The Wagner Journal

David Breckbill, Wagner Tenors and the Quest for the ‘Ideal’

David Breckbill, Wagner Tenors and the Quest for the ‘Ideal’

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March 2014, Volume 8, Number 1, 40–52.

One might easily assemble a lengthy anthology of critical invective concerning Wagner tenors, and at the outset it might be both entertaining and helpful to offer a brief sampling of some gems to be found in this most entertaining literary subgenre. One could begin with Ernest Newman’s generalised lampooning of Wagner tenors as a breed:

‘Think of the young Siegfried as Wagner imagined him, the incarnation of youthful health and beauty and active joy in life, or the metaphysical Tristan, or the spiritual Parsifal, and then recognize these creations, if you can, in some amphora Heldentenor or other who looks and behaves like an overgrown Boy Scout, and gives the spectator the impression of a man whose mental development was arrested at the age of twelve and has been in custody ever since.’

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