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Gerald Carpenter: New West Symphony to Celebrate the Unlucky in Love

'Masterpiece Series' continues this weekend in Oxnard, Thousands Oaks and Santa Monica

The New West Symphony continues its “Masterpiece Series” this weekend with concerts at 8 p.m. Friday in the Oxnard Performing Arts & Convention Center, at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and at 4 p.m. Sunday in Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School.

That famously devoted couple, Cosima Liszt von Bülow and her loving husband, Hans.
That famously devoted couple, Cosima Liszt von Bülow and her loving husband, Hans.

Maestro Marcelo Lehninger will conduct an all-orchestral program comprising mainly works dealing with doomed lovers, to wit: the Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner, the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture by Peter Tchaikovsky, the Prelude and “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

OK, three of these four works belong unmistakably to the “star-crossed lovers” genre, but what is the Siegfried Idyll doing there — making up a fourth for Bridge, you ask? Because the Idyll, as everyone knows, is a celebration of lovers who lived happily ever after — Richard and Cosima Wagner.

One of Wagner’s most ardent and constant fans was conductor Hans von Bülow, who was married to one of Franz Liszt’s illegitimate daughters, an ambitious beauty named Cosima, who had been born on Christmas Day.

Wagner managed to separate Cosima from Hans without losing von Bülow’s support or friendship — or, more likely, Cosima managed it, as she managed Wagner’s household and business affairs while he lived and his huge cult following after he died.

In 1869, while they were living in a comfy villa on Lake Lucerne, Cosima presented Richard with a son, whom they named Siegfried. Wagner wrote the Idyll to honor his son and wife, and had it performed by a small ensemble of musicians grouped on the staircase of the villa on Christmas morning of that year. As the song asks: Isn’t it romantic?

Now, it was long assumed that, since the Idyll shares several themes with the opera, Siegfried, which was not completed until seven years later, the opera in the making furnished the themes for the Idyll. Later research has determined that the reverse is actually the case. Wagner composed the Idyll out of music from an unfinished chamber composition and later used several of its themes for the opera, most notably in the love scene between Siegfried and Brunhilde.

And who are Siegfried and Brunhilde? Well, among other things, they are — perhaps inevitably, he being the son of an incestuous union and she being the immortal daughter of a god — doomed lovers.

I rest my case.

Tickets can be ordered by phone at 800.639.9378 (outside 805 and 818 area codes call 866.776.8400), or click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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