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May 2023 | Opera on the Rhine

On Sunday, May 21st at 3:00 p.m. Bremerton WestSound Symphony and Bremerton Symphony Chorale, along with Seattle Opera star, Tess Altiveros, present “Opera On The Rhine”.

This concert features wonderful music from both sides of the Rhine. Our adventure begins on the bucolic western side, where we will sample Joseph Canteloube’s exquisite settings of folk poetry from the Auvergne region of France, written in the local dialect known as Occitan, Langue d’Oc, or Provençal. Seattle Opera star, Tess Altiveros, has mastered these songs and lyrics, and will sing to us of shepherds and shepherdesses eyeing each other, longing for each other, taunting each other, loving each other, leaving each other, and trying to get revenge on each other. These pieces range from very rural and rustic to lyrical, flowing, and pastoral.

From the eastern side, we explore the music of Richard Wagner. Wagner is a very polarizing figure, even in the musical community. Some see him as the composer who took harmony to the limits of possibility and began the destruction of classical music. Others view him as the brilliant inventor who paved the way for all the innovations in 20th century music. Perhaps both are valid.

There is no doubt, however, that Wagner was the greatest orchestrator of his time. When he could not find an instrument that fulfilled his needs, he demanded that new ones be created. From the great brass workshops of Bavaria, he commissioned a bass trumpet, a contrabass trombone, and what we now call Wagner Tubas—a variety of differently sized baritone horns that contribute to the dark sound that we associate with the Ring Cycle. Wagner wanted the woodwind section to have a new and better deep-bass voice, so he commissioned the great bassoon manufacturer, Heckel, to create a new contrabassoon. This took years, and it was only completed in time for Wagner to use it in his last opera, Parsifal.

Later, the great conductor, Hans von Bulow, would take the liberty of editing and rewriting contrabassoon parts for all the major Wagner operas. This was von Bulow’s thanks to Wagner for Wagner’s generous act of romancing, stealing, and marrying von Bulow’s wife, Cosima—who, by the way, was the daughter of Franz Liszt. Yes, musicology and daytime soap operas seem to meet in the study of Wagner’s contributions to the music world.

Why so much time discussing the orchestra that Wagner uses? Because the music of Wagner is unlike anything composed previously. It hits us as a multicolored wall of sound with an intensity of emotion that no composer had achieved before.

We will close our season with the last nine minutes of Götterdämmerung. This is the glorious finale of the entire Ring Cycle. Whether sitting in the audience or in the orchestra, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed. In this final Immolation Scene, the Ring of the Nieblungen is finally returned to the Rhine Maidens at the bottom of the river. At this moment there is a cataclysmic event—think red-hot molten steel being plunged into cold water—when the Rhine overflows its banks in a massive flood that puts out the raging inferno that has incinerated Siegfried, our hero, along with his love, Brünnhilde, who has voluntarily galloped up to the top of this funeral pyre on her horse, Grane. No composer emerged from this scene unscathed, as it altered the path of classical music forever.

Our Wagner selections will begin with the overture to Die Meistersinger (again that wall of sound) and will include The Pilgrim’s Chorus from Tannhäuser, The Spinning Chorus from Flying Dutchman, and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey.

Join us in a multifaceted, bombastic concert that will wrap up the 80th season of the Bremerton WestSound Symphony with a musical journey you won’t soon forget!


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