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Words and Music: Opera Queensland kicks off year of Wagner

Ahead of the Brisbane seasons of Tristan and Isolde and Opera Australia’s hugely anticipated The Ring Cycle later this year, Opera Queensland will present the second recital of its 2020 Concert Series this weekend, with Alex Raineri and Dr Peter Bassett performing Wagner, His Contemporaries and Followers.

Mar 12, 2020, updated Mar 12, 2020
Pianist Alex Raineri will perform alongside Peter Bassett at Wagner, His Contemporaries and Followers, the second recital of Opera Queensland's 2020 Concert Series, tomorrow and Saturday.

Pianist Alex Raineri will perform alongside Peter Bassett at Wagner, His Contemporaries and Followers, the second recital of Opera Queensland's 2020 Concert Series, tomorrow and Saturday.

Acclaimed piano recitalist Raineri and Wagner scholar Bassett, who is president of the Wagner Society in Queensland, will present a program that explores the world of Richard Wagner through the German composer’s letters and music, tracing connections with his contemporaries and his influence on those who came afterwards.

Bassett told InQueensland the idea of collaborating with Raineri was inspired by his memories of a concert he attended in London in the 1970s about the life and times of Louis XIV, in which singers and instrumentalists performed music from the Court at Versailles alongside readings from letters and diaries from the period by actor Marius Goring.

“I found the format absorbing and suggested to Alex that we should try something similar in respect of Wagner,” Bassett said.

Wagner, His Contemporaries and Followers has previously had successful seasons at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre and Bassett said he was looking forward to reuniting with Raineri in Brisbane.

“Alex is a brilliant young pianist, and it was a great pleasure to work with him in the Utzon Music Series at the Sydney Opera House and at the Melbourne Recital Centre, both in 2016.

“We have introduced some new elements into our program for Opera Queensland, and I think audiences will find it fascinating and they’ll certainly be impressed by Alex’s pianism.”

Bassett said these concerts would be “first and foremost a recital of beautiful piano music by Wagner, Liszt, Berg and Scriabin,” and his narration would add extra depth and context to Raineri’s virtuosic playing.

“My readings will throw light on the lives and times of those involved – perceptive, witty, heart-wrenching, revealing,” he said. “This is music in context, and the common thread is Richard Wagner. It will be accessible to anyone who is interested in music and the passions behind it.”

Bassett said Wagner, who died at age 69, in 1883, lived during a period of great social change following the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

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“We are still, in many ways, heirs to that seminal period in European thought,” Bassett said.

“Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Beethoven were alive when Wagner was a teenager; Charles Darwin was four years his senior, Karl Marx five years his junior. The philosophers Hegel, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were his contemporaries, and Sigmund Freud was born when Wagner was in his forties.

“Musical contemporaries who influenced him included Beethoven, Weber, Marschner and Liszt and he also learnt from giants who went before him, including Bach, Mozart and Bellini.

Bassett said it was a mistake to think of Wagner’s works solely as celebrations of Germanic and Norse myths and legends, and he believed his oeuvre had endured for so long because it appealed to the human condition.

“Firstly, the extraordinary music which speaks to our deepest feelings and imagination in ways that words alone cannot. Secondly, Wagner’s greatest works are about human relationships – things that matter deeply to human beings regardless of nationality, race and creed.”

Wagner, His Contemporaries and Followers, is at Opera Queensland Studio at South Bank tomorrow night, from 7pm, and on Saturday, from 2pm.  Visit oq.com.au for more information and tickets

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