Richard Wagner: Idle Thoughts

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The only pig in Afghanistan

Wagner’s music has long been easiest to take in “bleeding chunks”, and indeed in chunks which are purely orchestral, from which that is to say the singers are excluded. The reason for the popularity of such chunks is not as might at first be thought their comparative brevity, but simply the absence of singers.

Therefore the solution to the Wagner problem suddenly becomes obvious: get rid of all the singing! It is in fact the singers who, with their groping for the note, their wide vibrato, their frequent lack of correct rhythm, and their inability to sing quietly, spoil the music and are putting potential audiences off.

Just three changes, then, will suffice to render Wagner good for the 21st century:

replace all the voice parts with suitable instruments – either singly or in combination – as is already often done in the case of Isolde’s Liebestod;

display the words of the libretto (no longer sung) on a rolling screen over the stage of the opera house, or (at home) as sub-titles superimposed on the screen of one’s audio or video player – one language at a time should suffice;

introduce ballet dancers instead of the singers – dancers, freed from the obligation to warble, will be able to portray the action of Wagner’s operas in a much more effective, energetic and striking way.

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