The following are CD covers that I designed for some of the Wagner recordings in my collection. Largely, they serve as covers for recordings of live performances taken from the radio or from streaming-audio Internet broadcasts. The CD cover designs presented here are not meant for commercial distribution and exist only in my private collection.
Bayreuther Festspiele - Tannhäuser (2011)
Tannhäuser Lars Cleveman, Günther Groissböck, Michael Nagy, Lothar Odinius, Diógenes Randes, Arnold Bezuyen, Martin Snell, Camilla Nylund, Stephanie Friede, Katja Stube. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Thomas Hengelbrock, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele. Broadcast of July 25, 2011
This new production of Tannhäuser by avant-garde director Sebastian Baumgarten, takes place in a decrepit biogas plant, and features a Venusberg that looks like a cage filled with subhumans. Venus is pregnant and at the end of the opera gives birth to a miniature Tannhäuser, while Wolfram von Eschenbach sings his famous third Act "Ode to the Evening Star" while sitting on a toilet. It is the kind of staging that is clearly manufactured to provoke a visceral reaction from the opening night opera-goers. The creative team was greeted by such angry boos that I thought the audience was going to attack them. But since this is the kind of production that Bayreuth aims for these days, the more booing it receives the more successful it is in the eyes of the powers that be in The Green Hill. For this set of covers, I was inspired by the many chemical symbols that appear in the production, as well a by the logo of the American television series Breaking Bad. Thus, the first two letters of the words Tannhäuser and Bayreuth have been replaced with the chemical symbols for Tantalum and Barium, each with their own distinctive atomic number.
Bayreuther Festspiele - Lohengrin (2010)
Lohengrin Jonas Kaufman, Georg Zeppenfeld, Annette Dasch, Lucio Gallo, Evelyn Herlitzius, Samuel Youn. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Andris Nelsons, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele. Broadcast of July 25, 2010
Not since the 2004 production of Parsifal by Christoph Schlingensief has there been so much expectation and trepidation regarding a new production at the Green Hill. Hans Neuenfels is one of the most controversial figures of the Regietheater, and his productions for the leading opera houses of Europe have always stirred the emotions of many. One need only remember the controversy and scandal that his production of Idomeneo caused at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin in 2006 where in an epilogue the title character staggers in with decapitated heads of Neptune, Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad. The German authorities, thinking that the production might prove a security risk, cancelled the production. This year at Bayreuth his take on Lohengrin, featuring the chorus dressed as rats, has fired up the conservative factions of Bayreuth. Neuenfels's appearance on opening night was greeted with equals amounts of applause and booing, which seems to be normal for him. For this cover I made sure that the rats made it in, since that seems to be the most controversial and significant bone of contention regarding the staging. You can see on the front cover that Lohengrin (Jonas Kaufmann) enters with a chorus of black rats bearing his famed swan behind him. The rats also occupy center stage on the back cover as they surround Elsa von Brabant (Annette Dasch) who sits at her red velvet throne.
Bayreuther Festspiele - Parsifal (2008)
Parsifal Christopher Ventris, Mihoko Fujimura, Detlef Roth, Kwangchul Youn, Diógenes Randes, Thomas Jesatko. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Daniele Gatti, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 25, 2008
This new Parsifal, conceived and staged by Norwegian director Stefan Herheim, replaced the very controversial Christoph Schlingensief production that had been in place since 2004. It opened the 2008 festival, premiering on July 25. In some of the press conferences prior to opening night, Herheim stressed that his production would also be controversial. Despite this warning, audiences at Bayreuth were very enthusiastic, and very few boos were heard on opening night. Herheim's conception of Wagner's last work is a cavalcade through German history, starting at Wagner's home, Wahnfried, and ending in the rubble of the Reichstag after World War II. The back tray cover (above, center) shows how busy the production is. Visible is Wahnfried in the background as well as an antique bathtub on the left, near a fireplace, showing Titurel bathing. The front cover (above, left) shows Detlef Roth as Amfortas, thorns seem to rise from inside his head as he lies in a bed where Herzeleide, Parsifal's mother, died. The inside cover (above, right) shows soprano Mihoko Fujimura as Kundry and Christopher Ventris as Parsifal. In Herheim's production she is a winged Marlene Dietrich and he is a young lad wearing a sailor suit.
Bayreuther Festspiele (2006)
Der fliegende Holländer Jaakko Ryhänen, Adrienne Dugger, Alfons Eberz, Uta Priew, Norbert Ernst, John Tomlinson. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Marc Albrecht, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 25, 2006
Das Rheingold Falk Struckmann, Ralf Lukas, Clemens Bieber, Arnold Bezuyen, Kwangchul Youn, Jyrki Korhonen, Andrew Shore, Gerhard Siegel, Michelle Breedt, Satu Vihavainen, Mihoko Fujimara, Fionnuala McCarthy, Ulrike Helzel, Marina Prudenskaja. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Christian Thielemann, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 26, 2006
Die Walküre Endrik Wottrich, Kwangchul Youn, Falk Struckmann, Adrianne Pieczonka, Linda Watson, Michelle Breedt, Satu Vihavainen, Amanda Mace, Martina Dike, Janet Collins, Iréne Theorin, Wilke te Brummelstroete, Annette Küttenbaum, Alexandra Petersamer. Orchestra of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Christian Thielemann, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 27, 2006
Siegfried Stephen Gould, Gerhard Siegel, Falk Struckmann, Andrew Shore, Jyrki Korhonen, Mihoko Fujimara, Linda Watson, Robin Johannsen. Orchestra of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Christian Thielemann, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 29, 2006
Götterdämmerung Stephen Gould, Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Hans-Peter König, Andrew Shore, Linda Watson, Gabriele Fontana, Mihoko Fujimara, Janet Collins, Martina Dike, Iréne Theorin, Fionnuala McCarthy, Ulrike Helzel, Marina Prudenskaja. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Christian Thielemann, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 31, 2006
Tristan und Isolde Robert Dean Smith, Nina Stemme, Kwangchul Youn, Harmut Welker, Ralf Lukas, Petra Lang, Clemens Bieber, Arnold Bezuyen, Martin Snell. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Peter Schneider, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of August 1, 2006
Parsifal Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Jyrki Korhonen, Robert Holl, Alfons Eberz, John Wegner, Evelyn Herlitzius. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Adam Fischer, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of August 2, 2006
Downloading the audio to this summer's Bayreuth Festival broadcasts and designing these covers while, at the same time, convalescing from arthroscopic knee surgery was both therapeutic, as well as challenging. Of course, the centerpiece of the 2006 festival was the new production of the Ring, directed by Tankred Dorst and conducted by Christian Thielemann, and those were designed first. In this set, as in the majority of my designs for Bayreuth productions, my aim was to show as much of the production as possible. My sincere hope is that I have succeeded in getting across the flavor of the new Ring production with the photographs available. The rest of the operas in this festival followed a similar format. This is the third time that I design a cover to the Christoph Schlingensief production of Parsifal (I have been designing one since it premiered in the summer of 2004), and that proved to be the most challenging of all the covers. Luckily, the production has changed a lot since it was first presented, so that gave me a lot of flexibility.
Lohengrin Metropolitan Opera (2006)
Lohengrin Ben Heppner, Karita Mattila, Luana deVol, Richard Paul Fink, Eike Wilm Schulte, René Pape. Orchestra and Chorus of The Metropolitan Opera. Philippe Auguin, conductor. Recorded live from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of April 29, 2006
The 2006 revival of Robert Wilson's hypnotic Lohengrin was a welcome addition to a MET season which bid farewell to Joseph Volpe, the person responsible for bringing this unusual staging to The Metropolitan Opera. The cast for this revival was essentially the same as the one from the world premiere, with one notable exception being, of course, Karita Mattila, who sang Elsa in this production for the first time this year, and who stole the show with her sensitive singing and "Wilsonian" acting. I was lucky enough to attend two performances of this work this season. For the front cover I selected Lohengrin's entrance from Act I, and for the back cover the moment in Act III when Lohengrin kills Telramund.
Tristan und Isolde Opéra National de Paris (2005)
Tristan und Isolde Ben Heppner, Waltraud Meier, Yvonne Naef, Franz-Josef Selig, Jukka Rasilainen, Alexander Marco-Buhrmeister, David Bizic, Toby Spence. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris. Esa Pekka Salonen, conductor. Recorded live from the Opéra National de Paris Broadcast of May 4, 2005
This unique production of Tristan und Isolde is the brainchild of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, stage director Peter Sellars, and celebrated video artist Bill Viola. This experimental approach to Wagner's work began in Los Angeles under the name of The Tristan Project, and it was first performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The concept was to present one semi-staged act per night along with works that, in the opinion of Salonen, could not have existed without Tristan und Isolde. This production was then taken to the Paris Opéra where the work was presented in one evening in the traditional fashion. This website has complete information and photographs of this production which you can reach by clicking here. For the front cover of this CD I selected one of the most haunting images that Viola created for this production. A single woman stands inside a churchlike setting in front of dozens of lit candles. The back cover features a detail from that image. For this production, Bill Viola used extensive images of fire and water to portray the tragedy of the two lovers.
Parsifal Bayreuther Festspiele (1951)
Parsifal George London, Arnold van Mill, Ludwig Weber, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hermann Uhde, Martha Mödl. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor. Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus 1951
If I could hop onboard the proverbial Time Machine and go back to an important musical event in history, I think I would want to land in the middle of the audience on July 30, 1951 at the Festspielhaus when the Bayreuth Festival reopened after World War II with this now historic Wieland Wagner production of Parsifal. The production began a staging revolution which was dubbed New Bayreuth, and it catapulted the young Wieland into world prominence. This production artistically divided the already politically divided post-war country, and it caused a furor the likes of which had never been seen in the serene surroundings of the Green Hill. Audiences certainly had a good opportunity to absorb Wieland Wagner's austere production, since Knappertsbusch's reading of the score is one of the slowest I have ever heard. The first act is nearly two hours. By contrast, in the summer of 2005, Pierre Boulez's first act was just a little over ninety minutes. The front cover of this CD shows the second scene of this act with George London as Amfortas and the chorus of Grail Knights. George London was one of the most exciting bass-baritones of the decade of the fifties and early sixties, and the only American (he was born in Canada) in the cast. The back cover shows a portrait of this artist in his Amfortas makeup.
Der Ring des Nibelungen Bayreuther Festspiele (2002)
Der Ring des Nibelungen Alan Titus (Wotan), Graham Clark (Loge, Mime), Robert Dean Smith (Siegmund), Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde), Christian Franz (Siegfried), Philip Kang (Fafner). Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Adam Fischer, conductor. Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, 2002.
This is Bayreuth's Millennium production of Des Ring des Nibelungen, conceived by Jürgen Flimm, with sets by Erich Wonder. When Wolfgang Wagner announced that Wonder would be designing sets for this Ring many speculated about what he would come up with. A few years earlier, at the Bavarian State Opera, he had designed a Ring Cycle which was literally a "space opera," complete with spaceships and Valkyries in rocket-powered scooters. This is Bayreuth's current Ring production, and it will be repeated until 2006. It is a stunningly visual concept despite the fact that its sets are basically simple. For many, Jürgen Flimm's work picks up where Patrice Chereau's Centennial production left off. However, whereas Chereau's concentrates on the power of corruption at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Flimm's approach examines how 20th century corruption will play out in the new Millennium. In my cover design I selected four photographs from the production in order to show the streamline beauty that Wonder achieved. This simplistic, yet exact design carries over to the choice of font, especially the first letter in the title of each of the operas.
Parsifal Bayreuther Festspiele (2004)
Parsifal Endrik Wottrich, Robert Holl, Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Michelle de Young, John Wegner, Kwangchul Youn. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Pierre Boulez, conductor. Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, 2004.
Bayreuth's new production of Parsifal, which opened the 2004 Festival, was conceived by controversial German artist Christoph Schlingensief. His irreverent approach ignited a string of unfortunate artistic events at the Festival, and the whole affair turned very ugly a few days before opening night when German newspapers reported that both director and leading singer were engaged in a battle royale accusing each other of racism. You can read information about this production, read a number of critical reviews of the opening night performance, as well as examine a number of photographs, on this web site, by clicking here. I recorded a performance of this production from Bayreuth's own worldwide broadcast on the Internet. In this production, the opera takes place not in Medieval Spain, but in Africa. I thought that a snake-like scaly skin background would suit this "Voodoo Parsifal" (as the production was dubbed by the German press) perfectly. Since blood is an important theme in Wagner's conception, as well as in Mr. Schlingensief's take, these covers are splattered with a good amount of the red stuff.
Die Walküre Metropolitan Opera (1957)
Die Walküre Margaret Harshaw, Marianne Schech, Blanche Thebom, Ramón Vinay, Otto Edelmann, Kurt Böhme, Rosalind Elias. Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor. Recorded live from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of February 2, 1957
The matinee broadcast of February 2, 1957 must have been a truly exciting event for both listeners at home and those lucky enough to have been in attendance at the Old House that afternoon. This wonderful performance of Wagner's most popular "Nibelung" opera still rings with the excitement of a bygone era of spectacular Wagnerian singing. It was truly another time: Wieland Wagner may have been deep into his staging experimentations over at Bayreuth, but at the MET, the operas of Richard Wagner were still being presented the old-fashioned way. It was an afternoon of horned helmets, breast-plates and the kind of singing that today any house management would kill to have. In the title role, American Margaret Harshaw (1909-1997) sang with incredible passion and surprising beauty. She was one of the important Wagnerian singers of the 1950's and sang both soprano and mezzo roles at the MET. Her co-stars that afternoon were the fiery Chilean tenor Ramón Vinay, who sang the role of Sigmund, and Otto Edelmann who is quite impressive in the role of Wotan. The cover for this CD tries to capture some of the magic of the old look of Wagnerian staging by using Arthur Rackham's unique illustrations for Wagner's Ring.
Parsifal Vienna State Opera (2004)
Parsifal Johan Botha, Thomas Quasthoff, Robert Holl, Walter Fink, Wolfgang Bankl, Angela Denoke, Daniela Denschlag. Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. Donald Runnicles, conductor. Recorded live at the Vienna State Opera on April 11, 2004
This performance of Parsifal, in the spring of 2004, marked the Vienna State Opera début of Thomas Quasthoff. Well-known throughout the world as one of the most gifted bass-baritones on the scene today, Mr. Quasthoff was born a "Thalidomide baby." Quasthoff plays Amfortas, a character who, mortally wounded by the Spear that pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion, is severely disabled. Many thought that casting Quastoff in this role was a stroke of genius, while others objected to what they perceived as an uncomfortable case of life imitating art. The majority of the critics praised Quasthoff's courage, but were also quick to note that the role gave Quasthoff a bit of a problem, especially in the last act. For this cover, I thought that including photographs from the production was important given the unusual casting. The covers display four pictures from the production. One of them, on the front cover, shows Mr. Quasthoff as he appeared onstage. The front cover also features a rare photograph of Wagner. I thought that given the unusual casting of this production this profile pose of the composer was quite proper.
Parsifal Metropolitan Opera (2003)
Parsifal Plácido Domingo, René Pape, Violeta Urmana, Falk Struckmann, Nikolai Putilin. Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. Valery Gergiev, conductor. Recorded live from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of April 12, 2003
On April 12, 2003 the Chevron-Texaco Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcast presented Parsifal with a cast that included Plácido Domingo in the tile role, Violeta Urmana as Kundry, Falk Struckmann as Amfortas, and in the role of Gurnemanz, René Pape. Valery Gergiev conducted the work for the first time in the house and it was a success. His reading was incredibly lush and precise, and there was a distinct majestic style in his careful reading. It was wonderful to hear this opera under his direction. The performance was a triumph, and it inspired me to create the cover for this recording. Since the MET's Otto Schenk production is rather conservative, I opted for a CD cover design that would reflect the production's style. The back cover features the cast of the performance splashed over a very faint portrait of the composer. The graphic that serves as the main cover, both the front and back, is by Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne Jones.
Die Walküre Metropolitan Opera (2005)
Die Walküre Olga Sergeeva, Katarina Dalayman, Larissa Diadkova, Plácido Domingo, Mikhail Kit, Stephen Miling. Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. Valery Gergiev, conductor. Recorded live from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of April 23, 2005
Springtime in New York City is usually the time of the year when opera lovers can look forward to a plethora of Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera. Easter usually brings on performances of Parsifal, and the Ring. In 2005, however, New York City suffered a dearth of Wagner's music. While we read about the Peter Sellars productions of Tristan und Isolde at the Bastille, the new Die Walküre with Bryn Terfel at Covent Garden, and controversial new productions of Parsifal at La Fenice and Berlin, the Metropolitan Opera's sole contribution to Wagner was two performances of Die Walküre. One of them was the Saturday afternoon broadcast of April 23. The performance featured the rock-steady. metronomic conducting of Valery Gergiev, the indestructible Siegmund of Plácido Domingo, and the surprisingly powerful Olga Sergeeva, offering a Brünnhilde of rare subtlety and beauty. For the cover of this recording I went back to one of Arthur Rackham's illustrations for the Ring. The cover features a silhouetted Wotan putting his daughter Brünnhilde to sleep on a fiery rock.
Tannhäuser Metropolitan Opera (1941)
Tannhäuser Lauritz Melchior, Kirsten Flagstad, Kerstin Thorborg, Emanuel List, Herbert Janssen, Mack Harrell. Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera House. Erich Leinsdorf, conductor. Recorded live from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of January 4, 1941
This fabled recording of this star-studded performance of Tannhäuser resurfaced in the late 1970's when the Metropolitan Opera re-issued it as a fancy LP set under their own recording label. For the price of $100 the MET sent it to donors with a letter of thanks from the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Many years later, during my second trip to London, I found many of these MET recordings available over there. They were now available on CD's, and obviously cost much less. A label on the reverse of each one of these sets warned that these products were not to be sold in the U.S.A. This performance was conducted by Erich Leinsdorf who conducted at the MET for many years, and became something of the Wagner house conductor. In the late 1970's I had a chance to see him conduct Die Walküre at my first Wagner opera. For the cover of this recording I went back to medieval illustrations used to adorn the work of German Medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, who, of course, also happens to be a character in this opera. The two illustrations on the front and in the reverse of this CD cover come from the Codex Vindobonensis and were originally used to illustrate von Eschenbach's work Willehalm, a work detailing the life of William of Orange.
Bayreuther Festspiele (2005)
Tristan und Isolde Robert Dean Smith, Nina Stemme, Kwangchul Youn, Andreas Schmidt, Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Petra Lang, Clemens Bieber, Arnold Bezuyen, Martin Snell. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Eiji Oue, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 25, 2005
Lohengrin Reinhard Hagen, Peter Seiffert, Petra-Maria Schnitzer, Hartmut Welker, Linda Watson, Roman Trekel. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Peter Schneider, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 26, 2005
Der fliegende Holländer Jaakko Ryhänen, Adrienne Dugger, Endrik Wottrich, Uta Priew, Norbert Ernst, Jukka Rasilainen. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Marc Albrecht, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 27, 2005
Tannhäuser Guido Jentjens, Stephen Gould, Roman Trekel, Clemens Bieber, John Wegner, Samuel Youn, Ricarda Merbeth, Judit Nemeth. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Christian Thielemann, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 28, 2005
Parsifal Alexander Marco-Buhrmester, Kwangchul Youn, Robert Holl, Alfons Eberz, John Wegner, Michelle de Young. Orchestra and Chorus of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Pierre Boulez, conductor. Recorded live from the Bayreuther Festspiele Broadcast of July 29, 2005
These covers were created during the first week of the 2005 Bayreuth Festival as I was listening and recording the live performances from the Festspielhaus. In order to create a uniform look to the entire set I used production photographs available directly from the Bayreuth website. These CD covers were created pretty fast, often the same evening that I recorded the opera. This is the third time that I attempt to design covers for Bayreuth productions. Given the current style of productions presented at Bayreuth these days, the task always ends up becoming a challenging, but fun project. My personal rule of thumb when designing covers for a Bayreuth production is always to show as much of the actual production as possible.
Tristan und Isolde The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1936)
Tristan und Isolde Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Sabine Kalter, Herbert Jannsen, Emanuel List. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus of the Royal Opera. Fritz Reiner, conductor. Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on May 18 and June 2, 1936.
This classic performance of Tristan und Isolde with its unbelievable dream cast is a commercially available recording featuring a rather drab looking unimaginative cover with a black-and-white, awkwardly-cropped portrait of Kirsten Flagstad on the front. Aside from the overall boring choice of colors, I thought that the cover to this recording needed a totally different artistic approach. With such a strong cast of singers, it is unfair to highlight only one of its members, so I decided in my design not to depict any of the principals, but instead to use a detail of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí's rather peculiar and unforgettable painting on the subject. Thinking that it was necessary to brighten the background a bit, I used a pink and blue fade combination which yielded very interesting results. I decided also on using a calligraphy style font for the composer's name and title of the opera to allude to the work's Medieval genesis.