Wagner Without Fear     (William Berger)     0-375-70054-4
Item# B1697
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Product Description

Wagner Without Fear     (William Berger)     0-375-70054-4
B1697. WILLIAM BERGER. Wagner Without Fear: Learning to Love - and Even Enjoy - Opera's Most Demanding Genius. New York, Random House, 1998. (Pictorial thick paper covers) 0-375-70054-4 9780375700545


“It was with some reluctance and trepidation that I approached William Berger's book, WAGNER WITHOUT FEAR. From the title alone, I erroneously thought that this was another of the poorly written books flooding the market that reduce Wagner to generalities, and which ill-serve both newcomers to Wagner's music and seasoned Wagner enthusiasts, like me, who collect multiple recordings of his music and attend every possible performance of the operas. The book, however, is excellent; in fact, I found it one of the most useful and well-written books on Wagner that one could buy. Mr. Berger writes superlative pages on what opera is, and on the background of Wagner's life, with perceptive pages on the composer's time in Munich and Bayreuth. He writes a brilliant and witty summary - the best I have read - on each of the mature operas from DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER to PARSIFAL - Mr. Berger provides helpful pronunciation tips, backgrounds and analyses of characters, discussion of motifs, and comments, in italics, after each section of the summary. The book concludes with ‘Wagner Issues’, a particularly useful discussion of Wagner's anti-Semitism, his bizarre beliefs, the Nazi abuse of his music, and various other material that is accurate and fascinating. Having been a pilgrim to Bayreuth, I was interested in what he had to say about the Wagnerian shrine and how to survive in the town during the annual Festspiele. Wagnerians constantly battle about the ‘best’ CD performances of the operas, but it is difficult to find fault with Mr. Berger's recommendations. Finally, he includes a commendable discussion on THE RING CYCLE, including engaging information on the problems of staging it. There is a helpful annotated bibliography and a lucid glossary. I have not given the book the rating of Five Stars because there is a bit of rather gratuitous humor sprinkled throughout the book that probably amused Mr. Berger but which becomes a bit annoying. For example, he constantly suggests the times in which to go to the restroom during performances of Wagner's operas. There are also bits of sophomoric humor that will please some readers and irritate others. I highly recommend this book to the beginner as the best book on the market to approach Wagner; and to the experienced Wagnerian for its clear and perceptive insights into the music of a complex composer. Indeed, I am indebted to Mr. Berger for teaching me some things I did not know, and for elucidating some ideas so I could better understand them.”

- Russell E. Higgins