoa Garmandia (Despina), Nicolas Rivenq (Don Alfonso). Conductor: Ivan Fischer with the Orchestra of the age of enlightenment. Further information here.

Nicolas Hytner´s 2006 Glyndebourne production of Cosí fan Tutte is astonishingly traditional. Period costumes and period sets. Does he have any take on the work at all? It doesn´t seem so. Which according to preferences may be a liability as well as an asset.

Nevertheless (or because of this), the performance is highly entertaining, as the the acting from the young cast is superb over the entire line. But no one shines more than Miah Persson, whose portrait of Fiordiligi is first-rate as is her singing, navigating her two fiendishly difficult arias with seemingly ease. The rest were perhaps vocally not quite as impressive as Persson, Luca Pisaroni apart, but they made up for any lack of vocal characterization with superbly engaged acting. And they all looked great. That said, all sang well, though Toni Lehtipuu seemed rather anonymous as Ferrando. Especially the interaction between Miah Persson and Anke Vondung was superb and a core factor to the success of this production.

Engaged and bubbly performance from Ivan Fischer and the OAE, though it is no secret that I prefer the classic Mozartean style of the old Germans, such as may be seen in Barenboim´s Berlin Cosí fan tutte.

I would expect this production to appeal to a quite large number of customers: Those adverse to Regietheater will obviously like it, and those in favour of Regitheater will also find it entertaing, due to the superb acting.

Miah Persson and Anke Vondung: Prenderó quel brunettino:

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Miah Persson: 5
Anke Vondung: 4-5
Luca Pisaroni: 5
Toni Lehtipuu: 4-5
Ainhoa Garmandia: 5
Nicolas Rivenq: 4-5

Nicolas Hytner´s production: 3-4

Ivan Fischer: 4

Overall impression: 4

Posted on YouTube by FuzzyCerts

Monday 29 December 2008

Berlin: Man of the future Andris Nelsons conducts Turandot

Turandot. Berlin State Opera, December 20th 2008. Production: Doris Dörrie. Cast: Sylvie Valayre (Turandot), Frank Porretta (Calaf), Adriane Quieroz (Liu), Peter-Jürgen Schmidt (Altoum). Conductor: Andris Nelsons. Further information here.

German filmmaker Doris Dörrie, who previously created a hilarious Cosí fan tutte for the Berlin State Opera was invited back in 2003 with a production of Turandot, revived this season.

Doris Dörrie´s Turandot is a mix of a Japanese cartoon and Spiderman - complete with over sized puppies, pink scooters, brightly coloured rubber-suits and stage curtain depicting a tourist map of Beijing. Sit back and enjoy, but don´t think too much about it, she seems to say portraying Turandot as a hysterical Edward Scissor-hand female look-a-like. All is very colourful and looks great, though interpretatively we are on shallow water.

Of the singers, all were fine and none were great: Sylvie Valayre looks great as Turandot, though pushed to her limit, which also may be said of Frank Porretta. More disappointing was Adriane Queiroz, a simply not very appealing Líu.

The most interesting aspect of the performance was 30-year old Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, making his debut at the Berlin State Opera. Rarely have I heard the orchestra play so well without Daniel Barenboim: Energetically, with continuous flow and myriads of details, without ever retorting to empty bravado. Excellent. If he is not a man of the future, I don´t know who is.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Sylvie Valayre: 3
Frank Porretta: 3
Adriane Queiroz: 2
Peter-Jürgen Schmidt: 3

Doris Dörries staging: 4

Andris Nelsons: 5

Overall impression: 3-4

Photos @ Monika Rittershaus from the Berlin State Opera website

Thursday 25 December 2008

Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim


Daniel Barenboim, Israeli-Argentinian-(Palestinian) conductor and pianist. Born 1942 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This post will focus on Daniel Barenboim, the opera conductor.
General information including an extensive biography on may be seen on his website.

As a conductor, Daniel Barenboim is particularly reknowned for his interpretations of the works of Richard Wagner, a cornerstone in both his performance and recorded output.

Daniel Barenboim´s overall conducting debut was in 1967 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and his opera conducting debut took place in 1973 with Don Giovanni at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Daniel Barenboim´s major breakthrough as an opera conductor came in 1981 with his debut at the Bayreuth Festival conducting Tristan and Isolde. Until 2000 he appeared every year at the Bayreuth Festival, conducting Tristan und Isolde (twice on DVD), Nibelungen Ring (on DVD and CD), Parsifal (on CD) and Meistersinger (on DVD and CD).

Daniel Barenboim served as music director of the Orchestre de Paris 1975-89 and
was appointed artistic director of the Paris Bastille Opera, scheduled to open in 1989, however he resigned/was dismissed amidst major controversy before the new opera house was even inaugurated. Immediately thereafter he was named Sir Georg Solti´s successor as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as post he held 1991-2006.In 1992, Barenboim became General music director of the Berlin State Opera, a post he still holds. In 1999, he narrowly lost the bid for chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonics to Sir Simon Rattle and he has subsequently intensified his efforts in developing the Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) into a first-rate orchestra. Subsequently, in 2000, the Berlin State Opera Orchestra appointed him chief conductor for life.
In 2001, Daniel Barenboim created controversy by conducting Wagner (prelude to Tristan and Isolde) in Israel.
In 2006 he was named Principal Guest conductor (Maestro Scaligero) at La Scala, Milan, where he conducted Patrice Chéreau’s new production of Tristan und Isolde in December 2007 to glorious reviews. For the La Scala season opening in 2009 he conducted Carmen, in 2010 Walküre and in 2011 Don Giovanni.
Daniel Barenboim´s somewhat belated Metropolitan Opera debut took place in December 2008 with Tristan and Isolde.

Daniel Barenboim has appeared several times as an opera conductor at the Salzburg Festival, most notably with Don Giovanni (mid-90´s) and latest in 2007 with a highly praised production of Eugene Onegin, now released on DVD.

In 1999, Daniel Barenboim co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, with whom he has made several high-profile appearances, including a 2008 European concert tour of Walküre Act 1. In 2009, the orchestra will perform Fidelio in concert, both at the Proms and at the Salzburg Festival.
Daniel Barenboim:
I met Furtwängler when I was 11 years old. I did not have the courage and even less the understanding to talk to him about this issue. But I believe he never really identified himself with that horror. With Karajan, it was different. I summoned him and he told me: “I had artistic ambitions, I wanted to work in Germany, and for this I had to associate myself to the Nazi Party. That is what I did.
I have thought about this [Furtwängler conducting for Hitler througout the war] all my life. I don’t think Furtwängler was an active Nazi. But he belonged to a generation that still believed one could close one’s eyes to bad things and live through art. They viewed music as separate from life. Which also explains how Hitler was moved to tears by a performance of Lohengrin, and then that same evening was able to send thousands to the gas chambers.
I always wanted to conduct. I went to a class to study conducting for the first time when I was 11 years old.
The conductor decides on the orchestra, the times, the music etc. But when the orchestra plays and it is either unwilling or unable to play like the conductor wanted, he is totally powerless. And as powerlessness often does, it makes people think they are very powerful. And that's why conductors' egos are so famous.


Daniel Barenboim clearly states Wilhelm Furtwängler as his main model, particularly regarding conducting Wagner and several Furtwängler assets may be recognizable in Daniel Barenboim´s trademarks as a Wagner conductor, such as the relatively slow paced readings, relying extensively on rubato within a very dominant string section. Furthermore, conveying muscial structure is one of Daniel Barenboim´s main assets. Many see him as the foremost Wagnerian conductor alive today, conducting within the German tradition.

Daniel Barenboim is perhaps most revered for his interpretation of Tristan and Isolde, by his own admission his favourite opera, making his debut in Götz Friedrich´s staging at Deutsche Opera in 1978 and subsequently conducting staged performances in Bayreuth (twice), Berlin, Madrid, La Scala and the Metropolian Opera.

After he stopped performing at the Bayreuth Festival in 1999 after being a Festival cornerstone for almost 20 years, his Wagner performances are mainly concentrated at the Berlin State Opera.
During the 1990´s, Daniel Barenboim collaborated with director Harry Kupfer at the Berlin State Opera, where together they staged all of Richard Wagner´s 10 major operas, performed together at a Festival in Berlin 2001. In 2009 he conducted a new production of Lohengrin, directed by Stefan Herheim, in Berlin.
Barenboim´s belated debut at The Met took place in 2008 with Tristan and Isolde.

Daniel Barenboim began his third production of the Nibelungen Ring (after the two Kupfer productions in Bayreuth and Berlin), a coproduction between the Berlin State Opera and La Scala 2010-13 directed by Guy Cassiers.

Daniel Barenboim, Parsifal Act 3 "Mittag" - Harry Kupfer production from Berlin mid-90s:


Other than Richard Wagner, Daniel Barenboim predominantly conducts the German classic operas, in particular those of Mozart, where he repeatedly returns to Don Giovanni in particular, as well as Beethoven´s Fidelio.
Verdi, he has only conducted sporadically, the Requiem apart, such as Otello in Berlin 2001 and Aida (2009) and Simone Boccanegra (2009-12) both in Berlin and at La Scala with Plácido Domingo in the title part.. 
In recent years Daniel Barenboim has furthermore conducted La Traviata, Carmen, Wozzeck, Boris Godunov, Doktor Faust, Manon and The Gambler at the Berlin State Opera. In addition to Berlin, he has conducted Eugen Onegin in Salzburg.
At La Scala he has asssumed a position of unofficial music director opening the 2009-10 season with Carmen as well as conducting Aida, The Gambler, Simone Boccanegra and Don Giovanni. 

Apart from a recording of Elektra, I am not aware of Barenboim conducting other of Strauss´operas or any of Puccini.

A new Nibelungen Ring is scheduled for 2010-13, a coproduction between La Scala and the Berlin State Opera as mentioned abov
Daniel Barenboim conducts the ouverture to the Magic Flute, 1997 on a Berlin State Opera tour to Japan:


Wagner operas:
Parsifal (1991)
Tristan and Isolde (1993)
Lohengrin (1998)
Ring des Nibelungen (1994)
Meistersinger (2000)
Flying Dutchman (2002)
Tannhäuser (2002)

Non-Wagner operas:

Beatrice et Benedict
Don Giovanni (1973 - remastered)
Nozze di Figaro (1976 - remastered)
Samson et Dalila (1979)
Cosí fan tutte (1991)
Nozze di Figaro (1991)
Don Giovanni (1992)
Elektra (1996)
Wozzeck (1997)
Die Brautwahl (1999)
Fidelio (2000)


Wagner operas:

Meistersinger - Bayreuth 1999, d: Wagner
Ring des Nibelungen - Bayreuth 1992, d: Kupfer
Tristan and Isolde - Bayreuth 1982, d: PonnelleTristan and Isolde - Bayreuth 1995, d: Müller
Tristan and Isolde - La Scala 2007, d: Chéreau

Non-Wagner operas:
Cosí Fan Tutte - Berlin State Opera 2002, d: Dörrie
Eugen Onegin - Salzburg Festival 2007, d: Breth
Manon - Berlin State Opera 2007, d: Paterson
Nozze di Figaro - Berlin State Opera 2000, d:Langhoff
Otello - Berlin State Opera 2001, d: Flimm
Simone Boccanegra - Scala 2010
Wozzeck - Berlin State Opera 1994, d: Chéreau


Boris Godunov - Berlin State Opera 2007
Doktor Faust - Berlin State Opera 2008Don Giovanni - Berlin State Opera 2007 (seen twice)
Eugen Onegin - Berlin State Opera 2008
The Gambler - Berlin State Opera 2008
Manon - Berlin State Opera 2007Meistersinger - Berlin State Opera 2008 (seen twice)
Parsifal - Berlin State Opera 2007 (twice) and Berlin State Opera 2009 (twice)
Tristan and Isolde - La Scala 2007, Berlin State Opera 2008
Lohengrin - Berlin State Opera 2009

Non-operatic performances:

Rolando Villazón Recital - Berlin State Opera 2008
Magdalena Kozena/Dorothea Röschmann Recital - Berlin State Opera 2008

Verdi Requiem - Berlin 2009


All posts on mostly opera related to Daniel Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim´s website
Wikipedia biography on Daniel Barenboim
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