Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigen Schein"

I was out walking this evening, pounding along to the jazz trio on my iPhone. The playlist ran out. I stopped. What to listen to next?

It's not an easy decision. The wrong music at the wrong time irritates me. No, not those Bach cello suites again. (And I love Bach cello suites--at certain moments.) Ella Fitzgerald? Good for walking fast. When she sings Cole Porter, man, it takes energy to listen. Good for a burst of speed in the middle of a walk, but not for the winding-down stretch.

I tapped W and went to Wagner. Yes, I have the Solti "Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg" on my iPhone. I don't think the whole thing is there--one of those syncs where I'm not really sure what happens. I looked at the lines of German dialogue in the playlist and tapped something I thought would be from Act IV.  I was hoping for Walter's prize song, but I didn't get it. What I heard, I think, was Beckmesser's rather pedantic effort. The beautiful voice was persuasive, not unpleasant to listen to, but the music did not go anywhere.

I kept listening, kept walking, and about four blocks from home, there it was. Three still, shining tonic chords to establish the tonality, and then a big ringing romantic tenor (literally big--Ben Heppner) at center stage singing "Morgenlich leuchtend . . . "  Finishes the first stanza, the crowd reacts--cautiously. He sings another, there's a buzz. He keeps going, the crowd is swept up in the music.

Here is Ben Heppner in a concert version. Or listen and watch Johan Botha here.  He sings beautiful phrases, although he looks kind of silly standing on that box. I liked the reaction shots of the crowd, everyone listening thoughtfully. But the staging doesn't show the crowd's excitement, which Wagner wrote so vividly into the music. To do justice to Wagner's music for the  townspeople I suppose you'd have to have a movie set with cameras zooming in from up high, quick cuts, a swirl of pleasure and discovery.

There was a big smile on my face as I walked that last quarter mile tonight. I came back in the house with my heart sitting six inches higher in my chest.

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