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THROUGH AN OPERAGLASS, WITH TIME TRAVEL, PART 2

CHARLES ANNESLEY sure knew his operas, all 151 of them discussed in his 1910 guide. Yesterday’s Annesley time capsule focused on Puccini; today, the Wagner family appears in all its complex glory. We also meet an unexpected barber. And later hob-nob at the Ritz.

Annesley occasionally takes liberties with opera names. For instance, he gives us Wagner’s Dusk of the Gods, which is a whole lot easier to write (and say) than Götterdämmerung. Either way, it’s the concluding Ring Cycle tale of gods, the Nibelungen, and mortals caught in between.

At right, Wilhelm Richard Wagner, 1813–1883, German composer, theater director, conductor. At left, Cosima Liszt Von Bülow Wagner, 1837–1930, second wife of Richard Wagner, 1870 to his death in 1883.

Annesley also offers us the first, and likely the last, review of another opera by another guy named Wagner: Bearskin (Der Bärenhäuter) is by Siegfried, son of Richard and future wife Cosima (née Liszt and ex-von Bülow).

Siegfried Wagner, 1869–1930, German composer, conductor, theater director.

Annesley writes about Bearskin, “In the beginning of the year 1899, a great sensation thrilled through the musical world; Siegfried Wagner had written his first musical drama. Some call him the small son of a great father; others consider him to be the true heir of his father’s greatness. I, for my part, think that the truth, as usual, lies between these two extremes.”

There’s Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, right? How about Cornelius’s The Barber of Bagdad? Writes Annesley, “It took a long time before this charming little opera took its place amongst so many fellow operas much less entitled to notice.”

Carl August Peter Cornelius, 1824–1874, German composer.

Wikipedia offers the opinion that Peter Cornelius found Wagner’s ideological fervor “overwhelming.” Yeah, that too.

Franz Liszt, 1811–1886, Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, philanthropist.

Franz Liszt (Cosima’s father, sans benefit of clergy) was an immensely popular musician, sort of the world’s first rock star. He was also Peter Cornelius’s mentor and conducted Der Barbier von Bagdad’s debut. The opera closed after only one performance, Liszt resigned his post, and Cornelius left town.

What complicated lives these artistic types led.

My Operaglass book’s original owner collected newspaper clippings of two of Annesley’s 151 operas: Puccini’s La Bohème was performed at an unidentified Opernhaus on October 4, 1911, with no less than Enrico Caruso singing Rudolfo.

Then a month later, a second clipping describes Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on November 17, 1911.

The Wagner opera was reviewed in the New York Herald, November 18, 1911: Carl Burrian’s Tristan “Displays Voice of Good Quality,” though “Almost Overcome by Hoarseness.” Mme. Olive Fremstad is a “Wonderful Isolde.” “Mr. Toscanini conducted a remarkable performance and the playing of the orchestra was capital.”

Concert-goers’ attire is the topic of a rather longer article accompanying this review. Among others described, “Mrs. Stillman, who was a bride of last June, wore cerise satin, Mrs. Webb was in white net heavily spangled with gold, and Miss Webb was in white chiffon and satin.”

The clipping’s other side carries a headline, “American Hosts At Dinners in Paris.” Among them, “Mr. and Mrs. Henry S. Lehr gave smart dinners at the Ritz. Their guests included Infanta Eulali, Marchese and Marchesa Rudini, Baron and Baronne Maurice de Rothschild, Marchese and Marchesa Casati, Lady Colebrooke, Mme P. Von Schwabach ….

And there the clipping ends. It sure sounds like a bang-up affair. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

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