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Richard Wagner symposium offers talks and performances

Pilot project aims to make opera accessible to everyone

Photo by Riley Brandt.

A symposium on Richard Wagner is being held Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Rozsa Centre, just prior to opening night of the Calgary Opera’s production of the controversial German composer’s The Flying Dutchman. The day-long symposium is free.

“The idea is to bring the non-academic, academic and performing communities together to contribute to the critical discourse around the arts in Calgary – something that will really benefit the city,” says organizer Maria Euchner, a German studies professor focusing on literature, the arts and modernism.

Euchner says she wants to dispel the notion that opera is an elitist art form rather than a modern medium portraying issues and emotions affecting many people.

The Saturday symposium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will feature a performance by accomplished pianist Kathleen van Mourik who has performed across North America and Europe, a roundtable discussion with The Flying Dutchman Director Kelly Robinson, and talks by six University of Calgary academics including:

  • Maria Euchner, Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures – the opera’s mythological underpinnings, including the legend of the Wandering Jew.
  • Kenneth DeLong, Music – the influence of German Romantic composer C.M. von Weber on the young Wagner, with musical examples.
  • Lourdes Arciniega, English – a discussion of Senta, the lone female protagonist in The Flying Dutchman, and how she represents the desires of 19th century women.
  • Friedemann Sallis, Music – the legacy of Wagner’s words, including his anti-Semitic comments that resonated strongly in the 20th century and continue to affect how people perceive one of the world’s greatest composers and his music.
  • Donald Bell, Music – Bell’s experience working with Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner, Richard Wagner’s grandsons, while singing at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival in Germany.
  • Barry Yzereef, Drama – the dramatic changes in staging of The Flying Dutchman from the 19th century to the 20th century.

The symposium is a pilot project, and if it’s successful, Euchner hopes to offer similar events in the future with leading local, national, and international experts in their field.

To register, email the organizers prior to Jan. 24. Seating is limited to 120 people, and lunch will be provided.