Magazine article Opera Canada

Athena Sings: Wagner and the Greeks

Magazine article Opera Canada

Athena Sings: Wagner and the Greeks

Article excerpt

Father Owen Lee

University of Toronto Press, 110 pp.

THE IDEAS OF RICHARD WAGNER

Alan David Aberbach

University Press of America, 452 pp.

Here are two new books for Wagner lovers from respected Canadian commentators. Father Owen Lee has perfected the art of writing relatively short essays about opera that are as entertaining as they are instructive, his skills honed in part by many years preparing intermission commentaries for broadcast operas. The basis for this latest volume was a lecture first given in 1984 to the Toronto Wagner Society, in which he "aimed to show the influence of classical Greece on the works of Wagner. Father Lee, himself a classical scholar, has refined and expanded his thinking since then, and the result is a vividly instructive piece of writing that first imagines what it would have been like to be at a performance of Aeschylus's Oresteia cycle of tragedies, and then shows how Wagner, especially in his Ring cycle, seems to have taken the same imaginative journey to creative heart. What impresses again is the breadth and depth of Father Lee's scholarship, though he presents his material with such a light touch that it is never academic. He's covering territory that many Wagnerians will be aware of in general, but likely not in the compelling detail that he amasses. For anyone interested in Wagner, this is essential reading; it doesn't 'fully explain the Ring, of course, but does provide a valuable perspective that's as important to the understanding of Wagner's creative act as his creation. …

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