Pixel Tracker

Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 9:37 pm | Fair 52º


Gerald Carpenter: Academy Summer Festival Taking Its Final Bow

The Music Academy of the West’s 2013 Summer Festival takes its final bow — as usual a grand one — with a concert by the Academy Festival Orchestra conducted by James Gaffigan at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Granada Theatre.

The hyper-Romantic program consists of the Overture to Richard Wagner’s third opera, Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes (1842); Gustav Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn; and Hector Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts, Opus 14.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-73) wrote a string of historical novels that were bestsellers and made him rich without compromising his lofty social position. He published Rienzi, the last of the Roman tribunes, in 1835. Wagner read it in 1837, while he was living in Riga — a cuckold’s exile, his wife having left him for another man — and began making sketches to turn the novel into an opera. He finished the work, insofar as he ever finished it, in 1840, and it was first performed in 1842.

Despite lasting over six hours, including intermissions, in this first version, the opera was a tremendous hit and put the composer permanently on the map. In form, the five-act Rienzi was a grand opera in the manner of Meyerbeer — who was instrumental in getting it and The Flying Dutchman performed — but the music is already completely Wagner (however clever Hans von Bülow might have been in hailing it as “Meyerbeer’s greatest work”).

Some modern critics have been severe, but Mahler — who had heard all of Wagner’s operas and had conducted many of them — called Rienzi “the greatest musical drama ever composed.” (The fact that Meyerbeer and Mahler were both Jews, while Wagner was a reputed anti-Semite gives a certain poignancy to Nietzsche’s remark, “God help the European mind if the Jewish mind is subtracted from it!”) The Wagner cult begins here, with this gorgeous overture.

Mahler’s first five symphonies all bear traces of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and the first four contain substantial chunks of verbatim music from the cycle/collection — so much so that they are known collectively as “The Wunderhorn Symphonies.” The cycle is not performed as often as his other song cycles — it can’t be length, because The Song of the Earth, a cycle in all but name, is performed much more often — but the work is absolutely crucial to grasping Mahler’s principles of composition: the vocal line is always paramount.

Except for the prolonged and peculiar doldrums of the Third Movement (you’ll know it from the fits of coughing that break out all around you), the Symphony Fantastique is a deliriously exciting work, revolutionary in all but discords. Berlioz had a unique sense of melody and a surprisingly detached insight to the Romantic mind (surprising because he was, himself, the most Romantic composer of them all).

Tickets to the Festival Orchestra are $48, $38 and $15. They can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here. Tickets are also available from the Granada box office at 805.899.2222.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.