In a couple of months I will be performing the role of Luzio in USC's production of Das Liebesverbot, Wagner's second opera. This is, of course, part of the LA-wide Wagner festival that is taking place this year, climaxing with LA Opera's production of the entire Ring Cycle this Spring/Summer.
Wagner is famous for making great demands of his singers, so imagine that reputation applied to his work before he really knew what he wanted to do as a composer. Das Liebesverbot has been a real exercise in technique as I have tried to figure out the sheer physicality required to sing this role. And while at first that process was extremely frustrating, it is proving to be just the challenge my voice needed to kick itself into high gear.
Now several weeks into my preparation, I decided to look up Das Liebesverbot in my favorite book about Wagner, "Wagner Without Fear" by William Berger. I was particularly tickled by this entry:
"Wagner composed a second opera, Das Liebesverbot ("The Ban on Love"), based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, and prepared the Magdeburg theater for its premiere. Everything went wrong. A grand total of three people (all Jewish, incidentally) bought tickets for the performance. Directly before the curtain was scheduled to rise, the husband of the prima donna thought this would be a good time to confront her with her extramarital activities, which included the opera's star tenor. An actual fistfight broke out backstage. The three people in the audience were informed that Das Liebesverbot was postponed. It never saw the light of day in Wagner's lifetime, either [like his first opera Die Feen]. Few people have anything positive to say about this work, and while Die Feen contains some lovely music, Das Liebesverbot has been consigned to music schools, if anywhere."
Let me be the first to say that Das Liebesverbot is much better than it is given credit for. It does have some lovely music, and though it is a beast of an opera to sing, I am sure the audience is going to find it quite thrilling. That being said, it is certainly early Wagner, and he only went up from here.
For those interested in the book Wagner Without Fear, check it out below. Definitely worth it!