critic, scholar, performer
(not necessarily in that order)
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
finding wagner in berlin
So as the rest of the world explodes over the madness that is the New York Times re-affirming all the bad stereotypes of classical music, I thought I would finally get around to posting some pictures that I took in October. I recently unsuccessfully concluded a fifteen week attempt to get internet hooked up in my apartment , finally caving and buying a mobile surf stick -- something I should have done months ago. Anyway, it will make blogging easier, especially since I won't have to sit next to terrifying crazy people at the library while Seated Ovating.
Strolling around any German city, it is impossible to ignore the overwhelming presence of classical music. Berlin is not Bayreuth, or Leipzig, or Weimar. Bach never lived here, Liszt never lived here, Wagner never lived here, Beethoven never lived here, Mozart never lived here. But that doesn't keep them from naming streets after Schubert, U-Bahn stops after Wagner, and parks after Mendelssohn (okay, he did live here). Exploring the massive Tiergarden last year, I stumbled upon a gigantic statue of Mr. Wagner himself, one of the most epic memorials I have ever witnessed, so big it was impossible to get a single good picture of the whole thing at once.
The statue was created by Gustav Eberlein from 1901 to 1903, a time during which Wagner's spirit loomed over the still-young imperial Germany. It was commissioned by Ludwig Leichner, an opera singer turned cosmetic entrepreneur (you can still buy his stuff!).
The best part of the statue, though, is that it's not just Wagner up there: we get his entire mythos. It's a fun little game to walk around the statue and see if you can name all his creations (well, not really his creations). I thought I did quite well, but I actually failed pretty miserably. I was positive this was Wotan, what with him holding his hand over his eye. But Wikipedia says (the only source I could find on this) that it's actually Tannhäuser. I initially thought this was Walther from Die Meistersinger, but it is actually Tannhäuser's Wolfram von Eschenbach. Is it that crazy to think that this would be Act 3 Tristan and Isolde? I guess, because it's dead Siegfried and Brünnhilde. Nobody tell AC Douglas that young people can't properly identify Gesamtkunstwerk characters on sight. Finally, I got one right: Alberich stealing the Rheingold from a Rheinmaiden.
A stroll over to Museum Island and the Alte Nationalgalerie turns up some more Wagner. Lorenz Gedon's 1883 Wagner bust. Franz von Lenbach painted a few Wagner portraits, as well as one of Cosima.
Filled with all of Wagner's favorite candy shops. Finally, Wagner's own subway station and Platz. The composer's final words, according to his wife Cosima, were, "When they build an U-Bahn station for me, make sure it looks like a cross between Tron and a dead bumblebee."