Wagner’s “Rienzi” Overture: A Glorious Remnant of Youthful Indiscretion

In his later years, Richard Wagner dismissed his five-act opera, Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes, as a “youthful sin.” Completed in 1840 when the composer was 27 years old, Rienzi stands in stark contrast with Wagner’s mature work. It was elaborately conceived as Grand Opera in the tradition of Meyerbeer. Wagner’s megalomaniacal intention was “to outdo all previous examples with sumptuous extravagance.” The premiere in Dresden on October 20, 1842 lasted over six hours with breaks …

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Rienzi in Dresden

Last year, conductor Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden gave this electrifying performance of Wagner’s Rienzi Overture. Take a moment and listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK9cKPCvXSw https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/german-overtures/id30992198″]Find on iTunes http://www.amazon.com/Thielemann-My-Wagner-Album-Christian/dp/B00D6OIXRO”]Find on Amazon I love the way this overture grows out of a single trumpet call. The music slowly awakens, searching for a direction forward. Then, suddenly it opens up into one of Wagner’s most noble and majestic melodies (1:19). Premiering in Dresden in 1842, Rienzi was Wagner’s first big hit as …

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