Bayreuth on a Budget

Amazon is offering a limited-run re-issue of Wagner: The Great Operas from the Bayreuth Festival, a collection of some classic live recordings from Richard Wagner’s Festspielhaus. In search of a setting that would allow for sonically and artistically unadulterated performances of his operas, Wagner constructed his own theatre in the rural German town of Bayreuth in the 1870s. Performances are still held there (sign up for the ticket lottery now if you’d like to go before you die). In fact, Wagner’s grandson still runs the place! (He’s stepping down in August.)

Almost every classic live Wagner recording since the inception of the gramophone has taken place at Bayreuth, and this box, 33 discs in all, collects some cream from the crop. (In fact, I almost always prefer live classical recordings, especially if they were performed in front of a Japanese audience; the Japanese never cough.) Karl Böhm’s Ring was the first cycle I purchased and it continues to be my Ring of choice. It’s here in its entirety, along with Böhm’s Tristan and Isolde, which is consistently ranked alongside the greatest recordings in any genre of music. I haven’t any of the other five recordings, and even if none of them is the greatest available (get Knappertbusch for Parsifal, Karajan for Meistersingers and Kempe for Lohengrin), if you buy the box for just for the Böhm recordings, you’re already paying half of what you’d pay for the individual recordings. Besides, you can never have too many Wagner discs. I’m pushing one hundred!

If you’ve never heard Wagner (according to W.H. Auden, ‘perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived’) and you’d like to, this is the ideal, economic way to do so. Then go modern with this Stravinsky box set. Few classical music sets remain available for long, so grab these while you can.


~ by ohkrapp on June 26, 2008.

One Response to “Bayreuth on a Budget”

  1. oups, just realized that i had the link I had led to FNAC and not Amazon. you will get a MUCH better deal with Amazon.

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