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Image: David Noel Edwards

Tanglewood 2019 season highlights, Part 1

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By Saturday, Dec 1, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

Lenox — Something rather unusual is going to happen at Tanglewood in 2019, a faithful description of which would probably require the language of irrational exuberance. It’s a common problem. When the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed Richard Wagner’s complete “Das Rheingold” at Tanglewood in 2017 and, the following year, Giacomo Puccini’s “La boheme,” they wrote new pages in the orchestra’s history. The whole music world took notice, and commentators around the globe seemed hard-pressed to describe these events in the perfunctory terms typical of classical music journalists. And it looks like the music pundits are going to have the same problem in 2019. It’s a long story.

Richard Wagner in 1871

First, some background. Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre” (“The Valkyrie”) is one of four music dramas that together constitute “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (“The Ring of the Nibelung”). This formidable group of operatic works is variously referred to as “The Ring Cycle,” “Wagner’s Ring,” or simply “The Ring.” First in the cycle is “Das Rheingold,” then “Die Walküre,” followed by “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung.” Most opera companies perform “The Ring” over the course of four or five days. But this brilliant paean to egomaniacal grandiosity has never been performed in its entirety either at Tanglewood or at Symphony Hall. That is why your typical opera geek is wild-eyed over the prospect of hearing even one of the “Ring” works performed at either venue.

Okay. So what is the rather unusual thing that is going to happen at Tanglewood this summer?

This: On July 27 and 28, Andris Nelsons will lead the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in all three acts of “Die Walküre.” They’ll perform it in three sittings: Act I on the evening of July 27 and Acts II and III the following day at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively (with a single admission covering both of the day’s performances.) Joining the TMCO will be Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, Amber Wagner as Sieglinde, Simon O’Neill as Siegmund, James Rutherford as Wotan and Ain Anger as Hunding. (Why is the TMCO performing this instead of the BSO? That is an interesting story, but it will have to wait for another time.)

In news about Tanglewood, have we not been advised countless times to hold onto our hats because some upcoming performance was sure to blow our head coverings into a nearby body of water? Sure we have. But hasn’t this admonition always referred to musical performances so unbelievably fabulous that, when we witness them, we risk losing our various unsecured cranial appliances when they fly off our heads into nearby Lake Mahkeenac? (Yes.)

Boston University professor Jeremy Yudkin at the Lenox Library in 2008. Photo: David Noel Edwards

Of course, the exact constituents of unbelievable fabulosity in a musical performance is a matter of personal preference. Your mileage may vary. But if the prospect of seeing all three acts of “Die Walküre” doesn’t make you quiver with excitement, then we recommend you seek professional help (i.e., attend Prof. Jeremy Yudkin‘s free Tanglewood pre-concert talks at the Lenox Library). And, by the way, the title “Die Walküre” sounds really cool when it’s pronounced correctly. (Ask Prof. Yudkin about this at one of his talks.) And remember: You needn’t love opera to enjoy “Die Walküre.” You simply need to love music.

This is Part 1 in a series of articles about the 2019 Tanglewood season. As such, it barely scratches the tip of the iceberg. In Part 2, we’ll talk about the celebrity conductors and soloists who seem to cause the biggest traffic jams around Lenox.

Tanglewood 2019 tickets will go on sale Sunday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m.


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