Klinger grove Wagner monument in Leipzig
Composer Richard Wagner was born today in 1813 in Leipzig, Germany. While one might expect a monument to Wagner to have been erected in his hometown (there are monuments to Wagner across Germany), one might also expect it to be finished. Such is not the case.
In 1904, a sculptor and painter from Wagner’s hometown Max Klinger was awarded the commission but died in 1920 after completing the marble pedestal only, shown at right.
The pedestal, into which have been carved characters from Wagner’s operas, was to form the base for a 17-foot high statue of Wagner. The sculpture will be transferred to its originally planned site at the Promenadenring, where the foundation stone for the Wagner memorial was laid in 1913, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
As competitive and nationalistic as musical traditions can be, one might not expect too see a statue to Wagner in Italy unless one knows that during his last few years alive, Wagner lived in Italy, where he worked on his last great opera “Parsifal.”
Wagner bust in Venice, site of his death
While on a trip in Venice, Wagner died of a heart attack in the Palazzo Vendramin on the Grand Canal. A statue was erected in Venice commemorating his life and work.
In celebration of the anniversary of Wagner’s birth, here are a few clips of legendary Wagner heroine and Valkyrie Brünnhilde singing “Hojotoho” to choose from. Which is your favorite?
Here is Norwegian opera singer and a highly regarded Wagnerian (dramatic) soprano Kirsten Flagstad’s early version of”Hojotoho” from Die Walküre, circa 1936:
Next is a short clip of Swedish dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson (born 1918) singing Hojotoho–her way–at the Met in 1996. Her voice–at age 78–is simply a marvel. Just listen to the reception she received:
Here’s Swedish soprano Nina Stemme singing “Hojotoho” at La Scala’s Die Walküre in 2010:
Lastly, here’s American soprano Deborah Voigt singing “Hojotoho” (with Bryn Terfel) at the Met’s 2011 Die Walküre, part of their new Ring cycle conceived by Robert Lepage: