"Wagner’s music is better than it sounds", according to Mark Twain. Words that suggest that he never attended a good performance of a Wagner opera. If he only could be beamed up by time machine right into 21st century Amsterdam he could acknowledge himself that Wagner’s music actually can sound better than he possibly could ever have imagined. The performance of Götterdämmerung by De Nederlandse Opera in November 2014 was the best theater experience in my life. If the end of the world sounds and looks this gorgeous I don’t mind being there when it actually happens. From Wagner’s Uneindliche Melodie, conductor Hartmut Haenchen draws an infinite pulse of forward moving power that takes you, from just a few minutes in first acts Prologue, right to the end of the world 6 hours later. If only it could last 6 hours longer….
Richard Wagner’s music is, in performances like these with an orchestra and conductor on top of their game, like a drug. As irresistable as it is musically challenging. After listening to something like the last act of Götterdämmerung for me the extravaganza of Scriabin and the expressionism of Dutilleux becomes a whole lot more comprehensible. As a spectator of a high class performance of one of his operas you begin to understand how powerfull he materialized his ideas of total theater (Gesamtkunstwerk) into superb entertainment. Engaging, multi-layered 19th century music theater that formed a major influence on all movie soundtracks that were about to follow in the 20th century and that still triggers both thoughts and emotions 150 years after their conception.